Why You Need Mobile-Optimized Website Content (and Not Just Because Google Says So)

Google recently teamed with Sterling Research and SmithGeiger to survey nearly 1,100 U.S. adults about website user experience on smartphones. While their focus was more on general consumer use of websites, the results are certainly illuminating and applicable for the B2B customer as well.

  • Almost half of the respondents said they feel frustrated and annoyed when they get to a site that is not mobile-optimized, and 52% said a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company.
  • 67% of respondents said a mobile-friendly site makes them more likely to buy a company’s product or service, and 74% say they’re more likely to return to the site later.
  • 61% said that if they don’t find what they’re looking for on a site accessed from a mobile device, they’ll click away to another site. Half said that even if they like a business, they’ll use its site less often if it doesn’t work well on their smartphone.
  • 96% have visited sites that are clearly not designed for mobile devices, indicating the widespread lack of optimized web content.

Non-mobile sites are considered irritating at best and indicate a lack of respect for the mobile buyer: 48% of the respondents said that if a site didn’t work well on their smartphones, it made them feel like the company didn’t care about their business.

Most pundits reacting to the survey tout it as “a wakeup call,” to quote Jason Spero, Google’s head of global mobile sales and strategy. He warns that lack of mobile optimization will cause brands to “lose customers at the moments that matter.”

Our own research into B2B customer mobile website access reveals that in one particular “moment that matters,” mobile-optimized content is especially important: email marketing.

Symmetri provides website, microsite and landing page hosting for a variety of clients in B2B industries ranging from healthcare technology to manufacturing to professional services. We provide analytics consulting for many of these clients and regularly review server statistics as a way of identifying customer behavior and determining actionable information that can help our clients reach business goals. Some of the web properties we host are completely mobile-optimized; others feature responsive design that can adapt among the variety of browser platforms, mobile and otherwise; others still provide only minimal mobile-friendly content. The most active site sees about 15,000 visits per month, and the least active might have 50.

Comparing 12 months of data from our servers, we see that mobile access on each of our client sites, which span multiple industries, consistently averages between 10% and 13% of traffic each month. The one key exception is when we engage in email marketing. It is consistently true that whether we directly manage an email campaign via Symmetri’s email service provider or partner with trade publications, regardless of the size of the mailing list or the message in the copy, the landing page or site linked from the email will result in a big jump in mobile traffic. On average, 48% of ALL site traffic during the day of an email campaign release will come from mobile devices.

This confirms a couple of anecdotally accepted wisdoms of email marketing:

  • A large number of recipients open and read email on mobile devices.
  • A significant portion of those who open any email will follow included links.

This should prompt two important realizations:

When you send a marketing email, make sure it is mobile-friendly. Many recipients are going to receive and hopefully read your email on a smartphone or similar device, so anything you can do to make that experience as easy and effective as possible will improve your chances for successful conversion. Heavily designed emails with large images – sized for a desktop screen and high-bandwidth internet access – may not play as well on a handheld device.

Make sure that any links in your emails connect to web content that is mobile-optimized. The goal of most email marketing is to drive recipients to a landing page or web content, usually to convert them into a lead by capturing their data. Degrading the user experience in any way is an invitation to abandon your site. Tiny fonts, dark backgrounds, small input fields – all can make it hard to read web content on a mobile device and potentially cause users to skip the data capture form. Make sure the transition between email and website on the mobile device is seamless and efficient, with properly sized display and functionality. With the rapid growth of 3G networks and better, it is no longer as important to tailor content towards lower bandwidth, but the mobile user must be in the forefront of any email-related functionality.

Google commissioned and released the survey in part to bolster its own mobile-focused ad offerings; Google provides more mobile advertising than every other provider combined. More mobile-optimized sites will support more mobile-friendly advertising. But for our B2B clients, the email factor is just as important a reason for ensuring we optimize content and functionality for today’s smartphones.