It’s Time to Put Mobile Marketing First

It’s a prophecy long foretold and one, which the Internet has preached for years without subsequent manifestation.

You know the headline, “X is the Year of Mobile Marketing.”

The same story has made headlines since 2012, foretelling a world where mobile marketing holds greater relevance and reaps more conversions than mobile’s elder, the desktop computer.

While, since 2012, we have inched closer towards a realization of a mobile-first world, until now, we’ve never crossed the border.

As the CEO of a boutique digital marketing agency, I’ve paid close attention to the evolution of mobile marketing and it’s encroachment on the traditional e-commerce world of desktop advertising. Like you, I’ve snorted at the hype in years past, guffawing aloud at the premature premonitions of bloggers and business writers. Until now I’ve kept an eye on mobile’s growth, but recognized desktop as the reigning king of conversions.

While desktop still is and will remain vital, 2017 is the year where mobile comes first. If you’re like I was not too long ago, sitting behind your screen with a skeptical eyebrow raised, let’s take a stroll down analytics lane together and examine the numbers.

Mobile First Marketing: How We Got Here

While examining analytics may not be the most exciting activity, it’s necessary to validate the paradigm shift from a desktop-first worldview to a mobile-first one.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and dive in to the nitty gritty details!

In 2015, Google first reported that mobile searches had overtaken desktop searches. While this was huge, mobile search queries don’t necessarily entail direct mobile sales conversions, although it does a reveal a likely correlation to be sure.

In 2016, mobile web usage, as a whole, overtook web usage on desktops for the first time in history. During 2016, the total number of websites loaded onto smartphone devices and tablets also grew to surpass those loaded on desktop computers. These statistics are much more revealing than the previous point, as it shows more definitively the transition of preference for how people access the Internet.

The growth of mobile is due to many factors beyond the scope of this article, but the primary causes are the spread of improvements in mobile speed, and developing countries entering the computer market for the first time, opting for mobile phones as a more affordable option than desktop computers or laptops.

What Do We Mean by Mobile First?

When a headline reads, “2013 (or 2014, or 2015) Will Be the Year of Mobile Marketing,” what does it mean?

Well, it could mean quite a few things, but for digital marketers such as myself, it means that mobile marketing will overtake desktop in terms of sales conversions and thus become the medium where digital marketers spend the greatest portion of their advertising budget.

We have approached this reality. Last year in Britain, marketers spent more money on mobile marketing than on desktop. This is a huge development!

Currently, smartphone devices and tablets account for a greater portion of Internet use than desktops as well – 51.3% to be exact. Furthermore, according to Adage, “Research firm BIA/Kelsey predicts that U.S. mobile-ad spend will exceed $40 billion [in 2017] – and the industry can expect that number to pass $65 billion by 2020.”

Another interesting tidbit is that mobile traffic accounts for 50% of all ecommerce traffic, according to a study on mCommerce. The number of mobile conversions is likely higher than one would assume too, given the fact that many people shop across multiple devices. Marketers generally view smart phones as top-of-the-funnel marketing devices, since consumers often shop and research a product on their phone before purchasing on a tablet or desktop. So while 50% is a healthy number, mobile traffic is likely the cause of more conversions than reporting would suggest.

These revelations are Earth-shattering to how digital marketers and web designers approach new campaigns. For decades we’ve worked under a desktop-first philosophy, which meant designing and marketing for desktop screens and then downsizing for the small screen. But with a mobile first framework, the opposite will be true. Making this jump to mobile first is a major game changer – one that leaves digital marketers like myself shaking in our boots.

While the numbers offer evidence that making this change is logical, it’s easier said than done to truly believe in the validity of this evolution and take the leap of faith required.

What Does Mobile’s Growth Mean for Marketers?

While mobile’s rise over desktop is certainly a paradigm shift in the world of digital marketing, it doesn’t have to be a violent revolution. To successfully thrive throughout the transition requires a simple adjustment of priorities. The difficulty is following through on this adjustment and adapting each stage of the marketing process to address the new mobile-first worldview.

It’s not just marketers either who will be affected by this sea change. Designers and analysts too must consider mobile first when conceiving and launching a new website and UX. Content strategies must also evolve and be optimized for mobile. We will see this manifest in a rise of content geared towards the small screen, such as videos and other visual content.

For designers, the shift will be most drastic. For them it means first building a clean, minimalistic site for the smaller screen devices and then progressively enhancing the design for larger screens by adding complexity and functionality. This truly is a revolutionary change in practice. It’s almost as if the poles have switched, negating everything that designers have taken for granted as truth. The road to a mobile first world will be paved with the sweat, migraines, and swearing of IT nerds. One can almost feel the thrum of palpitating hearts beneath the thousands of Hot Pocket-stained t-shirts in basements across the world.

But nevertheless, planning with this mindset will prioritize the most elemental selling points needed for mobile conversions, as opposed to reducing an already existing desktop site for mobile use.

eMarketer also predicts mobile advertising spend will overtake television ad spend by 2020. This is an incredible piece of information! Just imagine the bigwig TV juggernauts, losing out on revenue because of video ads with often-amateur video production. While this is not written in stone, it is likely, given the incredible growth of online video advertising, which goes with mobile like powerful execs and snakeskin boots.

App development too will continue to increase in importance. 85% of all mobile usage is on apps, and Google’s Instant apps will likely only increase this figure.

In short, marketers must learn to consider mobile firstly, despite the wide proliferation of devices and means of accessing the Internet. While desktop and even brick and mortar stores will remain relevant, mobile is the new king of 2017.

It’s time to kiss the ring and get rolling.

Thoughts on the Future Potential of Mobile

If you open a browser and search, “digital marketing trends 2017,” you’ll find a series of lists, most of them containing the same predictions – messenger chatbots will proliferate, video advertising will grow, live streaming will grow, etc.

What’s interesting is that all of those predictions function best on mobile. There is clearly a perfect storm of mobile marketing potential brewing in the not too far off distance. If you don’t prepare in time, you’ll find yourself looking up at the impending wave and wishing you brought a bigger boat.

Another interesting fact is that 80% of millennials report using their mobile devices while inside a brick and mortar store to assist with their shopping decisions. The implications and possible marketing decisions given this information have been barely explored. But the opportunities for marketers to capitalize on this behavior and target consumers is low-hanging fruit ready for picking.

Consumers also use mobile devices to assist with couponing, following promotions, engaging in loyalty programs, and communicating directly with brand ambassadors – messenger bots or otherwise.

The future of mobile marketing, while frightening and full of unknowns, is exciting and rich with possibilities. But more importantly, the future is now.

Are you ready?

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