SEMA News - April 2010

By Joe Dysart

By 2013, the Most Popular Way to Web Surf


Gartner predicted that mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most popular device for accessing the web by 2013.  

While e-retailers have made a sport of predicting when mobile e-commerce should really be taken seriously, a new report from market researcher Gartner indicates that the time for guessing games is over. Specifically, Gartner is predicting that the number of mobile phones on the planet with web access will overtake the number of PCs with web access by 2013.

In Gartner’s PC-installed-based forecast, the total number of PCs in use will reach 1.78 billion units in 2013, according to Brian Gammage, co-author of Gartner’s December 2009 report, “Gartner’s Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2010 and Beyond." The installed base of smartphones will reach 1.32 billion units in the same year. This projection is significant for any firm currently engaging in eCommerce, and it’s especially significant to firms that are only beginning to think about or forge a mobile web strategy.

The clear message: Adding a mobile-friendly version of your website—which enables your product images, text descriptions and other web content elements to load easily on the relatively tiny screens of iPhones, Blackberrys, Android phones and the like—is something all e-retailers need to consider seriously during 2010. Indeed, findings in studies from Gartner and others reinforce the wisdom that designing a special website or series of special websites for mobile web device users is a now rather than later proposition.

For example, Hung LeHong, another Gartner co-author on the study, is predicting that the market penetration of mobile phones worldwide will be at 90% by 2014. And a 2009 retail holiday season shopper study released by Motorola in January found that 51% of 4,534 shoppers surveyed during the 2009 holiday season said that they used their mobile phones in various ways to close a sale. Those uses included comparison shopping as well as accessing online reviews, online product info and coupons.

Not surprisingly, the figures for Generation Y shoppers from the same study were even more dramatic. A full 64% of Generation Y shoppers used their mobile phones to help conclude a sale during the 2009 holiday season, and 21% of those same shoppers used a mobile phone to compare web prices with in-store prices.

Chiming in on the mobile web’s projected rise this year is Forrester’s Thomas Hutton, who predicts in his “2010 Mobile Trends” report, released in January, that companies of all shapes and sizes as well as governments and local authorities will start integrating mobile into their overall approach rather than simply launching a few mobile initiatives.


Forrester’s Thomas Hutton predicted that mobile will increasingly be perceived as integral to eCommerce marketing rather than peripheral in 2010.  

Organizations will thus dedicate more staff and resources to mobile, Hutton said. Many brands will also realize that they need budgets to promote their apps and, more importantly, he said, they will need to plan their next steps, which may mean upgrading their service or porting the application to a different environment, such as Android.

Hutton also projected that increasing numbers of e-retailers experimenting with geo-targeting—the practice of auto-sending promotional texts, coupons and other advertisements to the mobile phones of potential customers walking near or right by their storefronts—will become a key component of mobile social experiences and mobile marketing campaigns.

Granted, retooling a company’s web presence to accommodate users of a number of mobile computing devices will be a chore. But Hutton believes that the effort could pay off handsomely for e-retailers in the long term. “Beyond direct revenues, mobile can play a key role in satisfying your most loyal customers,” he said.

Given the cacophony of voices all pointing toward the inevitable rise of the mobile web, here are some resources you can use to pull together your own strategy:

Detect Mobile Browsers Software: Employing this type of software is one of the most efficient ways to ensure that a mobile user is served a website that is fully optimized for his or her device. Essentially, these programs can detect whether a visitor is using an Apple iPhone, a Blackberry, a Google Android phone or a similar device to access your website and then direct the visitor to a mobile version of your website that is specifically designed for each technology. One inexpensive software package in this space is Detect Mobile Browsers, which sells for $50. The package senses and redirects website visitors to mobile versions of your website that have been fully optimized for iPhone, Android, Opera Mini, Blackberry, Pal or Windows Mobile.

Desktop-to-Mobile-Web Migration Software: Applications maker Covario has just released a package that helps automate the process of transforming an everyday website into a site optimized for mobile devices. Brian Klais, Covario’s vice president of product management, said that Covario’s Mobile Content Optimizer allows pages to be quickly developed using existing desktop content. They can also be configured for display on various mobile devices and done in a highly scalable way, leveraging Covario’s software as a service delivery methodology. “Our goal is to reduce the time it takes an advertiser to have a complete mobile web presence to less than 30 days,” he said.


Mobile browser software programs can detect whether a visitor is using an Apple iPhone, a Blackberry, a Google Android phone or a similar device to access your website and then direct the visitor to a mobile version of your website that is specifically designed for each technology.   

Covario’s MCO software uses a proprietary template to migrate content from an existing website to a site designed for mobile users. Klais said that Covario uses this template manager to serve “optimized for mobile” pages to the mobile phone or device in real time for very large websites without the need to redesign the pages or set up separate templates for mobile.

mobiForge Mobile Web Development Community: With more than 26,000 members, mobiForge is a great place to visit if you’re looking to get up-to-speed very quickly on the state of mobile web development. Step one for the beginner is mobiForge’s “starting” section, which offers a cornucopia of educational material, books and training guides. Other sections are devoted to designing, developing and testing mobile websites. A “running” section offers ideas on how to monetize a site once it has been mobilized. And there are also some forums and a handy directory featuring mobile web development agencies, recommended mobile web development tools and the like.

Mobile Web Books: For an in-depth look at developing for the mobile web, check out Mobile Web Design, by Cameron Moll. The tome offers more than 100 pages of practical advice, tips and examples related to mobile web development and more than 40 example screens developed for various mobile devices.

Another reference in development is Brian Fling’s Mobile Design and Development. Fling promises that the forthcoming mobile development bible will offer the principles and techniques of mobile websites and mobile apps for
all devices.

“We’ll discuss what makes mobile—specifically the mobile web—one of the most unique and powerful mediums we’ve ever seen,” Fling said. “I’ll cover the essential principles for designing great experiences for the mobile medium, including how to take advantage of the mobile context, physical location, touch, accelerometers and other means of input to create intuitive interfaces that work.”  

Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan, New York.
Voice: 646/233-4089


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