“Personal computers might have heralded the rise of the digital economy, but it is mobile devices – principally smartphones – that have sent it into another dimension, helping to embed technology into almost every aspect of our lives.”This blunt, unarguable statement forms the opening of the lead article in a special report called “The Digital Economy,” which appeared as a supplement in The Times newspaper in the UK on March 12, 2015. The report includes articles by noted UK business and technology writers, as well as contributions from leading digital companies, including Usablenet.
In his article, quoted above, former business news editor of The Times Chris Johnston cites a figure from an eMarketer study that “about 38 million smartphones are in regular use in the UK this year – an increase of 9 per cent compared with 2014.” The booming rise and continued ubiquity of mobile use in the UK forms an important theme throughout the supplement. While the overall scope of “The Digital Economy” is far broader than mobile, the takeaway is that mobile remains an exciting and innovative area for brands – and a lucrative opportunity for venture capitalists.
As shown in an article entitled “Where the smart money will go next in digital,” by Tom O’Meara, editorial director of analyst firm StrategyEye, the hardware sector (which includes mobile phones and tablets, as well as e-readers/e-books and games/consoles) was the third-most-highly-invested-in category, attracting $3.2 billion in capital funding worldwide. Though hardware as a general technology vertical is considered rather old school in some contexts, in today’s digital economy the category brought in twice as many venture capital dollars as the “hipper” social media sector.
Usablenet asks: Are you mobile-ready?
We are proud to note that our contribution appeared as early as page 4, immediately following the lead article. Our piece asks the daunting, impossible-to-ignore question, “Is your website mobile-ready?” Arguing that optimizing for mobile is the single leading issue for digital marketers at present, we note a range of areas in which mobile user experience too often fails customer expectations. Not to quote ourselves, but we do raise a critical point: “The proliferation of screen sizes and devices means that ‘mobile first’ is a false choice. A better motto is ‘customer first’. This means giving customers the perfect experience on every screen.”
How can brands accomplish this? Keeping an eye on performance is a great start, since 85 per cent of mobile users expect pages to load as fast or faster on their phones as they do on their desktop computers. Pages must be trimmed of processor hogs such as high-resolution images, GIFs, and pop-ups. Other key considerations are personalization and location, both of which give users the assurance that they are being recognized and provided with content and services tailored just for them. In addition, optimizing and streamlining the shopping cart experience and adding mobile payment options offer the convenience that consumers want.
Ultimately, our piece in the supplement is designed to help brands address four key questions they should be asking themselves about their mobile offerings:
- Do we offer a user-centric experience?
- Are we following fundamental user experience best practices?
- Have we eliminated barriers to purchase on mobile?
- Have we designed with speed in mind?
Five years from 5G
Additional content within the supplement also paints a strong picture of the opportunities in mobile. Dan Matthews, journalist and author of The New Rules of Business, writes of mobile’s growing influence on how we live and work, with particular emphasis on its evolving capabilities in the retail and healthcare sectors. The article notes that we are just five years away from 5G, which will bring mobile performance in line with current superfast broadband, thereby opening up new opportunities for mobile services.
Other contributors echo our comments about the importance of user experience and personalization of content, while an Adobe marketing executive suggests that “brands must not only think mobile first, but mobile apps first.” In addition, one article focusing on video states that “more than half of [YouTube’s] income from ads is now accounted for by mobile” and includes another interesting statistic, that 92% of mobile video viewers share clips with others.
Download a copy of “The Digital Economy”
Though included in The Times, the legendary London-based newspaper, “The Digital Economy” is filled with current information useful to brands anywhere in the world. Beyond the mobile-based content that we have focused on in this blog post, the supplement covers such essential topics as digital strategy, digital marketing, social media, and tech start-ups.
Download your own free copy of The Digital Economy Report in pdf format; you’ll get the entire report, including Usablenet’s piece on making websites mobile-ready with customer-centric user experiences.