By Guiom Peersman, MD of mobile specialist Dialogue Communications
Mobile phones are now so much more than a tool used for making calls and sending text messages.
They have become handheld computers, entertainment devices, a research tool and now a marketing medium.
The rapid development of mobile phone technology has facilitated the growth of the mobile internet, which is now offering users a breadth of content and services and is a mechanism many companies are adding to their marketing mix.
2007 saw a significant shift in user behaviour when browsing their mobile phones. Traditionally users had been limited to exploring the operators own portal, with limited access to any other products or services outside that. Now however, users are choosing to browse outside the operator’s ‘walled garden’, which has opened up a new enterprise opportunity for companies worldwide.
One way brands are promoting products and services on mobile is by designing a mobile internet site, which acts as another advertising mechanism and a selling platform. A mobile internet site works in exactly the same way as a standard website, except that it is designed to fit the mobile screen, is easily accessible on a mobile phone and is often less feature-rich to enable faster browsing.
With an increasing number of brands launching mobile internet sites and competing for consumers’ attention, it is evermore important that they ensure their site design and features entice the user and encourage repeat purchasing or visits.
Top tips for designing a site include:
1. Design a site to fit the screen and technology
Mobile internet sites differ in look and feel to standard internet sites. Obviously as mobile phone screens are much smaller than PC monitors the amount of content on each page needs to be reduced and only the most valuable content is presented to the user.
The text and images used on a mobile internet site should be tailored to the size of the device, to fit that particular handset screen. You can’t simply shrink the pages of an internet site, as the text becomes unreadable on such a small screen - take the existing design and content from the web but review this to adapt it to mobile.
2. Browser Differences
It’s important to understand with the mobile internet that there are a number of different browsers, due to the number of handsets on the market. It’s important to choose an application that automatically detects the handsets’ capabilities in order for the mobile site to be re-sized for that particular handset.Any mobile internet site needs to operate effectively across all browsers.
Mobile internet sites tend to be much more vertical in presentation, with most of the information following from one section to the next.
4. Engaging content
Like a traditional internet site, mobile sites need to be engaging, with regularly updated content to stop consumers becoming tired or bored of the site. Products that are tailored to the device, such as ringtones, images or videos, or the most relevant or popular products need to be displayed in a prominent position to encourage purchasing.
5. Interactive features
These have proven very popular with mobile users, so including these where possible will make your site more appealing. Interactive features will encourage users to return to the site, particularly campaigns like refer-a-friend, which is a great viral marketing method and a reward could be offered to a user for the referral.
On mobile internet sites navigation is also key, as the user wants to access the content or service in as few clicks as possible because data charges are still a major concern.
A good site should never use a scroll-bar as it makes searching more time consuming. A seamless user experience is important to the success of a site and by getting this right the site will look more professional and be more user friendly for the customer.
Marketing and advertising your mobile website is also essential. Mobile marketing has seen a major boom in 2007 and this looks set to continue in 2008.
Mobile marketing in general is a very personal, direct marketing channel with a high level of ROI for well targeted advertising.
However, it is also important to advertise on mobile search engines allowing product/services to be found easily, potentially through mobile ads. Mobile internet sites offer clear advantages in this area, as the end-user can be tracked uniquely rather than tracking a single computer which might be shared by multiple users.
On a mobile internet site you can identify and track visitors, recognise new and returning visitors and start understanding your user’s behaviour, so that you can personalise the mobile website and content to the user’s preference.
Currently mobile internet sites are predominantly used to sell content such as games, music, concert tickets and now it is becoming more important to brands as part of their marketing mix.
Having a mobile internet site enables companies/brands to interact with a broad demographic and with over 50 million handset users in the UK, the target market is ever growing. Tailoring your site and its messaging to your audience is also essential to ensure a high hit rate on the site.
The future boundaries of the mobile internet are endless, just like the traditional internet so getting your mobile website published as soon as possible is important so that you don’t miss out on the marketing opportunities.
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