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Is it time to drop 'mobile first' from your strategy?

13 Jun 2016

Last week Gartner reported that smartphone sales are slowing globally. Time to ditch your mobile marketing strategy, right? Of course not, what we’re seeing is the inevitable maturation, as we head to near 90% penetration in markets like the UK and USA coupled with a slowdown in replacement rates. But one thing’s for sure, mobile continues to be an intrinsic part of your customers’ journey.

So, whilst it may not be time to expunge mobile from your marketing strategy, perhaps it’s an interesting juncture to discuss the thorny issue of a “mobile first” strategy versus an integrated multi device approach.

“Mobile first” has been kicking around for some time – and, like many a marketing approach, it was originally grounded in sound principles. The massive growth in smartphone usage, and the shift towards the handset being a primary device in countries like the UK, as evidenced by a recent Ofcom report, has driven marketers to aggressively drive towards mobile-centric strategies.

Even in markets as diverse as EMEA, where the smartphone penetration between the UK and France is markedly different, the majority of marketers report that “marketing is all about mobile”, as reported in Adobe’s Digital Roadblock Report from July 2015.

But the trouble with mobile first is that it places too much emphasis on the device and not enough on the behaviour. Sure, mobile is an important touchpoint, but it’s one of numerous online and offline touchpoints that your customers and prospects will encounter with your and your competitors brands each and every day.

Heavying-up on investment in the mobile experience, at the expense of other touchpoints is counterproductive. Need some proof? The Direct Marketing Association reported last year that 60% of UK adults use at least two devices per day, and nearly 25% use three.

And, returning to the Ofcom report we discussed earlier, the evidence is that browsing on laptop or desktops is still in pretty good health. The reality is that customers don’t think about devices, they simply think of the task they need to complete at that specific instance, and how best they can complete it.

That’s why the most mature marketing organisations adopt a more holistic approach (see Gartner’s Maturity Model for Mobile Marketing). They recognise that integrating mobile capabilities into the wider marketing team is vital, and building responsive experiences that flex across a range of screen sizes and devices is more important than dogmatically focusing on any one device.

So, perhaps it’s time to ditch mobile first strategy and shift towards thinking customer first.

Article by Ewan McIntyre, Gartner research director

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