Digital Marketing in The Age of Mobile: What Every Brand and Local Business Should Know Today

Has your business ever run a print ad in a local newspaper or town event? If the answer is “yes,” you’re surely not alone. However, for many, the traditional means of advertising and marketing is now prehistoric. In a world of smartphones, tablets and laptops, the way local businesses need to communicate and reach consumers has changed.

Online search, thanks to Google and other search engines, has changed the way consumers find businesses and research their future purchases. With consumers embracing their mobile technology more religiously, it should come as no surprise that Google recently announced mobile-optimized websites would now factor into search rankings. However, optimizing a website for mobile is just the beginning. There are short-term and long-term decisions that can be made to enhance local businesses’ opportunities for growth online. 

Digital Marketing Matters

Local businesses and retailers are presented with an array of challenges and opportunities in 2015. Today’s consumer is using the Internet more than ever to research purchasing decisions.  In fact, the Millennial generation—which makes up more than one third of today’s adult consumer—are using their mobile devices and the Internet to help them research large considered purchases—including: cars, furniture and home appliances—before the purchase is made. Local businesses and independent retailers, take note. This is an important generational habit that is greatly influencing the path to purchase.

According to comScore, more than 90 percent of consumers are using online search as the first step in a purchasing decision—one of the 24 digital touch points the average consumer has on their way to making a purchase (Think with Google). As your business considers how to drive traffic into your store, the Internet is a key arena that your business should have a presence in. In today’s digital age, an online presence and digital marketing—such as a website or online ad—is providing the local impact of yesteryear’s TV ads or highway billboards.

Is there a payoff to having a website? Yes. IDC estimates that annual revenue for businesses with a website eclipses $5 million a year (on average), opposed to the $3.6 million businesses earn without a website. Building a presence online—for both desktop and mobile devices—is just one part of the digital marketing equation. As the shift in consumer habits trends towards mobile devices and electronics, your local business can be implementing things today to target and address local consumers in your neighborhood.

Mobile is Key in 2015

On April 21, Google altered their popular search engine so mobile friendliness is now considered a ranking signal in mobile-based searches. This makes it more difficult for local businesses to be found in a mobile search. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, this change may impact what is shown to consumers on their mobile device within a related search query. This shift makes it more challenging for local businesses, just like yours, to compete with Big Box retailers who have more financial assets and digital marketing experience to help them pull off larger campaigns and marketing tactics.

In fact if your website is not yet mobile-optimized, you’re not alone. Hibu estimates that 46 percent of businesses in the U.S. do not have a mobile-optimized website. If your business is concerned about how this mobile shift will impact website traffic, there are several tips and best practices for getting your business on-track:

  1. Evaluate the mobile readiness of your website: Google has set up an easy-to-use tool, conveniently named “Mobile-Friendly Test,” for you to determine whether your website is mobile ready or not. The free service will check for things like location map, address, click-to-call, redirects, speed, touch-sensors and more. If your website lacks one or more of these critical mobile elements, Google will provide you a list of these areas for improvement.
  2. Optimize for mobile: With this list in-hand, contact your IT professional or use a service like Duda for a short-term mobile fix.

Mobile is just as much a current trend as it is the future of retail. More consumers—not just Millennials—are purchasing smartphones and tablets, which means even more will be using their mobile device to research products and brands online. Creating a presence for your business online is an imperative move, not just for your digital marketing efforts, but also for the business in general. You will find an increase in foot traffic, and hopefully, too, sales, as a result of your strategic digital and online marketing efforts.

Team Up with National Product Brands 

The fight for gaining visibility locally and regionally does not have to be a lonely journey. If your business sells national product brands, there’s an incredible opportunity for your business to leverage. Many of the large national product brands have set aside co-op marketing funds specifically for helping your business enhance local marketing efforts.

Through these programs, you can synchronize efforts on messaging, special promotions and campaigns – all of which can help drive foot traffic in store and ultimately, increase sales. This is particularly true around the holiday season when many brands host seasonal promotions.

In 2014, Nationwide, a national buying group associated with many national product brands, worked closely with their affiliated local business partners for the “Just Say Yes” campaign, which partnered them with appliance giant, Maytag. The local businesses, which already sold Maytag appliances, were encouraged to participate in the national holiday campaign the product brand was sponsoring.

Through Maytag’s financial and strategic support, the businesses were assisted and equipped with the tools to advance their digital marketing ahead of the holiday campaign. This included: online search, site retargeting, online ads and more. The six-month campaign resulted in a measurable impact for both Maytag and the local businesses. Collectively, there were more than 17 million local digital ad impressions, 113,000 web visitors and an 8.2 percent conversion rate. The impact of working with a larger national partner can be both impactful and measurable, as this example conveys.

Working with a national product brand is a longer-term strategy for most, but there are considerations and decisions that can be made in the short-term, too. Many businesses will wonder how they can optimize their online presence or business for mobile. The fact is this: mobile devices are growing in popularity and consumers are relying on them more heavily than ever before. To prove this, mobile-based searches surpassed the traditional desktop search in early 2014. These searches are expected to grow in volume steadily in the next several years, too (comScore).

Google’s decision to use mobile optimization as a ranking signal in search likely stems from the noticeable shift in how consumers access the Internet, but your business doesn’t have to be left in the dust. Making small changes to your website and digital presence today will ensure your business can be found online. Longer-term, working with national product brands will open up new doors of opportunity for your business online and in-store, preparing your business for whatever digital challenge is presented to you next.

Contributed by Brendan Morrissey, CEO of Netsertive, a digital marketing intelligence platform. 


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