In 2007, when the iPhone was introduced, the mobile industry was turned on its head. The iPhone was not the first phone that let you browse on the open Web, but it drove consumer awareness and demand for the Web on phones. Prior, most carriers had a closed Web browsing experience, or “deck,” an idea that, like AOL in its glory days, seems in hindsight to be hopelessly out of date.
A few big wins came in the Mobile Web 1.0 days, such as m-Qube and Openwave. A closed Mobile Web meant tools had to be provided to deal with its unique infrastructure. At mShopper, where I was Chief Revenue Officer from 2006-2008, we were “on-deck” with the three major U.S. carriers (AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon) and mobile-enabled shopping at 100+ retailers including WalMart, Target, and BestBuy.
But then everything changed. Some have argued that the shift to an open Web browsing experience meant that there is no longer a place for mobile platforms. However, the truth is that mobile platforms are now more important than ever. Why? Because there are things mobile is better at, and things it is worse at. And existing desktop Web content often fails to capture that distinction, or that value.
Here are some of the ways that mobile is different:
Different Infrastructure: Mobile is great at generating calls for advertisers, obviously. But in click-to-call mobile interactions, session cookies break. This means a fundamental building block of the desktop Web has to be rethought, using mobile-specific tools, so that we can track for results as we do on the desktops. At mTrax (http://mtrax.com), this is why we have focused on tying clickstream sessions to calls. We call this “Callstream Analysis,” and it is going to be increasingly important over time.
In addition, desktop Web sites are not typically formatted for viewing on phones. This is true even for iPhones. A Web site has a different goal on mobile. For Small Businesses in particular, the goal is typically driving calls. So a Web site which looks just fine on a phone is still suboptimal if it is not putting the phone number front and center, and clickable to call. At mTrax, when we look at Small Businesses’ desktop Web sites on phones, we find that often they break, or are suboptimal for mobile viewing. Often, they look fine in one platform, but not in all major mobile platforms. The situation is similar to Web circa 1996, where you had sites which looked great in some versions of Internet Explorer, but not others, and not on AOL or Netscape. In mobile, you have to add in multiple Operating Systems, browsers, handsets, and form factors. mTrax integrates mobile landing pages for its clients which work in every combination of OS/browser/handset/form factor.
Different outcomes: I mentioned that the advertising goal for most Small Businesses is driving calls. To do this, not just the content but also the advertising has to be set up distinctly for mobile. Mobile search campaigns have to be set up to generate calls. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft each have a different set of interface tools for mobile search, with different ad types, new parameters, and the new outcome of a call, not a click. By the way, this outcome (new calls) is far more valuable to a Small Business than a click.
Leapfrog technology: About 30% of the Small Businesses that we talk to have no desktop site at all. Mobile search lets these Small Businesses leapfrog the need to develop a desktop site, and go directly to search listings driving calls to them. These business owners are often spending on print directories, so it’s not that they don’t have the money. It’s that they are traditionalists, who don’t see the value of a click. They do see the value of a call. There is a tremendous opportunity to serve just these “no Web site” businesses.
New opportunities: Mobile opens up new business models too. In the best examples, companies are offering services which leverage the unique strengths of mobile, and build value which was not even possible before 2007. Square.com and Twitter couldn’t exist without mobile, and are designed to work best on mobile. Even in traditional local marketing, mobile is causing a rethinking of print directory adspend. There’s a strong case to be made that Small Businesses should spend incremental dollars on mobile advertising rather than on the Yellow Pages. The most compelling part of this case is that we’re able to compare on the same metric, which is inbound calls.
The need for mobile platforms hasn’t gone away. Just shifted. And the opportunities are bigger than ever.