By Catherine Lukas Ter-Horst
According to Google, 96 percent of the U.S. market is on a mobile device, and nearly half of that market (and counting) is on a smartphone. Does your business have the tools it needs to meet and compete in this growing market?
In order to remain successful and competitive in a multi–device and on–the–go world, you need to market your business to the growing population of mobile users — customers who use mobile phones, smartphones and tablets. That means taking advantage of the new technology in your brick–and–mortar store. Mobile devices are changing the way we live, and your business must change with them.
If you haven’t already started to think about your business this way, you need to start now. The goal of this article is to provide you with some of the key things you should consider to begin positioning your business to reach out, and capture, mobile consumer dollars.
Today’s mobile users
Technology has changed, and so have consumers when it comes to using mobile devices. They are no longer used simply to make a phone call or send text messages. Having the ability to search for, and quickly find, relevant and timely information is a “must have” when it comes to using a mobile device.
Mobile searches are mostly local, and a majority lead to customer action. ThinkWithGoogle.com says 92 percent of Americans find local business information with their smartphones, and 89 percent take action after finding that information, either by calling or stopping into the business. According to the same website, “The companies that make mobile central to their marketing strategies will have an advantage in engaging with the mobile consumer.”
You have several options to help mobile customers find you. However, the most important thing you need to do is provide them with an easy–to–use and easy–to–view place to experience your dealership.
If your dealership has a website, you’re well on the way. Unfortunately, that’s not enough anymore because the difference in experience between how a customer searches for your business on a computer versus on a mobile device can mean the difference between getting a new customer and losing an existing one.
The exciting thing is that you don’t have to invest in a completely different website to reach those customers. And, you can begin to take steps today to leverage what you already have to start changing your business.
If you’re a mobile–device user yourself, you’ve probably noticed that how you access and view information on a mobile device is very different than when you use a desktop or laptop computer. And, as you begin to consider reaching the mobile market, there are really two key things you need to consider: technology and content. Today’s technology gives you choices, and you can decide how to mobilize your existing business. You can make your business mobile–optimized or simply mobile–friendly. And, when it comes to content, you want to make sure the information you make available is relevant and timely, and leads to results.
Mobile-optimized versus mobile-friendly
The first step is to understand the difference between making your site mobile–optimized versus mobile–friendly.
* Mobile-optimized websites: This type of website is labor–intensive and requires that you deploy and support two completely different versions of your website — one for desktop/laptop users and one for mobile users. Today, this is used by large companies — Target, Amazon, The Home Depot — which have dedicated IT departments to develop and support the platforms required.
Some websites may require you to download a dedicated application that enables that website to be accessed from a mobile device. Dedicated applications are great when customers are specifically looking for them, but not when a customer is already on your site and wants to make a purchase. The customer will need to stop the purchase process and be redirected to use the dedicated application.
* Mobile-friendly websites: This type of website includes a mobile web interface which is designed to detect the device you are using and automatically display your site in either full website view or mobile view. This type of website is more widely used by dealerships because it is less labor–intensive, more widely supported by website providers, and the recommended experience you want your customers to have when trying to find your site. Working with your website provider, you can quickly make adjustments to your current website to meet the minimum requirements of mobile users.
To make your site mobile–friendly, talk to your website provider to understand the mobile capabilities you have available. Some providers incorporate the feature into their base product, while others offer the feature at an additional cost.
If your website incorporates e–commerce, you’ll also need to make sure the purchasing experience continues to be available when using a mobile device. According to a Google study, 81 percent of smartphone shopping is done spur–of–the–moment. The website software you use should help your customers find parts and accessories, and once they find them, they need a seamless buying experience.
Making information relevant and easy to find
Another thing you need to consider is the type of content you want to present on your mobile site.
* Hours of operation, contact information, and product information are the top three pieces of information mobile users expect to find. Your current website may have this information on the bottom–right corner of your website. But, for mobile users, you’ll want to make this information prominent and easy to access.
* Mobile users expect you to deliver the proper information on demand, and in a user–friendly, intuitive way. Place a search bar at the top of the screen, so customers can easily type what they’re looking for with minimum clicks.
* A mobile device is interactive, so include an expandable and collapsible hierarchy to drill down for more information or easily return to different areas of the site.
* Make sure your mobile site loads fast — in five seconds or less — on any device. If they don’t find what they want in seconds, they will move on, and there’s a good chance they won’t come back.
Today’s business world is changing, and yours needs to change along with it. Your website needs to accommodate the multi–device, on–the–go world. Your customers expect a fast, easy and intuitive experience on any device they use. And as you continue to grow and change your business, make sure you are incorporating the mobile market.
Catherine Lukas-Ter Horst has more than 15 years experience delivering innovative solutions in product development and management; online marketing and distribution; training and development; and Web-based technology. As Product Manager at ARI, Catherine works closely with the company’s management, sales and development teams to launch and enhance products designed to help dealers sell and service equipment more efficiently. She can be reached at (414) 973-4548 or Terhorst@arinet.com.