The mobile device is having a moment in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia, which has been hailed “one of the most engaged regions in the world.” Forbes notes that with 129% mobile penetration, Southeast Asia surpasses the global average of 115%. It added: “There were 5.14 million internet users in Singapore alone as of January 2020, with 4.6 million of them on social media. With over 360 million users in Southeast Asia as of 2019, the market in this region is immensely fertile.”
Southeast Asian users, the report added, mostly turn to mobile to order food, buy clothing and lifestyle products, watch movies and television series, and keep up with the daily news. And then, there are the social platforms — Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and, of course TikTok, which enjoyed newfound attention in the age of Covid-19.
With the persisting ubiquity of the smartphone, brands have to maximise their digital strategy with a mobile-first approach, especially at a time where e-commerce via mobile apps is having a moment.
What is a mobile-first approach?
Typically, web designers and clients visualise their website design projects on a desktop first, despite the fact that worldwide market share of mobile is higher than desktop, at 52.1% compared to 44.2%. The discrepancy between the two is even larger in Asia, where mobile commands a 59.64% market share versus 40.36% for desktop.
Mobile-first design is a design strategy that puts the experience on mobile devices front and centre. Mobile-first websites are readable on small screens, and in terms of content, has a slightly different visual hierarchy.
But mobile-first design is more than just aesthetics. Server speed and loading time, for example, are part of the entire experience. Website designers that follow the mobile-first design philosophy know that users will have a different behaviour when using their mobile phone rather than when they’re sitting in front of a computer. Thus mobile-first websites have a faster loading time and response, as mobile devices tend to lag behind desktops when it comes to speed, not to mention mobile data can be slower in places where 4G connection is scarce. It follows that mobile-first design must adapt to these givens.
Note that mobile-first approach is different from mobile-friendly. Where mobile-friendly design is a version that has been adapted from desktop to function on mobile, mobile-first is conceived primarily for mobile. All mobile-first websites are mobile-friendly, but not all mobile-friendly websites are mobile-first. Mobile-friendly website design is the bare minimum, but mobile-first design is the most optimal for brands that have a primarily mobile clientele.
What is mobile-first marketing strategy?
To stay on top of the game, it is crucial to apply the mobile-first design philosophy in the holistic digital marketing strategy — not merely in the website design. Marketers can maximise the mobile-first approach to generate new leads and increase conversion rates.
The number of users of mobile devices has toppled those using desktop computers for searching and purchasing. Because of this, the concept of mobile-first is beginning to make headway in marketing. By starting with focused and optimized marketing design and statements that appeal to a mobile audience, marketing messages become more effective.
Here are a few aspects where marketers can apply mobile-first approaches:
In response to the rise of the mobile device, Google released mobile-first indexing, which it defined as “[using] the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking, to better help [its] primarily mobile users to find what they’re looking for.” It added that sites that make use of responsive web design and correctly implement dynamic serving “generally don’t have to do anything.”
For those that are not yet mobile-first, or even mobile responsive, it provided the following tips:
Make sure the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos – in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.
Structured data is important for indexing and search features that users love: it should be both on the mobile and desktop version of the site. Ensure URLs within the structured data are updated to the mobile version on the mobile pages.
Metadata should be present on both versions of the site. It provides hints about the content on a page for indexing and serving. For example, make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of all pages on the site.
No changes are necessary for interlinking with separate mobile URLs (m.-dot sites). For sites using separate mobile URLs, keep the existing link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between these versions.
Check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs. When using link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization, link between mobile and desktop URLs separately. Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there.
Ensure the servers hosting the site have enough capacity to handle potentially increased crawl rate. This doesn’t affect sites that use responsive web design and dynamic serving, only sites where the mobile version is on a separate host, such as m.example.com.
Source: Google Webmasters
Pundits say that mobile-first is really content-first. Mobile-first requires approaching content structure and navigation from the user’s perspective.
For mobile audiences, make it short and sweet, front-loading the most important details. Mobile users seek simplicity when navigating content, and prefer the path of least resistance. They do not want clutter or irrelevant content, and instead want to go straight to the details important to them.
Also, because content is now multimedia, form factors matter. For example, the trend now is short video. Aside from churning your information into digestible video content, you can also consider the orientation of your video if you want to be mobile-first. A portrait layout can help you maximise the small screen.
These days even email direct marketing can adapt to the mobile era. As email campaigns are received by a significant number of mobile users, designing emails with a mobile-first mindset makes the emails easier to access, and can improve your open rate.
In summary, if you want to improve your customer experience especially at a time where customers spend most of their time on mobile, consider mobile-first design. Taking this approach will allow you to focus on what the user really wants, which in the long run, will help you succeed.
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