With mobile and social media on the rise, today’s consumer is always connected. For the small business marketer, this means there are more opportunities than ever before to reach potential customers. And yet many small businesses remain slow to adapt to the demands of the connected consumer.
According to the Local Digiscape research study conducted on several U.S. cities by BuzzBoard on behalf of YP, around 41 percent of small businesses in the cities studied don’t have SEO optimized websites. Also, about half don’t have mobile-responsive sites, and only about a quarter are leveraging social media.
These are missed opportunities for businesses that are looking to grow their customer base or brand in the digital age. To stay competitive, there are three things every business should know about the importance of online media to connect with customers.
- The Web is where small businesses find and reach local customers today
Today’s consumers are search savvy, so businesses that want to connect with them must be search savvy too. According to research by IDC on behalf of YP, 36 percent of consumers surveyed started their journey to purchase goods or services on a search engine while more than 50 percent began elsewhere online (e.g. customer review websites or online directories). If a small business is not listed on the web, or if location, services and business hours are not listed accurately, that business will lose out to competitors who are more quickly able to supply the information consumers are looking for to make their purchase decisions.
- Digital media can improve return on investment through targeting
Whether email, social media, website search ads or display ads, most digital media allow for some form of tracking and reporting so marketers can gain insights on consumer engagement and fine-tune their marketing efforts. This may be as simple as watching what social media posts a businesses’ customers like or share the most and creating more content to capture that audience. At a more advanced level, marketers can use research on which key words or business categories receive the highest number of searches during different seasons of the year or days of the week—i.e. camping gear around summer vacation time, or laundromats on weekends—and use these insights to spend their advertising dollars when they’re most likely to get the biggest bang for their buck.
- Mobile offers enhanced targeting and real-time consumer engagement
Today’s consumer spends lots of time looking for information and making decisions online. But what’s more, mobile is becoming the channel of choice for these searches. According to BIA/Kelsey data cited by eMarketer, there were 81.8 billion US local search queries conducted on mobile in 2015 (23 percent above the 2014 total) and that number will reach 141.9 billion by 2019.
When consumers search for businesses on their smartphones, it’s often to find information such as store address, business hours, product availability and directions. Google has reported that more than 60 percent of consumers have used that type of location information in ads, and once a search is completed, 50 percent of consumers who conducted the search on their smartphone visit the business within a day. Mobile advertising offers unparalleled opportunities to reach consumers when they are on-the-go and ready to make purchasing decisions.
Mobile tactics also strengthen targeting capabilities as smartphones increasingly gather data on where a consumer is and where he or she has recently been. As businesses grow from basic to more advanced digital marketing strategies, this data can be leveraged to deliver the most effective advertising and promotions to the right consumers at just the right time.
As smartphones, tablets and mobile devices proliferate, businesses of all types and sizes will be challenged by the necessity of finding and implementing new ways to reach, attract, serve and earn the loyalty of the new, always-connected, consumer. The vast majority of consumers are relying on web-based media to mine the information they want and need before purchasing a product or service. Smart small business owners will embrace this change and recognize the need to invest in an ongoing digital marketing strategy. Doing so will offer new opportunities to target their ideal customers and to grow their businesses.