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Mobile Internet overtaking home broadband

The explosive growth in the ownership of mobile devices, including tablet computers and smartphones, is forcing businesses to innovate in order to connect with consumers on the go.

A new report says Americans in four years will be more likely to have a mobile Internet device than wired home broadband. To reach these consumers, businesses and organizations are turning to mobile-friendly websites that automatically adapt to whatever size screen people are using, local interactive media experts said.

“Today’s technology users, whether they are consumers or business-to-business folks, are no longer tethered to a desktop or a laptop,” said Jeff Stapleton, president of Graphica, a Miamisburg communications firm. “The ability to walk around with your smartphone or iPad has changed the whole way we communicate,” he said.

This year, mobile Internet access spending in the U.S. will top $54 billion, surpassing home Internet spending at $49.6 billion, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Entertainment & Media Outlook 2013-2017 report. By 2017, nearly 286.7 million Americans, or 87 percent of the population, will have mobile Internet devices, compared to about 85 percent of homes with broadband, the report said.

Advertisers are turning their attention to mobile devices to reach these connected consumers. PricewaterhouseCoopers projects that mobile Internet advertising will increase more than 32 percent over the next four years to $13.7 billion.

“Digital advertising overall is advantageous for clients because of the fact that we can target it so specifically to a person,” said Richard Kaiser, an account manager and strategist at Graphica, whose clients include Target, Walgreens and Toys “R” Us. The design and branding firm at 4501 Lyons Road has about 30 employees.

Digital technology allows for targeted ads based on a consumer’s web searches, social media profile, GPS location and the retail product bar codes they’ve scanned using their mobile device. For example, a person who just purchased running shoes online might be targeted with a digital advertisement for a local gym, Kaiser said.

However, collecting customer data via web browsers and mobile devices can be an issue that conflicts with consumers’ concerns about digital privacy. Kaiser said it is a “push-pull” between providing a better customer experience, with users seeing advertisements that interest them, while at the same time making sure that they are not being too invasive.

The shift to mobile Internet has many businesses turning to websites with “responsive” formatting that automatically adapts the web page to fit smartphone, tablet, or traditional computer screens.

This newspaper recently launched several new digital products, including a responsive mobile website.

“We’ve made a lot of advances in just building a smarter website that really bends around what the customer is using it for, and on which device,” said Ryan McCoy, founder of Atomic Interactive Group, a digital creative agency in Moraine.

Atomic Interactive at 2844 E. River Road has 13 employees. Its clients include the Ford Motor Co. and Dayton Children’s Hospital.

Responsive formatting is the “idea solution that everyone has access to,” especially compared to the cost and complexity of building mobile applications, McCoy said. “It’s an investment for the businesses that want to have it, but I think that surely outweighs getting behind the times and not providing the best solution for your customers,” he said.

A Google survey conducted by Sterling Research and SmithGeiger found that 50 percent of consumers won’t use a business site if it is not mobile friendly. Two-thirds of consumers said they are more likely to buy from a mobile-friendly site.

Kaiser said not every website needs to be responsive, but given the trend toward longer web pages, some traditional sites may be difficult for mobile users to navigate unless content is removed for the mobile platform. “You need to figure out what elements need to go away from the mobile experience,” he said.

Atomic Interactive looks at statistics, including website analytics, to determine if a client’s customers are using smart devices, or if they are leaving the site because it isn’t mobile friendly.

“There is a very strong push for not just saying I’m going to do responsive formatting because everyone else is doing responsive, but really looking at your customers and their needs as a business,” McCoy said.

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