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2014 is another exciting year for mobile.

With many new technologies coming to market, emotional investment in our devices along with usage is at an all time high.

This is the definitive A to Z guide to mobile marketing and commerce. Enjoy...

A: Adaptive Web Design & RESS

Responsive web design (RWD) is popular right now and to some it’s become a silver bullet solution. However,  adaptive web design (AWD) is the gold standard, if you can afford it. 

With AWD, layout is determined server side to enable the delivery of the most appropriate version of the site based on the functionality of the device. This means that load times are quick, optimisation is easier, and the site is more appropriate to the device, along with being able to reach non-smartphone users.

For brands where context is king, such as in retail and travel, being more device-specific rather than screen-specific is likely to produce bigger returns. Responsive Web Design with Server Side Components (RESS) is a cross between RWD and AWD - a hybrid solution that ensures your solution is more ‘next generation’ by ensuring pages load faster and work on more devices.

RESS provides relevant content and call-to-actions specific to the device. In doing so the user benefits from a richer and more engaging experience.

I expect to see more brands choosing adaptive and RESS over responsive this year, especially when so many brands are experiencing RWD projects that come in late and over budget. 

Lufthansa adaptive web

Lufthansa's use of adaptive design shows how experiences can be tailored according to likely user behaviour.  

B: Beta & minimum viable products

Once highly popular, I predict a resurgence in launching in Beta as a way to get minimum viable products on mobile out to market quickly. It helps avoid making big decisions based on what people say versus what people do.

Early users help to inform the features, expansion and improvements on the mobile roadmap, with success (or failure) early on helping to dictate future investment. Circa 90-day turnaround minimum viable products will become more popular in getting something feasible out to market.

Doing this allows businesses to gain useful feedback early on, enabling you to alter the product to suit customer needs. This method allows you, in some cases, to fail quickly and early, which saves you time and money.

Innovation needs to get out of PowerPoint quicker and by making rather than talking, you can build the future, rather than asking your customers to predict it as per the famous Henry Ford quote. 

C: Consumer first, mobile first is dead

A Google Executive recently declared ‘mobile first’ dead.

Driven by the rise of the smartphone, the principles of ‘mobile first’ are important, but the notion that the consumer is always a mobile consumer, and not a cross channel / device consumer can be dangerous.

Today’s consumers switch between devices to achieve tasks and expect brands to keep up. Therefore focusing solely on mobile devices can be a myopic approach.

Instead marketers need to adjust their messages to suit consumer’s multi-device behaviour. 

D: Drivables

CarPlay, by Apple, enables drivers to use their iPhone apps through their car through a USB connection.

Drivers can control CarPlay using voice through Siri; they can request songs, call someone, dictate text messages and ask for directions all through voice control.

The benefit of voice control means that drivers are not nearly as distracted as they would be if taking their eyes off the road to fiddle with their iPhone, therefore CarPlay promotes safer driving.

Drivers can also control CarPlay using a touchscreen display or using the car’s in-built controls.


Other companies are working on their versions of car systems; these include Microsoft Sync, and Google’s Android-based system, The Open Automotive Alliance.

The ‘Drivables’ trend of in-car technology and evolving interface design will be important this year. As penetration increases input techniques such as voice control will become normalised which will have implications on interaction design across all connected devices. 

E: Empathy

In mobile it’s easy to get distracted by chasing the new trend.

Sometimes we do things because we can, rather than because we should! Empathy for the consumer is key, as is adding value with your mobile proposition: How will your audience during the course of their busy life gain value from the interaction with your brand on their most personal device?

Often being useful is a great way to stand out. Get in touch with your inner consumer, or speak to real ones, to avoid being annoying in creating a mobile white elephant.

A great way to do just this and get in touch with your consumer, is through user testing. Ask your consumers those all important questions, understand their attitude towards your brand and why they may choose a competitor over you, and most importantly ask what they want and need from you.  

F: Facebook

There is plenty we can learn from Facebook’s mobile journey. Facebook have cracked how to make money from mobile.

In Q4 of 2013 Facebook sales reached more than $1bn from mobile advertising alone. The number of mobile Facebook users has also rocketed; at the start of 2013 there were more daily desktop users than mobile, but within just one year there were around 200m more mobile users than desktop.

As there are 556m people accessing Facebook on their smartphone or tablet every day, it is imperative that the mobile user experience is optimised.

Before Facebook’s huge mobile success, version four of the native app was rated just one-star in the app store by more than half of its users. Facebook listened to the users and redeveloped the native app in 2012, focussing on improving the speed of use and functionality through changing the programming language.

Version four was written in HTML5 so that one app could be used across all platforms, but this resulted in a lower quality performance. Version five is written in the native language for iOS, Objective-C, which has drastically improved the user experience, as it’s significantly quicker.

Facebook can be used for mobile marketing in a number of ways: to build awareness, views and clicks in news feed; or by using Facebook as a sign-in to your mobile experience to make it more personal and capture data. 

G: Great expectations (not good)

Our increased emotional dependency on our mobile devices is raising the bar for brands.

Good isn’t good enough anymore! Simply repackaging web content, ignoring the context of mobility and the opportunities of location relevance, as well as other mobile sensors, isn’t good enough anymore.

Consumers have great expectations, not good expectations. Are you raising the bar and giving your audience what they want? 

H: Heavy

Unfortunately it’s easy to make a responsive site overly heavy in terms of page weight, which may lead to frustrated users.

An example of a heavy site is Sony’s ‘Be Moved’ RWD. The landing page is 53 Mb in size and to some is a month’s data allowance in one page - that is not something a consumer is going to thank you for!

Due to the size, the page takes forever to load.

The lesson here is to ensure that you are being responsible with your page weight and QA for speed across 3G or Wi-Fi.

I: iBeacon 

iBeacon, part of Apple’s iOS7 but also compatible with Android 4.3 upwards, is a way for brands to engage with their customers once they are in close proximity to a specific location and have downloaded a specific application.

There are over 30 beacon hardware vendors already, from Estimote to Swirl, and they transmit data to your mobile based on proximity ranges via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

Marketers are excited about the opportunities, and it’s important that brands use this new technology responsibly, a notable example being Tesco trialling it but not using the technology for marketing messages yet.

Outside of retail, the most inspiring iBeacon example I’ve seen so far is the recent “Sweeper” exhibit and installation for the UN at the New Museum in NYC which recreated a deadly minefield, in-order to raise awareness to the threat of landmines around the world.

Using iBeacon, the installation recreated this lethal experience via an app people downloaded to their mobile, and as they walked by a beacon, visitors triggered an explosion sound along with hammering home the gory details of the attack. This then led to a donations page.

What is impressive here is that they’ve solved the value exchange equation of seeing messages you would want to receive, and managing the barrier to entry of needing an app and Bluetooth turned on, in order to interact.


J: jQuery 

I’ve mentioned the problem with heavy websites and the benefit of using RESS technology.

jQuery mobile is another method of optimising the Web browsing experience for mobile devices.

It allows pages to load faster by loading the necessary items on the page straight away with the rest of the page elements loading as they are needed, which is important for user satisfaction (see ‘Loading times’).

jQuery is a framework devised of simpler and shorter codes thus developers can implement jQuery more quickly and robustly.

Many companies are increasingly using jQuery or other mobile frameworks such as Backbone and Zepto.js due to their advantages and it is predicted to be a big part of the future of Web development. 

K: Killer apps

Killer apps were all the rage during intense platform battles. For example, Halo was Xbox’s killer app.

The idea of uniqueness, a first of its kind and a hook that gets you talked about can be used for mobile when thinking about the key feature(s) you will deliver through mobile.

So with a native application spend some time thinking about how you would list and PR your app and it’s killer features early in the project, not when it’s too late.  

L: Loading

Whether you are hyper tasking, multi tasking or mono tasking, the most precious resource to a mobile user in 2014 is time.

Many studies have demonstrated the negative impact of slow sites on sales. There are lots of statistics kicking around that claim that load time should not be more than five seconds, or four seconds or even one second.

Google states that just a two second load time is disruptive to the user experience and is the maximum a delay can be. Kissmetrics say that if an ecommerce site is making $100,000 per day, then a 1-second delay could cost you $2.5m in lost sales every year.

The moral of the story is simple; make sure your load time is as close to instant as possible and your users will be happy, anymore than this and you are increasing the likelihood of users becoming impatient, frustrated, and leaving your site.

M: Multi-screening

Multi-screening, when more than one device is used at one time, is a continuing powerful trend due to our increasing need for information immediacy and ever present human interaction.

multi screen

Multi-screening is often used to investigate products, to use social media, and often we start an activity on one device and continue it on another. Research suggests that the majority of consumers using a second screen to look for TV related content are either using ‘search’, or social media.

Twitter can actually improve live TV. Fast Web Media found that out of 10m active UK Twitter users, 60% are tweeting while watching TV, and 40% are tweeting about TV. This gives the opportunity to engage with thousands of consumers and get a conversation flowing about your brand. 

Successful campaigns use specific hashtags, for example using the brand name or brand slogan. Three’s #DancePonyDance is an example of a brand successfully engaging with users on a second screen; understanding multi-screening behaviour can allow you to do the same.

What’s new this year is the improved ability for our devices to talk to each other.

Examples include Apple’s Airplay, and Google Chromecast, which is fundamentally changing our content consumption habits.  

There's also Samsung’s Chord (as part of its new mobile SDK), which enables multi-Samsung-device experiences which will open up a world of screen sharing, collaborative shopping and new opportunities with multi-screen gaming.


Consumers love Native Apps, and the data backs it up with 86% of time spent on mobiles in Apps (according to Flurry).

The challenge of App discovery has not gone away, neither has the need to build reach and engagement with an impressive solution that people love and use. Build it and they may or may not come.

Launch planning, app PR, and mobile media are on the rise, as is mobile analytics and the use of social listening tools to track conversations, to ensure the user is listened to, and the experience is constantly improved.

The benefits of native apps include the commercial opportunities, use of sensors such as location, potential for habitual use, offline mode, speed, access to camera, and they generally provide a richer and higher-class experience for users.

O: OS Wars 

The leading mobile Operating Systems are always evolving and expanding, meaning marketers must keep up-to-date with the latest developments to see how they can utilise them. 

The versioning evolution across platforms is very different; Apple’s latest iOS7 has a penetration of more than 90% where as Android KitKat has a penetration of around 5%. So OS fragmentation is very real.

Brands developing apps for Q4 this year should be mindful of iOS 8 and the phablet user experience problems meaning potential changes ahead to swipes, back buttons and App layout.

In terms of the iOS7 major redesign it served to help hide call to actions and interaction near the screen edges on carousels caused problems.

In a recent poll investigating which emerging mobile operating system is the likeliest to succeed, the majority voted Ubuntu Touch followed by Sailfish, Tizen, and then Firefox.

Keep your eyes on these new players to see how interaction design evolves and exploit new opportunities that open up.  

P: Programmatic ad buying

Programmatic buying allows you to automatically buy the right ad at the best price at the right time on the right device.

If you are a marketer that understands and implements automated buying technology then you are actually in the minority, as according to Forrester and the Association of National Advertiser 67% of marketers need to learn more about it, don’t understand it, or are unaware of it entirely.

Basically automated ad buying is a way for marketers to place bids for advertising space through an automated technology.

‘Programmatic’ ad buying refers to the different ways of doing this, and it’s taking off in mobile. Programmatic marketing works by a campaign being triggered by a set of rules that are applied by software and algorithms. Marketers establish a strategy and set up these rules, which are then implemented by the software.

For example, it can be used to send an automated email campaign to consumers that have abandoned their shopping basket on a website. Programmatic advertising is more efficient and lower in cost than human ad buying, and can be used for mobile advertising and marketing campaigns. 

Q: QR Codes

QR codes work by a barcode scanner application on a smartphone processing a code, directing the user to a website or promotion.

When used appropriately QR codes can be effective, by increasing consumer engagement with print to enrich the user experience.

There is wide scepticism on whether QR codes are ‘dead or alive’, yet it is clear that in Asia the use of QR codes is still growing.

In China, Pernod Ricard is deploying QR codes across all packaging in-order to increase engagement and reduce counterfeiting.

qr wine


Responsive Web Design (RWD) refers to a website that resizes itself depending on the device it is being accessed from.

It works by using fluid grids with page elements sized by proportion. It’s often the first stage on a brand’s mobile journey. The problem is, it’s easy to make a bad RWD site.

Using RWD is a step in the right direction, although due to drawbacks such as possible delayed loading times, considering the ‘next generation’ of RWD, known as RESS (see ‘Adaptive and Reiss Technology’) would be advantageous to the marketer and the user. 

S: Strategy 

2014 is the year to make mobile strategy a priority.

Mobile strategy is moving up the agenda and informing business and communications strategy. Given the complexity and opportunities of mobile, I find the best way to deal with complexity is through simplicity.

So ask the right questions up front by seeking to understand the business and consumer context, along with the capabilities and constraints.

Outline the mobile opportunity and then blueprint the solution budget and tactics to help make it happen.  

T: Text

It might be 2014, but don't assume text/SMS is disappearing as a valuable comms tool. It's simple, immediate and effective.

Out of all marketing text messages sent to consumers, over 95% are opened and read, with 83% being read within one hour. Redemption rates for marketing text messages can be relatively high, and due to the low cost of sending an SMS, marketers can attain a high Return on Investment.

It’s an impressively versatile tool for global or local campaigns and is not smartphone only. O2 frequently uses this method of connecting with their O2 More customers.  

U: User Testing

User testing is more important than ever in 2014 given the costs of creating and promoting mobile experiences.

Testing your mobile website and/or app on your current or potential customers is an effective method of ensuring your product provides a positive user experience.

User testing involves your typical customers engaging with your mobile website or app, interesting findings and any problems users encounter are noted by expert consultants.

Findings often include attitude towards a brand, ease of use, and understanding users’ needs and wants.

The consultants recommend how to optimise the user experience based on the findings. The benefits of user testing includes allowing you to fail quickly and cheaply if ideas are not viable, and implementing findings is likely to increase consumer engagement and conversion rates.  

V: Voice Control

Voice input with the likes of Google Now and Siri is becoming better and more mainstream: it’s a game changer for us all. Voice command is convenient and beneficial for drivers, by using voice instead of fiddling around with buttons, there will be a reduction in distraction leading to an improvement in safety and user experience.

Voice is now entering mobile advertising to help create cut through and dramatise product features. Toyota implemented voice command in their mobile advert to promote a new in-car entertainment system.

The advert mimics the car system by encouraging the individual to use voice command to choose one of two apps that are presented; weather and iHeartradio. Using voice for mobile marketing campaigns is beneficial as it engages the user in the advert giving them a memorable and richer experience. 

W: Wallet

Using mobile devices to make payments is a growing trend. Calisle and Gallagher Consulting Group predict that by 2017, half of today’s smartphone users will be using mobile wallets as their preferred payment method. 

PayPal is working with iBeacon to facilitate hands-free payments (see ‘iBeacon’), whilst many others are developing their own digital wallets including Google, Apple and Amazon.

Currently in the U.S. approximately 10m Starbucks customers pay using the mobile app. The success of the app is down to the ease and speed of the service, and the way it enhances the customer’s experience, for example users are exposed to instant discounts and a reward programme.

It helps marketers to build relationships with consumers and opens up a direct marketing channel.  

X: X-ray

Mobile is changing the way we view the world thanks to augmented reality and mobile interface design. An example is the 'X is for X-ray' app by Touch Press that is available for iPhone and iPad.

It is a highly visual, interactive and educational ebook that shows 26 everyday objects.

With the swipe of a finger X-ray photography of these objects are presented giving users the ability to explore the inner structure of objects with a 3D view.

‘X is for X-ray’ is a breakthrough in how we can explore the complexity of 3D structures through a smartphone or tablet. This innovative app shows some of the new capabilities that are possible with new devices. 


Y: Yoda

The following conversation from Empire Strikes Back can be applied to mobile marketing:

Luke: All right, I’ll give it a try.

Yoda: No. Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try.

Do mobile or do not do mobile. The latter isn’t really a viable choice any more. So don’t set out and attempt to try and do mobile. Make it a priority and make your customers a priority. Launching with a one star app isn’t really an option is it? 

Z: Zzzz

With the rising wearables trend along with Apple’s HealthKit it all points towards even more opportunities to track your quantified self.

For example ‘Sleep Cycle’ is an app that senses your body movements when asleep in order to wake you up when you are in the lightest sleep state. A number of other sleep apps have different purposes, such as detecting and recording sounds to identify snoring issues. 

On the subject of wearables and health, various apps aid the management of fitness and food consumption, such as ‘Runtastic’, ‘Map My Run’ and ‘My Fitness Pal’. ‘Fitbit One’ logs the number of calories burned and can also measure sleep.

‘The Lumoback’ is designed to improve posture, it involves a sensor that sends data to a smartphone, which then reminds the individual to sit up straight by displaying a stickman that mimics their current posture. 


Econsultancy has a range of reports looking at best practice around mobile marketing and commerce: 

Mobile Web Design and Development Best Practice Guide

Mobile Commerce Compendium

Finding the Path to Mobile Maturity

David Skerrett

Published 18 June, 2014 by David Skerrett

David Skerrett is Managing Partner at Nimbletank, a Mobile Marketing Association EMEA Board Director, and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow David on Twitter and Google Plus

5 more posts from this author

Comments (4)


Katrina Douglas

Very insightful, provides a comprehensive view of the current mobile marketing landscape and also flagged some areas that I need to delve into, namely Adaptive Web Design & RESS and Programmatic Ad Buying

over 2 years ago



Pretty good, but not sure about "mobile first is dead"?

I think he misunderstood that concept, it's not "mobile only" (in a way quite obvious!), but about appreciating that in many cases consumers these days have the first touchpoint with a brand or product via mobile.

And it is a highly useful approach when designing digital services to start mobile first, as it forces you to take some tough decisions on key messages and user journeys, that can get glossed over when designing for large desktop.

Generally mobile first can make things a bit harder initially, but is of huge benefit when widening out to other channels later. And the other way round is a nightmare, i.e. "let's squeeze this website into a small screen".

So multichannel = yes, but use mobile first to figure out how to get your digital message across :-)


over 2 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi David

Thanks for sharing - must have taken a little while to pen such a long list.

I'd echo your comments on beta versions. I'm part of the CrowdShed team launching a UK based crowdfunding platform and it's critical for a startup to define an MVP (minimum viable proposition) so you actually get launched.

Our vision is to use real customer data to build on top of our own expertise to develop the feature set over time. A beta version will be critical for us as it helps us refine our thinking in the real-world. If we don't go down this route, we could waste a lot of time trying to perfect a platform without real customer data and end up duplicating effort.

This also links into your comments about RWD / AWD / RESS. We're launching with RWD because until we have user data, how do we know which devices are the most popular and what people are doing on them and how best to serve device specific versions? RESS is phase 2, RWD gives us the single code base to keep maintenance 'light'.


over 2 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

@Nico yes i agree re 'mobile first'.

By going 'mobile first' IMO you actually end up being 'customer first' because you have to think hard about use cases for each page/process/feature and scrutinise use of space to ensure the UX/UI design is intuitive on the smallest of screens.

It's much easier to build out the feature/content set into large screens once you have the core mobile UX defined.

I don't think David was meaning this approach is wrong but that you need to understand why this approach is being taken i.e. focus on the customer, not just the device.


over 2 years ago

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