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  • 12 June 2014
  • Dr Billy M.

Does mobile make sense for my business?

Given the current boom in the mobile industry, it is important for your business to develop a digital presence to promote your products and/or services as well as communicate in the digital age.

Adopt the cloud

Consider transferring your key business operations to cloud-based services so that you can manage day-to-day activities anywhere you can access the Internet. All your backroom operations — payroll, accounting, document saving and sharing, and shipping, as well as customer relationship management — can all be shifted to the cloud.

Smartphone and tablet apps have become an integral part of businesses

  • Mobile communication. Leverage the smartphone advantage to ensure all employees can access company information on the go — a centralized communication protocol ensures staff can access and be reached via email, text, and phone, especially if some of your operations involve constant travel. More importantly, sales teams and employees in the field can get vital company data from the cloud rather than calling in to verify information.
  • Mobile payments. You will be able to slash your information technology budget by adopting a cloud-based system. You can fulfill orders, process invoices, and accept payments conveniently without having to invoice a client, wait several days to get paid, and, in the worst case scenario, send out collection notices and/or write off bad debts.

Your business can make marketing efforts productive by placing useful content, which addresses customer questions and needs, in the publicly accessible cloud. Content marketing is a powerful marketing tool that does not intimidate the reader with the requirement to buy. This way, people will know where to get answers or tutorials on subjects related to the products you carry, giving you a subtle but powerful marketing advantage.

Use apps for smartphones and tablets

Smartphone and tablet apps have become an integral part of businesses, regardless of size and industry. Typically, an app is not a replacement for your website; it augments what you offer in the digital realm to a target clientele.

  • Apps are typically downloaded for a specific purpose. You may consider having one for your business if you have strong customer loyalty. Invest in an app if you need to drive users to your physical store or location, provide special offers, or allow users to access their account information.
  • An app provides a secure platform for your customers to log in and make transactions. As a general observation, many smartphone users tend to feel safer entering their login information via an app than through a website.
  • You are bound to reach a bigger audience for several reasons. Slow loading times for websites cause users to gravitate toward apps. You practically overcome geographical bondage, which is common with search engines that display results based on the user's location. And just like with all things Internet, you significantly reduce or eliminate inventory cost.
  • Days of paying fees to process checks and having to contend with the possibility of a bounced check can be in your past if you embrace mobile payment. There are a number of excellent options you can use to accept these payments, such as Intuit GoPayment, Square, and PayPal Here.

An app changes and enhances the way your customers interact with you. Price will depend on the complexity and security measures. Although app builders will customize your app to suit your specifications, there are some services that offer a free do-it-yourself code you can use to develop your own basic app.

Optimize your site for smartphones and tablets

As a small business owner, you possibly have a traditional website where you showcase your products and/or services. With the ubiquity of Web–connected phones and other similar devices, it's time to explore the value in having a presence on these platforms. Of course your website can be accessed on the phone, but does it display correctly?

  • Have a mobile-friendly website. On a smartphone or tablet, your static site makes it difficult to navigate or click on links. It may appear cluttered, sending potential customers away from your site. One option is to have a responsive website. This will respond to the medium on which it is displayed. For instance, whereas all features will be displayed on a desktop, including, say, four columns and a sidebar, a simplified version will be rendered on smartphones with fewer columns and easier navigation.
  • If your traditional website uses Flash, it may not display well since some devices are not equipped to display Flash graphics. You can test how your site appears across platforms with Google's Multi-Screen Resources tool, which can give you suggestions on how to optimize your site for different screen types.
  • Most Web hosting companies such as Web.com offer the option to convert your website to suit the medium it is being viewed on, either free of charge or at minimal cost. This way you do not have to maintain two separate websites.

Think mobile first if you are putting up a website for the first time or redoing it. This is because the number of smartphone users will increase in the future and you will get more conversion rates as more people will stay on your page — relatively speaking — if it renders well. The idea is to have the information on your website appear readable and easy to navigate on whichever device your user chooses.

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