B-to-B’s Path to Mobile Optimization
Strategy must be comprehensive, while addressing user experience along the way.
It’s an old rule: As reader habits change, publishers must adapt to survive.
Traffic for business content—traditionally living in the 9 to 5 world of desktops—has risen considerably on mobile devices. And that base is only getting bigger. Business publications expect more than a quarter of their audiences to access content exclusively on digital platforms within the next two years, according to a recent study by the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM).
But even though they see the rising tide of mobile users, b-to-b publishers aren’t sure how to proceed. The same AAM study reports that 60 percent are undecided about how exactly they’ll optimize for mobile. Meanwhile, close to two-thirds of consumer magazines already have a definitive approach.
B-to-b publishers ALM and FierceMarkets have begun to take significant steps to optimize their content for mobile consumption though. Both have rolled out the changes incrementally, but they’re each being careful to address the full spectrum of the user experience. Having a disjointed, part-mobile, part-desktop device strategy puts a ceiling on your mobile potential.
Piece-by-Piece: ALM’S Mobile Strategy
ALM is in the process of optimizing its digital properties for mobile devices after bringing on Jeffrey Litvack, senior vice president of digital media, last fall.
Under Litvack, the company first enhanced its newsletters with responsive design in March. Overall open rates have jumped 60 percent since the change, with more than 40 percent of opens now coming via smartphone and tablet. Clickthroughs to ALM mobile web properties have risen 50 percent quarter-over-quarter. Mobile now accounts for 20 percent of the group’s total traffic.
Despite the success of initial opens and clicks mobile users were being sent to full desktop sites. Switching from a highly-formatted, easy-to-read email to a small-text website is jarring, so getting readers to a second article was a challenge. Mobile bounce rates were a problem area that ALM has made it a priority to lower, Litvack says.
“Doing one without the other doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he says. “If we’ve got these incredible open rates with an optimized [newsletter] experience and then they click through to a non-optimized website, you’ve lost the user.”
As such, ALM’s completed the device experience by launching separate mobile sites for its stable of web properties in May. No more pinching and zooming, Litvack says. More than that, the new sites have a simplistic list layout that emphasizes breaking news and recency over analysis, education or services—content that’s less likely to draw interaction on a smaller screen.
‘Our Mobile Strategy is Actually Email’
FierceMarkets got into the mobile space early—work on an app started before the iPhone actually came out—but it still relies on the basics, says the company’s president, Maurice Bakley.
With an eye toward building volume, FierceMarkets rolled each of its eight verticals, ranging from telecom to government, into its first app. Mobile and responsive design sites followed with more specific points of access for audiences. Between the two, a number of the group’s sites now get close to one-third of their traffic via mobile.
FierceMarkets has always focused on its email newsletters though. It’s promoted engagement with the email itself by releasing full-text versions of articles instead of linking to its sites.
The strategy has been successful so far, despite running counter to the quick-hit, headline-heavy tenets of mobile. Bakley says his team is working on responsive design templates for its newsletters, but admits finding a middle ground between the two models will be a challenge.
“They have an expectation of what they’re going to get,” he says. “We don’t want to dumb it down too much just because they’re on a mobile device. Even though they’re on a mobile device and want readability, they still want access, they still want what they’re used to. And let’s face it, email is still the number-one thing people do with their phones.”
FierceMarkets is in a unique position between email and content though. And as an even bigger portion of its audience comes via mobile, they’re working to reconcile it.
“We used to say it flippantly before, but now we’re a little more serious about it,” he says. “Our mobile strategy is actually email.”
The Lead-Gen Problem
While b-to-b publishers are getting better at serving editorial content optimized for mobile devices, advertising poses a separate challenge, specifically in lead generation.
“The traditional b-to-b advertiser these days is very lead-gen focused, and lead-gen is a difficult thing to do on a mobile device,” says FierceMarkets’ Bakley. “When was the last time you filled out a 10-question drop-down form on your phone? Some of those models don’t translate well.”
Forms and questionnaires aren’t fun to fill out with your thumbs, but there are ways to adapt your lead-gen efforts.
Collect in-app user data once a device-owner downloads your branded app. You can see what they’re reading, how long they’re staying with it and monitor social sharing. In the harder-to-track, sometimes cookie-less world of the mobile web, that’s invaluable. With push messaging, you can get content and sales offers out to your audience without email.
2. Call to action
On mobile platforms, users are increasingly open to making a call over filling out a form, according to media consultancy BIA/Kelsey. Moreover, lead quality and conversion rates are higher on the phone than online. Whether they ultimately prefer one over the other will probably depend on your audience, but its important to give them options.
3. Ask for less
Determine the minimum amount information you have to have. Many lead-gen providers will be able to fill in the gaps. For example, if you get a phone number, they’ll usually be able connect it with an address. The longer the form, the less likely your reader is going to complete it.