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Getting appy: how to make your brand mobile friendly

What’s the best possible way for small businesses to grow their relationships with potential and existing customers? The answer involves looking carefully at how customers are trying to connect with you — and in 2016, this means going mobile.

For Brits, going shopping now means getting online, and, in 2015, almost two thirds of UK visits to online retail stores were made via mobile devices; a higher proportion than any other western country. And it’s not all about e-commerce, either. For consumers trying to find a decent coffee shop, an emergency plumber, or a new accountant (to name just a few), mobile devices are increasingly involved in the buying or decision-making process.

Mobile marketing is a catch-all term to describe how businesses are helping to drive this trend — and how they respond to it. For small businesses, this could involve a range of strategies, from tweaking the way your website works, through to launching your very own mobile app. It’s about taking advantage of the opportunities mobile can offer, and with the help of the examples of some mobile marketing ‘winners’, we’ll suggest some ways to do precisely that.

Can your website cope with mobile?

You should firstly think about whether your website is geared up to providing mobile visitors with the right user experience (UX). Especially if it’s an older site, it could be that mobile visitors are getting a squashed, but essentially identical, version of what they would be viewing on their desktop monitor. On a smartphone, it feels awkward, confusing, and slow. In all likelihood, it’s going to cause them to bounce away from your site.

Mobile optimisation is the slightly technical term for putting all of this right. Precisely how you (or your web developer) fixes this will depend on the architecture of your existing site. For many small businesses however, the best solution involves adopting ‘responsive design’: where your site is hardwired to respond automatically to the type of device it is viewed on. The menu bar, image dimensions, and page layout are all automatically optimised for your site to make sense on mobile.

The Mulberry website is worth looking at as an example of responsive design. The layout is simple and uncluttered, while the text is to the point. Whatever you are looking for, you are generally no more than a couple of screen taps from your desired page — creating a simple and speedy UX.   

Building brand loyalty with your very own mobile app

A mobile app offers you the chance to give customers an all-round ‘better’ experience of your business — giving them a huge of range of potential new and exciting services. What’s more, it also provides you with a direct and personalised way to stay in touch with your customers, and to manage your relationship with them.

The good news is that company apps are no longer just for the likes of Netflix or Sainsbury’s. Whatever your niche, developers can create a simple widget that you can roll out to customers, with many tech firms offering industry-specific apps that you can re-skin, brand, and customise according to your requirements. The Link App designed specifically for law firms is one such example.   

For customers who already have an established relationship with you, an app can make life easier with user-friendly service, such as instant access to order details, simple re-ordering, and to make direct contact with you. As a communication channel, an app is ideal for reminding customers that it might be time to re-order, or to make an appointment, and as a way of sending out messages about special offers about new products or services.

To show how all of this can translate into success for your small business, The Guardian highlighted the case of Sailing Logic, a small company offering yacht racing experience days. To make it easier for customers to book tickets for events, the company launched its very own ticketing app, Bookitbee. Now, 25% of The Royal Yachting Association’s course bookings are received from this one app.  

Taking a mobile-friendly approach to social media

The fact that almost half of Facebook users only ever access the service via mobile, helps to show just how closely mobile and social are linked. Small businesses should take this into account by asking a very important question before they post or share content on social media: “Is this going to work when viewed on mobile?”

On one level, it involves sharing content that’s going to grab the attention as your readers scroll through their feeds. Here, attractive, funny, or intriguing images and catchy headlines always help.

You should also think about the possibility of distributing content that takes advantage of mobile’s special capabilities. After all, among other things, a mobile is a viewing platform and a gaming device rolled into one. Nissan captured this brilliantly with an interactive ad where an SUV battled against snowmen. It allowed viewers to tap the screen to find out more about the special features of the car.   

Commissioning your own ad of this type is probably out of reach (for now at least). But there may be plenty of scope for sharing mobile-friendly fun, engaging, and interactive content from other sources.

For small businesses, a mobile-friendly marketing strategy need not involve a huge expense. It’s about picturing your typical customers, and realising that there’s a strong possibility they will be using a mobile to discover and interact with you. You should then use this to guide your decisions on how you present your business to those customers. For more information on how to develop your marketing methods, head on over to our help centre. 
Published Friday January 29, 2016

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