Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 33 seconds

Online market gurus have been forecasting rapid growth of web surfers connecting to cyberspace with smartphones and tablets and a decrease in the use of desktops and laptops. Now, recent data suggests the use of such portable devices has exploded, which underscores the need for advisors to ensure that their websites are well equipped to handle smartphone and tablet traffic.

Consider this year’s Black Friday sales. Sales through portable devices accounted for 35.3% of sales, while smartphones accounted for 43.4% of all online traffic, according to data from IBM. Smartphones alone, furthermore, represented 21.1% of online sales.

Other indicators also point to widespread use of portable computing devices. For example, the U.S. population is roughly 325 million and a total of 200 million smartphones have been sold within the country, according to Investopedia.

In addition, nearly half of emails are read on mobile devices. Mobile device use has proliferated, in part, in response to the growing variety of apps that allow smartphone and tablet users to access websites that previously were limited to desktop and laptop users. In addition, the hectic pace of modern day life makes surfing the web on the go highly popular.

In addition to the growing popularity of mobile devices, advisors should consider that robo-advisors, which are seeking to capture assets with low fees and cutting edge online services, have newer generation websites that have been built from the ground up with mobile devices users in mind. The end result is that their websites are optimized for portable devices.

While the quality of mobile devices web connectivity may not be a deal breaker when courting clients, it may be an important factor that some prospects consider and it can help with client retention.

When developing services for portable device users, advisors need to consider that mobile web content is often different than content designed for desktop or laptop computers. Portable devices users want content that can download quickly and is appropriate for viewing on small screens. For some advisors, that may mean their websites are designed first for mobile users and secondly for desktop users.

Establishing portable device functionality as a priority may also be beneficial when meeting with clients outside of the office. For example, advisors can ask clients to access their accounts and walk their clients through online information, such as asset allocations, investment returns, and balances when providing portfolio updates.

Advisors may be able to provide certain mobile device services through their broker-dealers or custodians, depending on the firms with which they are associated. With that in mind, advisors who are looking to change broker-dealers or custodians may want to evaluate the quality of mobile device services offered by the firms they may want to join.

As part of the evaluation, advisors should assess the level of customization that firms can provide when helping create online account access. Firms can also turn to external firms for providing apps rather than developing technology internally. For example, vendors such as Orion Advisors and Black Diamond provide apps for account balances and other types of account level information.

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