Small Businesses Aren’t Too Small to Go Mobile

2/13/13Follow @himanshusareen

Shifts in technology often occur first in large organizations and trickle their way down to small businesses years later. During the Internet boom of the mid-to-late 1990s, most small businesses avoided having a Web presence. In the early-to-mid 2000s, while these companies finally ventured into the Web, the overwhelming majority didn’t offer e-commerce solutions to push their goods and services. And now, in the early 2010s, small business is hesitant to adopt mobile. But the truth is, every company—large, medium, and especially small—should be actively embracing mobility.

First off, let’s take a look at the word “mobility.” While the word is now synonymous with smartphones and tablets, there are a few who will remember that pagers, laptops, and netbooks were also once referred to as mobile as well. How the times change.

The definition of the word has shifted mostly because going mobile can mean a variety of things.

1. For some businesses, it means creating a responsive website that can scale down to smartphone and tablet screen sizes.

2. For others, it can mean developing an app to allow customers and clients to access to engage via App Stores.

3. For yet others, “going mobile” can mean something as complex as adopting corporate policies for smartphone and tablet usage.

Why Go Mobile?

According to Gartner, over 1.2 billion smartphones and tablets will be sold next year, dwarfing both desktop and laptop sales. Regardless of business a change of this magnitude cannot be ignored. There are too many potential customers and potential business opportunities on the line.

But aside from the staggering volume of devices, mobility opens up a whole new range of experiences for customers as well. These devices have simple, straightforward interfaces, making them easy for more people to use and they’re also constantly connected to the Internet, making it easier to access information. Because of this, an engaging experience in the form of a mobile-friendly e-commerce site or a creative app can easily increase your ability to engage with your audience.

What’s Your Strategy?

So, knowing that the trend towards mobility will only accelerate over the near future, where do you start? For a small business, the options can be overwhelming. After helping countless companies “go mobile” here at Icreon, we’ve noticed a key trend: the best small business mobile strategies seek to increase sales potential.

As such, the best metric to assess is the immediate value added to pipeline growth. Mobile devices or not, the Web is still the most effective way to search for goods and services. Responsive websites—websites that optimize themselves based on the screen they are viewed on—give potential customers the best chance to understand your business offering. By and large, this is the strongest mobile strategy to increase sales distribution. Mobile applications also have the ability to create new channels for revenue growth, but less so, because mobile operating systems only allow one application to take up a screen, forcing your app to compete for users’ attention with thousands of others.

Food for Thought

Here are vectors to consider before taking the mobile leap:

1. Know your needs – Define the performance of the mobile experience. Nothing beats the speed, fluidity, and performance of a mobile app, which can be crucial for customer retention. On the other hand, a responsive website reduces development time, maintenance and overall project investments.

2. Identify your rate of change – If you need to constantly tinker with your mobile foray, plan to develop for the responsive web first. First, it’s cross-platform. Second, it doesn’t require getting accepted into an App Store the way a mobile app does. If your feature rollout is more deliberate and methodical, a mobile app could be better fit.

3. Assess your competition – Odds are, your competitors have been mobile for a short period of time or are in the middle of developing a strategy. Identify their gaps, assess their strengths, and determine a roadmap for following their course of action or trying a completely different approach.

Leaping into mobile is a serious decision. It is one more asset that has to be managed as part of your business strategy and one more potential point of failure. But because a robust mobile presence can create exponential value for your existing customers and attract new entirely new ones over the long term, forgoing any mobile strategy is a much larger risk for any small business to take.

Himanshu is Founder and CEO of Icreon, a New York-based designer of custom websites and applications. Follow @himanshusareen

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