There’s nothing more local than your pocket.
On a recent Local University hangout on mobile and local, local search and analytics experts gave some great insights on the growing importance of mobile search and mobile site design. LocalU, the host of the hangout, is an organization dedicated to teaching small business owners how to succeed online through local online searches.
Today’s customers understand local and mobile without a second thought. Just think about how many times a day you or your colleagues whip out your iPhone and Google “lunch takeout” while also asking Siri for directions to the nearest gas station. We get it as consumers, of course, but do local business owners really understand the importance of mobile?
Businesses are literally losing opportunities by not having a truly mobile-friendly website experience for customers. In fact, 93.3 percent of small business websites are not mobile compatible despite the astounding 4 out of 5 consumers using a smartphone to shop — this according to SCORE, a nonprofit supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration that helps small businesses nationwide.
Local businesses especially stand to gain from the mobile wave. Consider this: 50 percent of consumers who performed a local search on a smartphone visited a store within a day, according to a recent study from Google.
“I think that no one is unclear about the importance of mobile anymore, but a lot of companies might think they are the exception to the rule,” Cindy Krum of MobileMoxie said on the June 19 hangout hosted by LocalU.
In fact, LocalU’s experts believe Google’s recent mobile-friendly update was only the beginning — a harbinger of things to come.
“The whole Google Mobilegeddon definitely jolted quite a few businesses out of their complacency,” Annie Cushing of Annielytics said on LocalU’s hangout.
But in a mobile world where people move back and forth from to device to device, consumers expect a seamless experience from tablet to smartphone and from laptop to smart TV, for example. This kind of connectivity does not end with simply having a mobile website or that mobile-friendly tag Google gave your business in recent months.
“So much of mobile is avoiding pitfalls.” That’s according to Aaron Weiche of Spyder Trap, who also participated in LocalU’s hangout.
To win at serving today’s mobile customers, local businesses should avoid the top three pitfalls.
A responsive website where pages automatically adjust based on the device’s screen size is a magic pill solution for this whole mobile thing, right? Sadly, wrong. The number one pitfall for local businesses is “assuming things are going to work just because you have a responsive website,” Jeff Sauer of Jeffalytics said.
Responsive websites can still make your visitors painfully scroll on your webpages, Cushing said on the LocalU hangout. For example, on one company’s website, the conversion rate was faltering on mobile. In testing the site, Cushing tried to sign up for a product only to realize that on mobile, the featured product comparison chart wasn’t responsive although the website was. “It was a very painful experience with lots of scrolling,” she said.
To make sure your website visitors can actually benefit from your mobile website no matter what mobile device is used (and we’re not talking just about iPhones!), use Chrome’s mobile emulator. Cushing provides a tutorial for the process that basically mimics your website’s user experience on any device.
(Editor’s note: For more on this topic, check out conversion specialist Brian Massey’s recent column on Marketing Land.)
Local businesses must also make sure to provide relevant information to customers on the move, according to Krum. “You can have a great mobile plan, but can forget the core pages that people really need to access on the go,” she said. This can become an issue especially for businesses with separate mobile websites that are essentially smaller mobile-friendly versions of desktop websites.
Check to make sure website pages such as the location finder and location landing pages, for example, are smartphone user-friendly. One way to think about this is to do a branded mobile search for your business and make sure the top results are truly mobile-friendly by testing them for any device.
Many businesses have a mobile-friendly website, but sadly, many businesses are not tracking mobile traffic correctly. To start, Cushing recommends the mobile overview report located in the audience section of Google Analytics. These tools allow businesses to break down website traffic among mobile, desktop and tablet — you can even pay attention to the difference among bounce rates, conversion rates and revenue, according to Cushing.
To dig deeper into how mobile users are actually interacting with a mobile website, Sauer recommends several strategies, such as a benchmarking report to allow you to see whether your website is on par with similar sites. Paying attention to conversions on mobile or points when users drop off can also help identify if a mobile website is effective.
Basically, Sauer believes that businesses need to think about “giving mobile its own measurement experience.”
“It’s going one level beyond that surface data,” he said. “We are competing against everyone else in the marketplace, but a lot of times you are setting the bar higher for yourself and your own business.”
As experts are saying, so much of succeeding on mobile is avoiding pitfalls. But you can’t always be looking behind you. In mobile, there’s something big on the horizon: mobile apps.
“Apps and mobile websites are separated, but people are looking to build a solid experience with apps and mobile Web,” said Weiche on the LocalU hangout.
And there’s some pretty compelling proof of this coming trend. At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference this month, Apple launched a search API for iOS9 that will allow us all to not only search on an iPhone for apps and for content on the Web, but also for any information within apps seamlessly.
“If you’re on an iPhone and you put in a search, it autofills results before you even get to Google,” Krum said.
In fact, the average U.S. mobile consumer spends 86 percent of their smartphone time on mobile apps, according to a recent study by Flurry Analytics. The focus on mobile apps is already benefitting some in retail. For retail giant Target Corporation, for example, its consumers spent 68 percent of their time on a Target mobile app versus in a mobile browser in 2014, according to comScore.
What about you? Is your local business sinking its teeth into the mobile experience and looking forward to the future of mobile? Let me know in the comments.