She’ll Have Tea. Hold the Water.

“I think I need to start drinking coffee.”  I told Barbara (formerly known as Cristina.)

“Nah, just drink tea.”  She wrote back.

It took every ounce of self-control I had to not remind her that the primary reason she is now a self-professed tea aficionado and pusher of all things herbal (which sounds deliciously illegal) is that she couldn’t say “no” to the yappy little Teavana chiquita in the mall and ended up with $600 worth of tea and a bunch of tea-cookery-things that, two years later, she still has no idea how to use.  (Barbara’s idea of “cooking” is sticking a bag of popcorn in the microwave or if she’s feeling really fancy, making tuna fish.  Julia Child she is not.)

She continued.  “Just have them hold the water.”


It was late and I’d had a long day (adding to my list of Bad Grown-Up stories with a not-fit-for-print movie theater incident) but tea without water is what?  Grass, leaves and twigs at the bottom of a cup?  At best, a cinnamon stick and a dried-up orange peel?  Not exactly numero uno on my Favorite Food/Drinks list.

Sensing I was confused by this whole waterless-tea equation, Barbara continued:  “Starbucks.  They water it down too much.  I am serious.  They have it in concentrate in the pitcher and add more water to serve it.  You can order No Water Green Tea.  Try it.”

I was imagining old-school, European-hotel tea in fancy grandmother-y china served alongside a tower of those tiny, crustless sandwiches in flavor combinations like shrimps (with an s) and butter or rocket and roastbeast.  (Incidentally, rocket is such a better name than arugula.)

Barbara was talking about tea from a box at Starbucks.

So close. Yet so far.

EXACTLY like mobile and traditional desktop marketing – yes, they’re both selling online but in the big scheme of things?  They’re lightyears (and white gloves and silver trays) apart.

I get it.

We want mobile marketing to be a division of ecommerce/traditional desktop marketing.   It would be a Hell of a lot easier that way.

Unfortunately, it’s just not.   Ecommerce marketing was never a division of Catalog Marketing (one of the many reasons why catalogers are failing miserably these days) and Mobile Marketing is not a division of Ecommerce/Online Marketing.

Not to mention, mobile stuff is just plain different.  The user sessions are different.  The average number of pages viewed is different.   The paths are different.  The number of distractions is different.   I could go on (and on) but you get the drill.

So, what do you do with mobile?  Where do you start?

Determine your origin source.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re new or seasoned when it comes to mobile marketing, you’ve got to assign origin sources to your leads.  Where did they come from?  What kind of leads are they?  Why is this important?  Because different traffic behaves VERY differently on a handheld.  People who are clicking on a link in your email often have a different propensity AND more important, CAPACITY to buy (or inquire if you’re a lead gen company) than someone who is coming from a Google search on their phone.   The more you know about where the user started/came from, the easier – and more effective — it will be for you to sell to them.  (Even if you separate email into a bucket, direct/no referrer into a bucket and everything else into a bucket and deal with them accordingly, you’ll be miles ahead of everyone else.)

Look at your user paths.  Yeah, I know.  This sounds like a tip from 1998 but more than three-quarters of your mobile success is going to come from your navigation (including your internal text search function.)   You’ve got to know where people are coming in and where they are leaving.  If you’re like most companies, there won’t be a ton of pages in the middle of your user experience, but you’ll want to know what those are too so you can see where you’re going wrong.

Where is the rat getting stuck in the snake?  Is it on your search results page?  Is it on your PDP (product detail page?)  Is it on a form page?  Figure out where people are bailing and then look at the two pages before that. (Three if you’re doing this exercise for your desktop site.) Hint: improving your navigation goes a long way to improving user experience.

Sell where the user wants to be sold.  One of the biggest mistakes I’m seeing in 2015 is companies trying to force folks to complete their transactions via handhelds. (Part of this problem stems from the fact that most folks still aren’t separating their handhelds from their tablets – which is a colossal mistake.  Tablets are conversion machines.  Phones?  Not. So. Much.)

Right now, mobile is like the web was in the mid-90’s and there are a lot of people who just aren’t good/comfortable/whatever with ordering via a handheld.  That’s why it’s important to give them alternatives – offer a click-to-call button on every view; use instigated chat in the areas people struggle the most like search and checkout; and work your transfer.

I’ll cover some more ideas this month.  If you have a mobile question/comment you’d like addressed here, please write

Now, how about some cocoa?

Mobile-Schmobile: 6 Sure-Fire Tips on How You Can Improve Your Mobile Strategy Today!

When I began my internet career, my first “legitimate” email address was a CompuServe number.

Back then, if you told someone you were doing work on the web (or the WWW as it was ever-so-fondly called), they’d often look at you quizzically, wondering whether or not you made a good porn star or how much money you had from trafficking whatever illegal things you were selling.  Allegedly.

These days, I get thousands of emails about mobile with the same sort of questions as folks had then. People want to know what to do, what not to do, and a lot of times they just want to tell me the eleventy bazillion reasons why it doesn’t/won’t work for them.  As if mobile marketing is a choice.  Ha!  I went through exactly the same battles when people told me the internet was like the CB radio.  Ah-em Bill LaPierre.

But I digress…

Here are some of my best tips to improve YOUR mobile journey.  (These come from the questions I am most commonly asked.)

1.     Look at what kind of traffic you’re getting…

Separate your handheld traffic from your tablet traffic.  Tablets and phones are NOT the same thing.  The industry experts like to group them together because tablet conversion is 2-3x that of most traditional sites and eleventy bazillion times better than most smartphone conversion. Grouping all mobile traffic together masks phone conversion problems but they need to be separated.

Experts say “oh, you can’t do that because is a Nexus a phone or a tablet?”  Look, it’s not rocket surgery. If you’re taking your primarily phone calls on it, it’s a phone. If you’re using it to play Candy Crush and watch Netflix, it’s a flipping tablet.

Why does it matter?  Mostly because email traffic is typically “phone” traffic and if you learn how to separate it properly, you’ll also figure out how to design to it; what kind of landing pages you need; how you can best use your selling space (selling on a 2×4 is often more challenging than one might think); what things you need to ask for and what you don’t (for example, you don’t need to dedicate an entire screen to asking for the email address of someone coming from email), and so on.

Plus, phone traffic is ON A PHONE.  I realize this is like stating “water is wet” but many marketers tend to forget that if the customer is ON THEIR PHONE and you have a call center it’s much easier – and usually far more lucrative – for the user to push a CLICK TO CALL button than it is to maneuver your shopping cart.

2.     Work your transfer.

If you only listen to one tip that I have this is it – if someone puts something in their mobile cart, show it in their regular cart.  You can use email and mobile numbers to help you do this.

3.     Use spreaders.

I like to think of the whole sales process as feeding a rat to a snake – and you really want to know where the rat is stuck in the snake so you can squeeze him out the end.

When you know where your rat is stuck in your snake, use a spreader to get them to the next level.  A spreader would be a pushpage, instigated chat, v-chat, sometimes even a text message.  Whatever you need to do to smooth the gap.

4.     Don’t get sucked up in the industry buzz.

Learn what’s best for you by trying it, tweaking it, and then perfecting it.   Do more of the stuff that makes you money and less of the stuff that doesn’t.  It’s that easy.

Test out triggered text messages.  A lot of “experts” will tell you that folks hate them.  Personally, I have to be willing to bear your child for you to get my phone numbers these days.  Triggered text for a lot of companies?  Life-changing.  Granted, very few people use triggered text messages properly but they are still one of the best marketing things I’ve ever seen.  In. My. Career.

Work your internal search.  There are hundreds of articles stating mobile search is exactly the same as regular search.  It’s not.  Searches are often shorter and more specific (or way longer and completely incomprehensible) and people tend to make a lot more mistakes.  Plus, mobile search is used more frequently and there is typically much more of a priority put to it.  (Meaning that showing 1,232,832 finds on something isn’t going to be useful to anyone on a mobile device. In fact, chances are they’ll struggle with 20 and look at less than 5.)

Don’t get caught up in the tools, the programming languages or the platforms.  Figure out what your users need.  Look at what features they’re using (or what they’re not); which device(s) they are using; whether or not they are buying or browsing; etc.  If 95% of your traffic is coming from YouTube, you’ll need something entirely different than a company where the majority of the traffic is coming from their email program.

I like responsive design and it’s not a silver bullet.  You can’t just “go responsive” and have all the evils of the world go away.   In fact, for some folks it makes things worse –  not just because it can be slow and pricey – but because it can make marketers really lazy and what you do on your tablet isn’t the same as what you do on your desktop.  Nor is it the same as what you do on your phone.  (Hint: no matter what you do – you are going to need to REALLY work your navigation as if your life depended on it.)

5.     Develop new contact strategies.  (Chances are good that your mobile efforts are going to need different contact strategies than your traditional efforts.)  

Because things happen much faster mobile-wise, your contact strategies should often happen much faster too.

With mobile, you’ll also have more contact methods in your arsenal and they’ll work differently.

So what does this mean?

It means that if you’re sending out an abandoned cart program – you’re going to want to mail it faster.  You also may want to add more emails to your plan – so if you normally send out 3 emails, test 5 or 7.  Try SMS as well.  Abandoned cart text messages work really well.  Remember, there’s a big chance that your mobile cart sucks – so don’t send them back to where they abandoned/struggled in the first place – try to get them on the phone or to your traditional site (if your cart is better.)

Store locator emails are another big thing.  When someone goes to your site, and searches to find a store, there’s a pretty big chance that they want to go to that store today.  On the page with the locator, collect their email address and send them a coupon.  Collect their mobile number and send them a text.  Do both.  (If you don’t do offers, send them a “grocery list” of things they should look at – stuff you don’t want them to miss when they visit.)

6.     Figure out the importance of your referring URL’s and market to your users accordingly.

So, here’s the thing…

In most cases…

If someone comes in from Facebook, they are not at all equivalent to someone who comes in direct/no referrer.

If someone comes in from a branded PPC search, they are typically lightyears ahead in terms of qualification than someone who came in from a Twitter link.

Social media can drive a ton of mobile traffic but if you’re like most folks, very little of it will immediately convert to a sale.  Customer service nightmares?  Yes.  Sales?  Don’t count on it to pay your bills.  (Hint: If you have to put all your eggs in one basket, put them in your direct/branded keyword strategy.   That’s where you will make the most money.  Period.)

What are YOUR best tips for mobile marketing?  Send ‘em to  I’ll publish the best ones in a future post.

Sell Where Your User Wants To Be Sold…

Kathryn Curran writes “I just listened to your Selling on a 2” x 4” webinar and was amazed by your depth of knowledge.  We now have 21 people on our mobile team and if we had hired you before we started we would have saved countless dollars and days.  The thing that I didn’t quite understand was that you kept repeating ‘sell where the user wants to be sold.’ That seems like common sense.  Am I missing something?”

Hi Kathryn:

On F-Commerce. 

Over the phone.

Through text messaging.

Via email.

In a bricks and mortar location.

At your website.

In live chat.

Over V-chat.

Sell where the user wants to be sold IS indeed common sense.  Unfortunately, many folks don’t have it when it comes to this point.

The thing about mobile that is much different from regular ecommerce or online lead generation* is that there’s a bigger chance that you WILL NOT get the lead/order on a mobile device than you will.

When you foray into mobile, you’ve automatically entered into the world of multi-step marketing (unfortunately it’s not the same as multi-level otherwise I’d have pink Cadillacs to promise you.)

Someone goes to your mobile site and then what?  What do they do next?  What are the steps of the sale?  As you figure them out, you’ll find that people who come to your site from the Facebook app on their Droid may want to be sold on Facebook and not on your regular site.  (Not always but a possibility.  Trump Hotels is a good example of someone who is doing this kinda-sorta-a-little-bit-right.) 

A person who comes in direct/no referrer and clicks on the call button may want to be sold through video chat or over the phone immediately.  This is a basic, but important, point as right now a lot of call center reps only get trained one way (i.e., to help lead people through the website – and not to take the order directly, which is NOT a good thing.) 

Folks who use your store locator are likely headed to one of your stores, so the transactions will typically be completed there.  

If you know the user has propensity to buy/act and you know it’s in a specific place, you can change your marketing methods to accommodate them.  You may ask the guy who uses the store locator to enter his email address so he can get an instant savings download coupon to use in the store.   I’m not suggesting you should give people money for nothing – although e-mail addresses are valuable – however, you might want to try giving them a coupon for a higher dollar average order.  (If you normally have a $100 average order, you could try $10 off $150.) If you don’t want to give a discount, maybe they can get a freebie when they come in. 

How do you figure out where folks want to be sold?  Lots of testing and more important, really delving into your stats: looking at EXACTLY what the users are doing by AC (aggregated click) and then following through the typical user path of that batch of users.  It actually sounds much more dramatic and complicated than it is but to start just pick a couple unique actions and follow those through.  It’s fun, easy and you’ll undoubtedly increase your conversion almost immediately.

Have a mobile question you’d like answered?  Click here now or email me at

*For all you folks who don’t do ecommerce but do lead generation, you “sell” too.  In the user’s mind, you are constantly selling them.  Why?  Easy.  Their information has a market value – I mean, if you want it, it’s worth something, right?  Whenever something has market value, and a trade is made, a transaction or “sale” has taken place.

Towanda & the Gentle Art of User Linking

Have you seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes?

Do you remember the part with Evelyn Couch (played by Kathy Bates) in the parking lot? 

Here’s the gist…  Evelyn is waiting patiently for a parking spot when two young girls steal it.  (“Face it lady, we’re younger and faster!”)  Livid, Evelyn says “Towanda!” and then crashes her big ole’ boat of a car into their little VW bug.  Repeatedly.  (“I’m older and have better insurance.”)   

Fast forward to a couple days ago…

I was running through the parking lot.  I stopped to tie one of my sneakers and as I was crouched down, I saw a bumper sticker that said “Taxes are the privilege of a civilized society.”

Granted, I was in a cranky mood and it doesn’t help that it’s tax season (I’d prefer root canal without anesthesia through my belly button to paying taxes) but seeing that bumper sticker made me want to go all Kathy-Bates-Towanda on the car.   Just call me Fists o’ Fury.

As I was looking around for unlocked cars (my diabolical plan was to pop a trunk, steal a tire iron and smash all Civilized Society’s windows  in an “I don’t know if I’m older but I guarantee I have better lawyers” kind of way), I noticed that good ole’ Civilized had two other bumper stickers.  One said: “Co-Exist” and the other said “my website is” www.{NameRedacted}.com

My website is www.{NameRedacted}.com.*

WOW.  Can you imagine the linking on that? I thought to myself.

Then, I remembered I had five “Ask Amy” questions on just that very topic that I needed to answer.

Turns out there is a lot of confusion on linking.  What it means and how it works.

Even if your mobile site is completely flawless – as in THE best, most perfect site ever – chances are that you will get the majority of your mobile leads or sales through other channels (email, phone, text message, your traditional website, etc.)   Yes, this will change but as of today, it’s more than likely that your users are going to buy/book/sign-up/register/order in or on one of your other channels.

Not to mention there are countless scenarios such as this – I take a picture of your product with my phone.  I send it to you.  I get a text message back. I open the text message and click on the phone number inside.  I get IVR.  Someone sends me info to my email address.  I open my email at home. I click on your website from that email.  I order the product from your website.

Who gets the credit for this?  What source is it attributed to?  If I want more orders like that one, where should I spend the money?  

Companies who are trying to figure out the mysteries are looking at what we call user linking. 

In a nutshell, user linking tracks all the steps of the sale or lead.  Some analysts like to work from the end to the beginning and others find it easier to start at the beginning and try to piece their way to the end.  Whichever way you choose to do it, the only thing you should remember is that it’s not going to be perfect but whatever you cobble together is better than nothing.

There are lots of ways you can implement linking in your business.  Many folks who are first starting out find that they like to tie things together with email addresses and mobile phone numbers.  (If you’re not collecting mobile numbers, you should be, even if you don’t know how to use them quite yet.)  Again, is this perfect?  No.  But it’s a good start.

Can you ask the customers?  Yes.  It’s not the most accurate but it’s better than nothing.   What are the best ways to ask them?  Surveys work.  You can also ask them after completions – so after they’ve submitted their order or lead, you can ask them on the thank you page.  I would NOT recommend doing this in the middle of your lead forms or checkout – only at the end.  That way you’ll be certain that it will not increase your abandons.

What will linking help you with?  It’s one of the best ways to figure out where you should be spending more money.  It often tells you where you should spend less.

A lot of times we give the credit to the wrong place.  Linking doesn’t fix that overnight but it does help you get an idea of what kinds of contacts are involved in getting a sale or a lead.

It also helps you figure out where you need to nudge.  (Nudging helps reduce DTS.)  When you start looking at your linking you’ll begin to see places where users get stuck in your pipeline.  So, in the earlier example, if you send out 1000 text messages to users and none of them click on the links, you know you may have issues with your messaging (perhaps you aren’t using aggressive action directives.)  However, if a lot of people click on the link and call the number and then don’t do anything after that, you may have an issue with your phone messages or you may need to send them more than one trigger email.  (Many companies find that series of trigger emails work best when dealing with mobile users.)

Have anything you’d like to add about linking?  Please jot it in the comments below or send me an email at

Oh, and as for my Towanda moment, it never happened.  I’d like to say that I was a better person and walked away silently but the truth is I was stopped by the grumpy man on my iPod who told me that my “pitstop time had ended” and that I needed to get back in gear.  

Getting bossed around by a piece of technology.  Just one of the many privileges of a civilized society.

*Yes, I know it’s wimpy to not list the site name but I am still getting enough hate-mail from people who think I’m racist or unpatriotic.   I don’t need more drama from the high priestesses of cosmetics.  Trust me, I’ve battled with those chiquitas before and it’s nothing but ugly.  Literally and figuratively.

What Are Mobile Diversions?

Sarah Sans-Souci asks: “I was at a mobile conference recently and everyone was talking about diversions.  I’ve been in direct marketing for 30 years but I’m afraid I still don’t know what diversions are in a mobile context.  Please help!”

Hi Sarah –

There are a few diversions when it comes to mobile.

The first has to do with incoming calls.  Users set up their diversions based on pre-specified conditions.  For example, if I’m already on a call when you phone me, you could be diverted to a voice mail message, another number, or a live help service, to name a few.   Mobile folks are starting to talk about this for a couple reasons but mainly because some users are utilizing text messages as their preferred diversion method (i.e., I’m busy, what do you want?)   If a user text messages you, do you text message them back?  What do you say?  How do you handle them in the future?  Those are just some of the questions that companies are starting to discuss.

The second, and more popular, diversion topic concerns your incoming traffic.   People who’ve been involved in mobile for any amount of time know that there are two primary things that impact your success right now – the speed in which your site loads and the first page that your user sees.   Companies who have had the best success in converting mobile users into leads and/or buyers have found that “working their diversions” is critical.  What does that mean?  Put simply, it means showing the user a specific page based on what they’re looking for and/or where they were last.

Here’s an example of how Office Depot works their diversions:

This is their organics page:


This is their PPC page:

Granted, neither of these are perfect (especially the PPC one, which is frankly quite abysmal) but they are examples nonetheless.

How many diversions can you have?  As many as you want.

Where should you use them?  Depends on what you can manage.  A lot of folks start out by doing just a couple (for their most popular sources) and then go from there.  You don’t necessarily need a new page for each and every source.  It really depends on your traffic and how you want to manage it.

Have other questions about diversions?  Post them in the comments below or jot me an email at

P.S.  Doing PPC?  Click here now for a must-read article from Rimm-Kaufman Group about mobile PPC.

Mobilize Don’t Miniaturize!

Jason F. writes “I recently saw you speak at Conversion Conference.  (I was at eMetrics and crashed your session.)  We’ve got an iPhone app (it’s not getting any traction) and a full-blown mobile site that we spent about a million dollars developing.  (Don’t ask, you won’t approve.) We’re not getting many orders and a lot of our users are bouncing off the first page.  What are we doing wrong? I know you said that people need to mobilize their sites, not miniaturize them.  We made the mistake of miniaturizing which we know we need to fix but it’s a huge process.  What can we do in the meantime?  You got any advice for us?”

Thanks for writing Jason.

Here’s the thing…

A lot of people are doing exactly what you did with mobile.  They are taking their big site with bazillions of products/services and they’re smushing it down into a little site.  That strategy, although convenient, doesn’t work for the user.

The good news is that you can fix it.

One of the best things about this new mobile world is that customers are extraordinarily forgiving, so here’s what you can do.

First, optimize your speed.  Right now, it’s one of the only things that matter.  Mobile users will not wait 15 seconds for your site to download.  Period.  End of story.  Your goal, whether or not you choose to accept it, is a low page weight.  (Under 100K, preferably closer to 10K.)

Second, develop a killer entry page.   This will make a huge difference in your success.  Why?  Because the first page that the user sees has a direct indication on their conversion success. 

How do you do this?  Be clear about your goals.  What’s your goal?  Branding?  Acquisition?  Engagement?  Retention?  Customer service?   Sadly, it’s very unlikely that it will work the same as your traditional site – in fact, it’s often polar opposite. 

If your site is an ecommerce site, then make it look like an ecommerce site from the get-go (you know, with things like a perpetual shopping cart.)  If you’re trying to get something else, focus on it.   

Focus on one thing — the lead, the order, the email address – whatever is THE thing that you want.  The most successful companies in the mobile space, live and die by their funnels.  They know what their end-goal is so they can work backwards accordingly.

Jason, you have an existing site that you spent a boatload of money on but even if you hadn’t, the key is to figure out what  you want in the end (orders, inquiries, customer service, etc.) and then develop a plan to get to it.  It sounds very simplistic but that plan starts at the very first page of your mobile site. 

Are people clicking on your store locator?  Are they signing up for a catalog?  Trying to purchase something?  Adding themselves to your email list?  Tracking their packages?   Comparing prices?  Reading the user reviews?  Downloading a white paper?  

Remember, this is somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy (when it comes to navigation, you get what I give you) so choose your topics carefully.

Pick the things that are most important to you, showcase them appropriately (you have room for about 5-8 solid choices) and then track the hell out of your results.

I realize that this sounds overly simplistic but developing a killer entry page is one of the very best ways to get a good foundation that you can build on.

Have a question you’d like answered?  Click here now.   It’s FREE!

Optimizing Mobile Site Speed & The Back Seat Driver

My two year old nephew (aka the tiny terrorist) has road rage.

Strapped into his baby seat (you know, the one that even Houdini couldn’t get out of), he usually falls fast asleep in the car.

On the days, he’s not tired?  It’s Hell on wheels.  Literally.

“Get him!”

“Crash him!”

“Beat him!”


“Push the pedal brake and smack into his butt!”  (Obviously the wee one doesn’t really understand the fine mechanics of driving quite yet.)

On and on (and on), he barks orders non-stop from the back of the car.  (Yes, I have considered strapping him to the roof on many occasions.  Unfortunately, I think he’d prefer it.)

So, what does the future ADX Florence Maximum Security prisoner have to do with internet marketing?

Sadly, he’s a lot like people trying to do something – buy, inquire – anything – on their handheld mobile devices.  He doesn’t mind driving, er, backseat driving, as long as he’s in the lead – and everything is happening lickety-split FAST!  If things aren’t speedy?  Well, it’s a problem.

Mobile users are extraordinarily patient when it comes to navigating sites.   (It’s actually very surprising how much tolerance they have for the inane.  More on that later.)

What they don’t have patience for?  S-l-o-w site speed. 

I know. I know.  Every time I’ve done a speech on mobile I’ve heard the same thing – nobody in 2011 wants to hear anything about speed.  It’s Internet 101.  Been there.  Done that.

Unfortunately, it needs to be revisited.  Most US mobile consumers are on 3G networks.  Frankly, 3G is akin to a 56K modem.  It’s just not that fast.  In other words, that product video you have on your entry page?  Unless all your folks are on 4G, save it for now.  (Viral-type videos are an exception.  People will struggle through them.  99.9% of videos?  Not. Viral.)

Does this mean you can’t just miniaturize your current home page for your spiffy new redirected mobile site?  Unfortunately.   Your large 350K page just isn’t going to cut it.   To be really mobile-friendly, shoot for under 100K.  And yes, the best converting mobile sites often have simple 10K-ish pages.   (Yes, that was TEN.)

Need help determining how to fix your page speed?  Check out Google’s handy new Page Speed Online optimizer.  It’s free and it will make recommendations for your traditional site speed as well as your mobile speed.  (Enter your URl in the box.  After it gives you a report, you’ll see a mobile site speed option.)

5 Things Nobody Ever Tells You About Increasing Mobile Conversions

increasing your mobile and website conversionThink increasing conversion on your regular website is tough?  Well, fasten your seatbelts because the problems you’re facing there are only a tenth of what you’ll experience when you enter into the land of selling on a 2 x 4.  It’s a challenge to say the least.  Here are five things you simply must know…

1/ Users expect a connect between your mobile site/app and your regular site and marketing materials.  Granted, you don’t have to be EXACTL Y the same but you do need similarity as more than three quarters of your folks are going to use BOTH FOR THE SAME TRANSACTION.   Where is the connect the most important?  On all your entry pages, especially your “official” home page.

2. You must know what your users are doing online to achieve any kind of significant conversion to, well, anything.   Whether you want inquiries or orders, you need to know what your users are doing with their phones before you start asking for it.  Why?  Because people who come from Facebook behave differently than people who come from Twitter and people who come from Twitter aren’t at all like people who come from your e-mails and text messages.  Granted, this sounds like a ridiculous tip but the truth is that it’s one of the most critical.  Why?  Because a lot of social media activity is done on smart/feature phones and if that’s the case with your business, that could be the first place you look to get more sales/inquiries.  Companies who are interested in mobile tend to overbuild areas in hopes that if “you build it they will come.”  That’s ok but it’s usually better to build where the users are first.

3. Onsite search trips everyone up.  Sadly, whatever search problems you have on your site will be about 30 times worse on your mobile site.  That’s the bad news about mobile.  The good news is that if you can streamline some of your issues, your increased conversions will more than make up for it.  (So few companies are doing anything on mobile that even if your site isn’t perfect, a little effort will go a very long way.)  Your onsite text search will be heavily adopted if your navigation is weak.  Therefore, if you want to make your site better without breaking the bank, work on your navigation, especially your jump links.

4. Mobile checkouts need to be more than miniaturized versions of your regular checkout, no matter how perfect your traditional checkout is.   Building the perfect mobile checkout is a difficult process and it takes time and a lot of testing to see what works and what doesn’t.    While you’re working on it, make sure that you offer lots of alternatives to ordering on the handheld – put your phone number all over the site till you think you have it in far too many places.  Then double the occurrences.   Same with your e-mail address and any click-to-call or mobile enabled live chat and text messaging options. 

5. Abandoned cart programs work like gangbusters. As a rule of thumb, take whatever your performance is on your existing program and then triple it. That’s what you should get from a mobile abandoned cart program.  (You’ll get even better results if you include text messaging in your efforts.)   Remember, a program includes more than one e-mail (preferably 5-6), pop-ups (midis, catfishes, sidewinders work best), outbound telemarketing efforts on large orders, and so on.

Bonus tip: Speaking of text messaging…  It will be one of the best tools in your arsenal.  Test it now, before it gets really popular.

Mobile app versus mobile site? What’s right for me?

mobile apps versus mobile sitesAndrea Leo writes: “I am hoping you can settle this for us.  We’ve had FIVE (five too many, I might add!) mobile consultants here in the past three months and they all have different opinions on what we should do – develop our own app or build a mobile site.   We put a lot of money in our mobile budget this year and I am afraid we’ll never be able to spend it as we just can’t get anyone to agree what is the right course of action for us.  What do you think?  What questions should we be asking?  I think we’re going to need to bag the ‘experts’ and figure it out on our own.”

Andrea.  Andrea.  Andrea.  You don’t have to be a math genius to know that five consultants equates to at least 17 different responses.  

Here’s the thing…  Like most everything else, everyone has their own opinions on this.  Unfortunately, most of those are based on what the consultant is selling (or making a commission from, as the case may be.)

If you are looking at a 2011 foray into mobile (which everyone should be), you essentially have four choices:

  1. Enhance your regular site
  2. Build out an optimized site
  3. Develop a mobile native application
  4. Do one or more of the above

 How do you pick the one that’s best for you?

First, look at what your users are currently doing (you can get this from your stats.)  Then, ask them.  (Surveys about mobile experiences are often very effective, especially if you can use Facebook/Twitter as a driver.)

I’m one of those people who doesn’t count the iPad as a mobile device.  I know a lot of folks do.  I just don’t think it’s appropriate based on the conversion levels I am seeing.  (Currently, iPad experiences are performing better, as a percentage, than regular sites pretty much across the board for non-Flash sites.) 

Look at what devices your user is using.  There is a big difference between a Droid, a BlackBerry and an iPhone.  You need to know what your customers favor – this is critical and a lot of folks underestimate it.  (I recently saw a B2B company spend a boatload on an iPhone app only to find out a couple of months later that 75% of their biggest customers have BlackBerries.)

Look at what networks your users are on.  AT&T on an iPhone isn’t at all like browsing on a Bold using T-Mobile.

Find out what your users are doing on their phones.  Are they spontaneously going to your site or are your e-mails and text message programs driving them?  There’s a big difference between a user who’s being driven by your marketing versus someone who ends up at your site all on their own.  This is especially applicable if you’re getting a lot of traffic from social media.  For example, if your average user is coming from your Facebook account, the last thing they’re going to want to do is find your app, download your app and then start using it.

What is your user doing (or going to do) on your mobile site/app?  Research? Price comparisons? Read reviews?  Look at videos?  Entertainment?  Customer Service?  Look up account/order status? Order?  Find a store?

How many third-party applications are you using?  Performance is a HUGE issue when it comes to mobile – much greater than a desktop experience – and all of those handy add-ons you’ve added to your site over the past couple years (reviews, recommendations, analytics, A/B split testing, specialized shopping carts and platforms, affiliate programs, image builders, etc.)  have an impact on your mobile experience. 

How much Flash and Ajax are you currently using?  Most smart/feature phones don’t support Flash or Ajax applications well.

What are your competitors doing?  What are other companies who are selling to your consumer (even if it’s a different product) doing? 

How much functionality do you need?  Right now, it’s often easier to get a lot of whiz-bang technological showmanship from an app.  (Long-term, that won’t be the case.)  You can also design an app that doesn’t require internet connection.

What’s your timeline?  Apps tend to take longer (there are exceptions to this but generally speaking) to develop.  Plus, you need to get approval.

There are zillions of other questions but the ones above should point you in the right direction.  (By the way, when you are looking at your stats – you need to look at several different metrics to get a good handle on what’s working for you, including screen size, browser, network, referring URL, etc. – mobile stats just aren’t all that great yet.)

I will go over the pluses and minuses of apps and mobile sites in the next couple weeks.  In the meantime, the questions above should keep you busy. 

Have a question you think should be added?  Please put it in the comments below.