By Jon Zimmerman of Front Desk
Today’s mobile-centric culture has led to extremely high expectations for customer service among consumers, who now want all of their questions and requests answered at a moment’s notice. Mobile devices are frequently the first choice for consumers when seeking answers, making it imperative that businesses make it possible for customers to reach them and access their information anytime, from anywhere. Ultimately, a mobile strategy has become nearly as important as the quality of products or services a business offers.
(Photo courtesy of Jon Zimmerman)
Large companies are trending toward optimized mobile strategies and view them as a necessary part of business to stay competitive. But what about small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that may not have the same reach or resources to address mobile demand head on? According to SMB Group, 60 percent of SMBs today consider mobile solutions essential, while SCORE found 93 percent of small business websites lack mobile compatibility. Just as the best marketing campaign in the world is rendered ineffective if it doesn’t reach its target audience, failure to cater to customer expectations for service leads to a loss of mindshare and retention. There are a number of reasons why small businesses should solidify a mobile strategy in 2016, but two in particular underscore the importance of implementing fully integrated client-facing mobile capabilities for success in the coming year.
Millennial Consumers Are Clamoring For Mobile Interactions
As mentioned above, consumers want and need to be able to interact with businesses via mobile. This is especially true among the 80 million millennials nationwide that represent an estimated $200 billion in annual buying power (U.S. chamber of Commerce). This generation is poised to become the top target for businesses over the next decade, and they clearly prefer mobile communications. If a prospect or current customer from this audience is unable to access information or interact with a small business via mobile, the opportunity to secure their patronage or repeat business decreases dramatically. This is important: BIA Kelsey reported over half of all revenue for SMBs comes from an existing customer-base, and successful customer retention can make or break a business. By serving mobile-centric customers on their terms, SMBs can drive critical repeat business to maintain and grow revenues.
Your Business’s Efficiency & Profitability Depend On It
Mobile provides you with the ability to manage a business on the go, which is revolutionary for the SMB community that needs to contact clients, organize schedules, and coordinate other key business activities after hours, on-the-go, or away from their computer. According to Endurance International Group, the average SMB spends at least 16 hours a week on administrative tasks such as invoicing/collecting payments, organizing contact info, and interacting with clients. All this adds up and takes time and money away from other critical business activities that SMBs with limited manpower already struggle to complete. By utilizing a mobile platform that enables customer interaction and automation of administrative tasks, SMBs can streamline time-intensive business management activities and free up time.
The Mobile App Versus The Mobile Website
When deciding where to begin most SMBs start with an app or mobile optimized website. Knowing how to take the plunge into a mobile business strategy, and whether to approach it through an app or website, begins with a few considerations.
Mobile apps allow users to take advantage of familiar functionality and user-friendly interface capabilities like swipe, text, and location services. They are a controlled, safe environment, and can offer great engagement if not abandoned. Exact Target reported the average user spends 20 percent of his/her day on a mobile device, and apps are typically a top thing accessed on these devices.
Despite these benefits, potential risks exist should be considered. Mobile apps often require significant investments, and developing versions for different operating systems (i.e. Android and iOS) is a best practice. Additionally, apps require upkeep, installation, and software updates, and tracking marketing and SEO are more difficult with this platform. Apps that don’t add significant value to the user are often deleted after only a few uses.
Conversely, mobile websites are low cost to develop and require no installation. They are easy to update and deploy, take little time and resources to create, and are great for improving an organization’s online marketing and SEO efforts (especially with Google’s recent emphasis on the need for mobile-friendly sites). Mobile sites can fall short by offering limited direct engagement opportunities with customers, and the need to account for multiple devices and different compatibility form factors.
Demand for mobile interactions with businesses is expected to increase for the foreseeable future. Regardless of the approach, every small business needs to seriously consider embracing mobile infrastructure to operate more efficiently and serve today’s mobile-first consumers demanding quick, 24/7 service. Doing so will eliminate time intensive administrative work (saving more time for other critical tasks), offer self-service opportunities for prospects and clients, and create more business opportunities with next-gen customers — ultimately driving more revenue and growth opportunities.
This article is written and provided by Jon Zimmerman. Jon is the CEO and a co-founder of Front Desk. Prior to Front Desk, Jon developed airline yield management systems for United and KLM, led teams to support marketing and pricing at Expedia and T-Mobile, and co-founded L1, a quantitative hedge fund.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.