Written by: Drew Lyon Austin, Texas
Because they’re cool? Sure, that’s one reason. I mean, the new iPhone takes dinner reservations by voice and the Kindle Fire is a full-featured color tablet for under 200 bucks. Plenty of people will buy these gadgets because they’re cool, but that’s not why it matters to you. As a tech-savvy internet marketer looking for new ways to reach today’s customer, you care about these hot new gizmos because their high demand indicates an important shift in the way people are doing personal computing.
The desktop computer is for power users and bulky laptops are being replaced by modern devices that house all the computing power an average user needs in a sleek portable shell—one that looks cool. At their recent iPhone event, Apple announced that they have shipped 250 million iOS devices—that’s a quarter of a Billion internet-connected, GPS aware devices (iPhones, iPads and iPods) that people now use to perform tasks—like making dinner reservations—that were previously reserved for laptop and desktop computers. And that’s only Apple’s share of the pie. That staggering number doesn’t include the millions of Google Android equipped devices getting snatched up by eager consumers, including Amazon’s soon to come Kindle Fire.
Wait, hold on a sec, are you telling me nobody uses computers?
No, before anyone gets up in arms, I want to be clear that I’m NOT declaring the personal computer dead as we know it. Hey, I realize some people still type on a keyboard (myself included, right now); heck, some people still double-click a mouse (not myself, but I’m sure I’ve seen it). And I don’t expect either of those habits to die anytime soon.
With that in mind, it’s not your job as an internet marketer to figure out what devices or platforms are going to “win” the product war; let the hardware manufacturers lose sleep over that. Instead, it is your responsibility to champion a marketing strategy that utilizes all current and emerging opportunities for growth. And there’s no denying the opportunity for growth exists on platforms that are only just beginning to catch up with popular demand.
The chart below shows what kind of growth you can expect in the tablet market.
So what do I do?
Okay, you’re sold. You want to take advantage of the growing mobile/tablet market but you’re not quite sure how. What can you do differently than what you’re already doing? Well, there are two steps to an effective mobile/tablet strategy. First, you must consider your mobile user experience and second, you need to draw mobile users.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to assess your readiness for marketing on mobile and tablet devices…
When’s that last time you looked at your website on a smart phone? What about an iPad?
Many websites developed in the last few years scale automatically and decently for mobile browsing. You may already have a site that looks good on some mobile devices—that’s the good news, but the bad news is, it varies considerably from device to device. And if your website relies heavily on Flash, it’s not gonna look pretty on any of those aforementioned 250 million iOS devices. So, next time you’re redesigning your site, or developing a new one, you might want to avoid Flash altogether.
But it’s not enough for a passable version of your website to display on mobile and tablet devices. You want mobile users to have an exceptional experience. This requires an intuitive mobile-friendly UI. Ask yourself: Does your site navigation work? Is the form easy to fill out? Is the phone number click-able? Is the contact info and call-to-action even visible on a 3.5 inch display?
Test drive your website on as many phone and tablet devices as you can get your smudgy hands on. Then, objectively evaluate your experience. Have colleagues and employees test as well—double bonus if they all own different devices. If your site’s information is clear and easy to access, then you may not need major changes, however, if the experience is frustrating and tedious, it might be time for a significant redesign.
Mobile site, mobile app, or neither?
Creating a separate mobile site or dedicated app is always an option but you need to decide what this mobile site or app will offer customers that you couldn’t accomplish through a universally-accessible well-designed website. If you have a compelling reason to create an app, then by all means, dedicate the resources to doing so. But remember, you’ll need to develop separate app versions for iOS and Android (and maybe Windows Mobile at some point), if you want to reach the entire mobile/tablet market.
Did you know Google lets you create paid search campaigns that directly target tablets and phones?
There’s no reason to be shy about paid search advertising. Matter of fact, 97% of Google’s revenue comes from advertisers (see below). So, it should come as no surprise that Google is actively looking for enticing ways to get these ads in front of the hundreds of millions of users searching on smart phones and tablets. The result, Google now lets Adwords users create campaigns specifically targeting those devices.
But what’s the advantage of a separate campaign?
Creating a separate campaign for phones and tablets lets you to pick keywords and create ads that appeal explicitly to users on mobile devices.
For example, a mobile ad for a Towing Company might say, “Stuck on the side of the road? Late for Dinner? We’ll pick you up in 5.”
And since your mobile/tablet ads are isolated in their own campaign, you’ll be able to clearly evaluate how well your advertising is performing on these platforms.
What about all the technical stuff?
Yes, there are some technical updates you can make to improve your site’s mobile “searchability.” For starters, you should create a mobile sitemap and always follow best practices for mobile-friendly CSS. If you want more details on the technical stuff, check out our mobile website checklist.
Eh, I still don’t get what all the fuss is about
Face it, whether or not you’ve personally succumbed to the lure of these shiny new products doesn’t matter—because your customers have (or they will soon). It’s a numbers game and once the market for these devices reaches a quarter billion plus, it’s time to take it seriously; it’s time to make sure you aren’t turning your back on a growing pool of potential customers. This is the ideal time to make sure your internet marketing strategy includes prominent visibility on mobile and tablet devices. Otherwise, you simply won’t be seen.