What three things do you always take with you when you leave your house? Almost universally, the answer is your keys, your wallet and your phone. For decades, urban dwellers left home with just their keys and their wallets. At some point, cell phones became so important that they couldn’t leave home without them, either.
A few years ago, high-tech guru George Forrester said, “If you look at the history of technology, there is a threshold where one day, you had to have something. You had to have a fax machine. Remember that day? It was 1981 or something. You had to have a fax machine on that day. The day before, you didn’t need it.” (download Forrester’s PDF for more details).
When did you decide that you absolutely had to have a cell phone? I grudgingly got mine when a big client insisted that I be available by phone while I was on the road. That was about 1998. Within weeks, I was hooked. I never left home without it.
The rate at which new technologies are being adopted by our society as a whole is phenomenal. It took 15 years for radio to be adopted by 80 percent of American homes. It took 10 years for television to reach the same penetration. Telephones didn’t reach 80 percent penetration until the early 1960s — almost 50 years from the time that they were introduced. Cell phones, which became commonplace about 15 years ago, are now almost universal but are being replaced by smartphones. Just three years ago, smartphone penetration stood at 21 percent in the U.S. In 2011, it exceeded 50 percent.
It’s predicted that within two years, smartphones will reach 90 percent market penetration in the U.S. Clearly, Americans have decided it’s time to get smartphones.
Consumers with smartphones have affected the economy at almost every level. Why? Because when folks are out shopping, looking for a place to eat or looking for something to do (like shop for antiques), they turn to their smartphones to find out who’s around that can meet their needs. It might be your business; it might not.
Consider this: Right now, one half of local searches are done on a mobile device (smartphone). Half of all customers looking for an antiques shop are doing so on their phones. Do you think this number is likely to go up, or down? If your website isn’t mobile compatible, then those prospects can’t find you. As far as new customers are concerned, you don’t exist. You are losing half of your potential customers to your competitor (provided he has a mobile-ready website). How long can you continue to lose half of your prospects before you are out of business altogether?
A friend recently related this story: He and his wife were on the interstate at dinnertime, and they wanted Chinese food. They typed “Chinese food (city)” into their Android phone, and the search results indicated that the closest Chinese restaurant was about 20 miles off their driving route. They settled for fast food, because there was a hamburger place at their exit. When they had eaten and continued their journey, they discovered that there was a Chinese restaurant at the very next highway exit. It was a missed meal for them and a missed customer for the Chinese restaurant. The restaurant didn’t show up in search results because the restaurant wasn’t indexed in Google’s mobile website index.
There’s no longer any question that the web is going mobile. Big companies already know this. They did the research and have invested their money where they know they will get a return.
In 2009 alone, consumers purchased $1.6 billion worth of products through their mobile phones. That’s right, $1.6 billion. That’s a lot, and that’s reason enough that three out of four companies are expected to invest in mobile marketing this year.
Technology has moved on, and your business must move on with it. You can’t stand still. It’s time once again to revamp your web presence to adapt to the mobile Internet. It’s a shame, really. You probably spent a lot of money getting your existing website up and running and looking good. You spent even more money keeping the content current.
But imagine cramming that big web page down into the size of your smartphone. That’s a 3-1/2-inch screen. Your laptop is at least four times bigger. How much scrolling would you have to do (up, down, right and left) to read the information on a standard web page? Quite a bit. If you arrived at a website where you were forced to scroll at the end of every line, how long would you stay on that page? Not very long, I suspect.
Have you looked at your site on your mobile phone? Maybe you should. Of course, since there are so many makes and models of phones, it’s impossible to see what your site looks like on all of them unless you use a mobile phone emulator. There are a variety of emulators online that can mimic how your site looks on various mobile devices.
Have a look at your site on various phones; you’ll be surprised at what you find.
Now is the time for your business to go mobile, and here are several compelling reasons:
The barriers to entry are low; the desirable dot-mobi URLs for local businesses are still available in most business categories.
Mobile marketing is affordable. The cost to have your website optimized for mobile is considerably less than the cost of building your site the first time around.
You have advertising options you didn’t have with your “regular” website. Sending opt-in advertising text messages to your customers is cheaper than any other form of direct advertising, except for email.
It’s easy to track your advertising results. You’ll know how many customers looked at your offer and exactly when they looked at it. Can you say that about newspaper, yellow pages or radio advertising?
I know what you’re thinking: It seems like there’s always some “big new thing” available. And people say that if you don’t get the “big new thing,” then you’re in danger of losing customers and going out of business. You’ve probably heard it all before. And I have to admit that sometimes, you don’t always need the latest gadget.
But I’m not talking about getting the latest gadget; I’m talking about a sea change or paradigm shift in the way that people communicate and do business. This is real. This is happening now.
Sixty years ago, your decision would have been whether to keep using the telegraph to do business or to upgrade to one of those newfangled telephones. Now, you have to decide whether you’re going to go mobile or not. It’s the same decision; only the technology has changed.
And if you don’t believe it’s that serious, just ask the Western Union Telegraph Co. They’ll be happy to explain it to you.
Wayne Jordan is a Virginia licensed auctioneer, certified personal property appraiser, and accredited business broker. He specializes in the valuation and liquidation of estate and business assets. His column Behind the Gavel appears regularly in Antique Trader. Learn more at www.waynejordanauctions.com, 276-730-5197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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