Are you finding yourself conducting more and more business with your smartphone or tablet? Have you ever practiced "showrooming" -- going into a retail store to look at something you want to purchase, and then using your mobile device to price it and buy it online?
If you answered yes to either or both questions, you are part of an increasingly mobile society that will re-shape the way big and small businesses reach prospects and customers. The Pew Internet and American Life Project found in a recent survey that 55 percent of Internet users access the Internet on a mobile device at least occasionally. As of September 2012, 45 percent of American adults have a smartphone, and 25 percent of American adults have a tablet computer, according to Pew.
This is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. In 2013, smartphone and tablet usage will skyrocket, thanks to increased competition and dropping prices. This is especially true with the current tablet war primarily pitting Apple against Amazon, but Microsoft, Samsung, and many other players are in the market. With mobile device and Internet service availability, mobile users will be expecting to be able to do a lot more on the go. That's why apps of every variety are enjoying such popularity -- and why they played a major role in this year's holiday shopping.
Perhaps the most significant development for small businesses, though, is mobile payment technology. Square, a payment device that attaches to smartphones, is already "facilitating over $10 billion of commerce annually for small businesses across the US. Up $2 billion in just 2 months," says founder Jack Dorsey. Meanwhile, both MasterCard and Visa are implementing their own versions of mobile payments. The implications of this are enormous. I was at a food truck recently and saw a customer swipe a debit card through the vendor's Square device on a smartphone to pay for the meal.
QR codes (those funny little boxes that look like demented barcodes) haven't gained traction, but they're now starting to appear in retail store windows, allowing shoppers to point their smartphones and be connected to an online site where they can order what they see. That means a consumer can pass by the window of a store that may be closed and still place an order, right from their phone.
Mobile payments and ordering online with QR codes are just two examples of the emerging world of "m-commerce." Competing effectively in 2013 means beginning to "mobile-ize" your business so you can take advantage of your mobile audience.
For more small business insights, check out the on-demand online course by branding strategist Barry Silverstein, Big Brand Strategies for Small Brands.