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What Does Mobile Optimization Mean for Marketers Today?

Erin Azar
Erin Azar , Global Product Manager - Mobile

What Does Mobile Optimization Mean?

Mobile optimization goes beyond simply having responsive web pages. Optimizing for mobile, today, encompasses the entire customer experience across all marketing strategies, channels, and potential interaction points.

Being mobile-optimized means creating wonderful mobile browsing experiences with seamless shopping and checkout processes, frictionless in-app experiences, as well as smoothly executed push notifications, right-time SMS updates, and more across every stage of the customer journey.

Brands epitomizing mobile optimization design their website to be exceptionally usable and convenient for mobile users. Their website almost always looks different on a mobile device as opposed to the desktop view, for example, because they go to great lengths to create device-specific interactions — yet maintain a “channel-agnostic” approach so that visitors get amazing experiences regardless of how they interact.

mobile optimization

Drizly exemplifies mobile optimization. The user experience is consistent across all platforms. Source: App image: BusinessOfApps

Mobile-optimized brands create consistent experiences across all connected/mobile devices. Mobile browser experiences, for instance, are as swift as desktop, and in-app interactions are smooth, simple, and personalized.

Why are more e-commerce teams starting to pay attention to mobile marketing?

Mobile is EXPLODING! If you sell products online, designing for the mobile is a must. Retail m-commerce sales continue to trend steadily upward, and, around 2020, over half of all e-commerce sales will take place on a mobile device.

Approximately 35% of U.S. mobile app users currently have six or more retail apps on their phone! All of this to say: people love their phones, and they are buying more and more on them. That puts a premium on the experience they have when interacting and shopping with your company’s mobile website, app, or mobile communications at every stage in the journey.

“Mobile sits at the heart of the shopper experience. You must be both tactical and strategic to win. A successful business requires end-to-end mobile execution and effective front-end shopper experience through backend operations. Leveraging mobile in your business model isn’t a “nice-to-have” —  it’s a strategic imperative. According to L2, 90% of all commerce will be influenced by mobile by 2021; consequently, you must enable mobile at every stage of the customer journey — from discovery to selection, to purchase, to adoption, loyalty, and support. Remember though, mobile is not just “a phone.” It’s the suite of connected devices, services, channels, and experiences within the connected individual’s life. On the tactical front, if you’re looking ahead, start looking into building rich communication services (RCS) — the next generation of SMS — into your m-commerce plans. Although these services are not mainstream, they will be soon.”

Michael J. Becker • Managing Partner, Identity Praxis, Inc. & Mobile Marketing Expert • @mobiledirectLinkedIn

“Leveraging #mobile is a strategic imperative, & you must enable mobile at every stage of the #customerjourney” says @mobiledirect      CLICK TO TWEET

To optimize for mobile, create an experience that you’d want to have with your favorite brand on your phone. Mobile optimization tips to consider include:

  • Think about mobile screens. Create unique elements that desktop-designed sites can’t address.

Even though mobile responsive websites aren’t the only element of mobile optimization, boy, there’s nothing worse than a non-responsive website.

mobile optimization

Notice the difference between a responsive website vs. a non-responsive one?

  • Sizing does matter. Remember, smaller screens make it difficult to view full pages — especially trying to view imagery and read illegibly small copy (that doesn’t zoom or cuts off text when made bigger).

Pro Tip: Avoid tiny navigation or menu bars, too. People on their smartphones don’t want to bother zooming in to try to click on a tiny “more Information” link. Make your navigation bar POP. On mobile, nav bars are typically succinctly reduced to an expandable three-line icon.

  • Make buttons big and easy to tap. Tiny actions requiring precision are really hard for consumers to click.

Most brands that offer mobile-responsive websites already understand this idea, but it’s important that action items including buttons, CTAs, and vital information are large and easy to tap.

mobile optimization

Bring CTAs and buttons to the forefront on mobile screens. Image source: Stance

Pro Tip: The most prominent real estate should be for CTAs. If you have a “Buy Now” or “Sign Up” button, place it front and center. Mobile sites offer limited real estate to get messages across… so leverage your space wisely.

  • Remember that browser compatibility is not universal and not all elements of your site will show up on all browsers.
“To be #mobile optimized, think about screen & button sizing, make CTAs easy to see & tap, & leverage space wisely,” says @AzarMax      CLICK TO TWEET

Mobile First vs. Mobile Focused

You don’t need to be a mobile-first brand to benefit from mobile optimization.

New-age, truly mobile-first brands view their app as the product they offer, or as the primary point of interaction. These include heavyweights such as  Uber, Clustertruck, Airbnb, Bird, Lime, Runtastic. While your company may not be mobile-first, there is much to be gained mastering the mobile ecosystem, after all, that is where customers are moving to.

Take tips from these mobile-first companies, and see how you can adopt some of their approaches.


Case study — mobile optimization in action: Runtastic

Runtastic, an Adidas-owned, mobile fitness/running brand, is a mobile-first brand that connects with customers through engaging content, coaching, and community experiences mainly via its family of mobile applications.

Runtastic operates top rated fitness mobile apps. Using its namesake app, Runtastic users can track numerous metrics like distance, time, pace, and calories across 18 different languages.

“For us, it starts when someone downloads an app,” Peterson said. “Even if you’re not in the app business, you still have that moment in time when you have that initial interaction with the user.”

Runtastic has gotten more than 230 million app downloads to date, with about 60% of those app downloaders registering for fitness programs once they get the app.

Users can also sync their data to Runtastic.com for analysis and tracking. Runtastic can then use that data collected via its mobile apps to execute timely, relevant emails and in-app/push notifications for a truly mobile-optimized experience.

mobile optimization

Through a mobile-optimized e-newsletter and in-app and push messages, Runtastic is able to engage users, retain them as loyal customers, and ultimately monetize them via subscription.

For more, head here: How Runtastic Uses Marketing Automation to Personalize 8M+ App-Based Messages per Month


The more common approach is still to build your brand by starting with email in addition to web-based channels, then expanding mobile capabilities —  including creating spin-off or supplemental apps —  when you’ve mastered other channels.

The most important m-commerce app features, according to research by eMarketer, include:
●      Discounts on products similar to past purchases (85%); and from push notifications (84%)

●      In-app purchasing (84%)

●      Loyalty rewards (81%)

●      Product recommendations (70%)

●      Option to opt-in for personalized experience (59%)

Apps can be used either as a medium to serve your primary business strategy (e.g., Uber) or to serve as an auxiliary initiative that delivers some other purpose or value for customers (and which can deliver a multitude of additional lines of business value to brands as well).

5 Common Questions About Mobile Optimization

① What does it mean to be “mobile-friendly” and how can I make my site mobile-friendly?

A mobile-friendly website is basically your regular website shrunken down and condensed for mobile view. Users will pinch, zoom, and scroll more on mobile, but the idea is to create a highly functional and usable web experience when customers are on their phones or tablets interacting with your brand.

There’s a number of ways to make your website mobile-friendly, including making it responsive, making information easy to find, enlarging buttons, using large fonts, compressing images and CSS, enable switching to desktop view, and continuous testing.

Pro Tip: Optimize the images or graphics that can communicate your brand message faster than words. If you have a graphic-heavy website, ensure the images load correctly and fit to the space on a smartphone.

② How does being mobile-optimized relate to email marketing?

More than 50% of emails are opened on mobile devices. Therefore, a good amount of your email engagement and resulting website traffic, browsing behavior, and purchases are likely to result from mobile emails. M-commerce is on the sharp rise, and email is the premier channel to drive mobile purchases.

③ What is responsive design?

Responsive design is an approach undertaken when designing your website that makes web pages render beautifully on a variety of devices and screen sizes.

④ How can I improve my mobile SEO?

Google rewards companies that offer amazing mobile experiences. Google’s algorithms want websites to be mobile-optimized, and they even penalize sites that are not mobile-friendly. Simply by optimizing for mobile, you’ll rank higher in the SERPs, driving traffic to your website. More than 85% of websites today are optimized for mobile, so Google actually removed the “mobile-friendly” tag it used to show in SERPs in order to declutter. But you can use Google’s ”mobile-friendly testing tool” and check your mobile usability report in the Google Search Console.

⑤ How can I create an optimized mobile app?

Mobile application optimization is all about design, user experience, and micro “mobile moments” when someone is in the app. App-based interactions are “pull” moments (as opposed to push, though you may use push notifications to pique interest) — so if someone is in your app, they obviously want to be there. App data also allows you to capture moments and respond in kind based on a given action (e.g., user intent like a click or consumption of some content). 71% of marketers are using their app, chiefly, to increase user acquisition — more than double the next most sought-after purpose of apps (building brand awareness, 30%).

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re mobile-first or just getting started integrating mobile into your strategy, mobile optimization techniques need to be part of your constant and unrelenting focus.

If you’re going to “offer mobile,” it’s one of those things you need to get right. With the growing number of mobile users and propensity for mobile shopping, customers will love interacting with you if you offer that frictionless, engaging experience on their connected devices. Unfortunately, they’ll leave just as fast if the mobile experience is complicated or disconnected. ◾

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About the Author


Erin Azar leads the mobile product lines globally for Emarsys. With over 15 years of experience in both Dubai and the US, Erin has led omnichannel marketing strategies, product development, business enablement and scaling, and digital transformation. Erin is passionate about using innovative technologies to transform companies and customer experiences. Erin lives in Indiana with her 3 children and husband, where she enjoys gardening, cooking, and competitive tennis. 

She holds an MBA from The American University in Dubai and a technology Masters in Systems Analysis from Miami University.

Connect with Erin: LinkedInEmail