Lose the mobile landing page

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Scott Swanson, Mobile Theory
Scott Swanson, Mobile Theory

For direct marketers, eliminating the landing page seems counterintuitive. After all, how else are you going to a) get your entire marketing message across and b) track leads and conversions? Landing pages have become the peanut butter of the online marketing world; they're that tasty component that magically makes two pieces of bread stick together. And for many marketers, they're a staple you can't imagine not having in your pantry.

But mobile is a different animal altogether from online, and the tools we found so useful in the online world often don't translate. Mobile users are impatient; they don't want to navigate away from what they're doing, whether it's looking up NFL scores or listening to their workout mix on Pandora. And they're way more demanding: a desktop user at the office might click on a video and be half-amused enough by the creative to keep it rolling for 10 seconds, maybe 15.

With mobile you have far less time to amuse and engage the user because they themselves are on the move, or at home enjoying personal time. In the time it takes to load a landing page, they're already gone.

This isn't just anecdotal, either. Through A/B testing, we've seen post-tap response and engagement rates up to 10% higher on ads that expand versus those that launch an entirely new page. Landing pages may have been the best way to focus the consumer on a single message and push them to action on the web, but in mobile they're just not the best solution.

So what does work?

Answer: Something old, and something new—and something borrowed, too.

The something old is (surprise!) your landing page content. That's right; when we say “lose your landing page” it doesn't mean get rid of your creative or your message. It only means you have to lose the idea of navigating to another destination to view and interact with it. Mobile advertising technology has matured, and we can now load your “old” landing page in what's called an expansion panel. It's the box that appears or takes over your whole screen when you select “Tap to Expand” on a mobile banner. That box or screen can contain all of the things you have on your old landing page: brand images, marketing copy, etc. The consumer will get all of the great content you've created, updated, optimized (over and over and over again), tested, and customized.

Their experience with your landing page is exactly the same as it is online—but they don't have to navigate away from what they're doing in order to view it, and can easily close to go back. It's a far more polite interaction, and mobile users appreciate it. Moreover, we're training users to think of expansion ads as invitations, not intrusions; they know they can tap to expand without the fear of going down a rabbit hole and not being able to return.

Now, here's the “something new.” On the web, landing pages were limited to a small set of goals, or actions you want the consumer to complete. It could be filling out a form, calling a phone number listed on that page, or clicking on the buy-now button.

Mobile, on the other hand, is practically unlimited. Here are some of the calls-to-action that you can provide right in an ad unit:

  • Click to call
  • Share on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Email
  • Watch on YouTube
  • Download music, wallpaper, ringtone
  • Map location
  • Get directions to nearest store
  • Text to a friend
  • Text to enter contest
  • Take survey
  • Book ticket
  • Make reservation
  • Buy now
  • Display product image/gallery
  • Put event on calendar
  • Share event
  • Get digital coupon
  • Opt-in to newsletter

Out of these 20 or so options, some these are indirect actions that may boost customer engagement or spread brand awareness but not lead to a direct sale. A healthy handful, however, will absolutely lead to a direct sale—even more quickly than online.

You might be thinking: With all of these new calls to action, and without my own hosted landing page, how can I track?

This is where the “something borrowed” comes in. The outside perception of mobile is that you can't track conversions because there are no third-party cookies. That's simply not true. You can track conversions, you just have to use first-party cookies, which is a cookie set by the domain of the website itself. For example, if you go to Pets.com on your phone and buy a dog toy there, that purchase can be tracked by Pets.com—but not by Omniture, Google Analytics, or any other third party. The conversion tracking has to be done by the owner of that site; you can't just use a targeting or conversion-tracking tool like you can online. Tracking is possible, you just have to have it built into your own site, or “borrow” hosting from a third party that can do it for you. (For a full explanation, see this blog post.)

In addition, when using an expansion ad, you have to make sure the tracking code is in the ad unit, just like it would be in a landing page on the web.

The transition to mobile isn't a cakewalk, that's for sure. But direct marketers who make these adjustments to their landing pages, put in the work to track properly, and take advantage of the new action opportunities will find it pays off in the end.

Scott Swanson is CEO of Mobile Theory.

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