My first reaction to a recent research report on mobile platforms was…DUH. But, as often happens, a little more reflection made me realize there was some important learning to be had.
The Adobe Digital Index reviewed more than 100 billion website visits around the world, and came up with interesting comparisons between tablets and smartphones…more specifically, the “shopping” behaviors consumers display on each platform. The basic takeaway from the study, which you can see in more detail here, is that tablets have overtaken smartphones as the shopping device of choice. Simply put, tablet use and prominence is growing; smartphones, not so much.
The results show that users look at 70% more web pages per visit using a tablet than they do when using a smartphone. That’s the “duh” part for me. Of course they do. It’s easier to click around a site when your flabby fingers have a lot more working room to find, isolate, and click on the links and, dare I say, actually read some of the words you find once you get there! (And while youth may give you a bit more dexterity and better eyesight for that purpose, it comes with less patience, so those things tend to cancel out.)
What this finally made me realze is that “mobile” is no more a single category than “broadcast” is. You wouldn’t (at least wisely) use the same tactics for a Super Bowl TV spot as you would in a gas-pump video or local radio remote. So today, smart marketers shouldn’t think they are ahead of the curve simply because they’ve made their website “mobile friendly” unless they really understand what that means.
That’s because the real point isn’t how your website looks on both the tablet and smartphone platforms. It’s about how the consumer actually uses those platforms. Think of your website as today’s equivalent of the old-school “catalog.” It has everything you want to sell or talk about, probably arranged in different sections, departments, etc. The tablet has a screen large enough to give the user a reasonable chance to look inside your catalog. To click around, find what they’re looking for, and perhaps even order.
The smartphone just can’t DO that. Sure, you can redesign the viewing experience (likely through an app) in such a way that items are presented in some kind of order, at what is at least a reasonable image size. But it’s a long, tedious, and convoluted way to go through a catalog. (Kinda like looking at one through the peephole in an apartment door.) And it must not be very satisfying for the user – that’s why you can almost always click to a full-web version at some point, choosing to deal with the tiny links because they’re organized in a more familiar pattern.
Truth is, the smartphone is a different kind of vehicle. It is, in old-school terms again, your sales flyer. Your promotional postcard. Your fifteen-second TV spot. Re-think how you’re going to use it in that light. If you want your website to show up well on that particular stage, there’d better be some very clear, very interesting, very bite-sized items that can command that small screen. Not the first of 36 pairs of women’s shoes to be cycled through – but something really unique. An intriguing item, an offer that merits an instant click-through, or a story that you just can’t resist hearing more about right now. Some have used the term “snacking.” (I don’t love it, but it’s pretty accurate.)
You’re never going to be able to present your ‘catalog’ well on a smartphone; no matter how “adaptive” your design, you are destined not to win that ‘pages visited’ war against tablets. But there are still a great many people who feel that, at least technically, they can do everything they need to do with their smartphone and won’t pop for a tablet, too. So it’s a little too soon to walk away from those potential customers or fans.
The best way to “solve” this new technology dilemma is to use the oldest, wisest rule in marketing of any kind – look at it through your prospect’s eyes. If your design doesn’t click….he or she won’t, either.