02/24/2016 01:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Create a Mobile First Marketing Strategy


With the number of worldwide smartphone users expected to surpass 2 billion in 2016, mobile marketing is a must-do for every business. An estimated 28 percent of sales are now conducted on mobile devices, estimates CIO. Unfortunately, in the rush to engage consumers, brands often fail to follow best practices or even develop a clear strategy.

Pushing out a mobile app is not the be-all, end-all solution to mobile marketing! In fact, for most businesses, a mobile app is the last thing you should be considering. Instead, cover these four bases first:

  1. Get local. For starters, it's critical to understand how mobile search intent is different from desktop search. Most mobile searches are conducted away from the home or office. Mobile searchers are seeking an immediate answer to their most pressing questions, be that a list of afternoon movie times, whether your coffee shop is open late on Saturdays, or which car repair service will respond fastest with a tow truck. Local search optimization is essential for mobile search result visibility.

    Next, consider the other reasons why people search: local information in a new city/state. Once you've covered the basics of local mobile search optimization, keep an eye on your content. How can you make your site content more friendly for mobile searchers? Keep an eye on regionally trending topics and use local news stories as "hooks" for creating searchable content.

  2. Optimize for mobile viewing. In the "post-Mobilegeddon world", it's a given that your website already uses responsive design, right? (If not, it should!) Remember that smart mobile design is about more than just optimizing your site for mobile viewing with larger text and touch-friendly buttons. You also need to optimize your content structure. A short paragraph on your website can look like an endless novel on a smartphone.

    Get straight to the point with your content and stick to 1-2 sentences per paragraph at the most. Use bullets, subheads and numbered lists to keep your content scannable. Consider consumption context: if your customers can't scan your content quickly at Starbucks, they may never read it.

  3. Define mobile-friendly conversion points. Think about the most common conversion points in your existing sales funnel. Most of these points, like signing up for a newsletter or downloading a white paper are not realistic conversion points for mobile customers. That's because these conversion points typically involve longer forms that are not naturally mobile friendly. If you do want to keep these as conversion goals, simplify the forms to require only an email input and use HTML5 keyboard shortcuts (like an button) for faster input.

    Alternatively, think differently about your conversion goals. For example, maybe you want to engage in-store shoppers by encouraging them to download a mobile coupon. Make the process as easy as possible: snap a QRC code, enter an email address and go straight to the coupon page. Remember, the more steps in the conversion chain, the more likely you are to lose your customer along the way.

  4. Offer coupons. There will be over 1 billion mobile coupon users in 2019, predicts Juniper Research. No matter your business, mobile coupons are a smart solution for driving in-store foot traffic, boost online conversions, promote new products/services, and strengthen customer retention. Struggling to convert mobile searches into physical customers? Then tap into the power of geo-targeting. Run search promotions that prompt customers to check into your business's physical location in order to receive digital discounts and coupons.
  5. Don't forget about local listings. Don't neglect the importance of local search sites like Yelp. Don't fail to claim your local listings with Yelp, Google, and Bing. Since these sites auto-generate listings for local businesses, these listings are prone to inaccuracies. Take the time to claim your listing so you can manually manage listing details like physical location, store hours (including special holiday hours), and even add product photos.

Bottom line:

Done all of the above and now thinking about possibly creating your own mobile app? As a word of caution, unless you have a clear, compelling reason for your customers to download and use this app, it's not worth it. Really. Focus your efforts on continuing to better position your business via mobile search, local rankings and engaging, geo-targeted content.