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How to create friendly mobile landing pages: part one

Over the last year, much attention has been paid to, and in fact a cottage industry has grown up around, optimizing landing pages for mobile devices. But too often landing pages are not optimized for mobile users, generating frustration and anger rather than conversions.

According to Walker Sands, 12.6% of total website traffic was driven via mobile devices in the fourth quarter of 2011, up 102% from the year before. As consumers increasingly turn to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets for product research, web browsing, and on-the-go shopping, it’s key for online brands to rely on landing pages that are not only optimized for mobile devices, but demonstrate relevance to the user as well. 

The Mobile Lens 

When consumers search using their mobile phones they typically have a clear purpose in mind. The first step for marketers to better engage with mobile users is to understand exactly who is searching from their mobile devices, and what they’re searching for.

If a user is searching from inside a brick-and-mortar store, they may be staring at one price and wondering if they can get it for less online. To counter this, highlight on the mobile landing page your guarantee to beat any competitor’s price. If you don’t have a price advantage, make sure users know what unique advantages you do offer. Maybe it’s your return policy, your shipping speed, or your expert knowledge. Tell them up front before they click away and never come back.

We’ve all heard the expression “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Well, the mobile web is “what happens while your visitors are doing something else” – i.e. watching TV, waiting for a bus, or just killing time. Your job is to figure out if they are a committed shopper, and if not, how to turn them into one. 

While we’ve been rightly focused on delivering a usable mobile experience, not enough emphasis has been placed on what is useful for consumers. In addition to optimizing for the smaller screen, it is most important to deliver a more relevant experience that keeps consumers engaged and interested when interacting with your brand from their mobile devices.

New vs. Returning Visitors

Often customers have questions before they buy. What is the shipping and return policy? What kind of payments are accepted? Do I have to pay sales tax? All that information takes up prime real estate on the already-small screen of a mobile device.

That’s why it’s key for online brands to know whether or not a visitor is already familiar with your brand. If it’s someone’s first time on your site, for example, it’s best to highlight your value proposition front and center. If they’re a repeat visitor, on the other hand, you may consider devoting this precious real-estate to information more important to someone already familiar with your brand.

Headlines Matter

With limited real estate on mobile devices, you have to get to the point fast. You are also challenged with reaching someone who is probably only giving you a small slice of their attention. They may be in a store, on a train, or talking to someone else.  Unlike a laptop, where you typically have the consumer’s full attention, on the mobile web you almost certainly don’t.

An easy first step toward effectively engaging with mobile users is to make sure your landing pages use large enough fonts and present a clear call to action. More importantly, you must be very concise with your headline copy and get people hooked right away because you only have a small window of opportunity to grab their attention. Use urgency and emotion rather than flowery details because it’s easy for someone to lose concentration when Draw Something or Facebook is just a tap away.

Test, Test, and Test

The reality is that landing page optimization for mobile is constantly evolving, and nobody has definitive answers. On the technology side there are a set of best practices that should always be followed:

• Develop in HTML5 since Apple devices, which represent a large part of the market, don’t use Flash

• Don’t weigh your pages down with heavy graphics that make them take a long time to load

• Don’t use hover features, which will not render properly (or at all)

However, from a marketing perspective, there are no absolute hard and fast rules. That’s why brands need to be disciplined and test what works for them. Try shorter headlines. Try simpler copy. Try lighter graphics.

Figure out what works best for your brand and what helps you reach this lucrative—and fast growing —segment of the market. And when you do identify what keeps mobile users engaged: Keep doing it.

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