It is almost impossible to ignore the incredible impact that mobile phones have had on people’s lives, especially with the advent of advanced smartphone technology and super fast mobile internet. A smartphone is so much more than a simple device for making calls.

They are capable of capturing camera quality photos and videos, providing almost endless entertainment with music, videos and games, allowing a multitude of ways of connecting with people through social media and messaging apps, and a enabling users a whole number of functions previously only possible on an expensive computer.

Understandably, because of this, mobile devices are increasingly where people’s attention lies. Your brand cannot afford to ignore this crucial change that has occurred and must switch to a mobile first marketing strategy.

If you want to reach new customers, especially those of a younger age demographic, it is absolutely essential to realise the importance that smart phone devices now play in people’s lives. Many, especially Millennials (those born in the 1980s or 1990s)  and even more so with the proceeding generation, have grown up with technology and using devices such as smartphones or tablet computers are second nature.

Over the last 5 years, as mobile internet has kept improving in terms of speed and availability, there was a growing trend for mobile and tablet internet usage to keep on increasing, while desktop internet usage has continued to drop. Finally, in late 2016, mobile and tablet internet usage exceeded desktop for the time worldwide (Statcounter, Nov 2016).

All indications are that this trend is set to continue, especially as mobile devices become even faster and more powerful and increasing numbers of people in developing countries purchase smartphones and tablets. In fact, in some areas of the world, mobile devices are by far the primary product used to access the internet, passing 90% in Indonesia for example.

What all of this points to is that brands need to stop designing their websites and digital marketing strategies with a desktop first focus with mobile merely an add on. Instead design the experience for the consumer with a mobile first mindset, because this is where the majority of people worldwide are now browsing the internet. This includes consuming content such as photos, video and music, using social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Snapchat, and using internet browsers and search engines.

The travel industry is no exception to this trend as smartphones are used for comparing prices on flights, hotels and excursions, reading travel blogs and websites to find out about new destinations, checking review sites such as TripAdvisor to find out the best things to do while on holiday and a whole host of other online activities.

According to a study conducted by Microsoft in 2015, the average attention span for an individual is now down to just eight seconds which is less than a goldfish (9 seconds)! While this may seem surprising and even shocking, this is simply the reality of today and much of this is being put down to our increasingly digitized world, including the use of mobile phones.

While it could be argued that this is a wholly negative thing, due to people finding it increasingly difficult to focus on any one particular task, it has also been pointed out that our ability to multi-task is increasing to compensate for our decreasing attention spans.

A big take away from this study is again just how important mobile phones are, especially for younger generations, with 77% of those aged between 18 to 24 responding “yes” when asked “When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone”. Even among those over 65, 10% responded yes. While there is a generational difference, smartphone and tablet usage is increasing among all generations and their importance is only predicted to become more prevalent.

As attention spans drop, the need for high quality websites and digital content such as photos and videos which are optimized for mobile, becomes ever more important for your brand. If your website is poorly designed for mobile (or desktop for that matter) and is slow to load, those accessing it will quickly click away.

In fact according to studies: “in 2010, a page that took 6 seconds to load suffered a 40% loss in conversion. Today, a page that takes 6 seconds to load will experience a 50% loss in conversion.”

On the other hand statistics show: “An increase in site speed from 8 to 2 seconds can boost your conversion rate by 74% (this is based on data monitoring real user activity from 33 major retailers).”

Mobile internet usage should also not be viewed as unimportant for sales, because while direct sales via mobile internet does at present still lag behind those from desktop the gap continues to narrow. In the past, especially when mobile internet was far less advanced, people were more reluctant to buy things via their mobile. This was especially true for larger purchases such as holiday accommodation or flights.

Now though, many companies, especially flight companies have fully embraced a mobile first experience for customers. For example the app available from the excellent Skyscanner flight comparison service, helps its users find the best prices, and then leads directly onto the apps offered by companies such as Ryanair. To buy a flight using this process (after having downloaded these apps), can take less than about 10 clicks on a mobile device. The buying process is easy, fast and efficient which is both beneficial for both the consumer and brand.

Many flight companies also provide an excellent level of online customer service via social networks. This is also another example of putting the customer experience first and also considering how people now want to interact with and do business with brands.

There are literally billions of social media users and the vast majority of these access their social accounts via mobile apps. Increasingly, people want to be able to have their questions answered by brands via social networks rather than email or phone calls and they expect a rapid response.

Your brand needs to come around to the idea that people will increasingly choose to pick up their mobile to make a purchase, so you need to facilitate this as much as possible. Otherwise you run the very real risk of them becoming bored or frustrated and choosing to shop elsewhere.

If your website and digital marketing is not optimised for mobile, then this will literally be driving away customers to your competitors who have invested in what is both a part of the present and the very near future e-commerce environment.

By 2020, mobile commerce will account for 45 percent of all e-commerce activities — compared to 20.6 percent in 2016.”

In addition to this, while consumers may not necessarily buy directly using their mobile phone which is especially the case for more expensive/important purchases, like a home, car or holiday of a lifetime, their research process very often begins via mobile. This could be through browsing the internet, or using mobile apps such as YouTube or social networks. Failing to embrace this significant change in how people research products is a highly wasted opportunity for increasing sales.

In terms of the travel industry, research conducted by the The Hitwise Mobile Search: Topics and Themes report 52% of online searches were initiated on a mobile device. While not as large a percentage as other industries such as Food & Beverage, Health, Retail and others, it still means that over half of all travel industry related online searches were conducted on mobile. To ignore statistics like this and many others which point to the huge importance of mobile in terms of indirect and direct sales is extremely short-sighted.

In conclusion, there can be little doubt as to the importance of a mobile first strategy for your brand to improve the customer experience and ultimately increase sales. This should be achieved through a combination of a mobile optimised website, the creation of a branded app, increased mobile advertising spend and vastly improved usage of digital marketing strategies which are centred around the mobile experience, a prime example being short vertical format videos ideal for your social media channels.

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