In October, Facebook released an interesting report noting that 48% of its users were accessing the site only via mobile platforms 1. After seeing this data, they quickly realized they had to properly monetize their mobile presence with ads, but do so in a way that would not drive away their existing customer base. So far it appears that Facebook has been able to thread that needle fairly effectively without disturbing its user base as users currently spend 20% of their time on their mobile phones engaged in some form of social networking 2. For the rest of the business community the challenge presented by mobile only users is going to become a major issue in the coming year.
According to a study completed by the Harvard Business Review, 31% of all American’s reported that they access the web primarily via their smartphone3. This is an astounding number and it’s spread across all users. Where the data becomes especially telling is in the finer details. A full 50% of users from age of 12-17 reported that their smartphone was their primary web device. Over 50% of African Americans and nearly 50% of Hispanic Americans also said that their phone was their primary web surfing device. Things get even more interesting when we begin to look at pre-sale research.
Nearly 50% of all users claimed that they used their mobile devices as their primary tool for conducting research before they purchase an item. This is a critical link of the conversion chain. If a company has failed to build a robust mobile presence then they will not be able to meet the second need of shoppers. The first need is to make sure that people can find your company when they complete a mobile search and we have talked in the past about ways of maximizing your mobile search presence.
The research piece of this story goes well beyond simply having a good mobile presence. If people are visiting your site on a mobile phone and they are doing research then you have to know what it is like to do research on your site. Can people easily do comparison-shopping among multiple products on your mobile site? How easy is it to find reviews of your product or service? Is there a seamless way for them to contact you if they want more information? The word seamless in the previous sentence means that customers would not need to fill in any information about what product or service they were looking at because the site would already know.
While the research piece of any mobile site is important there are simply market pressures that are going to drive more and more users onto a mobile online experience. There are plenty of smartphones that are available for free 4 from most cellphone companies and even Apple has gotten into the discounting game with their iPhone 5c5, even if it’s not selling as well as they would like6.
The continued presence of phones like the 5s and Samsung’s Galaxy S4 as luxury brands will continue to provide a distinctive allure for customers. This combined with the lower price points available for many brands of smartphone will only serve to continue driving smartphone adoption rates.
As PC sales continue to dwindle7 it is our prediction that by the end of 2014 the percentage of mobile only users will have crept up to the 50% mark. The important takeaway from this is that there should be no expectation that people will ever see your company’s desktop site. In a few short years it is possible to imagine a world where desktop sites are akin to any other piece of legacy technology companies have to keep around, much like a fax machine.
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