If you’re still using a mobile phone that flips open, this may be a tough column to read. But hang in there. It’ll be worth it to you and your business. And your embarrassed kids will be so proud. Mobile phones are changing how people buy, so you need to adjust how you market now to gain a huge business advantage.
When I talk about “mobile” I’m not talking about making or receiving calls and leaving voicemails. That’s so 1995. What I’m talking about is the “digital layer” that connects customers, merchants—everyone—all the time, everywhere. The result has been a sea change in customer behavior that is shaking up how, when and why people buy—whether it’s insurance, nutrition products, a car or a house.
Mobile in Action
You’ve probably seen this new purchasing mindset in action. Maybe you’ve done it yourself. Here is an example:
You want to eat Italian food but don’t know where. You visit Yelp or a similar mobile application and type in “Italian restaurant.” You instantly see descriptions for nearby Italian restaurants. You check customer reviews on your phone, download an e-coupon and get a walking map to get you there from the sidewalk where you’re standing. The process takes 30 seconds or less.
Notice what happened almost instantaneously:
1. You entered a simple request, such as “Italian food.”
2. The mobile app knew your location so it recommended places close by.
3. You searched for options based on factors most important to you at that moment—perhaps price, proximity, coupons and customer ratings.
4. You can invite friends to join you and reserve a table—all without speaking to a human!
Depending on the mobile app used, you can “check in” to get points for awards and free stuff.
If you can believe it, there is even a mobile app that alerts you when your favorite restaurant tips in your gender favor so you have a larger pool of prospects for meeting Mr. or Ms. Right. Seriously. When they have more female than male customers—or vice versa—you’re notified so you can head on over.
Making the Move
This transition to mobile can overwhelm the owners of small businesses if they’re not into smartphones yet. Where do you start if you’re self-employed or have less than $100 to invest? Easy. Here are three actions to take right away:
☛ Make your website mobile-friendly. This means people see a simple layout that fits on a smartphone’s small screen and can easily be read. Test your current site on different phones and see what you might need to fix. At the very least, make sure your phone number and email are “one click,” so people can instantly contact you from their phones. Make key actions stand out on the tiny screens.
☛ Make buying from you a game, so people compete to buy more stuff. You can do this through low-cost services such as FourSquare. These services reward people with badges and coupons for how much and how often they buy. Next thing you know customers are competing with each other to buy more… and more often. Brilliant!
☛ Offer customers the ability to stay in touch via text message. This is the No. 1 way Gen Y customers want to be engaged, but get their permission first. Once you have their permission, use text messages to confirm appointments, send a birthday wish or offer VIP access.
Why the Urgency?
Mobile is no longer the future of business—it’s an option that consumers want now. If you don’t get onboard with mobile, you’ll miss opportunities to let potential customers find you and you’ll miss opportunities to communicate and build loyalty with current customers. Consumers want to “be in the know” wherever they are and instantly refer 100 friends. Give them this power so they can help you grow your business!
Whatever mobile strategy you choose, please don’t do what my old-school dad does. He leaves me five-minute voicemail messages. In his Southern accent he always begins with, “Son, this is your dad calling with a verhhhbal text message.”