Mobile Revolution Sweeps Up Small Business

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 12:00 am  

Google Inc.'s GoMo helps businesses quickly build and optimize their websites for mobile access. (Photo by Google)

There's a huge upheaval going on in cyberspace that, sooner or later, will affect nearly every business owner in the nation. And you can see it happening on your smartphone.

It's called the mobile revolution. It's been going on ever since phones with browsers entered the market. As online shoppers increasingly use smartphones, businesses develop apps and mobile-specific websites. Firms like Integrated Mobile Marketing LLC of North Charleston, S.C., have popped up, offering to design mobile sites for a fee.

Big-box stores with big-box budgets can afford big mobile overhauls, but it's a different story for locally owned businesses.

DeWayne Hill of Little Rock helped start a sales and marketing office for I.M. Marketing last year. Web developers like 3WireDesigns of Little Rock, The Richland Group LLC of Fort Smith and Arkansas Business Publishing Group's own Flex360 design mobile sites, but I.M. Marketing focuses entirely on mobile sites for small- and medium-sized business.

At the office's outset, Hill and coworker Aaron Young took a drive around the Little Rock area, using their smartphones to visit the websites of all the local businesses they passed.

"Forty-six percent of searches are done using a smartphone," Young said. "Our question was: Could a small business ignore that 46 percent of its business?"

Apparently, they were.

"We went out to every type of business we possibly could," Young said. "We had conversations with those owners. We went from tow trucks to termites, from pet stores to plastic surgeons."

"The only businesses with mobile sites we found were the Wal-Marts, the car dealerships, the big-box stores, the big restaurants," Hill said. "No local-centric businesses."


High Demand

Since last year, I.M. Marketing has developed mobile sites for around 50 small and medium-sized Little Rock businesses.

Young said the top businesses demanding mobile sites are restaurants, car dealerships, pet stores, clothing shops, mechanics, doctors, dentists and realtors. Churches, notably, also make the list.

Hill said reluctance to implement mobile redirection is usually because of lack of resources - not all web developers can design for mobile devices - or fear of costs. Full websites can cost thousands of dollars, so I.M. Marketing relies on a low-cost, quick-turnaround model.

The company thrives on the idea that businesses without mobile sites are losing customers. Google backs that idea: It reported that 61 percent of smartphone shoppers will move to a different site if they don't see what they're looking for immediately, and 81 percent prefer mobile sites to dedicated apps for price research.

Google has made it crystal-clear that it favors mobile-optimized sites. Last year, it limited ad serving on certain mobile devices if they pointed to sites with heavy Flash usage. Flash isn't compatible with Apple's mobile devices.

"This was an initial step taken to improve the experience for mobile users," the article stated.

To urge users towards optimization, it launched "GoMo," a free mobile site builder, last year.

Most importantly, Google says that by 2013, more people will be using their phones than their computers to browse. That's the revolution.



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