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Brand Strategy >May 11, 2021

Why a Mobile-First Approach is Key for Brand Success

May 11, 2021
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Cory Schröder
Content Marketing Manager

We’re sure there’s a part of you that’s tired of hearing the phrase “mobile-optimized” or “mobile-first approach” tossed around left and right.

From websites to emails, it seems like everything marketing-related has to be mobile-first these days. And while it may feel a bit irritating, we promise there are good reasons for it.

But what does a mobile-first approach really mean in terms of brand success? Stay tuned, as this article will take a closer look at how mobile optimization fits into your overall marketing strategy and provide a few examples of how it contributes to brand success.

What is Mobile Optimization?

Mobile optimization is a process of reformatting one’s website to ensure that mobile visitors experience a customized, high-quality experience that fits their smartphone’s smaller screen.

In an age where mobile minutes account for 77% of time spent online, companies can no longer dismiss mobile-first-optimization as “nice to have” — it’s now a requirement for success.

And mobile optimization is more than making sure your website generally looks nice on smartphones, it’s also about the details — customized navigation menus, footers, and buttons. But what is the difference between a mobile-friendly website and a mobile-optimized website?

Mobile-Friendly Site vs. Mobile-Optimized Site

Though these two terms sound somewhat interchangeable, in reality, they are quite different. A mobile-friendly website adapts the regular website to smaller, mobile dimensions, allowing visitors to see a version of the site that better fits a mobile screen.

On the other hand, a mobile-optimized website goes a step further and creates a completely reformatted version of the website specifically designed for mobile dimensions. This means that not only is the website content better scaled to fit a mobile screen, navigation menus, CTA buttons, and images are also optimized in accordance with mobile screen size and required load time.

What’s more, though it’s not a requirement to create a mobile-optimized version of your website, Google does primarily use mobile-first indexing. This means that — as a general rule — Google uses the mobile version of a website’s content for ranking and indexing.

With this knowledge at hand, it makes sense to ensure your website is optimized for mobile. But what are the benefits for your brand — besides making the biggest search engine in the world happy?

What are the Benefits of a Mobile-Optimized Website?

1. Improve UX (User Experience)

A mobile-optimized website not only looks nicer but also provides a better overall user experience. What’s more annoying than opening a mobile webpage and not being able to access the navigation menu or the Help Chat?

When websites aren’t optimized in a mobile-first manner, small issues can add up to create an unimpressive user experience. This can lead to higher bounce rates, less time spent on-page, and an overall drop in your SERP ranking. It can also affect your brand consideration levels, which provide information on how likely consumers are to consider using your brand.

However, when you invest time and money into a mobile-optimized version of your website, you’re ensuring that a majority of your traffic is met with the very best you have to offer.

Make sure to work with your tech team to guarantee that the mobile version of your website is up to snuff — from both a technical and content perspective. This way, those considering using your brand will be thoroughly impressed.

2. Improve Mobile SEO & Accessibility

When it comes to your brand awareness levels and overall SEO ranking on Google, many factors come into play. Back in April 2015, Google announced that mobile-friendliness would become a ranking factor, which meant that the mobile usability of your website would serve as a signal to Google concerning overall quality.

This update also meant that those who ignored this new ranking factor could see a drop in their SERP ranking and, with it, likely their brand awareness levels. Thus, Google made it quite clear that creating a mobile-optimized website would be critical in determining a brand’s success.

Mobile-first optimization also increases accessibility to your website. Why cut off over half of your potential traffic will a subpar experience? Make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices first, and you’ll reap the benefits.

It also helps to keep in mind the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These guidelines were created to ensure equal accessibility for all internet users, no matter their physical or intellectual differences. From color ratios in headers to size requirements for text, it’s important to strive for an equal experience for all users.

Plus, the more accessible your website is, the more people you’ll be able to speak to — which can lead to an increase in overall brand awareness.

3. Improve Site Speed & Performance

When considering your site speed and performance, unless your website has been optimized for both desktop and mobile, it will not perform as well as it could. Nothing to argue here.

A website programmed for desktop viewing is quite different from one set up for mobile. When a company uses its desktop version for mobile viewing, it often leads to an inefficient, somewhat clunky version of the site.

Research indicates that one in four mobile visitors will abandon a webpage if it takes more than four seconds to load. That’s not a very long time — apparently, even one second can make a huge difference.

Having your tech team code a mobile-optimized version of your website can vastly improve your page load speed and overall performance. And in a day and age where mobile performance outranks desktop performance, ensuring you offer a top-notch mobile experience is critical.

4. Increase Engagement & Time Spent

It makes sense that visitors will want to spend more time on a well-designed and optimized mobile website. When you offer logical navigation and easy-to-click buttons, visitors are more likely to explore your site — which increases their engagement.

And increased engagement goes hand in hand with important KPIs like brand preference and usage. Consumers are more likely to prefer and actually use brands that provide enjoyable, high-quality mobile experiences.

Additionally, engagement is an important factor in how Google determines the quality of your webpage and overall site. Though it’s a bit unclear exactly how important user engagement really is to ranking, the March 2019 Google algorithm update indicated that search engines are indeed paying close attention to user engagement via metrics such as dwell time.

These metrics help Google establish how long people spend on your website, how much they engage, and, therefore, how helpful your content is. As a general rule, the longer visitors spend on and the more they interact with your webpages, the better you look to Google — and the more likely it is that consumers prefer your brand.

Where Does Mobile Optimization Fit Into Your Marketing Strategy?

When creating a thorough and ambitious marketing strategy, there are many different areas you need to focus on. Some teams go for a content-heavy strategy, hoping to attract visitors with high-quality blog articles and webinars.

Other companies prefer to invest more heavily in paid search and social ads, looking to achieve a large reach and high return on investment (ROI).

However, whether visitors arrive organically via a blog article or through a paid ad, they all end up on your website.

You use your website to educate, convince, and sell. So what happens when users arrive at a slow-loading mobile site? Or one that’s difficult to navigate? They leave — driving your bounce rate up and your time on page down, indicating to the search engines that your content is not addressing people’s needs.

Therefore, if you want to ensure that all your various well-planned marketing efforts are worth the time and effort, start with your website. If you don’t already have a truly mobile-optimized version of your site, now is the time to make one.

We promise, you won’t regret it.

How Does the Mobile-First Approach Affect Brand Success?

With more and more people discovering brands through social media and personal referrals via their smartphones, your website needs to be mobile-optimized and well-branded. You could have the most exciting visuals and logo ever, but if they won’t load correctly or your links aren’t clickable, your brand will suffer.

Ensuring that your mobile website remains consistent with your brand identity, brand messaging, and brand positioning is extremely important to your overall brand health.

And it’s not just brand health that a mobile-optimized website can help. Many companies have taken a mobile-first approach to provide better access to their products, engage with their customers, and gather data for marketing purposes. But this doesn’t just pertain to mobile-optimized websites, it also has to do with mobile apps.

When considering a mobile-first approach, many businesses have gone a step further and decided to launch their own app. While they require more work to create and are not as flexible as mobile websites, mobile apps boast a 3x higher conversion rate than mobile websites and encourage users to view 4.2x more products per session.

These stats are impressive and — depending on the products and services your company offers — could make a huge difference in your sales and brand success. Let’s look at three B2C examples to gain a better understanding of how a mobile-first approach can affect brand success.

1. Nike Fit

When it comes to sports gear and shoes, Nike is about as well-known as it gets — offering an easy-to-navigate mobile website that puts its best foot forward for smartphone users.

But in 2019, Nike took their mobile-first approach a step further and launched “Nike Fit”, a scanning technology that allows customers to photograph and then measure their feet within the Nike app.

Source: Nike

According to Nike, whether it’s a faulty foot-measurement tool or the concept of sizing alone, one in five people are most likely wearing the wrong size shoe. And with 45% of consumers reporting that they’ve purchased shoes online in the past 12 months, knowing your size is important if you don’t want to be ordering multiple pairs only to send all but one back.

To remedy this issue, “Nike Fit” was created and added to their mobile app. This scanning technology has users photograph their feet, from which it collects 13 data points to map foot morphology and provides your actual shoe size.

By considering their customers’ main barriers to online shoe shopping, Nike was able to come up with a mobile-first solution that simplified the shopping experience. This new addition to their mobile app, spearheaded by the Nike Direct team, was meant to improve their direct-to-consumer sales — with the goal of reaching $16 billion in sales by the end of 2020.

When the average consumer shops for shoes, their instinct isn’t necessarily to do it through a mobile app. But by listening to their customers’ feedback, Nike was able to use their mobile app to better connect with and sell to their target audience — while also working to improve their brand consideration, preference, and usage.

2. Ikea Place

Shopping for furniture has traditionally been an activity that requires an actual visit to a furniture store. And Ikea excels in the physical shopping experience — from the logical flow of their store layout to the delicious (and cheap) food — they make furniture shopping fun and easy.

But what about the customers who aren’t able to visit an Ikea store or don’t enjoy the physical shopping experience — those that prefer to explore and order online? Well, Ikea wasn’t about to miss out on this potential revenue, so they developed “Ikea Place”, an augmented reality (AR) app that displays furniture in customers’ homes.

Source: Ikea

Wondering what that green, velvet armchair will look like in your living room? The “Ikea Place” mobile app shows you a to-scale, 3D version of exactly how it will fit — helping you avoid setting up (and then taking apart) ill-fitting couches or bookcases.

Research shows that customers using an AR tool are 11 times more likely to purchase an item, plus they spend 2.7 times longer browsing the app. By combining the needs of a less-traditional target audience (stay-at-home furniture shoppers) with cutting-edge mobile technology, Ikea came up with a creative, mobile-first solution to drive more business, stay ahead of the competition, and improve brand preference.

Evolving with the times and embracing ever-changing technology is one of the reasons Ikea boasts such impressive and consistent annual revenue and brand success.

3. L’Oréal

For decades, choosing a new hair color or style required an in-store visit — be that your local hair salon or the hair dye aisle of a nearby drug store.

In an effort to help people make the best choices, L’Oréal took a bold, mobile-first approach: they developed their “Style My Hair” mobile app, which uses advanced facial mapping technology to turn a customer’s smartphone into a virtual mirror.

Source: L'Oréal

Now, customers can try out various hair colors and styles from the comfort of their own homes. Once they’ve found one they like, the mobile app offers to connect them with nearby L’Oréal salons. Customer hair preferences are saved in the app and shared with the salon of their choice, allowing them to take a more active role in the entire process.

Concerning the goal behind the mobile app, L’Oréal’s digital officer Lubomira Rochet says:

“These tech collaborations enable our dynamic professional brands to enhance the expertise quotient in their services, while also providing consumers with a personalized brand experience and richer engagement.”

It’s clear that L’Oréal understands how this mobile-first approach fits into their overall brand strategy, with the goal of improving the overall customer experience and brand’s success.

How Do I Know if a Mobile App is Right for my Brand?

Many B2C companies provide mobile apps that enhance their services and brand offerings, but before you decide to jump on the bandwagon, make sure you ask yourself if a mobile app really makes sense for your brand and customer experience.

Mobile apps take time and money to develop, and they require near-constant upkeep and attention. Therefore, make sure your product translates well to a mobile app before you begin development and deployment.

Just because a mobile app seems like a good idea, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be successful.

Final Thoughts

To be fair, most established brands do offer a mobile-optimized version of their website in 2021, and many have ventured into the mobile app arena as well.

This article isn’t necessarily for them — it’s for the brand manager of a new start-up who’s struggling to explain to their supervisor why they should invest the tech team’s precious time in mobile optimization. Or the small business that is just starting out and hasn’t quite grasped why a mobile-first approach will be crucial to their success.

So, if either of those situations feel familiar, or if you’re facing difficulties for a completely different reason, we hope this article has helped you to better understand not only why a mobile-first approach is important, but how it can affect your brand’s marketing strategy and success.

Brand Strategy

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