Mobify's Explosive Growth Reflects Rise of Mobile Web

Using a smartphone to visit a website that isn’t optimized for mobile browsing is rarely a positive experience. Awkward margins, a ton of squinting and zooming which all lead to a terrible experience for the end user. And forget any opportunity for brands to actually sell or advertise to consumers in a visually appealing or intuitive way. The mobile browsing experience is often lackluster because most companies are focused on native apps. Enter Mobify, a startup that’s helping e-commerce and publishing companies optimize their mobile and tablets websites, no native app required. Building on the popularity of other HTML5 publishing solutions like OnSwipe and Pressly, Mobify helps companies deliver rich media on mobile devices and reports doubled mobile sales for clients.

Igor Faletski started Mobify five years ago in Vancouver and originally they focused on SMS solutions (their first product helped people get bus schedules via SMS), but quickly realized it was costly and difficult to scale. They briefly focused on apps before realizing that discovery and distribution were challenges, both solved when the Apple App Store debuted. In 2008 they decided to focus on mobile web, back when mobile traffic only accounted for about 3% of a website’s total traffic. Since then Mobify has grown to 25 employees and has big-name customers including Starbucks, Threadless and LuluLemon. They recently announced that 20% of smartphone users have used a Mobify-powered site, 166,781,543 unique visitors in all (that stat is based on Morgan Stanley’s estimate of 835 million smartphone subscribers worldwide).

Unlike other solutions like Pressly and OnSwipe, Mobify is targeted at developers. “They’re trying to lower the barrier to entry, whereas we’re trying to empower developers to develop solutions,” he says. “There’s room for both.” Mobify isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, rather it targets more complex e-commerce and publishing sites that need customization and features like payments and ad-serving.

While native apps for smartphones are an effective way to serve ads, process payments, and give users a well-designed experience, Faletski says it’s not enough to just have an app. He says often consumers will arrive at a mobile site through another channel like Groupon, and will make purchasing decisions based on whether that site is optimized for mobile. “One of the challenges of the mobile web is most people have very low expectations about the experience,” he says. “App stores curate content, but with the web it’s hit and miss.”

He predicts huge growth in mobile traffic overall in 2012, and expects Mobify traffic to exceed five million unique visitors per day. He also says that mobile payments are skyrocketing – PayPal processed under $1 million in payments in 2006, compared to $4 billion in 2011 (and a predicted $7 billion in 2012). “PayPal is doing exceptionally well, if you look at their mobile volume it’s enormous,” he says. One of Mobify’s clients even reported more sales through mobile and tablet than through desktop during the holiday season, a trend that he expects to continue. “It’s so much more convenient to make a purchase or browse on the couch on your iPad,” he says. “Customers prefer the mobile version to the desktop version because it fits their lifestyle better.”

With projections that mobile usage will surpass desktop usage in 2013, if not sooner, publishers and brands need to think about how they’re serving content. Native apps aren’t enough anymore, and HTML5 is providing a simpler way to make sure consumers have a clean mobile experience with your company. And as Mobify realized, it’s now about cross-platform mobile optimization. Tablet traffic is growing exponentially, and publishers are looking for cross-platform support like Polar Mobile’s new MediaEverywhere platform (launching later in 2012). Data says that tablet users are more likely to purchase than smartphone users and, on average, spend more. With mobile purchases on the rise and tablets taking off, companies can’t afford to ignore the mobile web any longer.

 

Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin has covered startups and technology for over three years in publications including Sprouter Weekly, The Globe and Mail, Business Insider, Mashable, and VentureBeat. She also writes a regular startup column for the Financial Post, and is a technology expert on CTV News Channel. Before BetaKit Erin worked as Director of Content & Communications at Sprouter from its launch in 2009 until its acquisition by Postmedia Network Inc. She was recently named one of Marketing Magazine's 30 Under 30 in 2012.