Mobile Readiness Now Essential for Local Business Success

04/06/2015 04:47 pm ET | Updated Jun 05, 2015

Not all screens are created equally - and that means local businesses could be missing out on huge selling opportunities if their marketing efforts aren't optimized for mobile. Today, more than 87 percent of consumers use smartphones or tablets for shopping activities and some 68 percent conduct pre-purchase research on their smartphones. Consumers are also spending a lot of time on mobile devices -- in fact an average of 3.3 hours a day, with 86 percent of that time spent in applications. The challenge? The web sites, ads and social content businesses have developed for desktop devices won't cut it in the mobile world.

Local businesses can and should add mobile to their marketing mix in order to capture consumers' interest at all stages in the purchasing process. And, they should consider new mobile marketing technologies, such as hyper-local ad targeting, which give them the tools needed to reach consumers in highly-focused ways that weren't previously possible. So, how can local businesses make their marketing efforts mobile? Here are a few important tips:

Making Your Website Mobile Ready
The foundation of a solid online marketing campaign is a sleek and modern website, but it's not enough to have a site that looks great only on a desktop computer. Today, it's also important to have a mobile-responsive site, one that automatically adjusts to the smaller screen sizes common to smartphones and tablets, while still retaining full functionality. Consumers expect that if they find a link and click on it, the page will load and perform flawlessly, no matter the device they're using.

In fact, 71 percent of mobile web users expect websites to load to their mobile devices as quickly as, or faster than they load to the computer they use at home. So, it's essential that a business' website, landing pages, social content, etc. are all mobile responsive to ensure consumers have a great experience across devices. After all, a users' experience can have a direct impact on the bottom line: research shows that smartphone shoppers that go to mobile-optimized sites have conversion rates that are 160 percent higher than the rate for non-optimized sites.

It's important to note that a user's experience and conversion rates aren't the only factors affected when a site isn't mobile responsive. Increasingly businesses are missing out on being included in search results - and sales -- if they aren't mobile ready. With Google's recently announced mobile friendly ranking algorithm, sites that aren't mobile-friendly either won't show up in results or will fall to the bottom of the search rankings. That's significant because businesses that don't show up in mobile search results are missing out on opportunities: a comScore report found that nearly 80 percent of local searches on mobile devices turned into purchases, with about 76 percent of those purchases happening on the same day the user performed their local search.

Get Closer to Customers with Mobile In-App Advertising
All businesses can gain huge benefits from mobile advertising, and there are a number of approaches that can be employed, including browser search ads and browser display ads - just to name a few. When it comes to local businesses, in-app, mobile advertisements are perhaps the technique best suited to the task.

That's because mobile in-app ads can take advantage of hyper-local targeting techniques, meaning they effectively and efficiently "strike where and when the iron is hot." These advertisements are typically served dynamically within applications -- where consumers spend the vast majority of their time when on mobile devices. Using geo-fencing technology, in-app mobile ads can target consumers within a specific radius, dramatically increasing the opportunity for exposure to likely local buyers, and decreasing wasted ad dollars.

Mobile in-app ads also allow companies to offer consumers one-click access to call a business, visit its website, view its location on a map, or even save or send a coupon to a friend - capabilities that consumers use regularly. According to research from Google, more than 60 percent of consumers have used the location information found in mobile ads; 61 percent used a store's address and phone number in ads; and 68 percent used the "get directions" or "call" buttons in ads found on smartphones.

Local businesses can leverage in-app mobile ads to take advantage of a consumer's proximity to their location and serve up special offers that are customized to take advantage of holidays, competitor's sales, weather or any other number of events.

Stay Social with Consumers on the Go
With consumers spending about 23 percent of their time using social media apps, local businesses should be certain that they have a robust social presence and that their content is tailored to mobile devices' quick-read formats. Being mobile-responsive is also increasingly important for social because a growing number of consumers use mobile versions of their social sites either exclusively or more often than they use the desktop versions.

When consumers visit social sites, it's not simply to socialize; many are also using the mediums to learn about products. A new study from G/O Digital found that consumers use Facebook for product research more than any other social media outlet. The study found that 80 percent of respondents check reviews online at least once a week before they step into a physical store. In addition to being mobile-friendly for Facebook, businesses should also optimize their profiles for the other most popular social sites -- Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram. These steps will help increase mobile engagement with prospects and customers.

An optimized and accurate presence on local listing sites is also integral to an efficient and effective mobile web presence. With that in mind, businesses should be certain their local listings are claimed, accurate, and updated, and that any links from those listings go to mobile-responsive landing pages. This is also important because many sites feed data to location-based apps, for example, Google+ Local information also shows up in the Google Maps app.

Local businesses can further develop an effective mobile strategy for social media by using both paid and organic tactics to post engaging and relevant content that target consumers, and share timely and useful offers and promotions that appeal to consumers on the go. It's important to make sure that any content or offers shared on social sites link back to mobile responsive landing pages.

Mobile Will Only Grow
Research shows that mobile is clearly the place for businesses to place their bets: total U.S. retail digital commerce grew 14 percent in 2014, with desktop e-commerce increasing just 13 percent while mobile commerce jumped 28 percent. As mobile technology and marketing solutions continue to improve, these numbers have nowhere to go but up. Local businesses that take the steps now to ensure that all their marketing tools are mobile ready will have a clear competitive advantage.