Having recently attended the INMA World Congress in New York, I was particularly inspired by the session on creating a better mobile experience.

Expanding on this further, it seems to me there are, in essence, five obstacles or challenges we all need to overcome in delivering a first-rate mobile site for our readers and advertisers:

  1. Winning over your stakeholders (very often, with your CEO).

    What do your readers want from your Web site? Maybe it’s a combination of getting news, checking restaurant and theatre reviews, booking tickets/buying reader offers, and reading free or paid content? Researcher IMRG statistics show that 37% of online sales in the United Kingdom, for instance, are now on mobile (equating to US$12 billion in 2014).

    So how does this translate to the resources and budget we need to develop the best performing news Web site? This can depend on your niche, your corporate culture, and, ultimately, your CEO’s attitude to it all.

    Tracking the bulk of site traffic on mobile, it’s generally clear that a bad mobile user experience (UX) loses existing customers and puts off prospective customers, too.

    A senior European news executive told me recently that his CEO will only invest in mobile when presented with concrete evidence that he can monetise existing subscribers based on their predicted Web browser volumes, frequency, time on site etc.

    Surely, a more radical approach is required? We can’t afford to sit and wait.

    Alternatively, take the view of a more visionary CEO who accepts mobile will transform your news business as we know it, and realises that organisational change and breaking down disciplinary silos is critical.

    By way of example, I recall that a few years ago, eBay’s CEO John Donahoe set up a horizontal mobile team strategy to “agitate and disrupt” the rest of the business. Today, mobile is the main focus for everyone at eBay, and the approach has unified the company and championed an exciting future for the business.

    “He created internal unrest when he created a mobile commerce unit. He gave them absolute permission to step on other functions’ toes,” said the company’s vice president of marketing.

  2. Personalising the site experience with the “customer first” in mind.

    Many brands are proud to say they are “mobile first” with a clear focus on developing mobile products, for example, with mobile-optimised sites and apps. But that’s not the real issue.

    We may, in fact, share our tablets with, say, our family members, but we don’t normally share our mobile phones. We should therefore consider replacing “mobile first” with “customer first.”

    Think about the many ways we can personalise our mobile sites based on that unique reader – that unique user and his previous browsing patterns and purchasing history, geo-location, time-based “day parts” – and then make recommendations to him for other services and products that he most likely will want to buy from us.

    Think Amazon! Many leading retailers are now realising this with great success. Are you doing the same in news media?

  3. Creating a really great UX.

    Those who develop for mobile will know that HTML5 has certainly helped the whole experience for developers and users alike, as have better hand sets and bigger screens (e.g. the recently launched iPhone 6 and 6 Plus). Think about the impact these smartphones are now having on mobile site browsing.

    Responsive Web design is becoming a default for most news brands. As a rule, the best mobile site experiences are quick, easy, and quite “painless” for the user. But the “customer first” approach goes beyond what actually shows on your landing page; it feeds into the user experience and your site development process.

  4. Making mobile seamless in a multi-screen customer journey.

    Your site must satisfy your reader demands at every stage in the customer journey be it browsing the news headlines or whatever. More often now, “mobile” is the fundamental part or corner-stone of an increasingly more complex journey.

    Google estimates that more than 50% of online purchases take more than 20 days to complete. But, importantly, many purchases will involve multiple screens.

    A good example is to think about the last vacation you booked. For your flight or hotel, you may have had a single site session to look at flight times, compare prices, and ultimately buy the flight.

    Customers are more likely to browse on mobile first and carry out research, but many want to save their choices into a wish list and complete the booking on a desktop or tablet. Most likely you’ve needed input from others, via other screens, and maybe also input from the likes of TripAdvisor and even your social network.

    It’s complicated – without us even thinking so. Such is today’s multi-screened, fast-paced world. The mobile site may provide the inspiration, but many times the actual booking process will most likely involve other screens and other people.

    So, the lesson here is to make it all very easy for your readers to share content with other users. There’s clear evidence customers are generally influenced by reviews and recommendations and act on those recommendations.

  5. Maximising conversion to actual sales/subscriptions.

    Most news brand analytics teams will tell you the same story: Mobile site conversion isn’t great.

    Why? Well, having checked over many retail mobile sites in the past nine months, for example, the check-out pages are almost always the weakest link on the journey. Either the check-out process includes too many stages and/or the on-screen navigation is not clear enough. The old adage still applies: KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!).

Final word

There’s a lot to take from here regarding delivering a top-quality mobile site experience. Just make sure all other stakeholders know what proportion of traffic is mobile, how you perform against your competitors, and your revenue potential for the future. Remember, where the eyeballs go, thats where the money goes.

Use both internal and external feeds to personalise your site and drive repeat visits and positive referrals. Customer feedback informs not only your mobile site’s UX, but also the demand for product enhancements, promotions/offers, and purchasing (for subscriptions, etc.).

Don’t forget that testing every stage of the mobile site ensures you don’t waste important and sometimes scarce development resource building m-sites that deliver a bad UX.

And finally, keep your check-out process short and simple, and provide clear navigation. Make it easy for readers to buy “stuff” from you.

Et voila! A first-rate mobile experience that should help set you up for the current and future fast-changing, more mobile-led, more complicated, and more opportunistic environment.

Good luck!