These days, many marketing discussions revolve around the mobile market—and with good reason, since that market is expanding rapidly.
Smartphones are expected to make up 54 percent of all cellphone shipments this year (up from 46 percent in 2012). That number is expected to jump to over 67 percent by 2016.
Still, it’s not just devices that are fueling the mobile explosion. As of the last quarter of 2012, 3G network penetration was up to 81 percent of all cellphone users in the US. Furthermore, faster 4G LTE connections are on the rise, with a predicted increase of 181 percent in 2013. By 2016, 4G subscribers are expected to number almost 1.2 billion worldwide.
All of this translates to an increase in mobile web browsing, which begs the question: do you need to redesign your website for mobile users? While the answer may seem obvious, here are a few more specific questions you should ask before tearing your site down to its foundations.
How much of my website traffic comes from mobile devices?
In general, the mobile web stands to play a crucial role in the real estate industry, where so much happens on the go and on location. But like any other marketing decision, you should start not with a general hunch, but rather with some good old-fashioned data analysis.
To do this, head to the Traffic Sources overview in Google Analytics. Select Advanced Segments, then check the Mobile Traffic segment. This will show you what share of your visitors on a daily basis are accessing your site from a smartphone or tablet.
If it’s only 5 percent, chances are a mobile-focused redesign won’t pay off. If, on the other hand, it’s 20 percent or higher, you may be missing out on opportunities by not optimizing your site for mobile users. But this brings us to our next question:
How does my current website display on mobile devices?
There are many ways to build a website. This is especially true in the real estate industry, which is populated by sites of every cut and vintage. How your site was built, by whom, and on what platform dictates how it will be displayed on someone’s smartphone or tablet. A site that looks shiny and new on your MacBook screen isn’t necessarily guaranteed to translate to your iPhone screen.
The only way to know for sure how your current site looks on a mobile device is to test it yourself. Visit your site from as many different devices as possible—old and new, iPhone and Android, phone and tablet. Try it out on multiple browsers. Pay attention not just to how your site looks, but also to how quickly it loads. Be sure to start with a clear cache each time to get an accurate impression—after all, many visitors will be accessing your site for the first time, and won’t have any preexisting cookies to speed up loading.
Is my website content optimized for mobile visitors?
Rebuilding your site from the ground up won’t do you much good if you’re not making your content useful to mobile users. That means prominently displaying the kinds of information that people on mobile devices want—namely, phone numbers, addresses, and links to your local and social media profiles.
Whenever possible, try to link these pieces of information to the tools and sites people use frequently on mobile devices. You might, for instance, include a link to your Google Maps listing beside your street address.
How and where else am I leveraging mobile users?
Before sinking lots of time and money into a mobile website, you should perform an audit of your entire marketing strategy. You may be surprised to find that you’re reaching plenty of mobile users in other ways and places.
If, for example, you have a robust email marketing campaign in place, then you’re probably doing a good job of engaging your existing customers on mobile. After all, mobile email opens are set to overtake desktop opens in 2013, and 50 percent of all cellphone users (that’s smartphones and feature phones) use their devices to send and receive emails regularly.
You can also leverage mobile users outside your website by creating listings in local search engines and business directories like Google+ Local, Bing Local, and Yelp. Because these sites are highly trafficked and already mobile-ready, maintaining a healthy local search presence could do just as much for you as a mobile-optimized site, if not more.
What’s the future of the mobile web?
Finally, if you’ve decided your site does need to be retooled for a mobile audience, be sure to consider where hardware and web technology are going. Many have cited responsive design as the wave of the future for web development. That’s because it allows you to build a website that will actively rearrange its layout depending on the dimensions of the screen you’re using to view it. (Placester is in the process of building a new set of themes based on responsive design. For a sneak peek at one of those themes, check out our infographic, Anatomy of a Real Estate Website.)
Still, responsive design is labor intensive and new to many developers. Plus, the mobile landscape is changing rapidly. That said, whatever solution you consider, be sure it stands to remain viable as the mobile web continues to grow.
Still not sure if you should redesign your site for mobile? Ask your follow up questions in the comments.