How Merchants Can Create a Comprehensive Strategy for Mobile

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MobileBuilding a mobile-optimized website is certainly a starting point, but it’s far from the last step a local merchant needs to take when developing a comprehensive mobile strategy. Although small business owners tend to be more interested in mobile than outsiders give them credit for — 66% already use mobile devices or solutions, 44% advertise through social platforms, 34% have mobile-optimized websites, and 18% use mobile POS, according to a 2013 survey by Constant Contact — it’s the process of combining those solutions to create a comprehensive strategy that trips many merchants up.

Here are six tips for local merchants who are interested in putting together mobile strategies for their businesses.

1. Start with the basics. “First, get a mobile presence. We believe all businesses need a mobile optimized website. This is the core building block of mobile strategy execution. A mobile site should be quick to load and have all of the ‘action’ points easy to access. Click to call, bookings, make a reservation, and directions are all important aspects. Next, they need a great SEO strategy, which can be done on a very cost efficient basis. Search will be the No. 1 way that customers find businesses on mobile. Keep them coming back with offers, reminders, and mobile coupons. Text marketing is perfect for many businesses that want to offer an ongoing, non-obtrusive connection. Mobile loyalty is also really important. The mobile ‘punchcard’ is extremely convenient and gets customers engaged with your business.” (Annette Tonti, MoFuse)

2. Craft an overarching message. “The cornerstone of a good mobile strategy starts with the basics — what does the merchant want to tell potential customers or loyal patrons? More often than not, we’ve found that local merchants want to remind people that they are there and that there is something of interest happening. With the goal in mind of driving awareness — in relation to sales, specials, events, or even just the weather — a comprehensive mobile strategy keeps the message in mind always. When it comes to the technical building blocks, we see implementation as involving a simplified mobile website or landing page for consumers to visit, SEO, SEM, and PPC search campaigns when there is a clear searchable intent, social media and mobile advertising display campaigns, and a clear definition of the locations to target when building any type of search or display campaign. (Jeff Peden, DropIn)

3. Spend across multiple channels. “There is an incredibly rich set of tools available to local merchants, and it is not enough to use one or two of them. By building a comprehensive mobile strategy, a local merchant is able to effectively test different solutions and then adjust spend as tools and trends change. It’s important to spread precious dollars across many channels and identify what works. [A mobile strategy should include] cost per lead advertising, email marketing, location optimized search marketing, location based advertising, and mobile coupon distribution. Location, size, and reach change with merchant type, so it’s important to work with solutions that have dynamic geo-targeting capabilities.” (Geoff Grauer, Pontiflex)

4. Mobile apps are just a starting point. “Understand that just making a mobile app is insufficient. Customers that have never heard of you aren’t going to discover your local business through an app store — and mobile searchers who come across your business don’t want to have to download an app just to get directions or see your menu. [Creating a mobile app] is also expensive and time-consuming, and not an easy solution for SMBs.” (Ray Almeda, DudaMobile)

5. Consider email marketing a mobile endeavor. “Comprehensive mobile strategies can be difficult for any business, let alone a small one. Today’s mobile market is so fluid that tools you use today can become outdated tomorrow. Email marketing merged with a loyalty program [is important]. In order to participate in loyalty rewards, you make it a requirement to have an opt-in email address in which to deliver rewards. Email marketing for the small business is an absolute must since we all check our email on our smartphones. Devising a comprehensive strategy requires flexibility and creativity in order to determine what works.” (Dana Ward, Near9)

6. Adopt a new way of thinking. “Think of mobile strategy not as technology, but as a ‘practice’ or a way of thinking. Local businesses need to think about how they’re found by mobile searchers. Most important, they need to consider the mode of mobile viewers — they are ‘do-ers’ and have short attention spans. For customers, mobile gives you several terrific ways to keep in touch that are non-intrusive and effective. The pieces involved in comprehensive mobile strategy include acquisition and retention using mobile. We say ‘create, connect, and promote’ because these are the three most important things to do with customers using mobile.” (Annette Tonti, MoFuse)

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.