Capitalizing on Mobile Content Consumption Without Killing UX

Mobile content consumption has skyrocketed over the past four years, and retailers, publishers and advertisers are wisely diving in to make the most of it both editorially and financially. But if the current backlash against digital ads on the desktop is any indication, there are plenty of ways to go too far on mobile.

For retailers, this is doubly true because they have to consider both the quality of their own sites and the quality of the ads they deliver to popular digital publishers and platforms. Besides the basics such as smooth website performance and minimal pop-up interruptions, optimized mobile content experiences have to factor in battery life, touch screens, and data consumption. It only takes one sloppy move — one slow-loading article, one overly intrusive banner ad – to drive users away.

As such, it’s critical that publishers and brands recognize the best practices and opportunities for monetizing the platform.

What’s at stake

Retailers devoted 51.5% of their ad budget to mobile in 2015, and it’s easy to see why. In 2014, 52% of digital content was viewed on mobile, making the platform more popular than desktops for the first time ever. In 2015, that rate climbed to 60%, and it’s only increased since as more people turn to mobile to get their news, share on social media, and shop. Mobile phones are as powerful as computers used to be and offer easy, anytime access to engaging content. But this desire for convenience, coupled with an overall shorter user attention span and smaller-than-desktop screen size, means that providing a high-quality user experience that grabs consumers and holds their interest is even more important on mobile.

What the problems are

Mobile data is the new currency. It’s literally what users pay for. Millennials consider it their most important digital service, meaning that mobile data amounts must be used wisely in the user experience. When ads use bloated tech stacks that eat a lot of data, it slows down performance and people get frustrated. The average American news site makes 500 JavaScript requests to load ads within the first 17 seconds of the page being loaded. The average consumer might not know what a tech stack is, but they know that their phone seems to sputter whenever a new ad loads. Apps with ads use 16% more battery life, 22% more memory and 79% more network data than those without. That’s not acceptable.

What to do about it

It’s no secret that publishers are having difficulty monetizing their mobile apps and sites. Retailers and brands are tied to the fate of publishers because of the large audiences that they can reach. If ad dollars from retailers and publishers can’t help them, publishers will turn to other streams of revenue, and take their audiences with them. There are, however, strategies that can allow publishers, retailers and brands to use mobile without sacrificing the user experience.

One such approach is using lighter ad delivery platforms. Earlier this year, Honda used mobile wallet ads that were light on tech and connected right to users’ native wallet apps, resulting in engagement rates that were six times higher.

Mobile-specific native ads can also be a great way to promote brand awareness without hindering the user experience. Touchscreens offer innovative options for brands to create engaging, custom content for publishers by creating a more interactive environment to hold customers’ attention. Social media networks are jumping on this already: In February, Facebook launched Canvas, its new immersive native ad offering specifically for mobile, which boasts an average view time of 31 seconds.

Another great way to increase revenue while minimizing experience disruption is image monetization. Image content is the first thing that people look at on a web page, so using that space for advertising purposes in the form of in-image ads makes the ads themselves inherently visible. This also means that fewer tech resources need to be devoted to tracking viewability rates, making these ads lighter and smoother. Lastly, in-image ads allow publishers to eliminate the intrusive display ads cluttering their site, further improving the user experience. It’s important to note that image monetization only works if you’re using in-image ads or promotional material that’s subtle and relevant to the content itself.

Mobile is a massive opportunity for publishers, retailers and brands alike. All three industries need each other to continue to thrive in a digital world. Treating customers with respect is the cornerstone of any successful monetization strategy, meaning that publishers, retailers and brands must work together to provide a mobile content experience that doesn’t waste batteries, drain data, slow load times, or intrude obnoxiously. If we can put in the extra effort, we can keep ad blockers at bay and inspire customer loyalty on this growing platform.

Phil Schraeder, COO and CFO, GumGum.

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