Digital Insights

Mobile-First or Mobile-Only? Which Campaign Strategy Is Better For Your Brand?

Published: July 17, 2015

Mobile first refers to the business approach that assumes employees are primarily using mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets to be more productive. On the other hand, a mobile only approach to business assumes mobile devices are the only tools being used for most applications.

Mobile devices are often referred to as the “second screen”, meaning they are usually people’s first choice over a desktop or laptop. However, statistics have shown that 60% of users access digital content through mobile platforms.

In terms of your marketing approach, this means there may be no distinction between mobile first and mobile only at all. Whether your users are accessing your content as a second or as their only option, your content should be mobile friendly as most of your users are accessing it from a mobile device.

So which is most correct as you attempt to build your brand? Is it more accurate or helpful to assume that your target audience is using mobile devices exclusively or just using them as preference calls? Answering that question, if there is an answer to it at all, involves looking at the pros and cons of both approaches.

Pro: Creates a Defined Standard

One of the pros to a mobile only approach is that it sets a standard for current and future projects. If all of your content is created with the assumption that your audience is going to access it using a mobile device, you will start to design your processes according to a standard that will be mobile friendly no matter the nature of the content or the information.

Designers have moved from an approach that makes desktop applications more mobile-friendly to creating applications with a mobile interface that works across all channels.

Con: Limited Universality

Although mobility is one of the first priorities of users across the United States, this is generally not the norm worldwide. The assumption is often made that worldwide, mobile applications are most often used. However, this is just not the case in many emerging markets, who are still not replacing desktop computers with mobile devices.

The existence of internet cafes and crowded university computer labs in other countries like India and Nigeria lends to this idea. However, in the United States, one-quarter of all internet users are mobile-only, meaning they do not use a desktop to access web content at all. While the United States is moving from a mobile-first to a mobile-only strategy, most of the other countries around the world have not followed suit, with the mobile screen ultimately being the true second screen as the name implies.

Pro: Keeping Up to Date with Current Technology

Zeng Ming is the Chief Strategy Officer at Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., a Chinese e-commerce giant. Ming has stated that the mobile space will eventually outpace PCs by 10 times. Therefore, companies who have been unable to create mobile friendly applications for their day to day operations and process might find themselves left behind.

As advances in technology increase and become increasingly mobile, your business needs to stay up to date to keep pace with its target market. One advantage of using a mobile only or mobile first approach when it comes to your marketing is that you are able to keep pace with your users. When you are working at the same pace and providing your users with the technology that they use every day, you will be better able to keep up to date with what is going on in your industry and know what products to market more heavily than others and how.

Con: Organizational Disconnect

When businesses take a heavy mobile approach to their marketing, there is a disconnect in accountability between departments within the users’ organizations. Mobile advertising and messages are often geared towards one department such as research and development, marketing, commerce, and client retention. For this reason, stakeholders in the company are divided and often uninformed about what is occurring in other elements of the organization.

When single programs are owned by single stakeholders, the result is users who are unable to navigate single websites and collect information without navigating between screens and applications, which is often difficult on mobile devices than it is on desktop computers or laptops. The aim needs to be making information–even mobile information–relevant across channels and departments. Perhaps businesses in the United States and across the world can take a lesson from Chinese company Tencent, which is currently valued at $100 billion dollars, due in large part to their approach to mobile.

Making the move towards a mobile-only or mobile-first approach in terms of your marketing strategy can ultimately be a boom or a boost to your business. Make sure that you understand all of the pros and cons of this type of structure to be sure that it is relevant for you and your business and will help you meet your organizational needs.


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