Understanding and Succeeding with the Mobile-First Digital Experience

The mobile-first digital experience has become a cornerstone of successful marketing. Users now turn to mobile devices more frequently than desktop and mobile plays a growing role in the entire customer life cycle. Here is what all marketers need to know.

By 2019 mobile ad spend is expected to increase to $195.55 billion (Venture Beat), and mobile ads will comprise 70.1 Understand the mobile-first digital experiencepercent of all digital advertising. Already, an estimated 34 percent of online purchases happen on a mobile device. It is clear that the mobile-first digital experience has arrived and it has already begun to massively change the online world. It has disrupted the entire customer journey and forced brands to adjust how they engage and interact with customers.

Mobile micro-moments– intent-rich moments when people reach for a device with a specific goal to learn something, buy something, do something, or go somewhere– now dominate how customers interact with brands. These changes in mobile culture have forced SEO to mature. Marketers must now understand their customers on a deeper level and create meaningful content that appeals to people during the various micro-moments that make up their customer journeys.

How did we arrive at the mobile-first digital experience?

The journey to a mobile-first world has taken place rather quickly within the last decade with an explosion of activity over the past three years.

It was nearly seven years ago, in early February 2010, that Eric Schmidt first predicted the impending mobile-first world. In 2014, it became quite clear to the rest of the marketing industry just how accurate his predictions had been and how close they were to coming true.

In 2014, Google added a mobile-usability report to their Webmaster Tools and people could track more information about their mobile-optimized sites. Around this time, marketers also began to notice that having sites that were mobile friendly could boost their traffic rates by as much as 200 percent.

Soon afterwards, Google began to use a snippet next to sites on search results to indicate which pages were mobile-friendly.

The early stages of the mobile-first digital experience

Not only did this help attract positive attention to those who had already taken the extra step to ensure that their pages were ready for everyone, but they also gave a strong indication to experienced SEOs that Google would likely soon take mobile optimization into account.

The following year, 2015, was when we saw the mobile-friendly update. It was announced in advance in February of that year and then went live in April. The fact that Google announced it before the update went live, a very unique process for the search-engine giant, indicated how important Google viewed the update. Websites were given the opportunity to correct any errors they had before the update began to penalize their sites, contrary to most other algorithm changes; this update was about providing a better user experience on all sites.

Later in 2015, Google began to push the idea of micro-moments and the AMP markup was introduced.

This past year we saw continued development in mobile digital marketing. In February 2016, the AMP news carousel went live and by fall of that year AMP was no longer restricted to news sites. In the last few months of the year, Google announced their approaching mobile-first index and the fact that they were already testing this new algorithm design.

Consumers and search algorithms have moved rapidly towards the mobile-first digital experience, and brands that want to succeed need to understand the intentions and needs of these users.

How brands should prepare for this mobile-first digital experience

Brands should begin by reviewing the recommendations that Google has suggested for sites with the impending mobile-first algorithm.

Recognize also that mobile success is about more than just on-page optimization. Our research at BrightEdge has shown that 73 percent of Google search results for mobile differ from the results shown for desktop. It is important for brands to not only understand how to optimize for mobile, but also how to incorporate micro-moments into how you think about mobile and the customer journey to maximize appearance on these SERPs.

The customer journey today has splintered into countless key touch points. It can no longer be described as a linear path, but rather a series of moments that occur in random orders on different devices.

You need insight for the mobile-first digital experience

The better brands can understand these moments and incorporate them into a strategy, the stronger the relationship will be between brands and customers.

To take advantage of this changing landscape, brands need to:  

  • understand and pay attention to intent signals
  • understand the different types of content preferred by their clients for different devices
  • optimize content for the micro-moments
  • track results

To understand the deep impact of mobile and the micro-moment on the customer experience, consider that 51 percent of customers say that they use devices to discover new brands and products. Sixty-nine percent of smartphone users also say that they are more likely to buy from companies with mobile sites that easily address their questions or concerns.

Mobile and these touch points are also significant in local. Google has reported the doubling of ‘near me’ searches in the past year. Also, 82 percent of customers use their smartphones while in a store, and 59 percent say that they are more likely to use mobile sites that make it easy to complete purchases quickly.

Customers usage of mobile to help them complete ‘how to’ queries has also grown. Fifty three percent of smartphone users say that they prefer companies that offer instructional videos on their websites, and searches related to ‘how to’ have grown 70 percent on YouTube year-over-year.

Brands interested in succeeding in this changing mobile world need to understand and then pay attention to intent signals. This will boost understanding concerning the types of content that their customers want to see so that they can then produce the right content on the right topics to engage visitors and encourage them to enter the sales funnel.

The mobile-first digital experience has arrived, and brands need to make sure that their mobile strategy stretches beyond optimizing their individual pages. Successfully creating a mobile site means taking the entire customer experience into account to create personalized content that directly answered the user’s needs in those precise micro-moments.