Where are your mobile customers? Waiting for a relevant product

When we make the business case for mobile in b2b media, we often cite consumer usage statistics (mobile traffic growing to 30 percent of global Internet traffic; smartphone market share, etc.)

However, understanding professional usage of b2b is critical. Earlier this year, ABM fielded a study called The Value of B2B Media, sponsored by Adobe, which looked at how b2b readers were using business media, particularly in how they leverage b2b information to make purchasing decisions, and what business marketers wanted from b2b publishers.

ABM sampled 111 member publishing companies in 10 different vertical markets to reach their end-users and received responses from than 6,600 readers on how they use b2b media, from print magazines to e-newsletters to live events and digital media, including mobile.

The good news — nearly two in three b2b end-users are using mobile optimized websites or apps.

Mobile optimized site use

Meanwhile, most b2b publishers say they’re seeing between 15 percent and 20 percent of their content traffic coming from mobile—depending on the market, that percentage is much higher, and it will only grow moving forward.

The bad news — as an individual platform, mobile apps are second-to-last in importance and mobile optimized websites are just slightly higher.

That speaks less to the demand for mobile products as it does the job we are doing as publishers in making usable, readable products for mobile. While many publishers are gingerly stepping into the waters of responsive design, the majority of b2b websites and newsletters are not optimized for mobile.

Earlier this year, ALM, a leading publisher in the legal information market optimized its newsletters for mobile—a move that boosted its open rates by more than 60 percent.

The priority in mobile isn’t necessarily creating a tremendous iPad app, it’s making sure your existing content is optimized for the platform.

When we take a look at what readers think will be important to them over the next three-to-four years, we see a switch. Websites and e-newsletters remain at the top, while print magazines and print newsletters plunge to the bottom. Readers also expect mobile optimized websites and mobile apps to supplant digital editions in importance.

The data shows that apps and mobile-optimized websites increasing …

Increasing app use

However, looking at the importance of channels over the next three to four years …

Channel importance

If we combine the percentage of end-users who expect the importance of each platform to stay the same with those who expect it to increase, we can get a better sense that readers expect to use those platforms.

Mobile optimized websites, digital editions and mobile apps shoot up to between 75 percent and 78 percent. But notice what’s still at the top: websites, product information from manufacturers and our perennial favorite, e-newsletters.

What Do Users Want From Mobile?

As part of the study, we asked readers with smartphones or tablets what publishers could do to make them engage more with b2b content on mobile platforms.

Many of those who use a smartphone or tablet or tablet for business would engage with industry content more if …

Increasing mobile engagement

The number one concern? Create an optimized version of their website that is easily viewed or navigated on a smartphone or tablet. I’m not going to say if you build it they will come, but one of the biggest stumbling blocks is getting useable mobile products to our customers and that should be fixable.

Give it away for free was the second highest response, but that doesn’t really help us as publishers unless there is a strong advertising model, which is few and far between with mobile publishing. B2B end-users have shown a willingness to pay for content that’s repackaged and delivered in a way that serves a need, even if that content is free elsewhere. In 2012, ABM and Outsell produced a report on Mobile Content and Delivery in which 20 percent of ABM publishers we spoke to say they are moving from free mobile products to paid mobile products—zero are going from paid to free.

Next on the must-have list: Rich media and functionality. What is the purpose of the mobile product, what are you giving them that’s different? News Corp.’s The Daily was a good iPad app, but it folded in large part because it didn’t serve a specific need.

As you assess your market, what’s the purpose of your mobile edition? What’s the need that you’re serving? A lot of time we get caught up in defining mobile as an app or as a gorgeous digital edition. There is certainly a need and a demand for it, and many publishers are doing terrific work.

IEEE’s “Robots for iPad” won the Best Use of Mobile Category in ABM’s 2013 Neal Awards, which recognizes the best in b2b editorial. “Robots for iPad” let’s users check out the most advanced robots with 360 degrees views, interactive images, detailed specs, exclusive articles and hundreds of photos and videos. It’s fun, it’s informative, it’s engaging, it’s everything an iPad app should be and it can stand with anything being published by the major consumer media companies.

But … it’s a pretty serious production. Do you have the subject matter that lends itself to this type of treatment? Do you have the resources to execute? Most of all, does something like this serve a need for your audience?

If not, there are other ways to serve your audience over mobile.

Serving a mobile audience

This is a screen grab for Farm Journal Pulse—Farm Journal serves the agri market and Pulse is a service that texts farmers and ranchers with poll questions and crop progress updates. Participants receive two questions per month and can see how their answers stack up against the rest of the country. The texts do not count toward the user’s message plan and revenue comes from sponsorship.

Why Text?

97% of Farm Journal’s audience have cell phones with them every day. Less than half own smartphones, even fewer use tablets. They typically aren’t deskbound during the day, they’re outside working.

Meeting the demand of that market has led to Farm Journal creating several different solutions specific to text and cell phones including,

• Commodity Update: Offers real-time commodity pricing, corn wheat.
• Commodity Update Targeted Mobile Messaging
• Farm Journal Pulse: Poll questions with social tie-in
• Mobile4Media:
Text-to-Learn: Allows readers to obtain info on products
Text-to-Win: Contest entries
Text-to-Answer: Allows readers to participate in polls
Text-to-Offer: Giveaways, coupon codes, mobile coupons

Farm Journal is doing plenty with iPad apps and more advanced mobile strategies but they’ve also developed one of the most aggressive mobile platforms in b2b media by understanding what their customers wanted and how they want it.

That’s key—before you spend six months of work and thousands of dollars on mobile (and $25,000 isn’t an outrageous price for app development depending on what you’re trying to do), understand what your customers want and how they want it. Mobile isn’t just redefining how customers want our content, it’s changing the idea of what relevant, valuable content actually is.

By Matt Kinsman

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