Earlier this week, we talked about the importance of making sure your business is mobile ready. In today’s article, we’re talking to real-life business owners who have embraced the mobile revolution. Learn more about some of the steps they’ve taken to mobilize their organizations and use these ideas for your own company.
Getting Your Business Mobile Ready – Think About Your Website
Mike Schwarz is the owner of three online businesses: RibbedTee.com (US-made men’s undershirts/tees), HANDeBand.com (mobile grip/drop prevention accessory), and getDeoGo.com (underarm stain remover).
Regarding the mobile revolution, Schwarz says it’s all about offering unique and friendly shopping experiences to his mobile shoppers, something that is especially important to him since nearly 20% of his sales come from mobile/handheld devices. As a result, all of his sites are mobile friendly, either by way of a mobile site or through responsive design.
What’s responsive design? Simply put, a site that’s built with a responsive design means that the site will be able to detect what type of device someone is using to view it. As a result, the site will automatically adjust/reformat itself based on the device the visitor is using. This allows for an optimal viewing experience.
Flynn Zaiger, CEO of digital marketing agency Online Optimism, agrees that responsive design is incredibly important. Zaiger says, “Get a responsive design, and implement it as soon as possible. While mobile specific themes were popular about a year or two ago, intelligent designers have realized that it is impossible to create specific themes which work with every size phone and screen out there today. ”
There are other options besides implementing responsive design: you can create a separate website specifically for mobile users. Curtis Chambers, owner of The Chambers General Store, went this route.
Chambers says, “Customers who access my site on a mobile device are automatically directed to the mobile site. All of the same products and features of the full site are available in addition to the mobile options. There is even an option to switch to the full site; users on smartphones and tablets love this option. My company is pure ecommerce, no brick and mortar locations.”
Even if you don’t have an ecommerce site or make many sales online, it’s still important to have a website that’s mobile ready. Schwarz notes, “While your business might not be one where consumers need to conduct a purchase on your website, they are looking for solutions from their mobile devices on a regular basis. If your website doesn’t provide a good mobile viewing/shopping experience, a visitor will not stay on your website for more than a few seconds.”
But Think Well Beyond Your Website, Too
Schwarz’s approach has been a holistic one: he doesn’t stop at his websites. Schwarz says, “Our mobile devices are also equipped with credit card swipe readers and point of sale software from Groupon’s Breadcrumb service so we can take payments easily and quickly at tradeshows and events.”
Offering mobile payment options is a popular strategy that more and more small businesses are embracing. From taking payments on the go at trade shows, like Schwarz mentions above, to the acupuncturist down the street processing payments through her iPhone, offering this sort of flexibility to customers is becoming more and more important.
Artist and business owner Melody Shirazi absolutely agrees. She owns Isobell, which sells handmade jewelry that she makes using salvaged materials and vintage findings.
To make life easier for her customers, she accepts mobile payments. “The mobile revolution is very important. I accept mobile payment with Square, a local start up. I use the app on my iPhone, and I use the register app on my iPad.”
But “mobilizing” your business goes even deeper than your website and accepting mobile payments. How you work internally should be mobile and nimble as well. Schwarz shares his experience: “On the operational side, we have embraced mobile-friendly support technologies, such as FreshDesk, which allows us to respond to sales and support inquiries from any mobile device. We also use technologies, such as Dropbox, which provides us access to all our important files, wherever we may be. These few examples of mobile-ready services allow us to be very operationally efficient without needing to over-staff.”
Chris Grande, who owns a Massachusetts-based financial planning firm called Walnut Hill Advisors, says that while people traditionally want to see an office when dealing with their money, he finds his younger clients, and even some of the older ones, appreciate how he and his firm have embraced technology—both internally and externally.
Grande’s website, of course, is mobile ready, but he also knows true mobilization goes deeper than that. His firm uses web-based CRM (customer relationship management) software, which helps with scheduling appointments and housing client contact information. He and his staff use iPads for showing and signing routine forms using the SignMyPad app. Grande continues, “Account access is easy via TD’s VEO platform on laptop, iPad or desktop. We use Dropbox for sharing non-critical documents and Ziptr for sharing private documents with clients. [And we] use Evernote for ideas, brainstorming, and business planning. I can access my strategic planning from anywhere.”
In fact, Grande is truly “mobile” himself. He says, “I work in both Medford, Mass., and Marin County, California. My whole business goes with me. While my assistant stays in Medford, I and others in my firm can be anywhere.”
Getting Ready to “Mobilize” Your Business? Some Tips from the Front Lines.
To start, Flynn Zaiger recommends testing out your business website on a smartphone yourself. “If you have trouble navigating it, that means everyone is having trouble navigating it. Fix that as your first priority.”
Shirazi says, “I would recommend upgrading your phone to a smartphone that accepts credit cards. Upgrading from a laptop to a tablet is also realistic.”
For business owners who are just beginning to think about making this shift, Schwarz offers a word of caution. “Be wary of consultants that want to charge you large monthly fees or high fees ($1,000+) to implement mobile support for your website. With current technologies, you can have a beautiful website that is mobile-aware for hundreds, not thousands of dollars.”
He also offers these suggestions: “If you’re going to be selling online, Internet Retailer is a great source to find vendors that offer a wide-variety of products and services to online retailers. Whenever researching tools that will help your business run, be sure to find out if you can access that tool from a mobile device—or more specifically—make sure it has a mobile-friendly interface or mobile app. If it does not, think twice before subscribing or purchasing it.”
Ready! Set! Go Mobile!
The figures don’t lie: In June, the Pew Internet & American Life Project noted that “56% of American adults are now smartphone owners.” That number is expected to grow, with some even suggesting “80 percent smartphone penetration in the US by the end of 2014.”
Getting your business mobile ready is no longer an item you can keeping pushing to the bottom of your to-do list. The time is NOW!
Have you taken the leap? What strategies and tips can you offer in addition to the suggestions outlined above? Share in the comments!