Why It’s Time For Local SMBs To Get On Board With Mobile

While attending BIA/Kelsey’s SMB Digital Marketing 2012 Conference in Chicago last month, I was surprised by the results of a recent LCM study, which showed that only 20 percent of local businesses said they have experience with mobile marketing.

Small businesses today operate in a time when smartphone adoption is growing rapidly (eMarketer predicts there will be 116 million U.S. smartphone users, representing 37% of the population, by the end of this year.

A continuous wave of new statistics are illustrating that consumers are increasingly turning to their mobile devices for local information (Google announced that as much as 50 percent of mobile search via its platforms is for local information), and even major companies like Apple are apologizing when public outrage ensues over their local maps features not being up to par.

Mobile is where today’s consumers already are, but local businesses are not. The LCM study showed that approximately 19% of SMBs said they have learned about mobile marketing but don’t use it, 31% have heard of it but don’t know much, and 29% simply haven’t heard of it at all.

Additionally, a separate survey by Borrell Associates found that only 27 percent of SMBs plan to increase their spending on mobile media over the next 12 months.

The rapid fragmentation of today’s local media landscape, which now includes options ranging from local sites and social media to online search and daily deals and also mobile – has SMBs playing an ongoing game of catch-up. Many are overwhelmed by the options and worried that investments in these new platforms won’t pay off.

What concerns me about the trend for mobile in particular is that many SMBs don’t have a basic education on the fundamental concepts of this form of advertising or its potential.

As a result, many SMBs are missing clear opportunities to attract potential new customers in the mobile space. Over time, these businesses may lose even more potential customers to competitors who are testing and utilizing mobile in their marketing plans.

Below, I’ll overview recent data that illustrates the state of local mobile advertising today and what SMBs can and should be doing to successfully leverage this platform.

Local Relevancy, Offers & Recognition Driving Mobile Advertising

xAd and Telmetrics recently released a Mobile Path-To-Purchase study, conducted by Nielsen, which explored the growing importance of local mobile search. The study found that 2 out of 3 consumers notice mobile ads and that 1 out of 3 ads result in a click – promising figures for any form of advertising, let alone mobile, which is just getting its start.

The study determined the top 3 reasons that consumers have for engaging with local mobile ads:

  1. Locally relevant: the ad is for a business that is nearby and easy to access
  2. Local offers coupons/promotions: presented with multiple business options, the ad presents a deal that the consumer can’t get with the others
  3. Features a known brand: like any type of advertising, consumers are often drawn to businesses they know and trust

These are valuable tenets to help drive your business’ mobile strategy. For example, unlike other forms of advertising where businesses may blanket an entire city with ads to draw customers, the study suggests that the better approach with mobile is to find those within a targeted proximity.

YP’s most recent Local Insights Digital Report, a quarterly look at trends in local advertising based on internal data from YP’s Local Ad Network, echoed this view. The YP study found that consumers within a sweet spot of 1-2 miles were more likely to click on banner ads for local businesses. The further away from the business, the less likely consumers were to click the ad.

Apps & Mobile-Friendly Websites Are Vital

The xAd/Telmetrics study found that 45 percent of mobile users go directly to an app or website when searching for local information versus being directed by a browser. That demonstrates the increasing value of both investing in your business’ placement in apps and mobile-friendly versions of your business’ website, rather than simply relying on search engine tools.

Many local directory apps like those from Yelp, Citysearch and YP provide free listings for local businesses with the opportunity to increase exposure with paid advertising. It’s worth taking the time to meet with representatives from several of the major players in order to see what’s available. In all cases, make sure that any paid obligations on your business’ part are justified by analytics demonstrating a strong return on your investment.

If you’re unfamiliar with a mobile-friendly website, it’s a simplified version of your regular website page that can be more easily be accessed and viewed on a smartphone browser.

A mobile-friendly site usually focuses on providing basic information like business name, address with a map, and phone number (more on the significance of phone numbers later), as well as other features like online appointment scheduling. You can create a simple mobile-friendly website for free using Google Sites, DudaMobile and a host of other options from local ad providers.

A recent study by Google, conducted by Sterling Research and SmithGeiger, found that 61 percent of people surveyed said they’d quickly move onto another site if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site. The survey showed that 67 percent of users said they were more likely to buy from a mobile-friendly site.

What’s more, the mobile experience can reflect on the company as a whole: 52 percent of those surveyed said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company. These statistics and others in the survey demonstrate how important a mobile-friendly site is to your business both on- and offline.

Vertical & Device Type Play Role in Crafting Strategy

Determining the focus of your local mobile marketing strategy will depend on what type of business you’re in, since customer preferences are different depending on the vertical being searched and device type being used.

  • The xAd/Telmetrics study showed that while local directory apps are most popular for smartphone users searching in the restaurants and automotive categories (53 percent and 34 percent, respectively), brand websites are most popular for users searching in the travel category (47 percent).
  • Meanwhile, among tablet users, brand websites are the most popular among all categories (51 percent restaurant, 56 percent travel, and 48 percent automotive).
  • The study also demonstrated that smartphones are used more to find and contact local businesses, while tablets are used more for research including price comparisons and reviews. Additionally, smartphone users are mostly on the go when the search (68 percent), while a majority of tablet users are at home (72 percent).
  • Finally, the YP study found that Apple/iOS in-app ads accessed on its network yielded nearly 47 percent higher click through rates than Android in-app ads.

These insights can each play roles in calculating where exactly you’ll place advertising and how you’ll focus the content you share to maximize exposure and generate new sales.

Additionally, it’s important to note that popular verticals like restaurants, autos and travel are hardly the only ones that mobile users are searching regularly. The YP report showed several interesting categories like outdoor/recreation, landscaping and home & garden among the fastest growing between Q1 and Q2 2012.

Your Digits Can’t Be Forgotten

No matter what business you own or where you’re advertising via mobile, don’t forget that the basics still apply. The xAd/Telmetrics study showed that as high as 73 percent of smartphone and tablet users said they look for a business phone number in their searches and subsequently contact the business.

One might think in today’s digital-savvy world, the phone call itself would lose some significance. But it’s clear that consumers still want to speak with your business directly by phone before making a final decision to come in the door. Selecting mobile advertising options that allow you to prominently feature your local phone number is vital.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column


About The Author: is an award-winning print and online Yellow Pages executive with broad domestic and international experience, and is the Local Search Association vice president of communications. She also blogs about the industry on the Local Search Insider blog. Follow @localsearchassn on Twitter.

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  • http://www.tvsinternetmarketing.com/ Travis Van Slooten


    Wow…lots of stats to digest here:) I’m going to bookmark this post and link to it from my site as well for future reference when talking to clients about the importance of having a mobile presence. I’m working with a client right now on a responsive web design.

    For SMB’s reading this that don’t know what that is, a responsive design is one where your website “responds” to whatever device is being used to view your website. If someone is viewing your website on a tablet, for example, your tablet-optimized website is shown. If they are viewing it on a smartphone, your smartphone-optimized website is returned. You have a specific design for each of the 3 main devices used today – desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

    At any rate, didn’t mean to get sidetracked on that. I just think it’s important for SMB’s reading this that when they do go mobile, they should go with a responsive web design. You want to avoid having a separate mobile website. And this comes directly from Google:)

    Travis Van Slooten

  • Shawn Lippert

    Great Article and facts, The research done here for Mobile Marketing is right on target, well put together! I have noticed in my Local Clients Google Business pages that most of the mobile searches results in a call to action like Phone Number and Maps for directions more so then clicking through to their website.

    However for a Restaurant client of mine their “Menu” page receives more visit’s then the directions and phone number combined. Potential customers still want to see what is offered before making the final decision.

    Mobile Search is gaining ground rather quickly, Marketing to apps like, FourSquare, Yelp, Google+ and more I think is the right move!

  • Justin Sous

    Great article, awesome stats.

    If I had to bet though, I’d say a certain percentage of the Local Business Owners who said they aren’t doing any mobile marketing either:
    A) Don’t know exactly what constitutes “mobile marketing”… or
    B) Don’t realize they’re doing mobile marketing

    A lot of the bigger PPC agencies like the Yodles and Reach Locals who automate a lot of their PPC accounts don’t necessarily optimize their SMB accounts for mobile, but they’ll set their campaign settings for “All Devices” which includes mobile. This cuts down on the work for them and allows them to increase the # of clicks/impressions for their clients. The SMBs probably don’t have any idea they’re being opted into these devices and aren’t optimized for them. It’s not a knock on the big agencies (well, maybe) but moreso what I see everyday.

    I agree, Stephanie, if you’re an SMB and not taking advantage of mobile in PPC or SEO then you’re missing the boat!


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