You’ve seen the statistics: mobile browsing (e.g., browsing the web using a smart phone or other mobile device) will eclipse desktop web browsing sometime in 2013. Yikes! More than half of my website traffic coming from mobile phones? I’m not ready!
Relax (unless you’re in the relatively small group of businesses that shouldn’t). Mobile browsing is unquestionably having an impact on website strategy, but the impact varies widely among different sectors based on a variety of factors.
Type of business: if you run a bar, restaurant or specialty retail shop that is dependent on local traffic, then by all means you had better have a sophisticated local and mobile web strategy. As recently as five years ago, many of your patrons were likely finding you through the (print) yellow pages. Most households don’t even want those tree-killing doorstops anymore, much less do they use them.
Local service businesses have a bit more breathing room, but only a bit. If you offer home repair, plumbing, electrical, landscaping or other types of services, your clients may use the “big screen” of a desktop or laptop PC to find your company, read about your offerings. and research reviews. But even this simple research is becoming increasingly mobile.
For B2B companies with complex offerings, however, the pressure is far less urgent. For considered purchases, where the research is generally conducted within the workplace environment, desktop browsing still reigns. Based on analysis of traffic patterns of b2b technology websites I’ve worked with (more than 40 are displayed in my Google Analytics home screen view currently), mobile browsing is a growing but still fairly small part of the picture. This is not a comprehensive study but is likely to be generally representative of B2B websites.
Note that, on the one hand, the share of total website traffic nearly doubled from the first quarter of 2011 to the first three months of 2012—a clear indication of increasing use of mobile browsers to access b2b websites. But note also that the mobile proportion is still only 1 of every 16 visitors on average, and as few as 1 of 50 at the low end of the range. Hence: prepare, but don’t panic.
That observation doesn’t tell the complete story, however, as a portion of those visitors are using tablets, with screens almost as large as small laptops. What’s really crucial to consider is how many visitors are coming to your site from a smart phone with a small format screen.
When tablets (such as the iPad) are excluded, the share of mobile visitors is considerably smaller; roughly 2/3 of all mobile visitors. These are the potential visitors for whom you really need an optimized mobile website experience. But though they have increased by nearly 50% in the past year, they still account for just 1 out of every 24 visitors to the typical B2B tech company website, on average.
Type of information sought: whereas desktop computers are used for a wide range of tasks including in-depth research, mobile devices (in a b2b context) are most frequently used for three purposes:
- • Fact-checking: is the software both Windows- and Mac-compatible, or better yet, completely cloud-based? What are the dimensions of a device, or specific properties of a material?
- • Location-based information: where is your closest sales office? Where can I take the item for service?
- • Communication: not surprisingly, as communications were the initial purpose of mobile devices, your customers and prospects will often visit your mobile site seeking to contact your company. Make it easy with click-to-call buttons, email links, and links to your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts.
Demographics: while one has to be careful here to avoid stereotypes (and it is true that 82% of CEOs own smartphones), there’s no question that digital natives (those born in 1990 or later) are simply more immersed in mobile technology (having literally grown up with it) and are therefore likely to be, all other things being equal, heavier users of the mobile web than are typical b2b decision makers (generally in their 40s, 50s or 60s).
Again, a sophisticated mobile presence is essential now for bars, clubs, gyms, universities, restaurants, theaters, and any other business catering to 20-somethings. Digital natives are the b2b decision makers of tomorrow, so again, when it comes to b2b mobile web presence, companies need to prepare but not panic.
Specifically, here are three steps b2b marketers should take today if they don’t already have a mobile strategy in place:
1. Check you website analytics to see what percentage of your visitors are coming from mobile devices. If it’s more than 5%, you need to develop a mobile plan for website design. If it’s more than 10%, you need to develop a mobile website—quickly.
2. Check to see how your current website looks on a variety of mobile devices, or use mobile device emulators. If it isn’t the experience you’d want your customers and prospects to have, you need to develop a mobile plan.
3. When developing your mobile site plan, be sure to incorporate best practices in mobile website design.
When it comes to mobile and b2b, don’t freak out over the hype, but do take action.