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The Mobile Paradigm Shift
By: Andy Weiss
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Fact: Mobile is exploding and the combined smartphone and tablet usage is rapidly usurping desktop. This mobile trend is driven by increased application-based actions (e.g., posting photos via Instagram, checking in on Foursquare) and task-oriented web usage (e.g., location-based searches). As digital marketers, this presents serious strategic challenges to website development and online advertising. We are in the midst of a paradigm shift, and now is the time to rethink our approach.
If more users are accessing your site from mobile devices, should the web development process start with the desktop experience and then port to mobile or vice versa? I heard a great argument the other day for beginning with the form and function of mobile. Essentially, by starting with the mobile experience, the use of content and design elements become more efficient as the user-experience becomes much more narrowly defined. Think of the experience as a designing a web-based app and not a website. Why would a user access your site from a smartphone or tablet? Where is she and what else is she doing? Is there a specific task she’s trying to perform? Adding these answers up begins to suggest expectations of immediacy and simplicity that can be used to identify specific user paths and guide the wireframes. From this vantage point, it is much easier to scale the mobile experience to the desktop. Instead of stripping away visuals and functionality for mobile (or developing a separate but parallel mobile site), any additional elements that are layered onto the mobile design serve to augment and enhance the user-experience on the desktop.
Jumping from site development to online advertising requires moving one-step up in the marketing funnel and asking: Where did that mobile user originate? Was it mobile search either via a mobile browser or a search app? Did she come from another app or mobile site? The list of sources is potentially more heavily weighted in the owned and earned media buckets and less so for paid media. Part of the reason is that the paid options are in their infancy and haven’t fully adapted to the behaviors of mobile users. This last point is disrupting both paid search and display advertising models of folks like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo (for a great look at how this issue is impacting Google, read The Mobile Paradox). For now, it is best to focus on your owned and earned digital assets and how they can be better leveraged for mobile.
No matter how you look at it, the mobile shift is on and it needs to move to the forefront of our content and advertising strategies.

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About the Author
Andy Weiss is a digital direct marketer, consumer evangelist, change agent, and cultural anthropologist.
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