child with mobile phoneThere is no doubt about it, the unrelenting rise of the smartphone and tablet cannot be ignored. Your customers are constantly on the ‘go’ and being able to access their life in the palm of their hand makes it all a bit easier. But does your website do the same for them? Have you tried to undertake your main customer website activities on a smartphone or tablet? Was it as easy as on a desktop device?

For many businesses, the answer is simply “no”.

The unrelenting rise of the smartphone in the UK

A recent article by eMarketer indicated that in 2012 the global smartphone audience surpassed the 1 billion mark and will reach 1.75 billion in 2014 and will continue to rise through to 2017. Figures suggest that almost two-fifths of all mobile phone users – that’s just about 25% of the worldwide population – will be using a smartphone at least monthly in 2014. By 2017, smartphone penetration among mobile phone users globally is likely to be approximately 50%.

Recent Deloitte research stated that the number of smartphone users in the UK has reached 72% (that’s a whooping +14% in the last 10 months alone!) – so that means 7 out of 10 of your customers may be viewing your website on a smartphone. Will they like what they see?!

How do you know whether mobile customers are important to your business?

If you look at your Google Analytics data you will see the constant rise of your mobile device visitor (you do check your GA reports, don’t you?). I’m certainly seeing this pattern across the website stats for many of my clients. Some business sectors are seeing larger shifts to mobile device visitors than others but I can assure you that every business is seeing these percentages on the up.

So how do you cope with this trend in your smaller business?

Well the answer for me is “it depends”. If you have a website that has a transactional element to it – so your user needs to complete a purchase or a task, like registration or sign up – then I think you need to be seriously considering developing a Responsive Design website. This is the gold standard in mobile web and means that no matter what device is used to access your site it will shrink and adjust how it displays content, making the user experience easy and enjoyable.

If yours is a brochure-style website, you can probably ‘get away with’ what you have for the moment. However, I would highly recommend you test it on tablets and smartphone devices to see how it renders and if it is still usable. I have seen some absolute shockers in terms of what can happen to your beautiful website when viewed on a smartphone! If it’s unusable for your customer you are risking losing out on business.

Perhaps I should get a Mobile App instead?

Again, I would recommend a Responsive Design website as a minimum and then consider if any part of your customer journey or a process is suitable for translating into an App. Apps have many advantages – generally they do not need an internet connection, the user interface can be streamlined, and you can focus the customer on the task in hand. But be careful not to get drawn into developing an App simply for the sake of it! They might be the latest shiny marketing toy but you don’t necessarily need one. And they’re not cheap (around £5,000 upwards) – and have ongoing development costs, so it isn’t a one-off investment.

As ever, and as with all marketing tools, it depends on your target audience. Find out first how your customers behave online – are they increasingly accessing your site via their mobile devices (check out your free Google Analytics data!) and consider what you are asking them to do on your website. This should drive your decision to develop a more mobile/tablet-friendly online presence to aid website conversion and sales growth.