A mobile strategy in Asia is essential, and getting the user experience right is just as important.
It had long been predicted, but 2014 was the year mobile Internet access finally overtook desktop for the first time on a global scale. Mobile marketing is hugely important wherever your business operates, but it can be absolutely vital in key Asian markets.
India and China both reached their own mobile tipping points in 2012 and according to the ITU, the UN’s agency for ICT statistics, Asia and the Pacific have the highest number of mobile broadband subscriptions, more than 750 million by 2014.
Research from the Google Consumer Barometer, meanwhile, found that Singapore (85 percent) and South Korea (80 percent) had the highest smartphone penetration rates.
Many Asian markets also have significant numbers of consumers who accessed the Internet exclusively via their smartphones. Thirty-five percent of Malaysian consumers, 24 percent of Vietnamese, and 16 percent of Singaporeans only access the Internet using their phones.
Despite this, it’s clear that many businesses are still not optimizing their websites for mobile.
Julian Persaud, managing director of Google Southeast Asia, says 88 percent of Singaporeans have experienced problems when accessing websites on their phones, "so clearly there’s a lot more work to be done. It’s vital for every business to think mobile-first."
"This is a massive wake-up call to any business in Singapore without a mobile-optimized site or app. This is no longer a viable approach – you're effectively slamming your shop door in the face of your customers."
Simplify Your Site
Whether you’re adapting your existing website to work better when accessed on a mobile device or designing a site exclusively for mobile, you should be aware that some things that work well on desktop might not be as effective on a smaller screen.
Only a third of mobile users make it past the first page of a site they visit, so it’s important to place important information, calls to action, and clear navigation options as prominently as possible on the landing page.
Page-loading time is another huge issue. Almost half of mobile users expect a website to load within two seconds and 40 percent are likely to abandon a site that takes longer than three seconds to load.
Cutting down on large photo files and auto-loading sound and video files can help reduce loading-times, as well as making your display design easier to get right. It’s worth remembering that Apple doesn’t support Flash and, with the iPhone currently enjoying an upsurge in Asia, it might be best to avoid Flash altogether.
Some designers still use a separate m. domain to direct mobile visitors to a just-for-mobile site, but in 2015 this is looking increasingly old-fashioned. There are still benefits, as this approach can allow you to create a desktop website that can incorporate elements that simply wouldn’t work on mobile.
For most businesses, however, responsive design offers a simpler solution.
Responsive websites automatically resize and adjust their display parameters so that they display correctly on a range of different devices. This can allow you to maintain a single domain for desktop and mobile, but stringent testing is important. It also means your design must be suitable for both desktop and mobile visitors in terms of navigation and content.
Abercrombie & Fitch is using this technique to target Asian customers, so it will be interesting to see how successful this approach becomes.
The way people navigate around a site they are visiting on mobile can differ considerably from the way they navigate around the same site on desktop.
The main input device in mobile is usually a finger, which is much less precise than a mouse cursor. Make navigation buttons clear and large enough to use. Avoid clustering small hot spots together as it can be easy to tap the wrong one and also steer clear of text links that can be even more difficult to use on a smaller screen.
You might also consider putting more information on a single page. Mobile users often don’t like to scroll too far, but this can still be preferable than having to click through to different pages. If you build in an infinite scroll feature, which auto-loads more results or information as the viewer approaches the bottom of the page, it can be useful to include a static "Return to top" button.
One handy way for people to navigate your site is the inclusion of a "Site search" box. This can be particularly useful if, for example, you have a range of products that people might want to browse.
An auto-complete or suggestion feature can help cut down the amount of text that users actually have to type into the box – and getting the right translation partner to help with this can make all the difference.
Again, incorporate a "Return" or "Back" button that allows users to easily return to the landing page or to previous results. When you consider the rapid growth of mobile Internet use, it’s clearly important to give your users the best experience you can when they visit your site.
Optimizing for mobile can help you tap into the mobile revolution and increase your competitive edge.