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Prioritize mobile friendliness to drive omni-channel results

Prioritize mobile friendliness to drive omni-channel results Laura Scott

Earlier this year, Google expanded its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal that will have a significant impact on search results. While the company has created a handful of initiatives to optimize for mobile searchers in the past, this change sent some SEOs into a frenzy preparing for the change.


This prioritization of mobile experiences is overdue. More than just a method for reaching organic searchers, mobile-optimized content touches visitors across channels and in different stages of conversion. Mobile-friendliness is not an SEO initiative; it's an omni-channel initiative that has positive repercussions across your customer base. Emphasize the creation of appropriate content and experiences for mobile users to drive the best results universally.


Mobile and digital marketing


Mobile friendliness has implications for your entire digital marketing program because your customers are searching and browsing on mobile devices. According to our Q4 Digital Marketing Report, phones and tablets combined to produce 39 percent of paid search clicks in Q4 2014. More than 42 percent of organic search visits occurred on phones and tablets. According to Litmus, almost half of emails are now opened on phones and tablets.


Mobile users are a growing group of searchers and shoppers that your brand has the opportunity to capture through marketing. With controls like bidding adjustments, mobile-specific ad copy, landing pages, and creative, brands can curate the experience of mobile searchers on their site while paying efficient prices. Without a mobile solution in place, however, this group of prime shoppers is met with poor user experience and inappropriate content when your stellar marketing lands them on your site.


Mobile as the second screen


More than just digital marketing, mobile can help brands boost the impact of TV ads and capture customers that are generally browsing during primetime. Mobile devices act as a second screen for many customers while they watch television. According to Forbes, 56 percent of Americans engage in another digital activity while watching TV. This engagement with traditional television and streaming services like Hulu means big opportunity for brands. Smartphone and tablet owners report engaging in a number of activities while watching TV. Some of those behaviors include surfing the web, buying a product or service that's advertised (tablet, 20 percent; mobile, 13 percent), and reading conversations about the program on social sites. The most reported behavior was looking up information in general, with 76 percent of tablet and 63 percent of mobile second-screeners engaging in the activity. Both active shoppers and browsers on mobile devices should be met with mobile-optimized pages to give these visitors the best experience with your brand. Appropriate content encourages continued interaction.


Mobile and cross-device behavior


The conversions that happen on mobile aren't the only conversions that happen because of mobile. Cross-device paths to conversion are on the rise -- our research estimates that mobile conversions increase by as much as 23 percent when cross-device conversions were taken into account. A case study from one of our clients measuring cross-device conversions showed that paid search was driving nearly eight in-store orders for every one order online.


And conversion isn't the only behavior that starts on one device and continues on another. A Think with Google study showed that 90 percent of smartphone shoppers use their phone for pre-shopping activities like finding store hours, product information, and price comparisons. If a site isn't optimized for mobile, a piece of this path to conversion is missing. Users can't pick up where they left off (or can't even begin) when making the decision to convert.


Mobile and in-store


Mobile friendliness even impacts in-store behavior. According to the same study by Think with Google, eight in ten smartphone shoppers use mobile while they're in a store to help with shopping. Many customers compare in-store and online options with showrooming and webrooming, sometimes choosing to purchase through another channel (something brands can take advantage of if they have a strong mobile strategy). Other shoppers look up product information while in store rather than asking an employee to help. Our recent Shopper Expectations survey also showed that 46 percent of people surveyed would like personalized offers sent to their phones while shopping in-store. This means that loyalty programs and personalization can both be done expertly by targeting shoppers on mobile while they're in the-store.


Phones can even be used to help to pull customers into the store with options like location extensions in paid search. These show customers where the nearest store is located to encourage them to stop by. Each of those mobile touches is a chance to build the relationship with (and lifetime value of) that customer, but only if the content they access meets their needs.


Mobile is not separate


Many marketers segment "mobile" out of their customer base, then examine and assign value to the visitors as if they were separate. Mobile is not a group of customers. Mobile is an access point that all customers can use at different stages in their relationship with your brand. It's tempting to look at mobile converters and end the story with that strict view of the dollars they bring in. In doing that, we miss the real value of mobile friendliness. Customers will access your site and your web presence before, during, and after purchase through their mobile phones. They might be looking for information, offers, customer support, or continued interaction with your company. Those mobile visitors should be met with targeted content no matter how or why they're interacting with your brand. This will improve mobile conversions but, more importantly, it will improve interaction with your brand as a whole.


Laura Scott is senior strategy lead at Merkle


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