Mobile Commerce Trends & Why Small Businesses Should Care

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Seven and a half years ago, Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone. Since then, smartphone adoption has grown exponentially and doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, Smart Business Trends reports that smartphone subscriptions worldwide will reach 5.6 billion by 2019. As of January 2014, the PewResearch Internet Project reported that 90% of American adults own a cell phone and 58% have a smartphone.

These mobile phone owners use their phones for many of their day-to-day tasks as well, including email, social media, and—yes—shopping (at the exclusion of other devices such as desktop computers). According to Business Insider, on Black Friday 2013, “sales on mobile devices accounted for more than 20% of U.S. e-commerce spending. Traffic from mobile was even bigger, accounting for almost 40% of total online shopping visits that day.”

Need more evidence that mobile is where it’s at? Smartphone owners are redeeming coupons received on their phones (and doing so faster than expected). More email is read on mobile devices than on desktops. And mobile payments are being heralded as THE way of the future (a future that’s already started for many). According to Merchant Warehouse, “Mobile-based transactions in the U.S. have grown 118% per year on average for the last five years.”

So what do all these mobile commerce trends mean for the small business owner? Here’s what you should keep in mind.
1. Make sure your website is optimized for mobile. Since more and more people are doing their browsing and shopping via their mobile devices, it’s critical that your website renders well across ALL devices. You can accomplish this in a couple of ways: by creating a separate mobile website (using a service like DudaMobile) or redeveloping your current site using responsive design. A site that’s “responsive” will automatically adjust to fit whatever device someone is viewing the site on. Read this in depth article we wrote last fall on what small business owners need to know about responsive web design.

2. Make sure your email communications look good on mobile devices as well. This is especially true for email newsletters. Ideally, you should use a newsletter template that’s optimized for mobile (these will typically have one column, no sidebar). If you use an email vendor like MailChimp, check out their mobile-friendly templates and make the switch.

3. Seriously consider accepting mobile payments. One of the reasons people are so loyal to their smartphones is because it makes their lives easier: they can do so many things using their device. Making mobile payments is one of these things. Here’s the good news. It doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive or a challenge for you to manage mobile payments, even if you’re a small business of one. Read this case study we wrote last year about real business owners who’ve transitioned to credit cards (many use mobile technology like Square).

4. “Digitize” your business in other ways. Offering online scheduling is a great feature for clients—and for you. Consider the phone and email tag you currently play with prospects and customers alike. If you have a business where appointments are necessary (such as hair salons), providing a way for people to make an appointment right from their phone makes life easier for everyone. Bonus: you can set up most scheduling software to send text or email reminders, which, again, frees up you and your staff.

5. Begin weaving mobile programs and offers into your marketing plan. This will take some experimentation, but you won’t know until you try, right? Things to consider include QR codes, digital coupons, text promotions/alerts, apps, and mobile advertising.

6. Learn, learn, learn. Look how much has changed in the mobile landscape since Steve Jobs stood on that stage 7.5 years ago. Imagine what will happen in the next seven years. Imagine what will happen in the next seven months! It can seem overwhelming at times, but it’s important to keep up with the latest changes and trends. Do this by…

  • Reading. Follow publications that have their fingers on the mobile “pulse.” Good ones to follow include Mobile Marketer, Mobile Marketing Smart Brief, and Mobile Marketing Watch.
  • Networking and seeing how other small business owners are handling mobile commerce trends. This could be in formal networking groups, like BNI or the Chamber, or you could create an informal group of colleagues you meet with regularly to discuss business-related issues.
  • Seeing what your competition is doing. It’s always good to monitor the competition, especially when it comes to mobile. If your competitors are behind the curve, this could be a great way to stand out and differentiate yourself.
  • Listening. Not just to customers, but listen to how the people in your life—family, friends, and employees—are using their mobile devices. Pay attention to how you use it. Watch how big-name brands ride the mobile wave as well.

How are you handling integrating mobile in your day-to-day activities for your business? We want to hear about your experiences. Share in the comments.

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