While marketers spend most of their workday on a desktop computer, many of the people they’re marketing to are consuming those messages on different devices.
According to Pew Research, one in five American adults are “smartphone-only” internet users — meaning they own a smartphone, but do not have traditional broadband service. And in 2017, mobile devices accounted for over 50 percent of all web traffic worldwide, compared to just .7 percent of web traffic in 2009.
The use of mobile devices will continue to rise. Is all of your online content and email messages suitable for mobile users?
What is mobile marketing?
Mobile marketing includes multi-channel strategies to ensure that your content is formatted, optimized and engaging for targeted audiences who are consuming your content on their smartphone.
With so many people consuming your content on-the-go with a smartphone in hand, your content needs to be created with the mobile user in mind. There are many channels to consider in your mobile marketing strategy. We’ll cover five of those strategies with tips and examples below:
There are two things to focus on for creating mobile-friendly content: readability and the user experience.
Readability refers to how easy it is to read the copy on your website. Is it easy to skim? Are there bolded headings and bullet point lists? Is copy broken up by relevant and useful visuals (photos, infographics, videos, etc.)? Do you use words and jargon that your audience understands? Do you use short, concise sentences?
By implementing the above characteristics in your copy, your content becomes easier to read, which is especially important for mobile users. They are looking at small screens, so long-winded sentences and huge blocks of copy force readers to scroll more than necessary. It’s also more difficult to find the information they’re looking for.
Including your main message or CTA at the top of the page limits a user’s scrolling. This is a good practice to implement for any content — you want your CTA visible and your message clear across all devices, so why not include it right away?
[Related: How to Create Readable Content for Higher Search Engine Rankings]
A better readability enhances the mobile experience and it can boost your search rankings. If your webpage is easy to read, users are more likely to spend time reading the whole thing or will browse other pages on your website as well. These actions send positive signals to Google that your webpage is user-friendly and might be helpful to other searchers.
However, readability is just one aspect of mobile-friendly content. There are other factors that marketers must be conscious of in their mobile marketing efforts.
Even if your copy is readable, do you know what it looks like on a mobile device? There could be technical elements that cause your webpages to display differently between devices — for this, you’ll likely need the help of a developer.
As a marketer, here’s what to look for to give your mobile users the best experience possible:
- Responsive design: This allows developers to create a website on multiple devices and reduces their amount of work. A page will automatically adjust its layout according to a user’s screen size. (By the way, you do not need a separate mobile-friendly website — that would be too much work to maintain!)
- Pages load quickly: If it’s too slow, users will hit the back button without hesitation.
- Copy, visuals, CTAs and other buttons are large enough to see and tap with a finger (the font should be at least 14px and the button sizes at least 44px by 44 px, according to a Hootsuite blog post).
- Smooth navigation: Can users easily identify the navigation bar and effortlessly browse your website? There should also be minimal steps to navigate a page.
- Want to test the mobile version of your website? Google offers this handy mobile-friendly testing tool.
2. Social Media: Instant Articles
When it comes to social media, Facebook is the major player. With the 2018 Facebook algorithm changes, it’s more difficult for brands to appear in their audience’s news feeds. However, Instant Articles may be a good sponsored content solution.
According to Search Engine Journal, “Instant Articles is a distribution platform that allows publishers to distribute their content as native media within Facebook’s mobile app.” Instant Articles offer an excellent user experience with fast load times by loading the article right in the app, and there are several interactive features not offered through a traditional post.
Brands will need to partner with publishers to take advantage of Instant Articles, which could get spendy, but it could bring more people to your content and more followers to your brand’s Facebook page. Considering Instant Articles is a mobile-only option, it’s a great way to reach an audience that consumes content by mobile phone only.
3. Search Engines: AdWords
As recent as March 2018, Google began migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing. Google states:
“To recap, our crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page’s content, which may cause issues for mobile searchers when that version is vastly different from the mobile version. Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our — primarily mobile — users find what they’re looking for.”
This change validates what research is showing us: More and more people are accessing Google Search through mobile devices.
Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) program, Google AdWords, has also undergone changes to make it more efficient to reach people across devices. The previous PPC structure required users to create individual campaigns for every location and device combination. Now, users can leverage all important mobile advertising features for all devices. This eliminates the gap between mobile and desktop cost-per-clicks (CPC’s).
Despite this update, the same Enhanced Campaign extensions for targeting mobile users still exist, which include options such as site links, making it easy for mobile users to see your website’s pages right in the Google Search app. There are also options to add a promotion, call or text message button, local information, and dynamic callouts — all of which provide more information or easy ways for customers to contact you directly from Google search. View all AdWords extensions here.
[Related: How Content Impacts the AdWords Quality Score]
4. Making emails mobile friendly
In a study that compared email engagement between mobile, webmail and desktop users, it found that, on average, most email opens came from mobile devices.
Percent of email opens:
- Mobile: 55 percent
- Webmail: 28 percent
- Desktop: 16 percent
The same study also found that more emails were read on mobile devices — 64 percent on mobile compared to 45 percent on desktop.
These stats prove the importance of developing emails fit for a mobile audience. While the same best practices for creating mobile-friendly websites applies to emails, there are other challenges to consider.
With email marketing, there are two main formats to choose from: HTML or plain text. Each email type has their benefits and drawbacks. A plain text email is considered more personal and provides a better one-on-one experience. HTML emails, on the other hand, have endless visual options to draw readers in and create a memorable experience.
When you send an HTML email, there is a higher risk of including elements that hinder a user experience (difficult navigation, small copy, long sentences that run off the page, etc.). These emails are also more likely to be filtered from a user’s main inbox and into the spam box.
Pro tip: For all HTML emails, create a plain-text version for users who may not be able to view the HTML version. With this in mind, images should not be used as CTA buttons; however, including an ALT tag that describes the CTA action will help direct users so they don’t miss out on the opportunity to click through to your site.
But the ability to execute a creative email can see really great results, while also being personal. I loved this email from Pure Formulas. It asks a universal question (“Feeling stressed?”) that many people can probably say yes to. Then, with a simple layout, there are four options. I appreciated the choices — especially because it didn’t highlight products or their brand.
And the email looked the same on my phone and desktop. With such large buttons and copy, you could tell it was created specifically with mobile users in mind. And the links led to relevant product pages that loaded quickly.
Overall, this email exhibited important characteristics of a strong mobile-friendly email:
- Short, concise subject line (“Feeling stressed? We’re here to help”)
- Large copy and buttons, with minimal copy
- A single column of content to create focus
- Quick load time
- Clear CTA
- Links to relevant product pages
- Design that works across devices
Try A/B testing your emails to see what kind of emails get the most engagement (clicks, replies, etc.) across devices, and adjust your email marketing strategy from there.
[Related: 3 Reasons Why Open Rate is a Poor Email Marketing Benchmark]
5. Extend the mobile experience
The above strategies are the most essential aspects of multi-channel mobile marketing, but there are others you can implement to further connect with your audience across devices. Here are a few ideas:
SMS (short message service) marketing reaches your audience directly, has a 98 percent open rate and is more effective than email for 18-24 year olds. MMS (multimedia messaging service) allows you to send enhanced text messages with graphics, video and audio. Send text messages to offer special discounts, run contests or share exclusive content. I recently participated in a text message content run by Fresh Thyme supermarket. They used Quickly, a tool that rewards users for being the first to respond to a text message. Fresh Thyme raised the ante by allowing participants to take actions — send the contest to a friend, like social media pages, etc. — to earn more time and receive the text before others.
An acronym for Quick Response, these have been used by marketers for years to give audiences creative ways to digitally connect with a brand. By scanning a code with a smartphone, a user is then led to a landing page. Marketers have enticed music fans to purchase CD albums with QR codes that give special access to behind-the-scenes footage or special performances. QR codes have also been used to bring new life to greeting cards, give users a coupon or even to give events a digital flair. Check out a few examples of QR codes in action here.
Not every business is a good fit for their own mobile app, but it can be a fantastic way to improve communication with your customer, improve loyalty, build brand recognition, drive more traffic to your website and strengthen your overall multi-channel marketing strategy. Of course, a mobile app will take some design and development help, but marketers can do a lot of the heavy lifting on their own.
Consistency builds credibility
At the end of the day, all of these channels require a consistent output of high-quality content. As you plan your multi-channel strategies, don’t forget to also develop a content strategy to ensure your team can be a reliable, credible source of information for your audience.
Learn more about building the foundation of a strong content marketing practice in this free eBook: The Content Marketing Playbook.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and relevancy.