Recently I’ve been doing some research on mobile options for our industry. Some of the companies in our industry have done some really interesting things. For example, Close to My Heart has an iPhone application that goes along with its Studio J digital scrapbooking product that allows people that use the software to show off their creations on their phones. Both Amway (their app here) and Herbalife (their app here) have apps that allow iPhone users to enroll new consultants, shop, view/show videos (product, opportunity, training…), view backend data like volume and contacts, and so much more. Very cool stuff. Lia Sophia (their iPhone app…they also have one for Android) and Mary Kay (iPhone and Blackberry) both have mobile catalogs.
But mobile applications such as these present challenges for direct selling companies, and in particular smaller ones. First, these applications are expensive to develop. A custom application can cost tens of thousands of dollars. And that’s for one platform. If, after reviewing your site’s analytics, you discover traffic from multiple smartphones (iPhone, Android, RIM – Blackberry) you might need to build more than one.
And then you need to support it! It’s not like you can build it and walk away. That takes a budget too. Is your company up for that challenge, and will it bring enough ROI to make it worth it?
Another option for companies is Mobile Websites. These are sites that are optimized for mobile web browsers. If you are reading this post right now on a smartphone through your web browser (not email) you’ll discover that the site looks different. That’s because I use a plugin on my website that automatically detects when someone visits the site using a mobile browser, and serves up the content in a different way. (The plugin is called WPtouch, for those who are interested.) Which works for a WordPress-based blog, but doesn’t work with your backend consultant data or your corporate website.
If you’re developing a mobile website, you need to keep in mind that Flash doesn’t work in most mobile browsers. Here’s a website that lists more things to keep in mind when developing for mobile browsers: How to Design and Build a Mobile Website And here’s a list of tools you can use to test how your website appears on various mobile devices: 10 Excellent Tools for Testing Your Site on Mobile Devices (hat tip to Dave Sabol and Deirdre Reid for this info.)
When deciding which path to take, it’s important to take a look at your site analytics, to determine how many people are currently accessing your site via a mobile device, and which phones are being used. For example, if you take a look at my mobile site analytics, you’ll see this:
Based on this, I can see that from over 7,000 visitors, only 96 (less than 2%) visited using a smartphone. (Although this doesn’t give me data for the thousands of people that have subscribed via email…they could also be reading the email version of my posts via a smartphone.) Given that my audience has a large number of corporate readers, I’m not surprised that the number one type of operating system is Blackberry. Interestingly though, people who read the site on mobile devices spend less than half the time that people who visit my regular website do, although iPad readers stick around the longest. I suspect this is because when you read this site from your computer, you see “related posts” (via another plugin) that might cause you to stay longer. (I think I need to go buy an iPad now to figure out why this is. I think my husband will see this as a justifiable expense, don’t you? It’s RESEARCH!) 🙂 Based on these numbers, I would probably not pay to develop a mobile site right now. (The plugin I use is free.) What do your analytics tell you? (Google tells you all this, by the way, for free.)
Companies in our industry need to start taking a serious look at how they’re going to tackle the mobile issue. Before long, consumers are going to expect to be able to order from a consultant website using a mobile-friendly website. Are you prepared to support them? Not to mention the fact that our very mobile sales force can derive significant benefits from being able to access training, opportunity videos, and more while on the go. Here’s a post I wrote a few weeks ago with some ways the field can benefit from mobile opportunities: Field Support Tools On the Go
So are you ready for mobile? What are you doing to prepare? What questions do you have? Would love to read your thoughts on this topic in the comments below!