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Mobile Matters

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Is Your Small Business Keeping Pace With the Mobile Web?

by: | October 25, 2011

If you think keeping pace with rival small businesses’ mobile marketing initiatives is a headache, take a deep breath: A new survey conducted by e-commerce and digital marketing firm Acquity Group indicates retail giants like Walmart, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Home Depot are even farther ahead of the curve. Thirty-seven percent of Internet Retailer’s Top 500 companies now have a mobile-optimized website, up from just 12 percent in 2010—in addition, more than one in four tout at least one mobile app, a 278-percent year-over-year increase.

“All of these companies have made a focused commitment to mobile, and it’s paying off,” Acquity Group vice president of digital strategy Tom Nawara said in a statement. “Not only have they implemented mobile-optimized sites to support a wide range of devices, but they have taken initiatives a step further with exceptional transactional functionality and well-designed apps that meet customer needs.”

Meeting customer needs is what this is all about, of course—consumers are shifting their shopping behaviors to mobile so quickly that retailers of all shapes and sizes are struggling to play catch-up… even if consumers aren’t agreeable to waiting.

Another recent consumer survey, this one from Compuware, notes that user expectations for seamless, efficient mobile web experiences continue to increase: Seventy-one percent of respondents expect sites to load on their phones as quickly, almost as quickly, or even faster than their desktop computer at home, up from 58 percent in 2009. In addition, close to 60 percent of mobile web users expect sites to load on their phones within three seconds or less, and 73 percent are only willing to wait five seconds or less for a mobile site to load before moving on. (For what it’s worth, Compuware adds that 77 percent of top companies’ mobile sites take more than five seconds to load.)

Small businesses have to offer a mobile website—it’s no longer just a customer expectation, but it drives revenue as well. According to Nielsen, businesses experience an online traffic increase of 13 percent after rolling out a mobile site. But while some SMBs have introduced mobile-specific sites, they remain relatively few and far between, due in large part to cost: A custom-built site can cost hundreds, even thousands.

Some forward-thinking startups have unveiled affordable, do-it-yourself mobile site builder services, but larger players are now seizing the opportunity as well—in fact, they don’t come much larger than AT&T, which in early October took the wraps off its cloud-based AT&T Mobile Website Hosting solution, offering small business owners a DIY tool to create their own websites and then auto-create mobile versions optimized for smartphone access.

According to AT&T, small businesses can build mobile sites in as little as a single click, with no technical expertise required—Mobile Website Hosting software automatically syncs and updates any changes made to the main desktop site, minimizing maintenance time and effort. The service offers multiple design templates, enables integration of click-to-call options, maps, and directions, and furthermore supplies site analytics offering insight into customer search and buying patterns. Mobile sites are compatible across all major smartphone platforms (i.e., iPhone, Android and BlackBerry)—plans vary in price, but start as low as $12 per month.

Look for AT&T’s competitors Verizon Wireless and Sprint to introduce similar efforts in the future—it’s an opportunity too big for them to pass up. But that doesn’t mean you should put your mobile website plans on hold waiting for them to make their move: Start investigating all available options now. Competitors large and small are zeroing in on the mobile web as well—and chances are they’re moving as quickly, almost as quickly, or even faster than you.Marketing Zeus

Posted in: Analytics, B2C, Campaign Development, Content, E-Commerce, IT, Lead Generation, Mobile Development, Mobile Matters, Optimization, Usability

About the Writer:

Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of the FierceMobileContent and FierceDeveloper e-newsletters as well as a regular contributor to Entrepreneur magazine and the website All Music Guide. Additional credits include efforts for publications including Rolling Stone, Wax Poetics and No Depression, along with liner notes for a number of album releases. He lives in Chicago.

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