Is Mobile-First Enough? How and Why a Mobile-Inclusive Strategy is the Way Forward

At the Mobile World Conference in 2010, Google’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt announced a major shift in the company’s digital efforts, saying: “Our programmers are doing work on mobile-first. We’ll still have a desktop version, but we’ll also have one on a high-performance mobile phone. The top programmers want to work on mobile apps.”

Even at a time when only 4 percent of all internet traffic came from mobile devices, Google saw what was on the horizon for mobile technology adoption. In the years that followed, their predictions rang true: mobile internet traffic climbed to over 50 percent as device sales skyrocketed. In response, companies rushed to adopt their own mobile-first strategies in an effort to recapture critical consumer mindshare.

Yet even for businesses that jumped on the mobile-first bandwagon relatively early, many are plagued with slow user adoption and consistently mediocre engagement rates. Mobile-first strategy, it seems, is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Or is it?

Plenty of companies have leveraged mobile strategy with extraordinary success. Consider Experian, a consumer credit reporting agency, that reduced page load times from 8 seconds to less than 2 seconds, and drastically improved user experience on key conversion pages in the process. Then there’s Starbucks, whose various mobile platforms earned $621 million in assets in 2013.

What are these major mobile players doing differently? What is it about their approach to mobile technology that not only captures consumer interest, but turns them into loyal and engaged users as well?

Most importantly, how should those differences impact your digital strategy?

From Mobile-First to Mobile-Inclusive

According to a recent Deloitte survey, almost 80 percent of global consumers have smartphones, nearly 10 percent own wearable digital devices, and more than 50 percent have a tablet. Of those consumers, about 7 percent own all three — and that number is on the rise.

While consumers are indeed enamored with mobile technology, rarely do customers view mobile interactions in a vacuum. For consumers today, the lines between various digital touchpoints are blurry at best — and consequently, the customer journey (and customer expectations) must be considered holistically.

In the rush toward mobile maturity, plenty of business leaders forgot to account for what really matters to consumers: a seamless, friction-free interaction with brands they love. A mobile-first strategy was and always will be about meeting consumers where they are, but too many companies have forgotten to keep consumer needs and expectations top-of-mind when developing native or hybrid app experiences.

This is why we believe that businesses should start thinking not in the context of mobile-first, but instead as mobile inclusivethough mobile should continue to be a primary focus of user experience, it shouldn’t happen at the expense of a brand’s myriad other digital touchpoints. By bringing extraordinary mobile experiences into the fold of their overarching digital strategy, companies can better anticipate and capitalize upon these changing expectations in regards to digital offerings.

Embracing a Mobile Maturity Mindset


For companies large and small, the road toward mobile maturity happens in stages. Moving from one stage to the next requires more than just the right tactics or even the right strategy — it requires the right mindset.

This is why mobile-first simply isn’t enough. While it does account for consumers’ growing engagement with mobile technologies, it doesn’t account for why they enjoy and continue to engage with these experiences.

So what does this shift toward a mobile maturity mindset look like in practice, and how should it impact your digital strategy? These tips will help you stay on track:

Start with a customer problem.

All mobile app experiences — whether it’s native, hybrid, or web-based — all have one important thing in common: their main objective is to help users solve a specific problem faster and more efficiently. Many companies become far too focused on business objectives, leaving customer needs and wants in the background. In order to create meaningful experiences that users will use consistently, stay laser-focused on the problem your app aims to solve.


Consider consumers’ changing expectations between mobile and desktop technology.

While consumers routinely move between digital platforms in order to solve a single problem, they have different expectations around mobile vs. desktop experiences. For example, mobile users’ constantly changing environment and physical context may lead to customers to expect an app to automatically adapt to their current GPS location. Rather than simply focusing on making an app look good on a mobile device, consider the ways you can enhance usability by leveraging what a mobile device is capable of.


Make brand integrity a top priority.

The “look and feel” of your brand is a critical element in how your customers recognize and trust you. Even small inconsistencies between your desktop and mobile experiences will alienate users who have come to expect certain colors, fonts, sounds, and even interaction design. Ensuring that brand integrity remains at the core of your app’s development will have a bigger impact on users’ perceptions than you realize.


Make iterative improvements guided by user research.

Consumer expectations around digital experiences are constantly changing, and they expect the brands they interact with to keep up. The “launch it and leave it” approach to mobile app development is a surefire way to see user engagement slowly but surely wane — and undermines your entire brand’s standing in the eyes of consumers. Establish a testing and development plan early in the app design process to ensure that your brand’s mobile experience continues to resonate with your target audience and their changing wants and needs.

The Bottom Line

Mobile-first may have been the right strategy years ago, in this day and age it’s no longer enough. Digital relevancy hinges on your company’s ability to recognize and adapt to the changing expectations of your customers — and they are already moving far beyond cut-and-dry definitions of what constitutes a meaningful digital experience.

By putting the right mobile principles at the heart of your strategy going forward, you will not only capture customer mindshare, but their loyalty in the process.

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