As more consumers look to their smartphones to engage with business locally, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need to lay out a concise mobile marketing strategy. In a Street Fight webinar Tuesday sponsored by YP, Asif Khan of the Location-based Marketing Association, and YP’s David Williams discussed the trends that make mobile a must for SMBs, and highlighted a handful of first steps that local businesses can take to keep up with their smartphone-wielding customers.
“As we talk to SMBs, mobile is both a top of area of interest and an acute point of of concern for business owners,” said Williams. “Business owners realize that consumers are moving to mobile, and they really want to have some clarity how best to reach them and beat the competition.”
From a consumer perspective, mobile is quickly becoming the channel of choice for finding local businesses. According to Williams, mobile’s share of YP’s overall search volume has increased from 2% in 2010 to over 40% today. According to BIA/Kelsey, mobile is set to eclipse desktop in terms of overall local search volume by 2015.
But it’s not just that consumers are using mobile to engage with local businesses: they’re doing so much later in the purchase cycle. “Someone who is searching on mobile is much more likely to buy,” said Williams. “The value of a lead generated for mobile is higher than someone who is in the early stages of researching a business on their desktop.” In fact, a forthcoming survey from the LBMA finds that 63% of consumers who search locally buy within the hour.
The key for small businesses, said Khan and Williams, is to make sure that when these high-value mobile customers engage with their businesses — whether through a mobile website, on a directory, or on social media — the experience is as seamless as it would be in their store. Here are five things they think SMBs should do today:
1) Show up: The mobile consumer engages with local businesses through a number of of channels, everything from Yelp and Google to social media sites. Whether or not an SMB considers itself mobile-savvy, it just has to be present, says Williams. “ If someone knows your business, and needs to find your name, address, phone number, URL, or open hours; those things have to be readily available, regardless of the property they start the search with.”
2) Accuracy is paramount: A customer’s experience with a business often begins on a mobile device and ends in-store. Inaccurate business information like an incorrect address or operating hours can lead to a bad experience before that customer ever walks into the store. Businesses can use a number of synchronization services to help manage their listings, and keep critical information up-to-date.
3) Listings first, mobile sites second: Fix listings first, then think about creating a mobile-optimized site, says Williams. Sites like Yelp and Facebook invest hundreds of millions of dollars on making the mobile experience seamless, so unless a business needs a specialty feature like scheduling, a mobile site need not be the first step.
4) Optimize the other channels, too: Mobile is personal, and it presents business with a great opportunity to keep in touch with existing customers in real-time. With over half of all emails read on mobile devices, businesses need to make sure that their emails are optimized for a mobile display.
5) Think about your target audience: Go where the customers are, says Khan. Certain verticals like car repair and restaurants generate more volume on mobile than physicians and financial services.
Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.