In preparation for the new year, PerformanceIN continues its annual tradition of connecting with performance marketing experts to get their single biggest prediction for the industry in 2017.

In this piece, Giles Colborne, managing director at cxpartners, highlights the growing importance of mobile and the role it will play in the coming year.

Smartphones are people’s number one method of accessing digital services. Today there are 2.6 billion smartphone users globally. By 2020, it’s projected 6.1 billion smartphones will be in use. Yet we still come across companies that are taken by surprise by this long-term trend. One firm we spoke to said that they had placed a low priority on mobile because when they surveyed their customers last year, most said they were ambivalent about mobile. This year those same customers are demanding it. The moral: customers are terrible at predicting their own needs – watch their behaviours instead.

On mobile, the screens are small, bandwidth is limited and processors are slow, so performance matters. Almost half (48%) of customers expect page loads in under a second, yet site performance is usually ignored by designers and service owners. Our work with Google this year showed that in the UK travel sector the average load speed was 5.7 seconds – Google considers anything over four seconds to be a ‘critical’ rating.

Of course, performance is one aspect of user experience, ease of use is another. Take the finance sector for instance. Our co-research project with Google looked into ease of use and site speed of the top finance sites across Europe. What we found was usability was, at best, patchy. Only a handful of sites scored 100% on search, product or registration pages.

But most people use banking apps rather than mobile sites, right? Well, yes and no. It’s probably true to say that for existing customers, a banking app gives them all the day-to-day functionality they need – moving money around, paying bills and taking new services. But what about people thinking of switching bank accounts or making an application? This is a key part of a new customer’s journey – they’re making assumptions about how easy their banking will be with you based on your mobile site. Over half (61%) of customers who visit a site that isn’t mobile-friendly are likely to go to a competitor’s website. Poor mobile sites are losing customers and conversions.

In 2017, if you don’t have a mobile web performance project in place then you risk slipping down Google’s rankings. And with many big firms realising that mobile web performance matters, you may find it hard to regain lost ground.