The time to mobilise your business is now

This article, written for The Drum by mobile technology and marketing company 2ergo, looks into why the time to mobilise your business is now.

Mobile Internet usage is growing exponentially. For example, 2011 saw almost half of UK Internet users using a mobile phone to access the web1; sales of smartphones outstripped those of PCs for the first time and just under 50 per cent of the UK population now owns a smartphone2. These are pretty impressive figures and tell us one thing; that the time is now to get your business’ online presence in shape for mobile users.If further proof were needed, look at your own website’s analytics. If you look at the list of browsers people are using to view your site, you will probably see an increasing amount using platforms like Android and iPhone in among Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome. The number of smartphones, and people using them to search for goods and services, is approaching a tipping point – it is now being considered the norm – so it’s the perfect time to build your business’ mobile presence. In fact, by avoiding many of the mistakes made in the domain over the past few years, investing in mobile now leaves you in a great position to reap the rewards.The time is nowWhile there seems to be a constant stream of articles and commentators that claim ‘this is the year that mobile browsing will fully take off’, the simple truth is that accessing the Internet via a mobile device, and paying for items using it, has been around in various forms for years. However, gone are the days of the early 2000s when we struggled to view a site via a slow WAP connection. With new smartphones, accessing the Internet via a mobile device has become the rule rather than the exception, highlighting the fact that the Internet and our mobile devices are now intrinsic to our current way of life. But progress on developing the infrastructure has been relatively slow. For example, it took eight years for 3G to be implemented to cover 80 per cent of the UK population.3 As a result of this slow pace; companies could be forgiven for not having a mobile marketing strategy. That time, however, is coming to an end and instead of being congratulated for your cautious approach to an emerging market; you may find yourself derided for having missed the boat on a new commercial opportunity. SMS is still king Before you consider introducing mobile marketing to your business, it is important to ask two questions:
  • How do you communicate with your existing customers?
  • How do you attract new customers?
While many businesses will use direct mail, and some will utilise email marketing, a much smaller proportion will probably have implemented SMS or text messaging.There are many benefits to SMS. It doesn’t matter what phone your customers have, they will all be able to receive and view a text message, removing compatibility issues. In addition, the conversion numbers are staggering, with 97 per cent of all SMS messages being opened (83 per cent within the first hour) and average response rates of between 15 and 30 per cent4. By comparison, email marketing only achieves a 17 per cent open rate.Hopefully, you’ll have a database of your existing customers and for many of them you may have their mobile number and permission to contact them through this. This provides a perfect opportunity to send them a text message with exclusive offers and can help to build a lasting relationship with them.For new customers, there are a growing number of companies that offer lists of people who are happy to receive texts, and with a little bit of filtering these can help you hit your target market.During the current time of economic difficulties, it can be tempting to cut down on marketing spend for budgets such as this. However, some companies will run campaigns for you based upon the number of people who convert rather than the number of messages sent, and are well worth considering.Design for conversion (and thumbs)Any company’s approach to a mobile website should be the same as their approach to their desktop site, i.e. asking the following questions:
  • What do we want to achieve?
  • What is the quickest way we can get visitors to our site to do it?
As long as you take that approach (one that should underwrite all marketing activity) your mobile site will generate a significant return on investment.It is also worth remembering that many visitors to your mobile site or app will be operating their smartphone using their thumbs, so make buttons big and banish any pinch and zoom ideas.Finally, make sure that whatever your end goal is for consumers, that it’s done in as few steps as possible. To allow you to do this, consider implementing the below:
  • If you’re looking to increase your customer database, try and capture as little information as possible, such as just a mobile number and email address. Asking users to enter much more than this will be seen as hard work and your abandonment rate will be astronomical.
  • To direct people to your bricks and mortar store, have two buttons on the front page; one for ‘click to call’ and one to locate the store on a map.
  • If you are selling services and products, allow customers to do all their registration on your desktop site and ensure that users can login via a mobile device and use ‘one click’ payment to checkout items.
Cutting costs could mean cutting customersWhen developing a mobile site or mobile apps, many companies face the decision of whether to undertake this themselves or bring in the help of a consultancy firm. While it is possible to develop a mobile presence yourself, using a consultancy will allow you to overcome the following challenges more easily:OptimisationThere are around 8,000 mobile devices currently available on the market and it is important to make sure your site is optimised for as many of them as possible. As a rule, your site should be tested on at least five times as many mobile devices as desktop devices to ensure maximum compatibility. Time and moneyWhile there are many free services that allow you to set up a website, unless you are a web or graphic design expert it may take you some time to get the knowledge and images together to build the site for free. This is time and effort that could be spent on growing your business.Choosing the right softwareIt is important looking at the stability of the technology from some of the biggest providers. Some software is stated to be ‘alpha’, which means that the developers are unsure if it works fully or needs refining. So if you’re not relying on the mobile site to increase your contact database or to direct people to your business premises, then this route may be best for you. But if that is the case, it may be worth asking why you are developing a mobile site at all.Three out of five users state that the poor performance of a website would prevent them from visiting it again, which shows how a badly designed site can affect your ability to attract and retain customers. With this in mind, utilising an external consultancy can actually save you money and time in the long run.Apps vs mSitesWhen developing an approach to mobile, many companies are faced with a fundamental question; whether to develop an app or an mSite. However, when considering this, you should really be asking which one you do first, rather than which one you do exclusively. An approach of mSite first, followed by an app, is generally best because you guarantee that you’ll be visible to 100 per cent of mobile devices with a browser. Downloading games and software onto phones did not start with the launch of the App Store in 20085, but this did create a billion dollar industry which is now prevalent across every platform. From its initial 500 apps, Apple currently claims over 500,000 apps with 18 billion downloads. The Android store has 400,000 apps6, Windows offers around 40,000 apps7 (with 165 being added every day) and BlackBerry users can choose from 50,000.Using mobile analytics you can then use the information about the operating systems viewing your site to determine your app approach i.e. should it be developed for Android or iPhone first (or perhaps both at once).The important thing to remember is that ignoring either an mSite or app in favour of the other is to risk a significant proportion of your customers moving away to a competitor.Tablets - The sugar-coated pillJohn Lewis reported in August that sales of tablets, such as Apple’s iPad, were outstripping desktop PC sales8 and had increased by 246 per cent year on year. This means it is worth considering tablet users as well when you develop your mSite. The BBC’s newly launched homepage (http://www.bbc.co.uk/) and Amazon Windowshop (www.windowshop.com/) are prime examples of how to adjust your site to take advantage of the unique properties of tablets.And finally...Google recently launched an initiative called GOMO (http://www.howtogomo.com/en/#homepage), aimed to helping businesses get their web sites mobile ready. You can use this to see how your site looks on a mobile device, and is well worth the effort to see if you are as optimised as possible for mobile browsing customers.References1 - Office for National Statistics Internet Access - Households and Individuals, 20112. - http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/oct/31/half-uk-population-owns-smartphone3 - http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/networking/2008/02/27/ofcom-warns-o2-over-slow-3g-rollout-39352934/4. Air2web Mobilize your business5. http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2008/07/10iPhone-3G-on-Sale-Tomorrow.html6 - http://www.pcworld.com/article/244401/at_40000_apps_windows_phone_marketplace_still_lags.html7 - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/nokia/8904003/Nokia-Lumia-boosted-by-Windows-Phone-Marketplaces-40000-apps.html8 - AL4U M-Commerce Report 2011

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