Are you mobile yet?

We've talked a lot about responsive websites. Websites that change their shape to fit the display on which they are being viewed. They show as a "normal" site on laptops and PC's, and rearrange themselves to better fit on phones and tablets.


There is another dimension to this called adaptive sites, to most people they are the same as responsive sites. The difference is that some items completely change. For instance, a form may be replaced by something that allows easier input from a touch device.

Adaptive sites are completely different from "mobile" websites. Mobile sites tend to be stripped down versions of a website and present the most basic information in a spartan fashion. These were acceptable solutions when phones had awkward browsers and input was via a keypad. Now with touch screen phones and tablets they are more of an irritation to the mobile visitor.

Mobile compatibility is important to every industry. Below are 4 years of visitors for six different companies. These companies are varied. There is a non-profit, day care, motel, an ecommerce site, a site for a popular book series and a retail store site.

They all share something in common.  Mobile visitors are steadily increasing their presence on their various websites. The lowest is the day care at only 30%, but a year ago it was 20%. We are talking double digit growth. The highest is the book series with 55% mobile traffic.

The third one down is interesting. It is a motel with a very seasonal business. You can easily see the traffic increase in the summer and how each summer the mobile traffic increases. If mobile visitors aren't a significant chunk of visitors on your site now, they will be. Simply having mobile visitors show up is half the job.

We used to tell people that the competitors were one click away, and an ugly or outdated site hurt their business. We are seeing the same problem occur with bad or missing mobile sites.

First we need to define the web visitor. Our web experience has changed dramatically over the years. The first users had to really want to get on the Internet. I remember the first time I saw a browser. A friend had to dial into the University of Colorado to get on. There wasn't a local option at all, much less broadband and no browser like we know it today. He was pretty hard core about technology. The first consumer level internet users started with having internet access only at work or school. That was the entire reason we have "Black Monday". It was caused by people going back to school or work and shopping online.

When the internet came into the home, it started with desktop computers in an office with no TV. Today the computer shares the room with a TV. The assumption was that eventually the computer would take over for the TV.

We are coming out of a phase where a laptop is permanently stationed on a TV tray next to the couch and seeing it displaced with tablets and phones. Laptops will stay in the livingroom as long as people are doing work from their couch but will fade for entertainment. The TV has stayed right where it has always been, just changed in ways we would never guess at 20 years ago. My own home office use has dramatically reduced since I switched to a laptop.

There is a difference between the tablet and the laptop/desktop most people miss. The tablet is a device for consumption, the laptop or desktop are devices for creation. Instead of the laptop computer taking over for the TV, our definition of a computer and what we should do with it changed.

Our web visitors are becoming tablet and phone users because that is what is at hand.

I personally love that I can push YouTube videos to my TV. I just find a video and click the TV icon to play it. My livingroom probably has at least 6 devices that can log into my Netflix account and display movies, not including the TV itself. In the last 10 years the landscape has radically changed and how I consume entertainment has dramatically changed.

The big brains talk about how mobile Commerce is going to change everything. The change is the user wanting a more convenient platform and right now it just happens to be tablets and phones. The platform is irrelevant to them. There was a small threshold to get people used to the idea of making a physical purchase from their mobile devices. You can thank games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga for getting consumers over their reluctance to purchasing on mobile.

I show this graph a lot, its about 18 months of information with a 7 day running average applied. At first glance it shows that this company is in trouble. Their sales leads are dropping at a fairly regular rate. They pop up occasionally but briefly due to big sales events that can't be financially sustained.

The interesting thing is the blue line. The line represents unique mobile visitors. It is also inverted. I flipped it and superimposed it over the leads to see if they trended together. This company had a dedicated old school mobile site, it was missing nearly all the tools the main site had to drive leads. Sure, they had a simplistic site that fit on a mobile screen but they gave up everything that drove the sales. Those big blue spikes you see near the end (remember lower is better for blue) are from some advertising campaigns they tried. It appeared they failed to produce, in looking at the data we realized they succeeded but the traffic was about 90% mobile visitors who weren't impressed with a clumsy stripped down experience. The assumption was that visitors would go to a laptop or desktop if they needed the missing site features. Never forget, the competition is a click away.

We tried an experiment. We killed the mobile site and sent the visitors to the desktop site. So far we are seeing a slight drop in mobile visitors, which unfortunately is Google deciding to rank our non-mobile site lower on mobile devices. The mobile visitors are apparently much happier with the full site. The number of leads came up and stayed up.

To make this chart we pulled the daily unique visitors from Google Analytics and the daily leads from the CRM. Once we had the two charts, I took a screenshot, flipped the mobile chart and laid it over the leads. We didn't immediately arrive at this conclusion, we looks at dozens of items. This time, standing on our heads proved fruitful. We looked at how many items on the main site drove leads, versus the mobile site. The dedicated mobile site was severely lacking.

The solution for this company was a responsive site that keeps all the tools to drive leads, but also gives Google what it needs to rank the site organically with search engine marketing.

In looking at our client's data, we noticed a trend where the mobile visitors jump 10-20% at the end of the year. Our assumption is that a lot of people are getting new tablets and phones for the holidays.

Another trend we notice is the non-computer households are growing. Most people would assume we are talking about a luddite existence with a lot of reading and camping. Perhaps a general distrust of technology and love for candlelight. Nothing could be further from the truth. My son is one of these neo-luddites and he is the next step technology-wise. It isn't that he doesn't own a computer per se. He has a phone, Kindle Fire, Xbox and a smart tv. He literally doesn't see the need for a laptop or desktop computer because it is completely unnecessary to him. He gets along just fine without it, and guess what? He's not the only one. He says most of his friends his age are doing the same thing. At 24 years old, he is a part of a generation that terrifies computer companies. When he went out on his own he took his crusty old computer that served him in high school. Long before that machine became so outdated it served better as a boat anchor, he had completely stopped stopped using it at all.

Mobile isn't just growing, it is taking over. At some point I think we will all follow my son to a degree. The initial studies predicted that mobile visitors would top out around 20% of site traffic. The reality is that we have clients on the north side of 60% mobile traffic on some days. It's similar to how people got rid of their home phones and went to cell phones only.

Mobile is also a the platform for leisure time. In further study of the numbers we found that even if a site would slow down on weekends, Saturday and Sunday would still be the busiest days for mobile users. Generally weekends would see a jump in mobile traffic, in some cases up to 70% of all traffic.

So what does all this mean? If you have a dedicated mobile site, it is probably costing you sales. You need all the tools that drive leads and sales online. A stripped down mobile site isn't meeting the needs of the mobile user.

The mobile visitor needs the same features as a desktop user because they are trying to buy something you are selling.