To understand how mobile can help or hinder a small business, it is important to first understand the mobile user. The mobile user is a fickle fanatic, reacting to near real-time stimuli to attempt to accomplish her goals. These users are in a cinema, in a queue, on a train, almost everywhere receiving stimuli. They are combating external influences to act on a single motive that has brought them to a mobile site or app. It is the job of the business to help these mobile users achieve some level of success by turning their motive into action as quickly as possible before their attention is lost.
Having understood this simple principle, we can now see the challenge involved in helping these users tranform their motive into action on a mobile site or app. A recent Google study provides some insightful statistics to that effect:
- 61% of users said that if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site, they’d quickly move on to another site
- 79% of people who don’t like what they find on one site will go back and search for another site
- 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if the website isn’t mobile-friendly
- 48% of users say they feel frustrated and annoyed when they get to a site that’s not mobile-friendly
- 36% said they felt like they’ve wasted their time by visiting those sites
- 52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company
- 48% said that if a site didn’t work well on their smartphones, it made them feel like the company didn’t care about their business
Depending on what type of business you are in, a mobile site can make or break you. If you own a local restaurant, there is a myriad of technologies to enhance your foot traffic that revolve around mobile and social. A mobile experience is augmented by many channels such as FourSquare, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, analytics, and SEO. It is essential to get the composition right because, if you don’t, you could lose 50% or more of your mobile customers. You may have the best Crème brûlée on the planet, but no one will know if your site has a mobile experience that sucks.
Assuming a small business is able to combine these channels and start attracting the attention of their mobile users, how do you then give them the right experience?
- Find the top 5 things your mobile customers are interested in
- Create a User Interface that can present these 5 things in a 320×480 screen
- Research Responsive Design if you have tons of content that needs to be displayed
- Refine your design to support your top 5 above all else
- Take advantage of the mobile device
- Use location-based services to aid your customer to your door
- Give customers a walk-in special if you need to
- Encourage social interaction
- Give your users a way to quickly promote your business for you
- Create an instant feedback loop to stem negative reviews and improve service
- Create community and loyalty with customers
- Use Rich Snippets (Especially if you are a physical location looking for foot traffic)
Rich snippets have become the glue that binds website data and social data. This is where the magic of a mobile site comes together. Users searching from their phones with location services will find businesses that are near them and quickly compare their options. If your site is enabled with Rich Snippets, your results may have images, videos, business hours, and reviews for your business in your results. With all of this information, there is a much higher chance of someone taking notice of your site. Ranking in Search Engines becomes much easier when location is applied to the context because there are only so many restaurants within a 2 mile radius of where you currently reside. Creating a usable mobile site, combining it with various social streams, and Rich Snippets allows businesses to not only create a compelling mobile experience, but to get the right users to their site and hopefully inside the doors of their business.
Social has become a big deal for businesses because it allows them to take a single customer experience (positive or negative) and amplify it by the number of followers/friends a customer has. This can greatly affect a business depending on how that business reacts to these experiences. If a business is able to react to a negative review or tweet immediately, they can save a customer and create good will for their business. This immediate and direct feedback loop is a way to hone and create a community with customers to aid them in establishing loyalty with your business.
Social, local, SEO, and mobile Web technologies all seem to have benefits for the small business user, but what about a mobile application? First, we should remove an ambiguity that exists for many people. What is a mobile app? The general understanding is that a mobile app is an application installed on a user’s device, generally downloaded from an app store like Google Play or Apple’s App Store. With that said, how does a mobile application fit into a small business? The simple answer is, it doesn’t. So, why would a small business want a mobile app? Here are a few possible reasons:
- Find new customers in the app stores
- Provide a user experience that is far superior to a website for users who interact with you daily
- Offer a service you cannot provide over your mobile website
Why wouldn’t a small business want a mobile app? There may be a few detriments for some, including:
- Simple apps that provide about as much as a mobile site can cost around $5,000 and brand-name apps could range from $50-150K
- Use cases don’t support a custom user experience that their customers will value; if they can do it on a mobile website, they will
- Not all of your customers can use your application. There are multiple app stores to publish to, where as a mobile website can support all of the different users at once with a single codebase
For a small business to invest in its own custom mobile application and have it provide adequate value, it would require a development team or a massive set of costs to have someone else develop. If the app is the business, this is a very different story. But, for a brick-and-mortar small business, apps don’t make sense. Curating your social presence is much more valuable. The apps already exist and having a solid presence in those applications is much more valuable. Investing in some Four Square, Yelp, or Groupon discounts is money much better spent. Having a mobile website augments everything social and all of your customers. A mobile application will only reach a portion of those users who have devices capable of running the app stores you have published to.
Providing a mobile, social, and local presence can be a complex problem for small businesses. The sure fire way for any small business to benefit, especially brick and mortars, is with a strong mobile site presence that is optimized with SEO-rich snippets and has a curated social presence. When a small business is able to establish a good composition of mobile, social, and local, they gain a powerful tool to help provide their customers with services which they expect.