Google: the ‘Mobile Centric’ approach as a forward-looking concept for the digital distribution of print

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Up to 98% of all online print search results in D/A/CH come from Google – it is high time that online print providers took the “Mobile Centric” approach seriously.

As previously mentioned, the Mobile Centric issue is giving a fair few online print providers another broad hint of what they need to do. What matters are not just rankings, which as previously reported, are increasingly based on mobile display quality, but far more the interaction of potential customers with their most trusted companion, the smartphone.

Providers, who understand the psychology that underlies how customers interact with their smartphones, know that a beneficial user experience is absolutely key (and that applies to mobile search as well). That’s because only this user experience can motivate visitors to take upcoming and future buying decisions in favor of the websites they visit. Some folk will certainly think that they should leave the issues of mobile search and mobile display to one side, since any halfway forward-looking print provider has got these issues on their radar anyway. But I can tell you straight that significantly fewer providers than necessary are honing their mobile strategies.

But what exactly do I mean by that? Searching, finding and ordering are not purely rational or algorithm-alignable actions. As previously reported, what matters are both technically verifiable mobile compatibility and the user experience, which in positive cases motivates users to buy. Myriad links and superfluous content can significantly decrease usability and put users off – a lack of clarity and time-consuming searches on a website don’t necessarily lead to a purchase, but rather to ‘leaving the building’ and heading for a “reliable competitor”.

‘Mobile Centric’ is an approach that focuses on the smartphone. As Google’s rankings update (announced in mid-October) shows, the mobile end device is soon set to function as the ‘primary screen’ and no longer just as the `second screen´, as far as the design and rating of websites is concerned. Now you could just reduce the whole thing to investing in a mobile website – or you have to ask yourself what will be relevant in the future. Obviously, rankings are one issue – but content should never be adapted to the detriment of clarity. Instead, appropriately informative content design can lead to more sales, even mobile-generated ones.

There are positive examples of this in the online print industry as well as in other sectors. In contrast, complex ranges of products and services can‘t be showcased on mobile end devices as smoothly. Therefore those websites heading the rankings don’t just action a list of ranking factors, they are above all appealing, e.g. they feature a sufficient amount of additional information about the printing or finishing techniques used, they are fast and they have clarity of layout as well. Anybody conducting a mobile online search has an idea of where they want to get to.

Every decision-maker should therefore consider at the appropriate juncture what they themselves would like to find on a website and how an optimum user experience can be created in relation to their product. What is also a part of the Mobile Centric approach are aspects that have also proven useful for any desktop UX – clear-cut design with short, productive click paths and content linkage via several channels or platforms – in other words those things that affect users’ online lives, but in this case perfectly tailored to mobile surfing behaviour.

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“Mobile search and navigation make sizeable demands of content-laden websites. As print providers you have to adapt to this dynamic and keep ensuring your digital distribution channel has appeal.” – Bernd Zipper

In order to achieve an optimum UX, the provider has to showcase what they do and have their brand make an impact. The more clearly a store operator can position itself and its product portfolio, the better it is able – and that applies in particular to more restricted (spacewise) mobile displays – to provide information to potential customers and motivate them via its digital distribution channel to buy. Visitors just expect things to happen quickly and that only those products they are searching for are displayed. There are enough alternatives on the market, so the price argument doesn’t always hold.

Let’s take a specialist provider from the print sector as an example – Moo.com. The guys there often manage to convey emotions better in print, especially because their offering is not aimed at the mass market. They tend to define what they are all about by the quality of their website and products.

Clarity and short click paths determine the success of any digital distribution channel; source: zipcon consulting
Clarity and short click paths determine the success of any digital distribution channel; source: zipcon consulting

That puts them in the ideal position of being able to deliver clarity of mobile display, without them having to slim down their desktop-version content. Some of the less focused print providers with a wider product range are therefore less frequently identified as mobile friendly. Obviously, users then quickly ask “how does the editor work…?” – but here too companies can do it their own way. I shall be taking a closer look at this issue and reporting back.

My take: Mobile Centric encapsulates important aspects of mobile display and focuses on user experience. But you are mistaken if you think that all you have to do to be mobile centric is to action those ranking factors. That’s because in view of future mobile requirements, providers are going to have to deal with the interaction of their customers with mobile end devices in greater depth. And that is irrespective of market share or the size of their brand – those that don’t react are going to get taught a painful lesson – and not just by Google, but by those that matter most, namely customers.

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