Posted by Lisa Middleton, head of communications and marketing at Legal Futures Associate mmadigital 
It’s that time of the year when the trends of the next 12 months are being talked about. Now, while we’re not one to follow the crowd, we thought it would be a good idea to share our views on a few key digital techniques for 2015 and how to make these work in the legal sector.
So, in a series of posts in the coming weeks, we will highlight our insights and views on what we think law firms will need to be aware of to maximise client opportunity in the next 12 months.
Trend number one: Mobile
Using mobile for online access has been steadily growing and has featured in a few trend predictions before, but 2015 will truly be the year that you must go mobile to retain and attract customers.
For the first time, shopping transactions made by mobile outstripped desktop in 2014’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday activity.
A report released in December from eMarketer suggests that mobile advertising will account for the vast majority of advertising spend over the next four years. This comes hot on the heels of a prediction that the UK will become the first country to see advertising spend on digital methods surpass traditional, so investing in digital infrastructure is essential.
Figures released by Ofcom in August 2014 showed that the average UK adult now spends more time using media or communications (8 hours 41 minutes) than they do sleeping (8 hours 21 minutes). This was attributed to the fact that we now multi-task across devices and are better connected than ever through 4G mobile and communicating on the move.
In fact, smartphone take-up has also continued to increase rapidly over the past year with 61% of UK adults owning one, while tablet ownership has also increased. Desktop PC ownership has dropped.
Mobile is growing fast in the legal sector too. Statistics from Google show that 47% of all personal injury searches are now mobile. So what does that mean for your law firm? If you want to be in with a chance of winning business from the mobile online customer, you must make sure that the user experience on your website is responsive and therefore effective across all platforms, including tablet and mobile.
The digital user experience should be given as much thought and importance as face-to-face interactions, if not more, as this is where first impressions really are make or break. Today’s client is a multi-tasking, smartphone-using, instantaneous digital creature who wants the information or the answer now. If your website takes too long loading, doesn’t have relevant content or is just plain boring, then they will move onto a company that is more in tune to their needs.
In short, you need to be where the customer is at and now that destination is digital. Start with the basics of getting your website right – functionality, style and content. In a crowded market place, it’s more important than ever to stand out in a way that personally appeals to a potential client. Do you use video, either promotional or explainer (more about this in our next installment)?
Do you offer web chat? Do you have a social media presence? Investing in your brand, website and content puts you in a much stronger position to capitalise on those Google searches, backed up with SEO and PPC support.
The Ofcom research showed that the range of mobile activities has increased, particularly among 25-34s and 45-54s age groups. Customers increasingly use mobile for work and play. Over half (55%) of mobile users ever send/receive emails on mobile, and use their mobile to visit social networking sites or apps. People are uploading photos and videos to sites such as Facebook and YouTube via mobile, use instant messaging and Skype or Facetime on their phones. More than a third check their bank balance by mobile and make purchases this way too.
Insight has also shown an increase in branded content, with people suggesting they find that more useful than a magazine advert. Being present on social media is not enough; you must also be engaging and interacting in a way that’s useful and relevant.
So, where does that leave your firm? The message is to go mobile or risk losing potential business. The future of business is online and it’s mobile. Be part of it.