Tom Gersic
May 14, 2015 · 3 min read


Well, it’s certainly a crazy exciting time to be working in the mobile space, that’s for sure.

Larry Page, Google’s founder and CEO has been now-famously quoted saying “We are no longer in a mobile-first world, we are in a mobile-only world”, That’s sparked a lot of discussion around what it means to be “Mobile Only” and “Mobile First” from a business perspective, but how much of what Larry said is just provocative bluster, and how much of it is a reality of the world today? Are businesses really choosing mobile-only strategies, or is it nothing but a niche business? Even Uber, the hallmark of mobile-only success (do you know what their website looks like?), has since launched a more significant web presence as they’ve grown rapidly from a startup into an international enterprise. Is this representative of a larger shift away from a mobile first strategy?

“Mobile Only” is more of a business reality than a business choice. One fifth of Millennials (those born after 1980) are mobile-only users — users who only use phones and tablets to access the internet. And Millennials are also now the largest segment in the workforce (followed by Gen X and Boomers). Across the rest of the population, there are now more mobile-only users in the US than desktop-only users. Facebook makes 73% of their ad revenue from mobile advertising, and that’s only 3 years after they declared in their IPO filing that their complete lack of mobile advertisements was a risk to investors. And it clearly was a significant risk, because just three years later, 526 million users access Facebook solely from their mobile devices — that’s 38% percent of their user base.

There are millions of Facebook users who don’t even know they’re using the internet, and that’s in part because in less affluent global markets, users are predominantly mobile-only users. Mobile devices allow for affordable connectivity for a population that otherwise would have no access to the internet at all. Companies like Myntra in India are going mobile-only because 90% of their traffic and 70% of their sales are from mobile devices. Mobile now accounts for a staggering 52% of time spent with all digital media, with 86% of this time spent in apps. Wearables like Apple Watch and Fitbit are going to be more and more important in the consumer space, and almost all wearable use is tied to a mobile app or mobile apps.

So, are most companies really going with a broad-stroke mobile-only strategy for everything they do? No, of course not — but they are taking mobile-only ideas to market, especially as wearables and the IoT grow in popularity. Retailers in particular experienced 174% growth YoY in 2014, and have been trailblazing in several key areas. systems are table steaks. Paying by phone or watch is commonplace. Innovation is coming with , especially with ideas that are critical to retailers moving upstream in the sales process to capture shoppers while they’re researching at home or in-store. Helping shoppers make a decision about a product on a mobile device converts those online shoppers into in-store sales. Starbucks proved that mobile apps can be killer apps, and shoppers are as eager to abandon the stacks of loyalty cards as retailers are to gather more meaningful data about them. A plastic card can’t push an advertisement to a shopper as they walk past your store, but a mobile app sure can.

What about the business user? Are desk jockeys going to be mobile only any time soon? No, but there are a lot of people who do their most important work while in the field, and mobile users are more productive in the field with easy access to data. Field sales reps use CRM more effectively by updating records on the fly, shorten sales cycles by closing sales with fewer interactions, and are more consultative in their selling with broader access to information.

So what do you think, how crazy is “Mobile Only”?

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