In the big ‘Chicken & Egg’ debate regarding m-commerce, Advertisers need more Affiliates with Mobile Versions of their website to aid the growing mobile sales volumes, while Affiliates need Advertisers who can track sales via mobile devices. Get prepared for the boom in mobile sales activity by preparing your affiliate websites for mobile devices – and here’s a few tips how!
By making your site mobile friendly, you can have a mobile version of your site to fit all devices, at little cost or via a small amount of development time that shouldn’t be overlooked, as advertisers are increasingly shifting their focus to the opportunities within m-commerce.
As the shift from the mobile desktop – mobile internet – m-commerce develops, and advertisers who claim to be seeing 100,200,300% year on year increases in mobile traffic continues to take more digital ink and press coverage, there is no surprise that the Affiliate World is intrigued by developments in mobile.
And for those involved in one of the key ‘EU5’ markets (UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy) the growth of the mobile channel is, potentially, a very exciting prospect for Affiliates. The UK space is the biggest exception, with smartphone visits to retail sites up 163% year on year*
The term ‘Mobile’ can mean websites, applications, text services, QR codes and so forth, and an example of one affiliate company who have successfully utilised the channel is vouchercloud, one of the UK’s first mobile money-saving applications, who have recently celebrated a landmark of 2 million downloads plus the launch of their new m-commerce solution, saving users over £20 million on a variety of activities.
Affiliate Networks and Advertisers are seeing an increasing amount of mobile traffic – we encourage you as affiliates to check your analytics to see exactly how much of a mobile footprint you currently have.
I could go on, but then again you could also read the joint A4u, Affiliate Window & buy.at M-Commerce report that was released in October, to imprint the ‘mobile is here and you should be seriously considering your offering’ thought into your activities!
1) Deciding What's Best For You - An Application Or Mobile Website.
Before you go hell for leather and buy the 'dummies guide to creating phone applications' before employing a mobile developer to create an awesome app for your brand alongside paying for a mobile version of your website to be made, why not take the time to consider whether you need all of the above.
Mark Kuhillow, Founder of Agency R.O.EYE, is now the Managing Director of Mobile Commerce Solution MyMCart. Officially launched in September of this year, MyMCart is a mobile commerce solution 'in-a-box'. At the forefront of M-Commerce, Mark believes the decision for affiliates when creating a mobile platform should rely purely on how you currently monetise your web offering:
"In order to successfully utilise a mobile application, you need to have the brand awareness or a special offering that makes consumers actually WANT to download your application.
"If as an affiliate your earnings are represented by a large percentage through content monetisation, don't try and redirect a 'mobile' visitor to your site on to a landing page to download your application. By doing this as a content affiliate, you are adding a block in the conversion funnel, and chances are you will lose a user who was perfectly happy browsing via your mobile site."
The analogy of a mobile application Mark believes can be referred to the walled gardens of the web 10 years ago. With the likes of compuserve that enabled you to have a presence online, you were able to test a new environment, albeit at a restricted range.
"Applications are now used to facilitate the next generation of mobile content, which has enabled the mobile world outside of applications to be developed through the use of HTML5, adopted by many on new and upcoming mobile websites, something I believe is now taking overtaking applications as an alternative in mobile web development."
2) Tools for creating a Mobile Version of your website
While an application may be a great way to enforce brand awareness by having a user download your application to their phone, what about general web users? Defining ‘general’ web users can be a loose term, for example those who are trying to locate an address, those who are searching for store opening hours, those cheating at a pub quizzes (we all know you do it!) or even some users who are attempting to do the inevitable – purchase through their mobile device.
Whether a device user is one of the above examples or not shouldn’t detract from your goal here – to create a mobile-friendly website that complements the 20% of searches estimated to be conducted via a mobile device in 2012 (source RBC Capital Investments).
Here are a couple of quick tools that can create a mobile version of your website for you.
http://www.onbile.com/ - A free platform for creating and managing your Mobile Website version for iPhone, Android and Blackberry users.
http://mobify.com/ - Lowering bounce rates to greatly increasing mobile revenue.
3) Consider The Affects Of A Mobile Site On Your Main Site SEO
If you’re worried about how a mobile site can affect the SEO of a main site, don’t panic!
We Spoke to Martin Macdonald, Head of SEO at OMD Group on the considerations Affiliates need to take into account:
"There is no hard and fast answer to this question – it depends on the specific setup that each website has employed with their mobile site. Having said that, it is a pain point for many companies, and google’s handling of duplicate content still leaves a lot to be desired.
"In the event that a mobile site carries the same content as the original site, and exists on a specific URL – for instance company.mobi or m.company.co.uk then special precautions must be carried out. The simplest way of avoiding this is to no-index the mobile site either using a page level header tag, or alternatively to use the robots.txt to preclude the entire site or path.
"It is advisable then to detect mobile devices based on user-agent and then push them to the mobile site, which should be seamless for the visitor.
"A preferable solution however would be to re-skin the entire site using CSS, and based on the user-agent deliver the correct (cut down) style to mobile devices, and leave all of the pages at the same URL. This has the added benefit of being able to develop bespoke styles for the different device capabilities and screen sizes – an ipad for instance offers a far better experience than a blackberry, so why would you want to limit mobile devices to the lowest common denominator?
"It is a harder solution to implement, but any links to the mobile site would benefit the principal site, and it saves on confusion around the actual address."
4) Create Your Website With Responsive Design
The term responsive design is a fairly new concept for web designers, however it’s one that can create a great impression of a mobile friendly website without having to run two different frameworks. With mobile browsing expected to outspace desktop-based access within three-five years, a huge range of devices, input modes, browsers and resolutions will need addressing.
In the most basic terms, responsive design is simply a means of developing a website to provide a more tailored experience across different devices and resolutions, using screen width, orientation and pixel density as a measure for delivering different versions of the same or similar content. At its most basic, this can be achieved using css @media queries. At a more complex level, we can use server side scripting to deliver different content (such as varing image resolutions) to different devices, to provide a more compelling user experience.
For example, on http://www.performancemarketingawards.co.uk/ we have a top level menu that can hold up-to 8 menu options in a row. That's totally fine on a browser wider than 960px wide (which is around 95% of our desktop audience). However, between 800 and 900 pixels the menu risks disappearing underneath the logo, so we use a media query to change out the text size and change the version of the logo. Then below 800px we change the layout and navigation into a mobile friendly version of the website, complete with a dropdown version of the navigation.
However, it is important not to confuse responsive design with a mobile or tablet application. There will often be times when these options will become more suited to your business and should always be considered in the design and planning process. Responsive design should not be considered a replacement for these approaches.
So you’ve attracted a user to your mobile friendly website, and you’ve encouraged a click-through to an advertiser listed on your site, only to find that the particular advertiser doesn’t have a mobile site and the user has been sent to the desktop version. Chances are high that any sale made on the desktop site will still earn your affiliate commissions, with cookies on older iOS systems and those who upgrade to newer iOS systems will have cookies enabled.
We’ve made available a template and example for you to download, should you wish to take a look at responsive design in more detail - http://www.existem.com/responder/ for a demo and https://github.com/petercolesdc/Responder to download source files.
References for responsive design: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/responsive-web-design/ / http://thinkvitamin.com/design/beginners-guide-to-responsive-web-design/
5) Switch On Mobile Versions Of Your Forum & Integrate VigLink For Extra Revenue
If you run a forum online, chances are you know how much of a pain it can be to view your forum on a mobile device, but thanks to recent additions of mobile plugins for most online forums, this is one way to quick fire your way to mobile freedom.
Rather than using just a standard mobile skin devised from the creators of your forum software (vBulletin, phpBB, IPBoard to name a few) by using a native app that increases the forum experience for the end user. Tapatalk is a mobile solution for online communities that empowers discussion forums with mobile access. Over 1 million active users use their application that’s available on Apple, Android and Blackberry platforms, Tapatalk can be a useful way to keep your community in the loop and your affiliate brand constantly accessible.
There’s also a Tapatalk API available with full documentation to support a custom forum system, should you develop one.
Once you’re set up and tapatalk is installed, why not use VigLink’s recent integration to add a content monetisation solution to your application, whereby out-bound links are converted into affiliate links and you share a percentage of your earnings with VigLink.
6) Make Your Wordpress Blog Mobile Friendly, And Benefit From Ads
Do you have a content-heavy WordPress Blog? Making your content and, more importantly in this instance, affiliate links available on the go is made a whole lot easier through solutions including WPTouchPro.
Content is made available on the fly, re-formatted to suit mobile devices where images are automatically re-scaled and re-positioned to fit, plus custom menus are supported in the latest versions of the WPTouchPro to create ‘mobile friendly’ drop down and static menus.
Monetise your content via a mobile device thanks to the integration of adsense, admob and, if you’re running your own CPM deals, custom ad intregration. This is also not forgetting the affiliate links that can earn you those extra mobile commissions.
Picture the scene, someone visits your site and finds your blog of use to their shopping habits. The site is bookmarked in their mobile browser, or it even infiltrates a home screen on their phones. Job done in terms of brand awareness, and the chances are you have a new lease of life for your affiliate website with a ‘mobile shopper’ ready to earn you some sweet commissions.
7) Let A Company Manage Your Mobile Version For You
If a little bit of work isn’t up your street at this point in time, why not pay someone to do the hard work for you? There are companies such as goMobi who can create your dynamic mobile website across multiple languages, integrating the usual crop of web features including:
- Google Maps integration
- Mobile analytics
- Mobile Image Galleries
- QR Code Integration
- Socia Media Integration
- Location Based Services
- Transcoding to create seamless browsing across devices.
Whilst in theory the product overview for goMobi websites are for B2C SME’s who are looking for an end product (i.e – a restaurant with a mobile site that’s able to take bookings, or a guesthouse B&B; that’s looking to take reservations following a visit from a geo-targeted consumer) there’s no reason to say you can’t add any 3rd party advertising and external affiliate links into the offering.
A Little Bit Of Perspective
Let’s put things into perspective. From our recent M-Commerce Report, released in conjunction with and thanks to Affiliate Window & buy.at’s mobile sale data, the volume of sales coming from a mobile device (which includes tablets) is increasing. In August sales coming from a mobile device were at the 6% mark for the whole of Affiliate Window & buy.at’s sales for that month.
Advertisers aren’t hot on this either, with around only a dozen advertisers able to track affiliate sales by mobile means. I’m sure you’re thinking at this point ‘why should I bother?’ - going through the hassle of creating a mobile version of your site just so you can promote a dozen m-commerce ready advertisers.
Helen Southgate, Senior Online Marketing Manager for BSkyB said within the M-Commerce Report:
“We’ve been working hard on our mobile site and we’re hoping to get it up and running in Q4 2011.”
“We’re very keen to work with content affiliates, and not just search partners. We’ve got lots of content to share, as we do in online but the problem we’re seeing is that there aren’t many affiliates that have yet optimised their online sites for mobile.”
As Mike Madew commented recently on an opinion piece he wrote for A4u about ‘How to Survive as an Affiliate’ - "How is it possible for an affiliate to survive in this climate and against this level of competition? The answer is quite obvious – they need to be able to change, and spot new opportunities quickly."
Whether you’re working with 12 retailers or 2,000 that can track via mobile devices you, as Affiliates, are in the prime position to prepare for the m-commerce ‘boom’, and stay ahead of the curve. We understand that networks are pushing m-commerce hard to their clients, and affiliates will no doubt follow suit and consider their offering, however in the chicken and egg situation, I personally think it’s down to the advertisers to kick-start said ‘boom’ in m-commerce.
How about you?