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5 Things Small Businesses Need to Know About Customers and Smartphones
Posted on May 6th 2013
As cellphone technology advances and becomes more affordable, small businesses are starting to take notice. Or at least they should be. The fact is, many small business owners are smartphone users, and as consumers, they understand the importance of a good mobile experience. But many don’t seem to translate that and make the leap to apply that to their own business presence online.
According to a report from Flurry:
"The rate of iOS and Android device adoption has surpassed that of any consumer technology in history. Compared to recent technologies, smart device adoption is being adopted 10X faster than that of the 80′s PC revolution, 2X faster than that of 90′s Internet Boom and 3X faster than that of recent social network adoption."
Additionally, mobile technology analyst Horace Dediu reports that even with 57% penetration, “the rate at which Americans are buying their first smart phone isn’t slowing down.” Meanwhile, the Teens and Technology 2013 study from the Pew Research Center finds that, “78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones.”
In short, smartphone and mobile technology is growing fast, with no signs of slowing down. Small businesses need to consider this as they build and maintain an online presence. Those with no online presence are falling behind, while others need to adapt to the new mobile reality.
Here are five things we need to consider as we seek to remain relevant in an increasingly mobile connected culture:
1. Small is the new big
While our television screens seem to be getting larger, our computer screens are getting smaller. More of our online experience is happening on mobile devices than ever before, and smartphones and tablets are becoming more prevalent. This means your customers will very likely be accessing your website and other online properties on a small screen, not just a laptop or desktop. Tablets and smaller phone devices are becoming the norm. This means your website needs to be mobile ready. For WordPress users, there are plugins that can fill in the gaps for a short time, but a responsive theme is more important. (Right now I use the WPTouch plugin, but will be moving to a more responsive theme in the near future). Don’t wait until you have to play catch up. Start being more forward thinking so that you’re not only helping your current mobile-using customers, but also ready for those who haven’t yet moved to smart phones. The time is coming soon.
2. Apps over browsers/Social over search
If our customers are doing more on their smartphones, we need to know HOW they are doing it. When it comes to mobile devices, either phones or tablets, the browser experience is still a bit slow and cumbersome. The easiest and most pleasant moble experiences usually happen through apps. For this reason, among others, social networks have a real edge over search engines when it comes to smartphones.
All of the major social networks have apps that your customers are using. Make sure your social presence is strong and fully optimized. This doesn’t mean you need to be on every network; as always, only choose the ones that make sense for you. But a strong presence that is accessible by apps on mobile devices makes it easier to be found via mobile devices.
One caveat: SEO is still important. People still use laptops and desktops and still use search engines. But the face of search, and the role of SEO, are changing.
3. On the road and on the go
This may be one of those “master of the obvious” moments, but one of the major draws of smartphones is portability. A computer in your pocket. That’s right, you too can butt dial the entire internet. We’re no longer tied to our homes or desks. We can go online and check out your business (and your competitors) no matter where we are. In a car, on the sidewalk, or even right outside your door. Your marketing, messaging, and communications plan need to created and conducted with mobility and portability in mind. While some believe social networks force people to stay at home on their computers, mobile technology allows us to be out and about more.
4. Now is the most important time
Everything happens in the now. With smartphones, your customers can be online while in your business. Think of the smartphone as a megaphone. They are talking about you online, while talking to you offline. Not only are we no longer confined by space, we are also no longer confined by time. Customer service is a 24/7 proposition. Your customers might not expect you to respond to their questions or complaints at 2 a.m. on a Saturday, but they do expect a response, and they do expect it in a timely fashion. You can’t put your online presence on auto-pilot. Monitoring is of utmost importance.
5. Your competition is in your house
When your customers bring their smartphones into your business, they’re bringing your competitors with them. As they peruse your products and pricing, they might be comparing them with those of your competitors. And your competitors aren’t just the guy around the corner; they include other small businesses from around the world, as well as larger online retailers like Amazon or eBay. This means you need to up your competitive level a bit and find a way of standing out. Perhaps one of the most important areas where you can excel and compete is that of customer service. They might be bringing your competitors through your doors, but that doesn’t mean they have to win.
Now is the time to take a look at your business model and your marketing plan and look at them through the smartphone lens of your customers.
How do they experience your business on their mobile devices? Answer that question and make the adjustments that will make you more competitive.