First of three parts.

Smartphones have become consumers’ primary shopping companion – a trend that will continue to escalate as usage becomes more ingrained in shoppers’ psyche.

Smartphone users will go online to find directions to your business, comparison shop while in your store, check your company’s reputation before purchasing, and read the reviews before buying the product they’re considering. This device now educates consumers like never before. A telling statistic: 54 percent of women and 67 percent of men stated they would rather consult their mobile phone than ask a salesperson for assistance when they are in your store.

Take a look at the bullets below to get an idea of typical mobile user behavior when in your “showroom”:

    • 33 percent take pictures
    • 32 percent compare prices
    • 27 percent read product reviews online
    • 26 percent scan a barcode
    • 23 percent look for coupons or use a coupon
    • 20 percent use the store app
    • 11 percent purchase and pay at the register.

Smartphones have impacted us in both good and bad ways. A recent Pew Internet and American Life project survey has revealed some interesting trends:

    • As of April 2012, 88 percent of U.S. adults own a cell phone
    • 55 percent of them say they use their phone as an Internet tool of some sort.
    • 17 percent of all cell phone owners do most of their online browsing through their phone rather than a computer – a rise of 24 percent in the last three years
    • 31 percent of the cell phone Internet users say they mostly use their mobile device rather than a computer.
    • People with an annual household income of less than $50,000 are more likely to access the Internet primarily through a smartphone rather than a computer.

Mobile-friendly design
Most websites have been designed to be viewed on a computer screen. They do not convert well to a smartphone’s screen, and copy is not condensed to communicate messaging in a quick, concise manner. If your website is not mobile phone friendly, then it is safe to say that you are losing business.  

The following features are key to effective mobile website design:

     Keep it quick. Mobile users are on the go and don’t have a lot of time to enter significant amounts of information. Make your site load fast by compressing images and make it easy to read by incorporating larger copy and bulleted text.

    Simplify the navigation. Your mobile site should not confuse your viewers. If you have a complex site, search functionality will enable your visitors to find what they need easily.

    Make the site thumb friendly. Obviously, mobile users navigate using their thumbs. What you really have to consider is that people have different thumb/finger sizes. You need to design your mobile site so that people with larger hands can interact with it with ease. Make buttons larger and give them breathing room to avoid or minimize accidental clicks. Make the text easily clickable.

    Make your mobile website easy to read. There should be a significant contrast between background and text. Content should fit on the screen and be readable without zooming or pinching.

    Your mobile site should be accessible. An ideal mobile website works across all mobile platforms and handset orientations.

    Make it local. Most of the time, mobile users look for local information on their phones. It is important to include a functionality that lets people find you.

    Make your website easy to convert. Make it easy for prospects to buy from you or contact you. Focus on product details and other information that will maximize conversion rates. Minimize the steps required to complete a sale. Keep forms short and make data entry easier by using scroll menus, lists or check boxes. Finally, utilize click-to-call functionality for phone numbers.

If you haven’t moved in a direction to convert your website to be mobile-friendly, then, based on quantifiable data, it is safe to say that you are losing customers.  This process is not that expensive and it is easy to do.

Mobile marketing is the wave of the future and could well be your most effective method for acquiring and maintaining new customers.