Customers continue to use mobile devices and your businesses should, too

Contributing ColumnistSeptember 30, 2013 

Ann Marie van den Hurk is an award-winning, accredited public relations professional and principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Chances are you reach for your mobile phone charging on the night table next to your bed.

For many of us, our mobile phones are with us all of the time. They have become a part of us. We do everything on them: checking email, connecting with friends on social platforms, getting directions and surfing the web. We live on mobile.

New research published by The Pew Internet & America Life Project highlights how mobile focused we've become as a nation:

■ Two thirds of cellphone owners access the Internet via their mobile devices.

■ One in five mobile phone users do most of their online browsing on their phone.

■ More than 90 percent of Americans own cellphones and 57 percent of all Americans go online using their mobile phone.

So who is it exactly are we talking about? Everyone. Pew shared in their research the demographics of mobile phone owners going online on their phones: 85 percent of those ages 18 to 29 access the Internet on their phone; 73 percent of those ages 30 to 49; 51 percent of users ages 50 to 64; and 22 percent of users ages 65 and older.

The Pew research goes on to share that of those with college degrees, 74 percent go online via their mobile phones. And those considered affluent or cellphone users with household incomes of more than $75,000 annually go online using their mobile phones the most.

Lastly, 66 percent of urban dwellers and 65 percent of suburban dwellers go online via their mobile phones compared to just 50 percent of people in rural areas. In another study by Pew, it was found that 30 percent of adults in the U.S. don't have broadband and that 10 percent use their smartphones as sole Internet access.

According to Shelly Kramer, CEO of V3 Integrated Marketing, what's happening in the world of mobile is truly a moment of transformation of our society. She says that we've had those moments before. When cars were invented. When electricity was introduced. When the telephone changed communications. Mobility has, and is, changing our world. And at an astonishing pace.

This has implications for your business. Your business must be able to engage your customers in the medium they are using. It is mobile now and will continue to move in that direction.

More shoppers are reaching for mobile to browse and buy according to a recent survey from eMarketer. The digital storefront plays a greater role in your sales funnel. Shoppers are using their mobile phones when the urge to shop hits by researching products, searching for deals and making purchases. In 2013, U.S. consumers alone will spend more than $37 billion on retail purchases made through their smartphones and tablets. That's up from 2012.

Kramer shares that everything you do should be with a view toward mobile first. And she says there are key questions you should ask yourself:

■ Does your marketing team design for mobile first?

■ Is mobile a part of your upcoming campaign (no matter what it is).

■ Is mobile a key metric and part of your data set that helps drive strategy?

■ Do you (and your team) understand the importance of measuring mobile beyond simply online sales?

Based on your answers, you need to mobile optimize your digital properties. Two main areas for you to focus on are design and content:

Design: Your website needs to be mobile optimized which means it can be easily read on smartphones and tablets. This site could be a stripped-down version of your regular site to provide customers with the basics such as product, services, contact information, map, directions, hours of operation and key staff. The layout should be simple with your logo and minimal graphics.

Content: Small screens mean concise content. Copy written for the mobile site needs to be shorter, stronger, and have a call to action.

Kramer says it best: Customers aren't waiting for you to get around to paying attention to mobile. They're there. Ready to buy, engage and interact with your brand. If you're not there, it's a problem.

Ann Marie van den Hurk is an award-winning, accredited public relations professional specializing in small businesses and is principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations. She proudly called Lexington home but now lives in North Carolina. She is also the author of the upcoming book Social Media Crisis Communications: Preparing for, Preventing, and Surviving a Public Relations #FAIL. Email her at ann@mindthegappr.com, or follow her on Twitter at @amvandenhurk.

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