Today’s guest is post is written by Eric Koester.
But, I’d expand social commerce to be a bit more broad. You see, I agree mobile commerce is the next big thing – and a critical opportunity businesses can’t ignore.
The question is: How can a small business owner actually cut through all the noise and reach today’s “always on, always connected” customer?
At Zaarly, we’ve interviewed hundreds of small business owners. Based on their feedback, coupled with our own discoveries, we’ve found there are six ways business owners can “go mobile” without going broke.
1. “Own” your online business profile and location.
A consumer searching for a jewelry store on his/her smartphone will see the nearest jewelry stores relative to the GPS-enabled device in their hand. Meaning, you need to register your physical location with all the key sites.
How to make sure you’re “findable?” It’s somewhat time consuming, but pretty simple. Visit sites such as Yelp, Bing, Yahoo Local, Google Places, Foursquare, and Facebook, and follow the instructions to “claim” your business and it’s location.
2. Mobile optimize yoursite.com.
Mobile searches have grown 400 percent since 2010, according to Google. Once they find you on their phone, consumers visit (59 percent) or call (61 percent).
What does this mean for your business? Your site has to be optimized for mobile viewing. Be sure you can be found (turns out that Google and other search engines may not show non-mobile optimized sites in mobile search results). If your website was created more than a few years ago, has plugins such as Flash, or just hasn’t been updated (let’s hope you don’t have the flashing Geocities style site!), you are at risk.
Search for your site on a variety of mobile phones and operating systems to see how the site shows up (or if it even does show up).
There are many new and reasonably priced tools to help make your site mobile-optimized, but before you plunk down any money, check out Google’s “GoMo” site, which features a handy testing tool, as well as other resources to help businesses improve their websites.
3. Accept coupons right from the phone.
Have you ever been in line at a store and seen a store clerk refuse to honor a coupon the consumer has opened from an email or website right on their mobile phone? If your employees claim “No, you need to print that before I can accept it,” that is a is a surefire way to annoy customers.
Couponing is an incredibly popular way for small businesses to get new visitors, but aren’t we past the days of “clipping coupons?” Today’s tech-savvy consumers would simply prefer to pull up an email or webpage and show the coupon to get the discount. Customers will appreciate you’re mobile-friendly, and you’ll avoid awkward confrontations. (Please, don’t be that business.)
Cost: Free (other than the cost of your coupons)
4. Do a “review” check-up.
Sites from Yelp, Angie’s List, Open Table, Google, and dozens more are letting your customers review you (often without your knowledge). Are you aware 81 percent of consumers say they read reviews before making a purchase and 51 percent of consumers say they use the Internet IN SHOPS before making a purchase? If you have a bevy of negative reviews or poor feedback on the sites they are browsing, that consumer may decide to shop, eat, drink, or pay elsewhere.
The first step to keeping tabs on your reviews is to set a Google Alert for the name of your business (it’s worth doing common misspellings too). Watch for any reviews, postings, or other news that you might need to address. Find out the review-focused sites people use regularly to review your business, such as Google Places, Yelp, and Angie’s List. For a more detailed tracking service, try Reputation.com for business, which monitors and provides real-time feedback.
Cost: Free (for Google Alerts); Starting at $34.99/mo. (for Reputation.com)
5. Mobilize payments (right from your phone).
Quick, how much cash do you have in your wallet? Enough to buy something that’s more than $100? Over $50? Over $20? People are becoming more reliant on credit cards for all of their transactions – especially when they are on-the-go. Rather than force someone to run to the nearest ATM (and pay the annoying fees for withdrawing from a non-bank ATM), consider taking payment right on your mobile device.
It’s easier than you thought these days. Services such as Square, Stripe, or Intuit GoPayment provide a device that plugs into most smart phones to take credit cards on the spot. New technologies are in development to allow you to pay without needing any hardware at all.
Cost: Free (other than the credit card processing fees)
6. Text your way to your customer’s heart.
According to the Pew Foundation, 73 percent of cell phone users are texting and 44 percent of Americans have opted into at least one text messaging marketing campaign. So, why not share deals, information, and updates with your customers via SMS?
For a simple guide to get started with SMS Marketing, check out the Beginner’s Guide to SMS Marketing by Tatango.
Cost: Varies depending on the SMS Marketing Software partner
Going Mobile Without Busting the Bank
Customers aren’t just browsing the mobile web. They’re researching products, sharing opinions about companies, and completing transactions. Forward-thinking companies know that going mobile is good for business – without having to spend a fortune to do it.
How are you as a business embracing mobile? As a consumer, how do you see mobile influencing commerce going forward? The comments are yours …
Eric Koester is co-founder and COO of Zaarly, a real-time, mobile marketplace. He can be found on Twitter @ericKoester. Zaarly provides tools for small-businesses and consumers to transact right from their mobile devices. For more information or to sign-up for mobile alerts, visit www.zaarly.com/business.