Eight ways you should be preparing for the smartphone revolution

Written by Patrick Stafford

Nearly 10 million more smartphones will enter the Australian market within the next four years, and businesses need to start preparing. New data from industry research house Telsyte shows that 10 million more smartphones will be in use by 2015, with the total number set to reach 18.5 million. By that time, nearly 90% of users will be using a smartphone as their primary device, up from the current level of just under 50%.
While the iPhone may be popular now, the next few years will see an amalgam of different handsets from manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and HTC, while the Android and Windows Phone platforms will continue to grow.
“Over the coming four years Telsyte estimates that more than 30 million smartphones will be sold in Australia, creating a vibrant and competitive market for vendors, carriers and retailers,” research director Foad Fadaghi said in a statement.The growth of mobiles should cause business leaders to pause. This is a significant shift in the way customers will consume and search for media. Are you ready for it?
Here are eight ways you should be preparing your business for the smartphone revolution:
1.   Mobile site
It’s amazing how many businesses don’t have a mobile site. Many don’t think it necessary – they are wrong.
If users can’t open a site within a few seconds, they will leave. If your site is too clunky and large to load, then they will abandon you for a competitor. Having a slick mobile site means users get all the functionality of the real site with none of the fuss.Develop a simple mobile site that gives your customers all the application of your main web page. It’s all about making sure the customer has easy access no matter where they are.
2.   Location
As smartphones become more powerful people will start using them as pocket computers- they’re already doing so now. And as a result, they will be searching for businesses on the go.Having millions of smartphones around your business means you need to get busy ensuring your company is optimised for location. If you’re an apparel retailer in the Perth CBD then you want customers searching on their phones to find you in a Google search and then follow directions to your store – Google location profiles are built exactly for this purpose.You may not get a lot of business from it now, but optimising for location will pay off big in the long run.
3.   Commerce
Mobile payments are becoming a big deal. Companies in the US like Square are innovating in this field, and closer to home even the big four banks are running trials to see if consumers respond well to paying with their phones.Are you able to accept mobile payments? Even if it’s as simple as putting a PayPal link on your mobile website, you need to be optimised. Make sure users have the ability to pay on their smartphones right now, and you’ll be well in place for the next few years.
4.   Apps
It’s true that not every business needs to have an app, but many do. If you haven’t looked at creating an app for the major smartphone platforms then at least look into it.Apps are all about creating an experience that is dedicated to the smartphone, rather than having users just go on to a normal website through a smartphone browser. Apps from companies such as Catch of the Day enable users to experience the offer the same way they would on a default web page, but it’s so much faster and easier to access.This is an investment. But plenty of companies have succeeded – Domino’s rakes in millions through its ordering app – and you owe it to your business to give it a try.
5.   Ads
The ads you see on your smartphone are not the same you see on a desktop. The experience is totally different, and you need to account for that. Experiment with different mobile ads to see which give you the best result. Smartphones are just another channel through which people shop, and like others such as print or television, smartphone ads require their own rules and structure.
6.   Marketing
This is probably the easiest way to experiment with mobile. Plenty of companies are already using mobile marketing methods by sending SMS messages to remind customers of appointments, or sales. You should do the same. Even if you are a services business, there’s no harm in experimenting with a few different messages to see if you get a response. If it doesn’t work, then move on – but at least you’ve tried.
For retailers, it’s a good idea to try and send some VIP offers through SMS. It adds an element of exclusivity, and will encourage more customers to sign up to your dedicated marketing list.
7.   Search
Checked your SEO lately? What about on a phone?
Your rankings will appear different on a mobile than they will for a desktop search, so don’t just assume that because you control one category you’ll control it on a phone. Do some experiments, work with your SEO manager and find out where exactly you sit on the mobile front. The longer you wait the longer a competitor will be sitting in the top spot.
8.   Social networking
Services like FourSquare aren’t necessarily as popular here as they are overseas, but they are still important. Remember, tourists use those services and they won’t stop using them because they are in a different country, so it’s important to list on as many of these popular services as you can. Especially Facebook, which has included the ability for users to reference locations in their posts. You could even offer Facebook deals, which allow you to give discounts to users if they check-in to your store via the social networking site.