The Internet started out as an open range where anyone with access could roam freely. With the advent of mobile technology and apps, that day may be drawing to a close.
The Wall Street Journal, reporting on a recent comScore mobile app trends study, said that mobile phones now account for 62 percent of all time spent online, 44 percent of which is spent on smartphone apps.
But what does this shift toward a mobile, app-driven environment mean for local businesses, many of which have yet to embrace the web as a marketing vehicle at all?
In this article, discuss some of the implications and describe three ways businesses can take advantage of this less-open iteration of the Internet.
Rank Well in Local Search
Millions of people use mobile apps multiple times per day, for all sorts of reasons. But those same individuals also rely on Google and other search engines to find information, using both mobile and desktop devices.
A growing portion of those searches — more than 50 percent according to some estimates — have local intent. That’s significant because a high percentage of localized searches lead to offline sales, usually within a few hours.
More than half of searches have local intent. (Source: SearchEngineLand.com)
The implication: Position your business to rank well in local search. That includes optimizing your website for mobile devices, putting your NAP (name, address, phone) on every page of the site, and claiming your local business directory listings, particularly Google My Business.
Don’t Forsake the Tried-and-true
Don’t let this trend toward mobile app adoption steer you away from using tried-and-true online marketing tactics such as email, blogging, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and social media.
Email is still a leading conversion driver; blogging gives Google the content it craves, which can help with SEO; PPC is a direct-response advertising medium, and social media can help build brand awareness and engender customer loyalty (even though it may not contribute significantly to sales).
Add Apps to the Marketing Mix
With so much time being spent in apps, consider incorporating mobile app marketing into the mix. There are good reasons to do so.
Apps “know” you. Rather than being a “one-to-many” interface, like websites, they are effectively “one-to-one” in that information is highly personalized.
Mobile users refer to apps first. Many mobile users reference apps first, before going to search engines. For example, when I want to know what the weather will be like on a given day, I open the Accuweather app on my smartphone. Similarly, when want to see what’s taking place in the world, visit any one of several news apps.
Extend that concept to marketing. If interested in locating a good seafood restaurant nearby, I’m just as likely to tap the Urbanspoon app icon as to conduct a Google search. If I’m looking for a handyman, plumber, or contractor, I bring up the Yelp app. On those rare occasions when want to make a product purchase, the Amazon app is often my first option.
Get the picture?
If the idea of incorporating apps into the overall marketing mix sounds appealing, here are three ways to go about it:
Create a mobile app for your business. That’s not as difficult as it may sound. Several easy to use app-building software platforms are available that require little technical knowledge or coding capability. In most cases, the interface is simple drag-and-drop.
While mobile apps may not be suited to every business, certainly those in the retail sector should take advantage of the features they afford.
Stores can offer coupons, share events, and even sell products. Restaurants can post menus, take reservations, and promote daily specials. Salons can book appointments, include contact features such as click-to-call, and provide directions and maps. Some app-building software even comes with push notifications and loyalty programs.
One platform, Canvas, is designed with service businesses in mind, and includes the ability to capture signatures on a sales order, scan barcodes, create invoices, and collect payments.
Canvas is an app-building platform designed for service businesses.
Claim and verify your listing on mobile review sites. Specifically, I’m thinking of Foursquare and Yelp. Many apps, however, are intended for use within specific industries. For example:
ZocDoc lets patients view a map of doctors in their insurance network, read patient reviews, and check a doctor’s availability. Doctors can list their practice there, to attract new patients and build loyalty.
Zillow allows users to search for homes to buy or rent. Agents can advertise and list themselves in the directory.
TripAdvisor, the default review site for the hospitality industry, offers an app that enables consumers to find hotels, view photos, and read guest reviews.
Thumbtack lets iPhone users connect with home services businesses to review profiles, compare quotes, and schedule appointments.
Participate in social media. As mentioned, Facebook is the number one most used app, so it only makes sense to have a presence on the network. Twitter is also heavily mobile, as is Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat.
Also worth noting, Facebook’s Messenger app has evolved from text messaging into a business communication ecosystem that includes features such as live chat, push notifications, appointment booking, and even a Siri-like virtual assistant called “M” that can make recommendations based on user queries.
Facebook Messenger now includes business-oriented features.
Thanks to mobile device and app adoption, the era of the open Internet has given way to a much more closed, single-purpose environment. That doesn’t mean you no longer use tried-and-true digital marketing techniques. It does imply, however, that you embrace the transition and introduce mobile apps into your overall marketing mix.