RIP Smartphone?

c26-Mark-Blog-Corner-Rant-Badge-draft4Or, How Reports of My iPhone Death Are Yet Another Big Data Exaggeration

News flash! Tablets are being used to (gasp!) actually buy things, and now our former favorite tech toy, the smartphone, is being relegated for (the horror, the horror!) just researching things. This mind-bomb has come to us in a sudden cluster of Big Data reports, and I am now clutching my precious iBaby tight to my chest, praying my AppleCare protection plan will save me from this disruptive-device-and-data invasion.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the headlines Big Data is generating:

They Research on Smartphones, Buy on Tablets (Lenovo)

Mobile’s Retail Power Comes From … The Couch? (Kantar Retail)

Tablets Now Taking A Greater Global Share Of Web Page Views Than Smartphones (Adobe)

Tablets Top Smartphones For Branding Campaigns (Adfonic)

And not to be outdone, laptops are suddenly en vogue: Mobile Is For Browsing, Desktop Is For Buying (BSS Digital)

What do these reports actually say? Hold tight for the ride, here’s the gist of it:

  • People research products on their cell phone, but use their larger-screen, more-secure tablets or PCs and laptops to purchase
  • Tablet users surf more web pages than cell phone users

(And this just in: dog-only owners and dog-cat owners tend to buy more dog food compared to cat-only owners, but not necessarily vice versa.)

This is by no means a scientific study, but a cursory look at reader reaction to these cluster of incredible-insight-data-bombs brings back the hideous crinkling sounds of the last page of the Mayan calendar being turned last December.

“As [the] tablet market is emerging as a giant in the technology sector [there] is no doubt that it will replace smartphones soon,” writes the soothsaying Khan on TechCrunch.

“Interesting results, mobile is definitely moving to tablet–big news for web design to say the least,” adds the ever-prescient commenter UKBillbo in the same TechCrunch post.

Ok, seriously. Before we rewind our smartphones on the eight-track player of history and write them off in our mobile e-commerce strategies, let’s remind ourselves of a few basic truths:

  1. Until someone figures out how to fit a tablet into a front jeans pocket, there will always be a market for a smartphone-like device to access the Internet on a whim. (Oh, wait, it’s called a, um, smartphone. Forget it.)
  2. Until someone figures out how to change human behavior and force humans who are otherwise engaged in decidedly un-e-commerce activities such as vacationing, driving, attending music festivals, beach walking with elderly parents, or generally enjoying life with friends to DROP EVERYTHING AND USE THEIR PHONE TO BUY SOMETHING, guess what, Big Data: we humans will continue to mostly use smartphones for things like texting, fact checking, product checking, Facebooking, Tweeting, photo sharing, and (gasp!) phone calls. That’s what they’re good for.
  3. But notice that “product checking” is part of what we social animals do: at bars, on the beach, at football games. How many bars have I personally frequented while product research swirled around me with drunken abandon? (None of your damn business, but yes, I’ve lost count.)
  4. Oops… one of those studies mentioned above pointed out consumers in the 18- to 34-year-old segment used their cell phones for purchasing at a much higher rate than older segments. Could Big Data be weighted unfairly with biased data from tradition-bound, security-concerned baby boomers, folks who are more apt to have lifestyles that support e-commerce activities? (Such as desk jobs with desktops? Expendable income for tablets? Credit cards with usable credit?)

Mobile IconI have a novel idea. Let’s force everyone who has a website to optimize their content for smartphones. And don’t just optimize your site. Optimize your content. Feed your content to smartphone users in digestible chunks. If you do this, smartphone users will be able to read your content easily.

For reasons of security and convenience (come on, Apple/Microsoft/Samsung, can’t you figure out how to build a smartphone OS with a secure way to store credit card info and an auto-form-filler?), your iPhone visitors may not convert at that moment in the same numbers as your iPad- or other bigger-and-easier-to-read-with-device-owning visitors. But assuming your content is useful and you present it in a readable form, I bet you my iPad 6 that those soon-to-be-future Luddites are gathering vital information with their phones they will use to convert.

Case in point, a recent Google and Nielsen study showed that 73 percent of mobile searches result in some follow-up action or conversion, most of them within the hour of search initiation. “Conversion” here is broadly defined as driving to a retail store, doing more research, or purchasing online, but the point is your content, accessed on smartphones, got the conversion process going.

The key to content, aside from quality and relevancy, is accessibility. You can take whatever approach you want: adaptive or responsive design, tagged content, dedicated mobile sites… not all options are equal, but the choice is yours.

The only rule you have to follow is this: if someone accesses your content on a smartphone, they should be no less wiser about your product or service than if they had accessed it on a smart TV, in a mall kiosk, through Google Glass, or via Obama’s Jedi mind-meld.

And while you’re making your content more mobile friendly, maybe the Apple/Microsoft/Samsung triumvirate will cooperate by making e-commerce-friendly OS’s. Then I can sleep with assurance that my iBaby and me will not be parted anytime soon.

People use smartphones. Smartphones access the Internet. Your product information is on the Internet. Please save my iBaby from Big Data. Optimize your content for smartphones.

End rant.

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