In today’s mobile world, you can access your bank statement at the grocery store, do your holiday shopping over lunch, or check the weather at the gym. Your customers are on the go, and mobile Internet use is projected to overtake desktop traffic in 2014. In India, this shift has already occurred.

If your website isn’t mobile-optimized, you run the risk of missing out on half of your potential customers in the near future. That makes it crucial to maintain a “mobile-first” mantra in 2014. Here’s why:

1.     It’s Easier to Start with Mobile

Optimizing a mobile website for desktop viewing is relatively easy, since the small mobile screen allows for clean Web design. You’re simplifying the browsing experience across all devices for your users.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to scale down an inherently more complicated desktop experience for mobile, you’ll probably end up with a mobile site that looks crowded and unusable.

2.     Your Customers Are Looking

According to a Google study, 71 percent of smartphone users who see TV, print, or online ads do a mobile search to get more information. But if consumers can’t find what they’re looking for on your site, 40 percent will turn to a competitor’s site for what they need, rather than switch to a desktop computer, and 57 percent won’t recommend a business with a bad mobile site.

3.     Mobile Means Conversion

A Google study found that mobile searches typically trigger quick offline actions. In less than an hour after performing a mobile search, 56 percent of consumers call a business, 54 percent make a purchase, and 51 percent visit a store.

4.     In-Store Search Matters

Two thirds of in-store mobile searches are conducted to help make purchasing decisions. Shoppers often consult three or more channels before making a decision, and if you don’t make your product information readily available, you can bet consumers are going to find information on your competitors’ sites.

5.     Your Brand Depends on It

Whether you realize it or not, your investment in a good mobile experience communicates a clear message about your brand to consumers. Many people associate “not mobile-optimized” with “not up-to-date,” and nearly half of consumers report feeling frustrated or annoyed by a poor mobile experience. They feel the company doesn’t care about their business, and more than half said they’re less likely to engage with that company in the future.

Optimize Where It Matters Most

True mobile optimization means more than bigger text and buttons. A good mobile design must fundamentally fit the mobile browsing experience. Keep these key mobile user demands in mind:

  • Minimal clicking: Traditional websites ask users to “click around,” but clicking is actually the most unnatural experience to the human brain. In addition, “clicking” on mobile means the user has to wait an additional half second while the page reloads, which most mobile users are not willing to do. Instead, use sliding and scrolling features to cater to this shorter attention span.
  • Minimal content: A screen filled with text might make a website look “full,” but to the mobile user, it’s just clutter. Stick with a few bullet points to get the message across, and pair the text with useful multimedia content.
  • A clear point of sale: People are more likely to take action on mobile than on desktop, so it needs to be easy when they’re ready. Make sure an action button is always visible. Most apps have a bar at the bottom or a hovering button visible at all times. Bonus points if you can sync the desired user action to other smartphone apps or functions, such as populating your company’s address in the user’s map app.

Although a mobile-first mindset is key, be sure you don’t neglect your desktop site, either. Providing a great user experience across all touchpoints is important because most visitors won’t become customers the first time they see your message. If your message is consistent and appealing everywhere they go, the chance of them coming back is significantly higher — whether they’re on their lunch break or at the gym.