Hyper-global brands design websites as apps

Benjamin B. Sargent
MultiLingual March 2017
Core Focus

More than 50% of searches, globally, now take place on a mobile device. Additionally, 80% of Facebook ad revenue has shifted to mobile. Digital experience experts now focus on smartphones as the primary platform to design for. People who carry handheld devices download apps for handling frequently repeated tasks, like checking the weather, but otherwise expect to perform functions via their mobile web browser. Increasingly, business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies alike provide an app-like experience for their brand websites. An app provides added convenience and speed for heavy users, but the same features and simplicity of app experience can now be found on many advanced websites.

For customer acquisition purposes, global brand websites and campaign landing pages should load on a mobile browser with the look and feel — and function — of an app. Even for many physical product manufacturers, the brand website is a point of entry for audiences that, if converted, transition to using an app....

The most advanced app-like websites exhibit traits that CSA Research identified in 2016 as “mobile-forward design.” Extending the idea of mobile-first, these brands not only design first for the small screen, they put that experience forward onto desktop screens as well, using responsive web design. Thus, a mobile visitor encounters a mobile-friendly website. The same visitor who returns to the website on a large screen finds the same experience, or one that is already familiar but now in a larger format. Responsive web design enables consistency and flexibility in global customer experience.

In mobile-forward design, the same experience is loaded not only on all devices, but also in all country and language markets, providing benefits to both customers and brands. Some sites, such as godaddy.com, create different experiences on each platform. This approach creates confusion for device-swapping users (see Figure 1). It also raises obvious concerns for globalization, as two separate experiences are required to support each market. Adobe adopts the best practice for adobe.com by loading the same experience on all devices, in all markets (see Figure 2).

Best practices such as app-like experience development drive return on investment (ROI) for market entry and growth, by helping a brand to develop and release new features faster across all markets and improve customer experience, two critical factors in global competition. Research finds that centralized production accelerates content velocity, which in turn improves content relevance and ramps the quantity (and quality) of traffic from search engines. Lower costs improve ROI parameters for new languages allowing brands to expand market coverage to 40+ languages, growing their global market share....