2014 marked an important shift in consumer behavior. In January of last year, CNN.com reported that for the time in history, consumers used mobile devices and mobile apps to conduct the majority of their online activity. That finding underscored the importance for businesses to adapt site layout and to mobile devices. In 2015, fueled in part by recent Google algorithm changes, being prepared to serve mobile customers is no longer a “nice to have”; it’s a pressing business need. Here’s why.
Google considers mobile a key criterion. As of April 21, Google’s search engine rank criterion now includes “mobile-friendliness” as a key factor in how often a site appears in search engine results, and its prevalence in them. To ensure search engine rank isn’t in jeopardy, business owners should check in with Google’s free mobile readiness tool. In less than a minute, Google will assess whether a site URL is mobile-friendly, based on its specific criterion. If it’s not found to be mobile-friendly, prioritize how to adjust your site as needed, and reclaim your online presence.
Apps play a role in your online presence. Though small businesses can design native apps with cost efficient “DIY” app design tools, having an app doesn’t guarantee customer engagement, or a return on investment. As Localytics reports, apps must give users a reason not only to download—but to come back to the app repeatedly. For small businesses, the demands of keeping customers’ engaged may not be cost-justified.
In light of Google’s new focus on mobile-friendliness, however, small businesses may want to reevaluate the potential value of having a native app. Once primarily a customer engagement tool, Google changes also include App Indexing. Similar to traditional search engine ranking, Google searches for deep links in Android apps; links are then indexed, based on content. Presumably, businesses that have apps with such links will have a more significant online presence than those who do not. (Google outlines how businesses can adjust app links to accommodate the new tool on its Developer site).
Mobile users often spend more. Multiple mobile user statistics support the fact that mobile customers tend to spend more than they do when using desktop computers. ClickZ reports Amazon buyers spend twice as long browsing the site on a mobile device compared to when they’re on a desktop computer. Fast Company reports that mobile buyers spend 20% more than desktop or laptop users. If they’re on a tablet device, that number jumps to 50%. To appeal to this audience of big spenders, businesses must have sites that specifically accommodate search, information gathering, and purchase on a mobile device. At minimum, menus and product categories should be succinct and easily navigated on smaller screens. Location-specific information like taxes, shipping details, and nearest store locations should be customized to the mobile user. Call to action buttons should be functional to connect the customer directly with the business when the phone number or instant chat button is tapped.