Three ways to use mobile technology

The recent launch of the iPhone has called attention to the increasing importance of mobile technology, not only for consumers but for small businesses wanting to use smartphones to help them run their business. So how can your business benefit?

Mobile-friendly sites

More and more consumers and business managers are using their phones to access information - according to a Google survey, nearly half of Australians use their smartphone to research businesses, with a quarter having bought products through their mobile phone. Additionally, 19 per cent of people use their mobile to search for local suppliers and services on a daily basis.

With these statistics in mind, ensure that your website is mobile-friendly. There's nothing worse than scrolling endlessly across your screen or waiting five minutes for a picture-heavy page to download.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when developing your mobile site:

  • Keep navigation links easily visible
  • Avoid users having to scroll left and right to access information
  • Keep your content clear and concise
  • Don't use Flash as not all phones are compatible
  • Keep images to a minimum as they may take too long to download

Text message alerts

Text messaging can be a great way to send out time-sensitive customer campaigns, such as 'flash' sales or subscriber-only events. According to the New York Times, mobile messaging is the "closest thing in the information-overloaded digital marketing world to a guaranteed read". Indeed, an email can be deleted without being opened, or simply be not opened at all, whereas nearly everyone would read a text message.

Here's how to send out effective text alerts:

  • Don't spam your recipients - only send them relevant information
  • Have a link on your website for customers to opt-in (or out) to text messages
  • Give people a reason to give you their number - such as exclusive discounts, sales, information or voting for a particular product
  • Keep your texts succinct
  • Try not to use shorthand (such as "gr8 offer!") as it may come across unprofessional or appear to be spam

Mobile apps

Apps take considerably more effort to incorporate into business strategy than mobile sites and SMS alerts, but if done correctly they can make a huge difference. The first thing to determine is if you are a user of business apps, or a developer (or both).

If you are an app user, there are a myriad of options out there to help you run your business better. Small business owners who are often on the go and don't wish to invest heavily in management software should consider using apps that can help them track expenses, log media coverage, store/share data, collect signatures, network, generate invoices and process financial transactions.

Processing financial transactions, in particular, are of interest to many SMEs. Some companies have developed an add-on for your smartphone so credit cards can be swiped and processed, with a copy of the receipt instantly sent to the customer's email.

Becoming an app developer can also be beneficial for your business. Firstly, assess the need to develop an app - do you really need one and do you think it will be used by your customers? Moreover, will it be too expensive to build?

Many e-commerce businesses that sell primarily to consumers may find it more useful to have a specialised app. An app can make it more convenient for customers to transact with you without a sales representative actually being present.

However, some businesses without e-commerce operations also see the benefits in developing an app for marketing purposes, as they find it provides a more interactive element for customers and prospects, than a mobile site.

For instance, the Coles supermarket app provides information on weekly specials and recipes, as well as allows you to compile a shopping list and search for the nearest store. They may not offer online shopping on their app, but still manages to provide useful information for consumers.

Mobile technology is already extremely popular and if used right, can add a significant dimension to your marketing strategy.

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