The mobile revolution in internet is well under way. But what does that mean and why should you care?
The first thing you need to understand is that you haven’t “missed it.” There are tons of technology fads – short-term opportunities that come and go as innovators innovate and potential disruptors enter the market. Mobile is not one of them. Mobile is a long-term secular swing in how people communicate that will only grow over time.
Let’s start by proving that point.
Convenience – Age Doesn’t Matter
Experts quibble about the exact numbers, but all of them agree that there is currently more internet traffic flowing to mobile devices than traditional computers (StatCounter). And when you break down the demographics, internet users in every major age segment use mobile devices significantly. It’s NOT just the purview of young people anymore. This is a critical fact – mobile is important no matter who your customer is.
It is also true that the younger you are the more you use mobile devices to access the internet. Since younger users were raised in the mobile era, mobile is normal and natural to them. But this also means that each year the average age of the mobile user goes up. In short, mobile usage is a generational wave rippling through the internet.
Economics – Mobile is an International Phenomenon
Some people think that the migration to mobile only applies to the major, first-world nations. But the truth is that the wave is not limited to any one region or country. In fact, mobile adoption is FASTER and more dramatic in developing nations than in modern economies.
The reasons that the developing nations embrace mobile faster are all based in simple economics.
In America and other first-world nations, we have had general access to the internet for nearly thirty years. In the developing world it’s a brand new thing. The limitation to delivering internet in the developing world is all about major infrastructure projects – safely and effectively delivering electricity and fiber connections to billions of people who want it. Most of us take all that physical infrastructure for granted.
But if we were reinventing the internet again today – even here in the United States – we wouldn’t lay down all that cable again. It’s just far more efficient in terms of time and cost to put up a high-speed cellular connection towers than it is to dig-up the streets and farms or put up poles to hold wires. Even if you want to use a full-sized computer, you can still tether that computer to your cell phone and use that connection.
That’s why in over-crowded and economically developing Indonesia, mobile traffic is more than 91% of ALL internet traffic. In homes without running water, users access the internet on their cell phones every single day. In short, “wired” internet is economically unfeasible in poorer nations. But mobile internet can get done.
The New Mobile Workforce
Another major economic trend is in the transition from industrialized economies to service and knowledge-based economies. Don’t get me wrong … we will ALWAYS need industry. “Making things” is vital to the lives, livelihoods, and national security of advanced countries. But a major segment of the population and workforce has and is shifting to services and knowledge-workers.
This new generation of employees is not tied to a physical location – they see no need for an office or factory. They are doing their work from remote locations at home, while traveling, and in the local coffee shop. Sure, a lot of them are using WiFi to connect laptop computers to do their work. But the statistics show that the smartphone and tablet are the connect devices of choice most of the time.
Further, businesses have realized that this can be good for them as well. They can still keep their corporate headquarters located in the prestigious big cities – where costs are high. But they can locate their services and knowledge workers where it’s cheaper. And if they let some of them work from home or on the road, the employees are often happier and they can greatly reduce their costs in providing office space. A business can subsidize a high-speed cellular plan for thousands of dollars less than the cost of providing a desk and covering the overhead on a physical office.
The Point Is
The forces driving internet access to mobile devices are HUGE. Don’t think of it as a fad. It’s closer to continental drift – the inertias are so high that there’s no way to stop it. Mobile consumption of internet bandwidth is only going to continue to grow by leaps and bounds for the foreseeable future.
The only question that remains is, “What are you going to do about it?”
If you are getting ready to launch your business, or if you have an established business website that is not mobile friendly now, you have to think about what it means to make your web presence “mobile friendly.” And it’s probably not as difficult as you think, but it is definitely more than “just” making sure that your website has a responsive design. Responsive designs are a big part of it, but it really means thinking about the mobile user experience in everything that you do online.
In the next blog post we are going to unpack what it means to make your website “mobile-friendly.” And because we focus on the practical side of everything, we are going to emphasize the kinds of things that are cost effective to implement if you do them first.
Thanks for reading!