By Ben T. Smith IV and Seema Sud
As more people turn to mobile, they are increasingly browsing products and looking up local businesses on these devices. According to a 2012 Wanderful Media survey conducted by Dimensional Research, laptop computers, at 77 percent, are at the top of the list of devices participants use to browse, check reviews, find a store, buy a product or do other online shopping activities. However, smartphones are a very close second at 75 percent. These are ahead of desktop computers and tablets, at 67 and 53 percent respectively.
How to integrate mobile
To capture the rapidly evolving mobile adoption, independent retailers must integrate mobile technology into their operations. There are smart and cost-effective ways to make this happen. At a basic level, independent retailers should make sure their websites are easily viewed on mobile devices, which include smartphones and tablets. All websites are viewable on a mobile browser. However, they need to be constructed for that platform if they are to work in an optimal way.
Large fonts, images and buttons, for example, work on the web, but will take up too much real estate on a small screen. This can go beyond resizing fonts, images and buttons to make them better suited for a smaller screen, which will often be a touch-screen. For example, your address and phone number should be at least 44 pixels high, so that it is easy for potential customers to tap it with a finger. In some cases, site content should be removed or shortened. If you are working with a consultant to create or re-launch a website, you can request they build either a mobile-specific site or one that will work across all screens.
In addition, businesses must make sure their phone numbers and physical addresses are correct and viewable on a mobile site. According to Google’s smartphone study, most mobile users who search for local business information call the business directly, and 49 percent search for its location on a map. Having an easy-to-find phone number and address can translate into increased foot traffic to your store. Free online resources are available to help companies test their sites for mobile readiness. These include W3C mobileOK Checker and MobiReady.
The average web user loves a post that is full of images, and this is especially true when it comes to shopping. High-quality images are essential to shopping, according to an infographic by MDG Advertising. Clear, detailed images are deemed to be very important by 67 percent of consumers, and carry even more weight than the product information, full description and customer ratings. Fully 60 percent of consumers are more inclined to select a business with images in its local listing. For information on determining what constitutes a clear, detailed image, a good resource is eBay’s picture quality requirement site, which provides details on minimum requirements for posting the best photos to represent your products.
What buyers are saying
According to a Kentico Digital survey, 85 percent of smartphone owners use their mobile devices to compare information about companies, products and pricing before making a purchase. When it comes to actually making a purchase, three-quarters of smartphone and tablet owners say the look and feel of a company’s mobile website plays into their purchase decision. Some 44 percent of tablet and smartphone users said they will never return to a site that is not mobile-optimized, and 52 percent said they would not return often. It is not hard to imagine how many sales opportunities you are losing, and will lose each day you do not have a mobile-optimized site.
A world constantly connected by mobile devices presents a challenge, but is an exciting opportunity for independent retailers. As mobile device usage increases, those companies without mobile integration will look increasingly old-fashioned, and in today’s competitive environment, you need every advantage you can get.