I recently did an experiment with a friend to prove a point; that point being that each and every day people are becoming more connected through their phones rather than through their desktop computers. By observing the first 100 people we saw walking in the French Quarter of New Orleans, we counted how many people had visible cellphones and also whether or not they seemed to be “smartphones.” While totally unscientific, the numbers truly made me pause. Seventy-six of the people we counted had cellphones out visibly and 62 of those 76 phones looked to be some sort of a “smart” cellphone.
Through many of my trips through the French Quarter, I’ve loved to observe people; their interactions with street performers, what they notice as they walk by businesses, and even how they react to beggars on the street. Lately I’ve been keenly observant of how passersby utilize these smartphones. From texting and talking, to getting around the French Quarter without a folded map, what amazes me is how many different times I hear people referring to an iPhone or an Android application that lets them know specific information about a business beyond merely its location.
You could never do that with a desktop; and it’s pretty clunky to try and do it with a laptop too. Tablets and smartphones make gathering information about businesses so extremely easy, why wouldn’t tourists and locals use it?
While my unscientific experiment of observing mobile users certainly has its flaws, I also wrote a column about rising adaption rates in the U.S. of smartphone users and it shows a lot of growth. Tablet adaption is growing even faster: eMarketer is reporting that by 2014, one in three U.S. citizens will be utilizing a tablet PC of some kind. That’s over 90 million people, which is not an insignificant number to ignore.
It used to be that businesses needed to have a website; it was an essential piece of their online marketing presence. Then along came social media, where it was just as important to have profiles in different social media communities as it was to have the aforementioned website. Now, neither of those options are enough anymore. Consumers are moving beyond their desktops and laptops and moving toward smartphones and tablets, and your business needs to be in those applications and your website and social media profiles need to have information that is easily accessible by these devices.
Make Your Information Easy to Obtain
The fear of being spammed or autodialed by telemarketers leads companies to put both their email address and phone numbers on their websites as images. The problem with this practice is that consumers using portable devices like tablets and smartphones don’t want to write down your information in order to be able to email or call you, they just want to touch the screen and click “yes” when the prompt comes up to “call number.” Make sure that your contact information is very accessible on your website – mobile browsers turn phone numbers and most email addresses into hot links for easy use by the consumer.
Dump the Flash
I can’t tell you how many countless photography sites I’ve seen that are using Flash to power their sites. While photographers aren’t alone in the practice, businesses powering their sites solely in Flash and not providing an alternative method to mobile users (primarily iPhone and iPad users) to view their sites are missing the opportunity to get in front of these users with their information. For photographers, it’s the fear of people stealing their “bread and butter,” and Flash makes this “stealing” a lot harder to do. Get over that fear and “give a little” – don’t give away your best work, but give away the work you want to share and do that through HTML5 or a mobile-enabled platform.
Test How Your Site Looks in a Mobile Platform
Most default templates for content management platforms, such as WordPress, TypePad, and Tumblr, render just fine in a mobile platform. It’s when you get into custom template creation in these platforms or for HTML5 that you can run into some rendering issues. That’s why it’s important to test how your site looks in a number of mobile platforms and fix the rendering issues before you go live. With so many people looking at your site and information from mobile devices, it’s now more important than ever to make sure nothing gets in the way of your consumers reaching you.
Create or Claim Your Profile in Mobile Applications Your Customers Utilize
Your customers are going to get to you by many different means; not just by your website, a Google search, or seeing a Facebook post. They are utilizing geo-location applications such as Foursquare, Yelp, and Urbanspoon. Listen and ask your customers “How did you find us?” or “Did you use your smartphone to find us?” It can give you valuable insight into what applications your customers are using to get to you. When you encounter one that you haven’t heard of, make sure that you research it, claim your profile, and ensure that the information is correct.
The time has come where you can’t just rely on a website anymore in order to reach your customers. You must think beyond the desktop computer because your customers certainly are!