Marketers today face a Catch-22 proposition: While smartphone adoption has increased exponentially—providing both the platform and legitimacy for the discipline—the budgets and resources dedicated toward mobile marketing have not kept up. But you don't have to sit out of the mobile marketing game for lack of a six-figure budget. You can start small, focusing on best practices, to build the returns that will help make your budget case.
Here are three ways you can optimize both your mobile user experience and your marketing campaign effectiveness.
Prep Your Landing Pages for Mobile Duty
Your goal may be to engage mobile users via mobile search, app display, SMS or even print. In each case, the landing page is a key step in the conversion funnel. Yet many marketers struggle to optimize it. Don't force users to rely on their smartphones' browser-zoom capability to navigate your landing pages—or the secondary pages. That's like looking at the world through a magnifying glass, and is a major source of attrition. Even the most loyal customers will struggle to see your call to action through to the desired outcome.
Carnival Cruise Lines is taking advantage of Google's device detection capabilities for mobile search. When iPhone users search for the keywords "cruise" or "Carnival Cruise," they are greeted by a compelling ad: "Book a Cruise Vacation on Your iPhone today!" The implication: Carnival had thought about the prospect's needs and made it easy for iPhone users to book. Alas, the cruise line has tailored the ad for mobile devices, but not the experience. Upon clicking, the consumer encounters a landing page that's not optimized for mobile devices, so it takes time to load and requires visitors to zoom in to navigate.
Not only should the landing page deliver on the brand promises made in the mobile banner, mobile search ad or print campaign; so, too, should the next page in the click stream, on through to action.
Your mobile-optimized landing pages should reflect such best practices as:
- A clean interface that loads quickly.
- Consistent branding.
- Intuitive and uncluttered navigation.
- Clearly labeled links for more information.
- A search function.
- Store locator, if appropriate.
- Clear call to action.
These are fairly general guidelines. Here are more page-specific recommendations:
• URLs: Brand and shorten as much as possible (under 40 characters). Don't make users type the page filename (.htm), name/value parameters or even the sub-domain (www).
• Links: Use proper descriptions as opposed to "click here."
• Page size: Keep to less than 100 kilobytes to minimize page retrieval time and user bandwidth costs.
• Scrolling: Absolutely no horizontal scrolling.
• Titles: Smaller browser sizes mean only the first 45 characters are displayed. If your page gets bookmarked by a mobile user, only the first 25 characters are displayed in the bookmark section. So lead with your brand followed by category or product name. And whatever you do, don't use your keyword-rich SEO titles.
Testing 1, 2, 3
Within that framework, marketers can test creative, copy, calls to action, or evolve the page layout using an A/B page variant optimization technology like Google Website Optimizer and your analytics.
The A/B method is straightforward and better suited to today's emerging mobile environment than multivariate testing for a few reasons. First, creating mobile page variations is not resource intensive. Second, serving page variations does not necessarily require device-specific java-script support. And third, A/B testing can produce meaningful conclusions faster, given today's low mobile traffic volume levels.
Simply create your page variants (brand.com/1 and brand.com/2) and upload both URLs into your optimization technology or mobile ad server network; or you can manually manage and measure the serving and measurement of results.
To measure the conversion from creative to landing page, calculate ad impressions to URL page loads for click-through rate. Then measure page loads to actions for conversion rate. Simply embed each page variant with tracking mechanisms like custom toll-free phone numbers and custom campaign ID codes. You can then quantify the conversion impact of each creative or copy variation in terms of calls, purchases, sharing or other actions.
Lenovo's recent ThinkPad promotion in The Wall Street Journal app uses both custom toll-free phone lines for tracking and a coupon code.
These techniques are great for not only quantifying mobile campaign ROI, but can be customized by device type (e.g., iPhone vs. BlackBerry). They can also establish a more holistic measurement of the cross-channel impact of the test, indicating:
- Which variation most affected e-commerce orders, phone orders or cross-sales?
- Which variation affected lifetime value by producing repeat orders?
- Which variation was more noted for future reference via bookmark, self-e-mail or self-SMS text?
- Which variation had the most users opt in to future SMS by providing their mobile numbers?
- Which variation was shared more with others via Twitter, Facebook or e-mail?
As you can see, measuring the campaign and individual variations for contribution along these dimensions provides a more complete picture of the value of each variation.
Make sure your analytics provider can accommodate this scope of data aggregation. It's worth considering that many analytic platforms are java-script dependent and, as a result, inadvertently misclassify any mobile site visitor using devices which don't support java-script. (At the moment, this means the vast majority of the mobile market.) For the most complete picture, you may need to drill into your site log file "header requests" to query all mobile device types that viewed each page variation (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Blazer, Nokia, Opera Mobile, Palm, Pocket PC, Samsung Windows CE, Motorola Browser, Zune and more).
Listen to What I Say—and Don't Say
Consumers are still in the "honeymoon phase" with the mobile Web—the coolness overshadows 15-second wait times, unoptimized landing pages and the general lack of personalization. But honeymoons don't last. Use every piece of data your mobile users give you in these early days to future-proof your campaigns, considering:
• Which elements are they clicking most and least? Shift those links to the top or bottom accordingly.
• What are they typing in the search box? Provide a clickable link to the most popular queries. If they aren't using the search box, position it below the fold.
• Are they cross-channel customers? Append their device details to their profile in your CRM/personalization engine to enable more engaging marketing.
Mobile marketing is about learning how to make your brand portable for your consumers—and every page of your website is an entry point. By optimizing your landing pages, and then by measuring, testing and listening, your mobile customers and prospects will feel more engaged and reward you with better results.
Brian S. Klais is vice president, product management for search and mobile solutions at San Diego, Calif.-based Covario. Klais was a co-founder of Netconcepts, which was acquired by Covario in January. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.