Mobile marketing mistake #1: treating smart phones and tablets the same

This weekend, while using my iPad, I visited a website (that will remain nameless to protect the guilty) that delivered an all-to-common and frustrating user experience. The website sensed my device and chose to present the mobile version of the website. Unfortunately, that site was optimized for smart phones and did not expose some functionality that I was looking for. To compound the problem, there was no option to “view full website,” so I could not opt out of the limited version.

While smart phones outsold PCs for the first time last quarter, tablet sales are growing at over 200%. Because of the very different functionality, users have different expectations about how they want to interact with advertising and content on each platform.

Smart phone users:

  • Prefer short, to-the-point ads with offers such as coupons, deals or newsletters (63% according to a recent Harris survey)
  • Do not want commercials or video ads (only 15% prefer these according  to the same survey)
  • Use location-sensitive content such as location-finders and driving directions

Tablet users:

  • Prefer ads that include video or an interactive component (75% according to a Time Inc study)
  • Respond more to these style ads (according to an Adobe-sponsored study)
  • Engage with stunning photography, full video and 360-degree product views while on a website

If you think about the usage models of the types of devices, these stats should be somewhat obvious. I’m no exception. I use my iPhone mostly out of home, either in town or on the road. I make calls, respond to e-mail, check on news and search for specific information (where to eat, movies times, directions to a store). I want the experience to be quick and concise. On the other hand, I use my iPad primarily in-home, in-hotel-room or in-flight. I’m often watching TV, searching for information relevant to a pending purchase decision or enjoying entertainment optimized for the tablet. I want a user experience that fits what the iPad can deliver.

It’s time for marketers to distinguish between smart phones and tablets in their Web and advertising plans. Have you seen examples of companies who do this well? If so, send them along so others can learn.