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“Mobile First” Online Marketing: Keeping Up with the Growing Dominance of Mobile

In the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) held in March this year, one thing was very clear: mobile is the hottest topic among brands and advertisers. They emphasized the importance of taking a “mobile first” approach to marketing and advertising, and they consider mobile to be the dominant digital screen today.

The moves of some of the biggest names in the online world are pressing signs that mobile is, indeed, the future of online marketing. Recent acquisitions made by Facebook and Google point not just towards mobile, but also towards mobile virtual reality accessible anywhere in the world. The “mobile first” mentality isn’t an option you have anymore – it’s a necessity you need to integrate in your strategy in order to continue reaching your intended audience.

”Mobile First” Online Marketing

Designing for Mobile

Design is one of the more obvious elements you will need to focus on when adopting the “mobile first” way of thinking. You will have to design a website that displays properly across multiple screens and platforms, decide what functionalities you will provide on your mobile sites, and choose to have a website, an app, or both. This will all depend on your demographic.

  • Google’s recommendations on designing websites for mobile are a good start. Their recommendations are built with users in mind. It’s also most likely what they look at when they are ranking websites based on quality.
  • Make sure all elements of your design are optimized for mobile. You can either start with a design template and then customize it for the features of your website, or create your own from scratch and integrate the functionalities you need. Responsive design is recommended for easier display across different screen sizes and platforms, but not necessarily the best option if you have other special functionalities in mind.
  • Think of a structure that works for both desktop and mobile versions of your website. How deep should your menu go for information to be made easily accessible?
  • Test your designs all the time on as many platforms as possible. It’s not enough to try your design on computer programs that emulate these platforms – you’ll have better chances of troubleshooting when you test on a variety of devices that use the platforms you want to target.

Mobile Content Optimization

A survey done by the Pew Research Internet Project shows that in 2013, 63% of owners used their mobile phones to go online, with 34% of cellphone Internet users using their phone as their main device for accessing the Internet. These numbers are expected to rise this year and over the next two years as mobile takes the center stage and evolves into something more virtual reality-rooted in the near future.

Pew Survey Mobile Internet Usage
Pew Research Internet Project’s survey showing the rise in mobile Internet users

Seeing the number of users who use mobile devices as their main browsing tool shows you how important it is to consider mobile when creating your content strategy. You’ll need to consider the following issues when developing your content:

  • What is the browsing behavior of my mobile audience? Do they browse recreationally, look for in-depth information, or do they want short-form content?
  • What content types are compatible with my target devices / platforms?
  • Is there a way to serve the same content to desktop and mobile versions of my site to maintain consistency without compromising compatibility and quality?

The question of long-form vs. short-form content in particular comes into play when discussing mobile content optimization. What you choose to use in your published online content depends on what your audience wants. Setting up mobile tracking in your Webmaster Tools and Analytics should give you insight into your target market’s behavior. It gives you insight into the topics they are interested in as well – that’s hitting multiple mobile content planning birds with one stone.

Adapting Mobile Video Formats

The Q4 2013 Global Video Index report released by big data video and media analytics provider Ooyala reveals that at the current growth rate of mobile video consumption, mobile will make up half of all online video consumption by 2016. The year-over-year growth of video consumption on tablets and mobile phones has increased 719% since the fourth quarter of 2011. It won’t stop rising in the next two years.

Ooyala Year Over Year Mobile Video
Growth of mobile video consumption over the past two years

The entire industry is abuzz with using short form videos for online and mobile marketing. In the past year, we’ve seen platforms like Pinterest and Vine grow to become important branding and online marketing tools. However, the study suggests long-form video is gaining more traction, with 53% of mobile viewers watching videos longer than 30 minutes.

Choosing the better format to use in your campaign varies from case to case based on the following factors:

  • Audience. Who is your audience and what do they want to know?
  • Message. Can you convey your message in a short one- or two-minute video? Does your information require a full-blown discussion that will make your running time longer?
  • Placement. Where will you be sharing this video? Will it be a supplement to other mobile content or will it be your main selling point?
  • Support. Does the platform you choose support your format?

Localized Mobile Search

Adobe’s 2013 Mobile Consumer Survey shows very interesting mobile Internet usage:

  • 71% of people use their mobile devices to access the Internet use it to get information from social media
  • 43% of users aged 18-29 use mobile for shopping, while 44% of users aged 30-49 do the same
  • Shopping, news, and weather information join the list of top uses of mobile, next to email, games, and video streaming

Adobe Mobile Usage 2013
Adobe’s 2013 Mobile Consumer Survey

The first item in the list above shows how powerful a marketing tool social is for mobile. Creating and strengthening your social media presence in general helps with the social aspect of your mobile campaign. Growing your fan base through forming authentic connections and maintaining communications, sharing relevant information and resources, and starting and participating in conversations about your industry should help you get started.

The next two items show that the information they are looking for are largely location-based. Local SEO comes into play, as search engines now deliver results tailored according to the user’s location, as detected through their IP. Claiming your business listings is necessary as well, especially listings from information providers used by mobile maps applications. Your target audience is more likely to use these when searching for your physical presence.

Mobile Ecommerce

You can see from the Adobe survey in the previous section that shopping is one of the most common uses of mobile for users aged 18-64. Ecommerce websites are becoming users’ go-to websites for information on products, using them in the buying process, either to compare what’s in the physical stores with what’s online, to compare prices from different providers, or to buy online outright. Optimizing for mobile user experience is a requirement if you’re offering products or services that you’d like to make available online.

  • Product Page Optimization: Make your product pages descriptive, but easy to navigate on different screen sizes. You’ll need to decide what features to integrate as well; for instance, you should include an option that allows users to save items for viewing on a different device later.
  • Buying Process Optimization: Consumers on mobile are likely on the go; therefore, you need to make the buying process simple for them. Reduce the number of steps and forms they need to fill out to a minimum, and make these forms compatible for any screen size.
  • Mobile Wallet Integration: You’ll need to integrate mobile wallet features into your website to offer products or services. It has to be secure and flexible, allowing support for different payment options.


Mobile isn’t just another option in your marketing campaign – as you can see from the statistics, it is now taking its place as the primary screen your consumers use every day. By adopting a “mobile first” way of thinking, you are delivering well thought of, targeted content to your intended audience, improving their experience and your reliability as both an information and products/services provider.

Mobile has yet to reach its peak, and as virtual reality begins to play a part in mobile marketing, you will need to adjust your content and your mobile marketing strategy accordingly. Having a “mobile first” approach to your marketing now will help you prepare for the new and exciting features that mobile has in store for both businesses and consumers in the near future.

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