Manage Your Business
4 ways to take advantage of the mobile revolution
The following story is part of a series designed to help small business owners capitalize on the latest technology. It is presented by Chase for Business.
Mobile devices have changed the way your customers live and shop. But is your business reaping the rewards?
One thing is certain: if you aren't regularly interacting with customers via mobile, it's a safe bet that your competitors are. A recent survey shows that 77 percent of U.S. consumers have used a smartphone in stores to enhance and empower their shopping experience, from researching details to comparing prices.
The following steps can help you take your mobile offerings to the next level—and ensure that you're maximizing customer service and loyalty.
Build a custom app
It used to be that the required expertise and a high development price tag of creating a custom app made it almost impossible for many small businesses. Today, that's not the case.
In fact, nearly half of small businesses now have in-house staff constructing mobile apps, according to a Small Business Trends survey.
Customers may, for example, use an app to redeem promotional offers, communicate with you directly, read reviews, learn more about your offerings and shop your products and services.
But mobile apps also offer benefits to the business owner: with a custom app, you can collect more relevant data about your customers' purchasing behaviors. This data can then be used to better inform future offerings and product improvements.
Make mobile interactions seamless
If you have a retail location, offer free and fast Wi-Fi. That will help make it easier for customers to do real-time research and increase the amount of time customers spend in-store—which often equates to more sales.
It's also useful to create a mobile-friendly landing page for each store location, to ensure its phone number, hours of operation, address and directions are available—and, most importantly, Google-able. You can also customize the page to allow customers to book appointments, fittings, haircuts and other services.
If you have an online or other non-retail business, you'll also need to focus on speeding up the time it takes for your website to load on a mobile device—just like on a desktop, customers who experience frustration loading a web page tend to click elsewhere.
Conduct a mobile speed test with Google's free tool to understand how your site is performing compared to others in your category. Once you've identified how fast or slow yours is loading, you'll be presented with changes to consider making to speed things up.
Let customers pay with their phone
An increasing number of customers prefer paying with their mobile device in stores instead of fumbling for cash. It's good for business in other ways too: you can reduce customer wait-times by allowing store associates to complete sales from any corner of the store.
And these transactions are also safer: Digital payments lower the risk of cash being stolen or lost.
Got an online business? Consider using a digital wallet service to accept mobile payments. Digital wallets preload credit card information, so your customers can checkout with only a few clicks. It's a quicker, more convenient process for shoppers.
Offer memorable in-store experiences
Businesses with retail outlets are facing a conundrum: if more customers are shopping with their mobile devices, is it worth investing in foot traffic?
While it might sound counterintuitive, it's actually more important than ever to offer one-of-a-kind in-store experiences. That's because you're competing with the constant flow of information and distraction a customer is receiving through his or her smartphone.
For example, Casper, the mattress company, allows customers to schedule a nap at their store locations to test their mattresses. Shake Shack, the burger chain, hosted a series of beer pairing dinners with different breweries at their restaurant locations.
Plus, you can intertwine new school and old school approaches: Let your customers know about these offers or events by sending a text or running a promotion on your app.
Evolving the way you do business and interact with customers will likely take some trial and error, but it's critical to learn what today's customers want out of their shopping experience.
Brian Honigman is a Chase News contributor. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur.