There was a time when people referred to anything digital as “electronic.” Still do. E-books. E-commerce. E-newsletters. Seems quaint, like steam heat or horse-drawn carriages.
Just as all things digital were “e,” the mobile space is now “m,” as in “m-commerce.” Mobile: defined as any digital delivery that is not stationary—everything but desktop. You’d think after all this time and brouhaha, the digerati would parse up their space with a little more clarity and specificity, particularly with a large word like mobile. It’s really stupid.
WebTrends recently came out with its “Most Embarrassing Predictions,” calling out the mad dash into mobile and tablet optimization. It’s one of the very first times I’ve read something that doesn’t presume all mobile delivery systems are the same. “Browsing, searching, buying, subscribing, etc., is a different experience on these devices, and consequently you will see a divergence in behavior.” They go on, “Usually we talk in terms of Visitor A behaving differently than Visitor B. Without trying to shatter your mind, we should be thinking in terms of Visitor A behaving differently from Visitor A—visiting the same site on different devices.” Shatter my mind? C’mon, this is Mobile 101!
The Europeans are well ahead of the game, wisely acknowledging the dynamics of multiscreen behaviors. Enough so that they literally changed the name of a recent study from “Mobile Exposures” to simply “Exposures.”
Smartphone studies show that primary usage is utility, i.e., m-commerce, search, information, maps—things designed for on the go and on the spot. Tablets are used for immersive experiences, i.e., content acquisition, reading, games, movies, etc. PC screens are used for even more immersive experiences, i.e., long form reading, their functionality being much more aligned with tablets.
We had a meeting the other day with a major corporation for whom we are creating a new WordPress site. They requested the site be responsibly designed. The latest bright ’n shiny, responsive design intends that websites be accessible on large, midsize, or tiny screens. Didn’t anyone read the Three Bears to these folks? The notion that one size fits all is silly. Content being repackaged for delivery across all platforms ignores the functionality of the platforms. We don’t force text to be viewed on video channels or long-form stories read on Twitter, so why would we do the equivalent of jamming a fat lady’s huge foot into a tiny shoe with content? And it’s not just about content. Different platforms affect advertising too. For example, tablet users will click on ads with double the frequency of smartphone users.
Content access, with the exception of quick news, is barely in the double digits among smartphone users. The number one use for smartphones? Checking the weather. Next? Seeking a location. Smartphone users seek instant gratification. Tablet users seek experience. Number one use among tablet users? Games. Second? Content acquisition. Amy Vale, vice president of global research for Mojiva, which has a billion mobile platform users, says, “Reading in print or even online is a much more immersive experience given the nature of the screen size.”
Everything that crawls on its belly like a reptile shouldn’t be called mobile, particularly when identifying trends and where money should be spent.
With corporate marketers screaming about ROI, we had better stop getting all hot and bothered about the mobile revolution and start getting smart about what works on which platforms. The industry really needs to clear the field and get more serious about function, and less about tooting its own horn.