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Mobile in Business – Saviour or Death Knell?

contactmeThe explosion in Apple iphone and android smartphones has taken everyone by surprise. In line with worldwide trends, over half of NZ mobiles are smartphones, representing around 1.6 million users as of March 2013.

But local retailers here have shown minimal interest in capturing the mobile consumer. Mobile websites, search tools, coupons and apps that help buyers instantly connect with individual retailers is still rare.

NZ consumers are not so backward. Their fancy smartphones do what they can to seek out local businesses using Google and third party apps. But compared with offshore, business listings here are limited and of poor quality. It seems too few businesses have any budget or cohesive strategy around how they are viewed, or intend to gain new customers via online and mobile devices. Visitors arriving here from Asia, UK and US are often shocked too, comparing NZ infrastructure to a time when the iPhone 3 arrived, back in 2009.

As an example of how quickly our own and general consumer attitudes are changing, last weekend my wife and I visited a new shopping centre in Pukekohe with our 8 year old granddaughter. We called in at the new muffin break coffee shop for a lunchtime treat.

Newspapers, Magazines, Printed Maps & Directories. How Quaint…

jasonsThis busy coffee shop had an area set aside for local advertisers. Some printed directories from Jasons, maps, various promotional brochures and daily newspapers freely available. As one who spent 15 years working in the print sector and nostalgic over such things, I immediately grabbed the newspaper and maps, spreading it out on our small table.

But, why am I doing this my wife asked? It’s taking up loads of space and clearly annoying to her and others around us. Reading a newspaper or a map like this was plain silly. The mobile app on my own phone has all the maps, news or weather updates I need. Why would anyone pick up a printed newspaper, directory or map these days? It’s just for the old people. She was right.

To further prove the point, just looking at others in this busy cafe showed many checking their mobile phones for news, trademe or weather updates.  I see this phenomenon on our trains. Even if you go to the Doctor, where it was once common for people to read the piles of magazines whilst waiting. Now everyone is looking at their smartphones and tablets. Paper has become a novelty item, suitable only for use as posters, packaging and till receipts.

Consumers have gone mobile – Business hasn’t

manymobilesYes, in the consumers mind, digital always trumps traditional for convenience. Yet most running a business still don’t see it. I’m told that for every $100 small businesses here allocate towards traditional marketing, they’re lucky to spend half this on marketing themselves in the digital space. Most digital efforts are still limited to a static brochure website, facebook page and maybe some email marketing. Anything specific to mobile is rare  – This stance is totally out of sync with today’s consumer.

We now use a laptop in the home or office and small screen when we’re out and about. This is what people do in 2013. Consumers live in a digital and mobile world. They seek out information online and dislike having accompanying advertising pushed down their throats. Yet costly, ineffective newsprint, magazine and radio advertising is still popular here with business owners.

Danger signals – Your Business Reputation and Sales are at Risk

But there is a dark side to this rapid consumer migration to digital and mobile – Especially for those businesses that are content to sit tight and do nothing. Online review sites and mobile apps with their easy access effectively means the consumer is slowly taking over the sales and marketing for many small businesses, without them realising it. Yelp and others providing special directory apps encourage consumers to write reviews at the time of purchase when they are the happiest or most annoyed.

Businesses are effectively losing control of their online presence and reputation. It some cases it can work out well, but often become a disaster as we’ve learnt from monitoring markets offshore. Some just see declining sales and blame it on the economy, when it’s really due to a poor online review they weren’t even aware of.  The fix is often costly.

No thanks, just looking

salesassistMobile can be a threat when customers arrive in store. The ‘no thanks just looking’ is a common phrase used by those entering a shop and accosted by a salesperson. But these days, they’re not just looking at what you have, but could be checking your store products against those of your competitors on their mobile device. This is certainly the case in Europe and the US, quickly spreading downunder according to a recent study.  More and more the mobile is becoming the key information gathering device for shoppers. Those local retailers that ignore this trend do so that their peril.

A Good Business Gets Enthusiastic Salespeople for FREE

phone_2But Mobile can work well on so many levels if planned for and taking a proactive role instead of sitting back and ignoring it. Referral marketing tools and apps like Yelp are good, working well in the retail and hospitality sectors. Again this is not so much the business itself doing the marketing, but other consumers providing recommendations. It certainly helps businesses with a quality product or service rise to the top! In essence, your happiest customers become your best salespeople, sending you new customers at nil sales cost.

Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have also proven to be a good referral channels. Your own on-site reviews and testimonials can do the same. For example, people who buy stuff at sites like Amazon largely ignore what the supplier says about their product or service, with their expertly crafted sales pitch, and instead go immediately to the buyer reviews before purchasing. It’s not what you say, it’s what others say about you that matters.

Want more sales? Provide good service and help consumers turn up

creating-moments Planing and being proactive is important. But just being found helps too. Often it’s just a question of turning up to get the sale. In today’s terms it translates to being easily found in a search. No special sales skills or costly salespeople required. This is where search-optimised mobile sites, apps and good consumer reviews can work amazingly well for any small business, especially those in the retail, fashion, entertainment and food sectors.

And these can be quick sales too. Mobile consumers use Google and visit websites every day to seek out products or services. Unlike the readers of newspapers, magazines or listeners to commercial radio stations, these mobile consumers are more often in an active buying mode, usually out and about, looking to buy immediately. These buyers are also less likely to be the bargain hunters who visit trademe or those ‘daily deals’ websites that provide little profit.

The Package – Mobile Websites, Mobile Search, Mobile Apps.

This is the golden opportunity retailers and hospitality providers need to focus upon today. Devise a sales STRATEGY around mobile. Discover how a blended package around a mobile website, mobile search, mobile app and social media can help connect with new and existing clients. This explosive-growth channel promises to be the sales opportunity for innovative businesses over the coming 12-18 months. A mobile strategy that ensures a significant competitive edge. In this new market, it’s the early bird that surely gets the worm.

Contact me for details and a roadmap on how mobile can be used in your business..

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