By Ryan Ayers
Have you noticed more customers lately asking if you accept Apple Pay or Android Pay? You’re not imagining it. Smartphones are becoming more integrated in our lives every day, and customers are beginning to expect that even small businesses keep up.
According to a 2016 Nielsen report, 72% of mobile shoppers research on their devices before buying—and 60% use store locator features to purchase those items. That’s huge for small business. These days, smartphone users check their devices about 150 times a day. That’s a huge amount of attention small business owners can tap into!
The Beginnings of the Mobile Revolution
While we had cellphones and were beginning to see the mobile revolution on the horizon, the iPhone really kicked the process into high gear. Sometimes, one person can make a huge impact on an entire industry (just look at what Florence Nightingale did for nursing—she dropped mortality rates from 42.7% to 2.2%!)—and when it comes to the mobile marketplace, that person is Steve Jobs. His iPhone was smarter and more versatile than anything on the market, and was the vision of the future for mobile communications.
Today, one billion iPhones later, there are more than 6.5 million apps on the market for different smartphone applications.
These days, every small business needs a website. Just having a website isn’t enough anymore for a competitive edge—now, that website needs to have a responsive design. This is a step above “mobile-friendly” in that the website shouldn’t just be a functional version of the same webpage as you’d see on a desktop.
Responsive websites scale to the devices they’re displayed on, making the experience of surfing the web much more pleasant for mobile users. If you’re on the fence about upgrading to a responsive design, consider this: 57% of users won’t recommend a business with a website that doesn’t adapt to mobile devices. How many customers could you be losing by missing out on that word of mouth?
Offering Mobile Payments
If you aren’t already offering mobile payment options, it’s probably time to start considering it. Mobile users love the convenience of using their phones—they don’t have to pull out a credit card or even carry one if they don’t feel like it.
As added bonuses, it can reduce expenses and allows you to integrate loyalty programs and send email receipts instead of printing them.
You’ll be able to collect valuable data on your customers, and you’ll improve your customer service by offering people a service they want. Though mass adoption of mobile payments hasn’t quite come to fruition yet, it’s on its way—shouldn’t your business get ready?
As a small business, you may never have considered creating a custom app—but that option is becoming more accessible and appealing all the time.
Some businesses use proprietary apps to enhance the customer experience by streamlining employee operations, while others use them as customer-facing tools to inspire engagement and loyalty. Developing a proprietary app is so inexpensive these days that it could be something to look into if you want to appeal to the growing mobile customer base.
The Next Phase of the Mobile Revolution
As a small business owner, it’s important to keep up with the trends if you want to gain a competitive edge. That’s why it’s important to start thinking about the future today. While mobile is primarily centered on the apps and functions themselves, the future of mobile may soon be focused on delivering customized service when and where they’re needed for the individual. Apps will be driven by context, and will be able to seamlessly meet users’ needs based on the situation.
Context-based mobile usage will likely include the use of “app streaming,” which will allow users to access an app without downloading the full app on their devices. That’s huge, since 25% of apps are only used once before someone stops using them. Since space limitations and overwhelm are barriers to downloading apps, this could be a great option for small businesses who want to launch their own app. Users would still be given the option to download a full version of the app, but would be able to use the functions of the app when it’s most needed. Could not requiring the commitment of downloading the full app lead to greater loyalty and engagement? Only time will tell.
Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis. You can find more from Ryan on Twitter at @TheBizTechGuru.