Extreme real-time advertising: responsive web design
Pop quiz: what’s the main premise of agile marketing? Answer: the consumer is agile, so you should be. This doesn’t mean the consumer is fickle, unpredictable and prone to mood swings, it means s/he can be categorised against set parameters:
- Category e.g. price, service. This will vary according to your sector.
- Behaviour e.g. awareness, consideration, purchase, as reflected in website touchpoints
- Device e.g. desktop, smartphone, tablet
Marketers are now able to personalise ads to these data touchpoints across various channels. Even better, these ads are based on real-time data, as algorithms process and classify cookie within a tenth of a second. What I am describing here is known as real-time advertising (RTA) and the subject of much industry debate and practice. In a short time RTA has become established practice. The subject of this post is far less known, yet equally important. Responsive web design (RWD) is a close cousin of RTA but often over-looked; the purpose of this post is to redress this oversight.
RWD is the practice of designing websites that are tailored to all screen sizes. Rather than designing each web page multiple times, individual pages align to bespoke screen sizes automatically, based on browser screen size and in particular, device screen size. Naturally, this is done in real-time. In many ways RWD is the ultimate in real-time advertising because it configures the consumer experience right before their eyes as s/he is viewing your content. Imagine that the consumer increases or decreases the browser window on a desktop computer, or pinches in or out using a smartphone – and the content adjusts to a readable format automatically, so all the copy is still legible. RWD is incredibly powerful yet it is often over-looked because it’s poorly understood, because it is badly communicated and most of all, because it is technical.
How should marketers address responsive design? If your site is due a revision soon, take the following under consideration:
1. Talk to your IT team. Ask them about using CSS media queries to decide rendering on each device. Can they develop this? Do they have the skills and resource? Do you need to outsource?
2. Build a business case. Bear in mind that the upfront cost of a responsive website is amortized over time because it precludes ongoing device optimisations. This means you can point and laugh when developers fall over themselves trying to accommodate new device sizes, such as the recent iPhone 5 launch.
3. Remove the fat. This is an opportunity to review and overhaul your site, in particular to remove unnecessary clutter.
4. Make it easy to update. By definition, responsive design requires a content management system (CMS). Choose a good one.
5. Reassure the luddites. RWD is disruptive because it takes control away from the user experience, design and brand teams, who can no longer dictate exactly what a user sees on a given page – that prerogative is deferred to the consumer. In this way, RWD bears strong relation to permission marketing.
In summary, RWD makes the user experience as frictionless as possible, based on real-time customer behaviour. Seen on this light, it’s both behavioural and contextual, blurring the line between these two established ad terminologies. Building your website responsively takes agile marketing to its extreme, as it defers the web experience to user preference. The savvy digital marketer needs to address the wants and needs of the consumer (i.e. to the device he’s using), much as he would personalise an ad using real-time advertising. It no longer makes sense to spend millions driving traffic to your website, and a fraction of that spend optimising the website experience itself.
As the web shifts towards mobile usage, it’ll soon be a requirement to build your website responsively.
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