Is Mobile Still the New Storefront?

Just a few years ago, a business’ website was considered its storefront. People found a brand and were introduced to its products or services through its website. But now, with the popularity of mobile marketing and the heavy use of mobile search (currently, about 60% of all searches come from mobile devices), marketers are understandably wondering: does the website have the power it once did? Has mobile taken over as that new digital storefront?

Where Desktop Websites are Losing Steam

It’s not to say that desktop websites are no longer relevant. They are, in fact, necessary from a search engine optimization perspective, and to serve people who don’t use mobile at all. But how people access them is changing, and marketers need to take this into consideration.

Today’s searchers are impatient. They want the information they’re looking for, and they want it now. Consider someone who wants to get the phone number of a business. If she searches on her desktop for the phone number, she then has to enter the number on her phone to call it. On the other hand, if she searches directly from her phone, she can click the number and call it instantly.

And while responsive websites — that is, those that adapt to the device they’re shown on — are slowly becoming the norm, not every business has upgraded its website to be mobile-friendly. That means that viewing some websites on a mobile device makes for an awkward and off-putting experience.

Where Mobile Wins the Gold Star

Whether a user is on a mobile-friendly website or a mobile app, she’s having an experience more in line with her needs and expectations. She can quickly access the information she’s looking for, and view it on a web page that takes a smaller screen and touch functionality into consideration.

If she’s on the go, she can get push notifications about sales or events when she’s within a certain distance of a store.

From a marketing perspective, a mobile app provides deep analytics on consumers’ mobile behavior, which is so valuable for developing future multi-channel marketing campaigns. Mobile insights can help advertisers invest in the right ads to get the best Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). Knowing which ads people clicked on, which push notifications drove the best conversion, and which in-app purchases are the most successful can have huge impact on sales results.

And finally, mobile buying experiences have improved vastly over the past several years. Where buying a product on a desktop might require several clicks, mobile buying often circumvents a few unnecessary steps to get straight to checkout for ease of use and increased sales.

Not surprisingly, consumers are spending ⅔ of their digital time on mobile devices. Marketers who use mobile in their strategy have a better opportunity to connect meaningfully with their audience.

So Which is Better? Mobile Website or Mobile App?

The answer lies in understanding the mobile functionality a brand is looking for. At a bare minimum, your website needs to be mobile friendly. That may mean creating a simpler version of your website, with fewer buttons and links, and a mobile-friendly toolbar.

But if you’re really working to capture leads on mobile devices, and if you want the capacity to sell on a mobile device, a mobile app may be a worthwhile investment. Keep in mind that while Google Analytics can give you some information about whether your search traffic came from desktop or mobile, there’s still a chasm between the two. A mobile app, on the other hand, can provide deep analytics that help you understand where your mobile traffic is coming from, as well as how your push notifications and other marketing efforts are paying off.

There’s also a burgeoning third category here: mobile storefronts. Dubbed “m-commerce,” the next generation of e-commerce is all about mobile, and there are companies willing to help businesses create a mobile commerce website that ties into their inventory and product fulfillment back-end system. The perk to these for companies who focus on selling products online is that it simplifies both the shopping and the buying process.

Test It Out Yourself

We’re still in transition when it comes to deciding what percent of our marketing and sales efforts should be desktop or mobile, and every industry is different. But give it a try yourself to find the right formula and balance for your brand.

  • For your advertising efforts, divert some funds to mobile ads and then compare results to what you’ve been doing.
  • Invest in a mobile-friendly or m-commerce site and then compare sales to those of your traditional website.

As the numbers improve on the mobile side, take that as a sign that it’s time to invest more heavily in your mobile marketing efforts. Over time, that number should increase, and you should see an ever-growing return on investment from your mobile efforts.