Fifteen years ago, the idea of carrying a personal computer in your pocket was unfathomable.

The fact that modern mobile devices are millions of times more powerful than the spacecraft guidance computers, which helped astronauts navigate all the way to the moon in the 1960s, is also hard to believe.

According to GSMA's 2019 State of Mobile Internet Connectivity report, the mobile industry currently connects over 3.5 billion people to the Internet, which is just under half of the global population.

And the current COVID-19 pandemic has only driven mobile appeal more. As countries across the globe implemented nationwide lockdowns — forcing citizens to stay at home — our mobile devices proved a welcome distraction.

So much so, that the second quarter of 2020 was the largest yet for mobile app downloads, usage and consumer spending, reveals the research from United States app store intelligence firm App Annie.

Mobile app usage increased by 40% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2020 and in-app spending hit a record high of $27-billion USD. We're using food delivery apps to order dinner because we can't visit restaurants, and streaming movies because cinemas are closed.

So, why are brands still focusing so much of their attention on the desktop experience? Change is happening.

Going mobile first

Back in 2010, Eric Schmidt, a former Google executive, encouraged businesses to adopt a 'mobile first' approach to designing web experiences. As the name suggests, this entails starting your product design journey with mobile in mind and then expanding features to create a version suited to tablets and desktops.

Gone are the days when your mobile user interface (UI) was considered a 'secondary' scaled-down version of your desktop experience, with your mobile site only offering a fraction of your website's functionality.

A mobile-first design approach starts with the smallest screen resolutions, before working your way up to larger screen sizes. If you've ever visited a website on your mobile phone and the page isn't designed to automatically fit different devices automatically, you'll understand why this aspect is so important.

More importantly, when we talk about 'mobile', we are referring to the mobile web and mobile apps. Designing with the mobile web in mind is about making sure that your website can adapt to any screen size and resolution.

Alternatively, going mobile-first can also entail developing a mobile app. This mobile strategy not only allows brands to have more personalised interactions with their users but it also acts as a useful information gathering tool.

App data can ultimately be used to improve customer experience. But this doesn't mean that desktop optimisation should fall by the wayside. It's all about adapting and meeting your customers where they are.

DinePlan case study

When Bluegrass Digital created the DinePlan app, its aim was to help consumers make a restaurant booking on-the-go. As South Africa's first instant restaurant booking app, users can find a restaurant based on their current location, restaurant availability, desired cuisines and even based on customer ratings.

But when the coronavirus lockdown halted restaurant visits, the app had to evolve. Keen to help the restaurant industry weather the lockdown storm, the Dineplan app launched a feature that allowed customers to purchase restaurant vouchers that they could then redeem at a later stage.

This, in turn, helped the hospitality industry generate cash flow during the national shutdown. Again, it was meeting customers where they were. 

Back in 2015, Casey Carl, a former chief strategy and innovation officer for UNited States retail brand Target, said that mobile had become a business's new front door.

Customers want to shop and do business whenever they have time and flow seamlessly across various different channels, he said. "We've got to make that happen by having the right underlying architecture."

And this is what a mobile-first strategy is all about. It's about developing with the end-user in mind, as well as the different devices they're using, how they're using them and what the most common screen sizes may be.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter if you have a website, a mobi site, a PWA or an app; you need to create something responsive, informative, easy to navigate and that provides clear directions and calls to action. If your platform doesn't do this, it's time to rethink your mobile strategy.

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