mobile_buyer_behaviorWe are multi-tasking phenoms. During my last trip to the greatest diner on earth, I scanned an article about CRMs between the first and second coffee pour. Midway through my omelet, I got side-tracked by a tweet about Alexander Graham Bell. By the time the check came, I'd forwarded myself a research report for future download -- content that ended up inspiring this blog post. All of this was done on a screen about the size of an index card.

About half of what I read on my phone is work related. The other half involves, in no particular order:

  • Family pictures
  • Puppy GIFs (you're welcome)
  • Other mission-critical content

As it turns out, context has a great deal to do with the content we consume online and how we consume it. Mobile phone reading is fast-paced, half-present, and usually done while doing something else. Contrast that with reading on a tablet. Most tablet reading is slower-paced, deliberate, and done in the home. Desktop use is also different. For marketers, it's worth thinking about how people are consuming your content and what that might change for your approach to content creation. Let's take a look at some of the clearer trends in buyer behavior on mobile.  

Mobile Browsing Is More Action Oriented

In an interview with Mashable, Andy Ching, director of mobile for Bing, stated that 70% of mobile searches are followed up by a consumer action within an hour. In other words, if you're searching for car parts on mobile, you're probably going to end up buying those car parts that day. Browsing on a desktop computer or laptop, however, tends to be more leisurely and general-research-driven in nature.

Think for a moment about the last time you pulled your mobile phone out from your pocket. Unless you were waiting for a bus or eating omelets at a diner, you probably had a specific purpose for doing so. Because mobile phones go with us, their users tend to be more action driven. This is probably most true in cases of consumer products and B2C companies, but can extend into the B2B or nonprofit worlds, as well.

In your marketing strategy, think about what you can do to make those action-oriented searches easier. Keep your landing pages and home page simple. Optimize your site for mobile viewing using responsive design and make phone numbers clickable.  

Quick Tip: You can make your company's phone number clickable by adding a simple tag in the HTML view of your page. Switch over to HTML View (In HubSpot, this is the button on your toolbar that looks like this </>) then format your phone number like so:  

<a href=”tel:18884827768″>1(888)-482-7768</a>

Except ... replace our phone number (888-482-7768) with yours. Note that this is similar to the HTML code for creating a link, it just adds "tel:" and the number.  

Most Common Mobile Activities

According to IDC research, email is the most common activity that U.S. adults perform on their smartphones, with reading news/content and using social networking as a close second and third, respectively. Each of these activities have been on the rise. Twice a year, Knotice, a Data Management Platform, releases data on email opens by device. During the second half of 2012, 41% of all emails were opened were opened on a mobile device, which is a full 50% increase over the same time the prior year.

Knowing that emails, content consumption, and social networking are increasingly happening through mobile devices, here are a few tips to add to your checklist:

  • Make sure your emails and content are easy to read on mobile. Litmus, an email testing service, advises: "To avoid illegible fonts, strive for a body copy minimum of 14px." In fact, you might want to check out their infographic that walks you through a number of email optimization tips in an easy to understand way.  
  • Don't forget that mobile viewers are often hopping between these three activities. If you're sharing a webpage out on social media or email, remember that the end recipient (or the person he forwards it to, or the person that person forwards it to) could very well be on a mobile device. Make sure that your website, blog, and any other content you share is just as optimized for mobile.
  • Make sure your calls-to-action are big and visible. Litmus advises to include a call-to-action that's at least 44px wide.

Being more aware of how your audience consumes your content can give you a leg up when it comes to conversions from this very action-oriented crowd. 

Mobile Behavior and Ads

There are mixed reports as to the effectiveness of ads on mobile devices. According to data from three of Facebook’s biggest ad API partners (who help companies purchase ads) mobile Sponsored Stories are generating more than 13 times the clickthrough rates of all Facebook desktop ads. And a study by Hipcricket, suggests that 64% of people who have viewed an ad on mobile have made at least one purchase as a result.

However, for a few reasons, it can be difficult to effectively measure purchase intent of mobile users who click through on ads. Some clickthroughs are accidental and others get misattributed. The best way to understand the behavior of your mobile audience with ads is to test it with a few campaigns. Create a landing page for the campaign and see how many mobile viewers make it through to the thank you page. You can use Google Analytics to get a breakdown of your mobile visitors. Go to any content page in Google Analytics and use the dropdown to view by a second dimension: "operating system." Doing so will let you track how many mobile users are viewing your landing and thank you pages.

Another advertising tip for mobile users? Be mindful about ad sizes. In their recent ebook, Mobile Advertising in a Multichannel World, predictive lifetime value platform Nanigans advises considering the optimal viewing sizes for your ads on mobile devices. "320X50 is the dominant banner size for smartphones on Android and iOS," explains Nanigans' Director of Marketing Laurie Cutts. "For tablets, half, quarter, and full-page ad formats are typically the most effective for driving eyeballs and conversion."

Device Hopping

A friend of mine recently read an article on Slate that inspired her. She was on a mobile phone when she read it, and liking the content, decided to share it out to her Twitter following.


When I discovered her tweet, I was at my desktop taking a brief break over coffee before diving into my work for the day. I thought the article looked interesting and clicked through. When I clicked through on my desktop, however, the resulting page looked like this:


That's because I was viewing a mobile site from my desktop computer and the resulting page wasn't rendering well. Whenever you create content, it's important to think not just of the first user who reads it, but of the countless others who may access it after through a social share. How many times have you shared a website from one device to a sea of social followers on other devices?

It's as true for personal consumption as it is for sharing. According to research from Google, a full 90% of viewers hop from one device to another to complete a task. You're watching TV, maybe scrolling through your Twitter feed absent-mindedly. You come across a tweet that could be of interest. Not in the right mindset to read it then and there, you forward it to yourself for later reading. Later on, you check your email on a desktop and click through to read the whole thing.   

The best way to conquer this? Build your content using responsive design. Responsive design reshuffles your webpages to fit whatever device is viewing them. So your page will look good on phones, tablets, and desktops.  

A Final Note: Mobile Users and Search 

As inbound marketers know, search is one of the biggest driving factors for how today's companies get found online. So it makes sense to think about the experience of mobile users at the search box. Mobile user behavior at the search engine box is more focused and time-sparing. In a great article on the MediaWiz blog, Marc Purtell explains:

"Consumers do not search the same way on mobile devices as they do on desktops. Search queries on mobile devices are typically shorter, containing fewer characters, and more dependent on Autocomplete suggestions. Therefore, when determining what keyword phrases to perform mobile searches around, focus on the theme of the page to see what Autocomplete suggestions are most common."

The majority of mobile users click on one of the top three organic results on a search engine results page. And since these searches are on the rise, you'll want to focus in on the SEO tactics that will help you get to the top spot on your 2-5 most important keyword phrases. This summer, Google rolled out additional algorithmic changes that actually prioritize search listings of sites that are optimized for mobile over those that aren't when a mobile user is searching. So optimizing for search on mobile is of the utmost importance.

Currently, one out of every three minutes spent online is on a mobile device. (Drop me a comment if you're on one right now!). With this influx of traffic from mobile, it's important to make a plan for how you'll attract and engage the person holding each of these wide-ranging devices. You can get started right now by taking a look at how your current site looks on a number of different devices in this free mobile emulator we've created -- now in beta.  

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Originally published Sep 16, 2013 11:11:36 AM, updated July 28 2017


Mobile Marketing