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Alex Timlin

Sales Director, New Markets
Emarsys


Mobile Responsive Design versus Mobile Apps

I had an interesting conversation with the Head of Analytics of a large fashion e-Tailer this month on multi-channel marketing.

This company is a category leader and recently received more than $100 million in investment. The biggest headache for them right now is how to deal with customers across multiple channels and deliver the best possible experience across those channels.

To put this in context, they have clients using seven different social networks, they have customers using Smartphones, they have customers using Tablets and they have customers using a desktop PC – either at work or at home. Then they have customers who use a combination of all three – just at different times of the day.

What they have historically done is try and create as much consistency across their three main content channels – social, web and mobile web – and make sure their email campaigns promote all three and support all three. They’ve implemented several initiatives such as mobile responsive design and using social media channels to promote the same content at the same time as their email campaigns and display campaigns.

But…when analysing different customer groups (he’s Head of Analytics after all) they found that trying to create a consistent strategy across these channels actually leads to people doing different things, at different times. Even though the same content was from Google+ to Instagram, they had different levels of effectiveness and differing levels of success. The mobile users who clicked from an email campaign had a very different customer journey to the desktop users in terms of their time on site and the products browsed.

They decided through this analysis that trying to create a ‘consistent’ experience across these different channels was counter-productive – because their customers are using these different channels for different things.

For the experience of the user, particularly when it came to Smartphone users versus desktop users, even when using responsive web design they could not create the same experience. It’s not just how the content looks, it’s how the customer interacts with it.

Therefore they have decided to invest in a new Mobile App to cater specifically to these customers and to make sure their content strategy across display, email and social media takes into account that customers using a different channel to interact with their brand are fundamentally different ‘types’ of customer.

This is a great recognition, still long overdue in my opinion, that a gap has opened up between online businesses and their customers in recent years. While retailers have been busy ‘preparing’ for mobile content and commerce, their customers have already been engaging with all sorts of content using mobile for a long time. They no longer expect different content, but an entirely different approach and experience.

So, when looking at the mobile market, Mobile Adaptive design is a great starting point, but making sure you’re promoting the right type of content to the right audience is far more important. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, we have been trying to help our clients treat their mobile customers differently in terms of user experience. Different images, calls to action, navigation and layout are just the starting points. You now also need to think about why the customer is opening on a mobile device, what are they doing at the time and why should they want to interact with you.

We are seeing more and more clients with a mature multi-channel marketing strategy move away from Responsive Web Design and reinvest in App development to cater to the growing mobile audience. It would be great to hear from people about the pros and cons of each approach.

You can read more about the psychology of mobile phone use in our latest white paper here.

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