Mobile’s Not Optional Anymore

“New York Times on iPhone 3GS,” © 2010 Robert Scobel, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

“New York Times on iPhone 3GS,” © 2010 Robert Scobel, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Pinch me.

That’s the message I got from about half of the live entertainment/arts websites I just visited. Siri and I just did a whirlwind tour of  20 or 30 major venues and organizations (all genres: music, sports, theater, performing arts, whatever else popped into my head) to see how they handled mobile. All of them are well-known, successful and well-funded.

No, I’m not going to tell you who they are.

Yes, I’m going to tell you what I saw.

About half the sites I went to are the exact same website as you’d find if you were using the luxurious, double-23 inch screen set up I’m looking at now. So in order to use them, I have to “pinch them.” (In other words, no progress since Steve showed us how Safari would work on iPhone in 2007).

I’m speculating, but the reason for seven years of stalemate on this issue probably reflects the belief that mobile is somehow optional, extra or second place. In reality, you can still live in a non-mobile world as a ticket seller, but every day that goes by without your getting better at mobile is another day of “technical debt” that you’ll have to make up later. Take it from me. We weren’t super-early on mobile at Goldstar, but about three years ago, we got committed to getting where we needed to get. It took time, money, effort and commitment, but today, a majority of our usage (and almost as much of our sales) comes through mobile devices.

But in the present day, mobile still only accounts for one-fifth of ecommerce. You won’t go out of business if you really can’t serve users there, at least not this year. But, just as this report says, mobile commerce grew 37% last year, which implies a doubling in size in less than two years. And I can also tell you from experience that that growth comes partly at the expense of commerce on desktop computers. Some is additive, but most is shifting from one form factor to another. You can probably force your current users to stay with you on the desktop for a while yet, but eventually, new users and the bulk of existing user behavior will move to mobile.

And if you’re not ready, or if you’re substandard, you basically just stop existing. That’s not good.

So take it seriously. It’s not optional. Another way to think of it if you were around for Web 1.0 is that it’s now 2002 and you don’t have a website. You’re not the only one, but you’re late, and just a couple years later, you either had a decent web presence or you weren’t around anymore.

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