The shift towards the customer experience continues in 2017, and small businesses need to continue to redefine it. This is what allows you to compete with larger businesses for customers.
Two trends that have pushed to the forefront in 2017 are: mobile and artificial intelligence.
Everything you do should be focused on mobile. This has been a trend for the past few years. Google, the primary search engine for millions, is making mobile the primary search. They are creating a separate mobile index, which will become the primary index to respond to queries.
With nearly sixty percent of searches being conducted on mobile, your business needs to be mobile-friendly, according to Grant Kantsios of the Charlotte-based SEO and design firm Grantkantsios.com. That means your website and content needs to be geared towards serving your customers on mobile devices. Customer preferences and Google are demanding that you have a mobile experience for your customers or you will be left behind. Concerned? You need to be.
How do you become mobile-friendly?
It can be achieved through website design, SEO and content. If you have been putting off a website refresh, it is time to do it now. When customers come to your website, they are looking for specific information. And it needs to be easy to find. The mobile-friendly or responsive-design website should be simple. Gone are the photo sliders and bulky graphics. Simple is the rule of thumb.
Focus on your core information such as your products and services, contact information, map and directions, hours of operation, key staff and blog. Contact information should be easy to read and phone numbers clearly visible allowing users to click on your number to call you directly right there. Navigation should not be complicated and three to five pages with short menu titles should be featured.
SEO plays a role in being found. How fast your website loads is weighing heavy in the search results. The ideal is 2-3 seconds to load a single page. AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages, which is a Google-backed program designed as an open standard for any publisher to have pages load quickly on mobile devices.
Along with website design and SEO, content is important. Some would say content is king. And that is not too far off. Solid, well-written content is important. Content needs to give answers to the questions customers are looking for.
Once thought of as a sci-fi, artificial intelligence or AI is now becoming a reality. AI is a tool for supporting human knowledge and can process and analyzing data faster than a human brain. AI is being used to vacuum our houses and in self-driving cars.
How can AI help your business in 2017?
AI is very helpful in common sense tasks. It is becoming more available to small businesses. This allows you to focus on big picture issues. There are three ways AI can help your business: virtual assistance, insights generation and manual process automation.
Virtual assistance is something a small business can start using right away. You already use Siri on a daily basis. A virtual assistant and chatbots can assist with customer service tasks like scheduling meetings or answering simple and repetitive customer questions. Karima-Catherine Goundiam, co-founder and partner Red Dot Digital Agency based in New York City and Toronto, who uses x.ai platform as an assistant to schedule meetings, says that AI has helped her significantly decrease the time it takes to schedule meetings for her business.
AI can be helpful with generation of insights. We are collecting massive amounts of data on customers, but it is pointless if it is not in a usable form. AI can transform that data into practical insights and learn from it, allowing AI to adapt to market behavior changes.
Automation of manual process is taking place very much like the industrial revolution when machines replaced people. AI is using smart algorithms replacing routine and often time-consuming tasks such as compiling reports and researching topics.
In 2017, focusing on your customer experience through mobile and AI will bring you closer to your customer.
Ann Marie van den Hurk is an award-winning, accredited public relations professional and principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations. She proudly called Lexington home but now lives in North Carolina. Email her at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter at @amvandenhurk.