How Difficult Can a Mobile Site Be? The Dangers of Doing It Yourself

| 08/09/2011

Droves of data on mobile advertising and local search, particularly from IAB, BIA/Kelsey and comScore, have hit the newswire in recent weeks and months. And, based on what has been shown, we can all agree that mobile technology is quickly emerging among consumers as the next generation of local search. Equivalently, mobile is becoming, for businesses, an increasingly important avenue for being discovered and considered during purchase selection. As mobile technology continues to progress, more businesses will side with mobile as a “marketing must-have,” rather than a “nice-to-have,” especially considering the lead-generating potential that mobile has for calls, clicks and patron visits.

But with the surge in mobile technology, we have simultaneously created a beast that cannot be tamed. By that, I am referring to consumer expectations. And when expectations go unfulfilled, they can become that snowball rolling down a snowy hill.

How Mobile Is Fueling False Expectations

When it comes to mobile, consumers are riding the wave of technological advancement, ultimately establishing false expectations. They expect, they demand rather, that technology will be up to par with what they are used to on their desktops and laptops—same speeds, same connections, same functionality — only better. They simply want the same experiences delivered to their mobile devices. “Why not?” they ask. “How difficult can it be?” Only it’s not so simple.

As marketers, we hear the mobile consumer’s cry for immediacy and relevance. Naturally, we want to deliver, especially when we look at it from this angle: Smart-phone adoption and mobile-Internet usage are both rising. That means more consumers have access to mobile technology to satisfy their on-the-go lifestyles. Being outside their homes, mobile users are active searchers and highly qualified purchasers looking to fulfill their immediate needs. They tend to take action quickly, given the timely nature of their searches. They are ready to call stores, willing to show up in person, prepared to consume now or in the next hour. And they expect their mobile experiences to mirror what they’d be able to accomplish at home on their desktops. And if those expectations go unfulfilled, you can expect the dissatisfaction to be broadcast from peer to peer (that’s the snowball rolling down the hill).

But when you think about it, mobile technology is still in its infancy, yet it is already packing a hefty, business-sized punch. So how do you balance a relatively new medium with consumer expectations?

Do It Yourself?

Recently, more companies have begun began offering do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions for small- and medium-sized businesses. Such out-of-the box solutions are really templates that businesses can use to set up mobile landing pages. Even more, coding experience is not required. Seems simple enough, right? A win-win? A mobile page as easy as 1-2-3?

Careful. There are a few glaring issues with DIY products. Like the “traditional” Internet, having a mobile-Web presence just to have one isn’t good enough.

We understand that mobile sites and landing pages which best summarize our business information and social data (e.g., ratings and reviews) will lead consumers to take action faster. But that’s a loaded sentence because mobile experiences are nowhere similar to those on traditional Web pages. To cater to a highly demanding consumer group that has high expectations and low patience:

  • Load times must be short.
  • On-site content must be optimized for the mobile Web and the small screen.
  • Understand that more clicks equal less toleration.
  • Mobile-share functionality must be incorporated to facilitate the viral nature of the Web.
  • Mobile videos must be converted.
  • Proper instrumentation of the site must be established to track user behavior as it pertains to clicks, calls and directions, all of which enable accurate analytics.
  • Site development, including URL, must satisfy the plethora of mobile platforms and devices.

And the list goes on.

I expect widespread adoption of DIY solutions to be minimal, at least at the outset. In the past, small and medium businesses have embraced DIY solutions with some hesitance. While mobile is very important to discoverability and lead generation, it will take some time before businesses dive in. So much has changed in the marketplace in the past few decades, from the Internet to social and mobile media, that businesses are faced with the constant struggle of keeping pace in an ever-evolving landscape. Budgets must be reallocated. Time is an issue, especially if marketing is handled internally. Resourcing and staffing are major hurdles that small and medium businesses must overcome.

As a result, I suspect that most businesses will look for mobile offerings that are more comprehensive. So instead of being charged with everything that comes with a new medium, from staying abreast to full-out implementation, businesses can go to mobile-advertising companies for their all-in-one solutions. In other words, mobile distribution will be part of a larger package, including optimization, a mobile site, mobile listings, mobile apps and mobile display.

Furthermore, such programs typically come with custom dashboard reporting, dedicated account managers, constant optimization and ongoing compatibility updates to keep a business’s mobile presence up to date with the latest devices. The latter should be an attractive feature considering that the mobile marketplace is experiencing fragmentation today, as evidenced by the growing number of devices that all seemingly operate on their own terms. Until more industry standards are established, this option sounds like a much-better alternative for small and medium businesses.

Naturally, the topic of price arises. To make such programs appealing to already-budget-strained businesses, mobile-advertising companies are making drastic changes to their pricing models. Many have lowered their start-up costs, while others have adopted performance-based programs based on lead generation. Such models hold mobile marketers accountable for their products’ performance, while business owners can feel better about “testing” mobile with little financial risk.


Considering lead impact, mobile is something that should be taken seriously. But mobile is changing rapidly. And given the short period of time during which to reach mobile consumers before they grow dissatisfied with a brand’s mobile presence, mobile marketing should be left to those who have the time, knowledge and resources to stay ahead of the curve.

Doing so will help businesses get their feet wet before diving in, while simultaneously meeting the rising expectations of mobile consumers. Turning mobile over to the experts also creates more opportunities to test and target, providing greater returns on investments and clearer glimpses into mobile consumers’ purchase patterns. And through the larger mobile distribution that mobile-advertising companies provide, small- to medium-sized businesses can reach a vast mobile audience with a single touch point.

Originally published on IABlog (August 2, 2011)