For years now, small business owners (including me) have been hearing about and waiting expectantly for the growth of the Mobile Web.
It’s coming! It’s coming! Get ready for it!
The Mobile Web means that some day your customers and the world will be viewing and interacting with your website using some kind of mobile device, such as a smartphone, in place of a computer.
To date I’d have to say the Mobile Web is not relevant to most small businesses. Sure, a small number are interested in the Mobile Web. For instance, some local businesses are being found by having their sites listed in mobile maps applications. Some brave souls have even figured out how to send out text notifications to customers over mobile devices, or create mobile apps that customers use.
But those small businesses are still in the minority at this point.
Reason: there’s just not a lot of customer demand that small businesses have to respond to. And without a good reason, most of us won’t bother with the Mobile Web (we have enough trouble mastering the non-mobile Web!).
Ask yourself: are large numbers of customers and prospects complaining that they couldn’t see your website using a mobile device? Are your customers clamoring for you to deliver better customer support using text messaging over mobile devices? If you made your website viewable with a smartphone, would it suddenly increase your sales?
For many small businesses the answer to these types of questions is “no” or “I am not sure.”
It’s still early days, and those taking advantage of the Mobile Web are large corporations at this point. Large corporations, such as financial institutions and retail outlets, are offering text alerts and creating mobile versions of their sites – but you don’t see that much Mobile Web interest by small businesses yet.
However, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that trend is changing. Over the next year I expect to see more small businesses – perhaps even yours – creating streamlined mobile versions of their websites, because more of the public will be accessing their sites from mobile devices. And it will be driven in part by Twitter.
I know, I know – at this point, even I am getting tired of hearing about Twitter. But bear with me for a moment.
Twitter is one of those applications designed specifically to be used interchangeably with both a computer and a mobile device.
Many people are using Twitter to interact with others and even to find businesses through word of mouth referrals: (“Does anyone know a good place to…” or “Where can I find …”).
And what happens when they see a tweet on their iPod Touch or smartphone? They may be presented with a link to another Web page. So they jump over to that Web page and check it out – using their mobile device.
One way to look at the Mobile Web is this way: if you are getting 500 visitors a day from Twitter today, perhaps there is another 10% more that you are getting via a mobile device. And you just don’t realize it. So why not make the experience of browsing your website more user-friendly for those 10%? Put that way, then there becomes a reason to go the effort of making your website accessible to those using the Mobile Web – especially among small businesses that are actively using Twitter for marketing purposes.
Who knows, that casual browser who arrives via Twitter using a BlackBerry or iPhone, may become your next customer.