Mobile is a technology that cannot be ignored. No matter what size your business is, there are ways you can make the mobile experience easier for your customers. Then, you can create mobile-specific strategies to bring in new prospects. These trends will show you what other companies are doing in 2018, as well as the easiest (and most useful) ways to implement each of them for a small business.
Trend 1: Be Adaptable and Platform-Independent
If someone on a mobile device wants to know about your company, how will they find that information? Will it be easy for them? According to Smart Insights, 48% of consumers start mobile research with a search engine, while 33% go directly to the site they want. Many of those searches will be made when a customer is actively looking for a local product or service and ready to make a purchase.
Your business must be prepared to meet that demand to attract those potential customers. To do that, your online presence must be optimized for mobile. At its simplest, that means your website must be able to responsive to various screen types, must load quickly, and needs to adapt to fit the mobile experience.
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For example, on a typical desktop webpage, it’s easy to display a lot of information. On a small display, that makes it easy to get lost. Paragraphs seem longer; certain images might need to be omitted altogether; buttons might need to be increased in size etc. Your mobile experience needs to be tested, to the point, and far from overwhelming.
Trend 2: Go Mobile-First for Indexing and Ranking Efforts
Google drives 96% of mobile search traffic, followed by Yahoo at 2% and Bing at 1%. Google is the first one to announce steps to take a mobile-first approach to their search ranking efforts. For businesses, this means that websites that work well on mobile devices will rank higher. Websites that load faster, are adaptable to various platforms and screen sizes, and provide real value will have the highest rankings.
With the prevalence of mobile, it’s no doubt that within five to ten years, all search will take a mobile-first indexing approach. To prepare for that time, Google offers tools for marketers to see how far their current mobile efforts will take them. These tools apply to testing the adaptability of websites as well as their speed and mobile compliance. They can also be used to test native apps, web applications, and Progressive Web Apps.
Trend 3: Focus on Speed and Ease of Use with PWAs
With a focus on adaptability and mobile-first efforts, it’s only natural to mention the new web-based technology that enables all of these things out of the box, by design. The technology behind Progressive Web Apps (PWA) is backed by Google, with the criteria defined by them. They offer a host of advantages to both users and developers. These same advantages also apply to businesses that choose to adopt this technology.
Progressive Webs Apps offer to small businesses a competitive advantage in the new mobile-first indexing infrastructure, reduced development costs, and increased customer engagement and conversions. Further, any company that adopts PWA-based technology now has the advantage of a suite of tools to make developing a PWA the new de facto choice for any website.
Trend 4: Incorporate Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning
Though AI and ML are trending topics, when it comes to implementation in small businesses, many owners fall prey to the misconception that AI is complicated. However, many businesses may already be using AI – they just don’t recognize it as such.
Most small businesses that incorporate some form of AI report that they see “fast growth” compared to those that don’t incorporate any. Small businesses that don’t use AI report avoiding it because they find it “too complex” or their business is “not ready.”
If you’ve ever scheduled a specific time to post to social media or send an email, that was artificial intelligence at work. Email autoresponders? AI. Customer recommendations or “other customers buy X” filters on your webstore? Also simple uses of AI. There are dozens of small, easy ways to integrate AI and machine learning technologies just like these. They are there to make your business run that much more smoothly.
While AI is great at working out situations that are pure numbers based, it cannot make choices. That will always be left up to the business owner. Even at the highest level, AI is only there to help you automate simple, mundane tasks and make smarter choices. It’s there to support you. Those support solutions already exist and taking advantage of them isn’t difficult.
As far as specific trends in AI for this year, it’s mostly used for personalization. AI can be used to segment customers into groups based on their past actions. Those groups can then be marketed to in slightly different ways, increasing the response rate or their willingness to buy.
Trend 5: Mobile Payments
This may be the easiest trend for any small business to get in on. Starbucks is a prime example, between 20 and 30% of their sales are ordered and paid for with their mobile app.
In 2017, a consumer study revealed that 30% of respondents would prefer to take their phone, rather than their wallet, shopping. From this, you can see that nearly one in three of your current customers would like the option of choosing a mobile-based payment method. That number is likely to increase in over the course of this year and the next few.
All you need to implement mobile payments in brick and mortar locations is to update your point-of-sale system to handle NFC payments. If you’ve already upgraded or the company you get your equipment from has updated for you, that’s all you needed. Don’t let them become customers walk away because you don’t want to take this simple step.
Trend 6: Streaming, Live Video
This trend is a great way to be active online. First, you have the option of streaming video to your customers to host impromptu workshops and webinars or a Q&A session. By recording the live session, you have a new piece of content ready to share on your website or social media. Because it’s a short, live session, it should be relatively easy to stick to the point. Further, no heavy editing or production effort is required.
On the other hand, your customers can stream video for you. If you are a repair or service business, or any business that offers quotes, this can be invaluable when it comes to improving estimate accuracy or determining the type of equipment or parts needed. It can also make it easier to give accurate instructions to your customers and clients. This type of video can easily be used to augment the customer service and troubleshooting process. That can mean less time spent per customer on problems, less inaccuracy and frustration, and better customer experience overall.
Which Trends are Worth It?
As a small business, your time and resources are limited. You can’t possible latch on to any and all trends that pops up. In fact, doing so for the wrong reasons or in the wrong ways might do more harm than good.
Which trends are best for your business? First look at the things that are becoming the new standard. In this case, mobile payments and mobile-first based web experiences. After that, look at the things that are easy and make your life, as a business owner, better – like simple artificial intelligence and machine learning. From there you should have an excellent base and are helping to bring your company forward. Then you can look at more resource intensive, experimental trends.
Andrew Gazdecki is the founder and CEO of Bizness Apps, a company that helps small businesses build mobile solutions to compete with big brands. Their mobile app building platform makes it possible for everyone to create a mobile app for their business. Many of our customers resell apps to cost-effectively deliver them to small business clients. When he isn’t helping small businesses, he is out surfing in the Pacific Ocean.