Marketing Lesson: Smartphones Outsell PCs


According to IDC, smartphone manufacturers shipped 100.9 million devices in the fourth quarter of 2010, while PC manufacturers shipped 92.1 million units worldwide. Or, more simply put, smartphones just outsold PCs for the first time ever.

via Smartphones Outsell PCs.

The above quote should not come as a surprise.  Change happens.  The real question becomes, “How are we preparing our clients, or shaping our projects/campaigns for this shift in the marketing landscape?”

Nostalgic Deja Vu

I was just telling one of my classes yesterday that even though the assignments are focusing on 8×11 documents they need to keep in the back of their mind the fact that their message might be seen on a small screen so always plan ahead.

This problem seems to be resurfacing constantly in the technology sector.  I can remember, in my brief stint in development, which now seems like three lifetimes ago, the revelation that the developers I worked with all had power user machines: top of the line CPU’s, memory maxed to capacity, every bay in the tower loaded with the largest hard drives that could be purchased, the biggest fasted monitor and video board that was sold at the time.  Not a real problem unless you consider the average ‘consumer’ of these developers were running on machines three generations behind, and were loaded with the least possible equipment to save costs for the company purchasing the hardware.

At least we were lucky to have a great software development manager, my brother-in-law, who demanded no code go into production unless it passed a speed test on a machine comparable to what the user base was currently using.  So we always kept a box in the corner of the office with the current configuration our clients had.  This created some awkward moments when the entire development team would watch as one of the developers would run the cpu/memory/video gauntlet with a piece of code that ran like greased lighting on his box.

Some Possible Action Items

Here are some things you should do right now:

  • Test your existing site: get a smartphone, get several with different size screens, and test what you currently have out there being viewed by visitors to your site.
  • Update Project Requirements: only accept work that can be used on a smartphone screen.  It will cost more, but if your site works and your competitor’s doesn’t, well that’s just priceless.
  • Update Your Marketing Plan: Think mobile.  What items in your plan can change now as this wave begins to form, rather waiting until is past you and you are playing catchup.

Let me know if you’ve encountered feedback from your visitors about your site not working on smartphones and what you did to fix the problem.

Good Hunting.

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  1. #1 by Jack Kelly on February 8, 2011 - 2:54 pm

    It is a very interesting point. Though you may want to take into consideration a lot of people with smart phones (particularly android, which has a lot of free content) still only use there phone primarily for phone and texts.

    The Smart phone users will become an ever more important market. But I wouldn’t expect them to become the major market. I think people are still aware of how much money they can waste on downloading apps.

    Very interesting though, thanks =)

    • #2 by Tim Rueb on February 8, 2011 - 3:56 pm

      @Jack – Agreed at the moment. But let’s look ahead and say that the numbers continue and desktops become a minority rather then a majority of user experience. I can see a time when the mini-screen technologies become prevalent in all sorts of devices, from the gas pump we are waiting on to fill the car, to home appliances, to waiting room tablets with reading material provided for their patrons.

      None-the-less, the fact that smartphones out shipped PC’s was an interesting fact that got my creative juices flowing. Or I’ve been watching too much sci-fi channel again! 8)

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