Mobile shoppers topped desktop shoppers during the weekend-long 2014 Black Friday sales for the first time ever. This is just the latest milestone in mobile’s inexorable march to dominate online markets.
This trend has marketers scrambling to figure out what it takes to get a slice of the mobile pie for their brands. As it turns out, the obvious answers may not be right answers. In a recent series of tests conducted by the folks over at marketingexperiments.com, implementing a responsive website design did nothing to increase mobile conversions.
The mobile experiment is really just starting
In retrospect, this result may not actually be as shocking as it appears on the surface. While responsive design accommodates the mobile device, it doesn’t account for the attitudinal, behavioral, and decision-making differences between desktop and mobile users. What this study shows is that the psychology of mobile users is different from desktop users. That being the case, simply delivering content targeted to desktop users is unlikely to meet the needs of mobile users. This conclusion, is unlikely to be the final word on this issue, but it should cause marketers to reevaluate their mobile strategies from the ground-up.
So what are the differences between mobile users and desktop users and how can marketers increase mobile conversion rates?
Print coupon vs. Mobile coupon
Let’s assume for the moment that responsive design really isn’t sufficient for conversions. Does this mean that the mobile website should be completely different, with different messages, different calls-to-action, and different content that is optimized for the on-the-go psychology of a mobile user? It’s probably too early to answer these questions definitively, but another study, a simple A-B test done by LoyaltyReward.co may offer some insights.
The A-B test conducted by the folks at LoyaltyReward compared a responsive design that basically reformatted the brand’s website for mobile devices to a mobile coupon site that was dramatically simplified. The coupon site only displayed the brand logo, social media icons for sharing, and a coupon. Full disclosure, further down the page, if users were willing to scroll, there was also location maps and a link to the brand’s mobile responsive web presence, but viewing these items was not necessary for the mobile user to take action with the coupon or the sharing buttons.
The mobile coupon site which delivered a coupon in exchange for the mobile user’s personal data had a 55% conversion rate. The mobile responsive site did not show any increase in conversions over the non-mobile optimized site while the coupon site increased calls to the brand’s location by a factor of 10x.
Not only was the coupon site more effective in delivering real leads, it also delivered the user information which print coupons simply can’t do.
It always tempting to generalize from specific incidents, and it’s usually counterproductive to read too much into a single experiment. However, a closer look at some of the questions that emerge from these findings may be productive for marketers.
Has web design become too complex?-While it may seem clear that simplified designs are more effective for mobile users who are using smaller devices, could simpler designs for desktop also promote more conversions?
How much information do users really need to take action-The mobile coupon site was not only simple in design and effective at gathering leads, the call to action was unambiguous and did not have to compete with other design elements. How much information does a user really require before responding to a call to action?
What is the most effective call to action for a brand?-The study above used a coupon, and that may have been perfect for a restaurant, but it may not be the best engagement device for every brand. Which other engagement devices such as one question surveys, contests or something else are most effective for different mobile target markets.
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Now that mobile is consistently showing up desktop in usage and engagement statistics, marketers will be obligated to make the shift and follow the technology just as they did when technology shifted marketing momentum from print to web. It is simple and insightful experiments like these that will provide the questions that marketers must answer for their brands. One thing is clear. Mobile here to stay. It won’t always be smartphone screens; it may be something even smaller. Simpler designs and simpler mechanisms for engagement may be the next order of business for marketers.