Updating The Conventional Wisdom on SMB Mobile Optimization and Apps

May 2, 2016 Peter Krasilovsky

Mobile website and App strategies are a source of uncertainty for many SMBs.   While the majority of information lookups now occur on mobile devices,  most SMBs have not specifically developed a site that is mobile optimized, much less a dedicated mobile App.  A 2015 survey by RBC Capital Markets found that just 33% of SMB websites in the US are “mobile ready.”

In a different 2015 survey by Endurance International Group :

  • 50%  haven’t upgraded  because “they don’t know how”
  • 23% said it was “too time consuming”
  • 22%  cited cost
  • 5% cited security issues. 

The laggards aren't dumb. Given all the competing resources for SMB marketing dollars in 2016, mobile optimization or the development of a mobile App may not be top contenders.  

In truth, many SMBs can actually get away with not being pro-active vis a vis mobile:  new Websites   are now being built with “responsive” designs that automatically render sites for whatever access device is used: desktop, phone or tablet. Sites built with WordPress are now  also readable on all devices.

But older sites may not be mobile optimized.  Even if they are, they may be improved.  A Wordpress site will be readable on mobile devices, for instance, but key sections may not be bolded and  lined up by headline – an ideal rendering for smaller screens.

There is another reason – a very important one -- for ensuring that sites are mobile optimized:  Google now “punishes” sites that aren’t mobile friendly in its search rankings.

Given all this, here’s a battle plan for SMBs:

  1. Determine if your site is mobile optimized in order to maximize your search ranking.  You can check with Google’s free test.  
  2. Decide whether to invest in a dedicated mobile site or a responsive site. The latter generally costs more on a monthly basis, but can be used across the board for all your desktop and mobile needs. A dedicated mobile site, however,  might have more functionality for mobile users.
  3. Decide whether it pays to add a dedicated mobile App.

Adding a dedicated App is a relatively big decision.  Apps can deliver a better user experience than mobile websites, and can also be integrate certain functionality (i.e. one click calling) directly into the phone.   They can also help drive business by providing online promotions, run contests  and host loyalty programs.   Finally, they may also help SMBs stay “ top of mind” for consumers.

SMBs that expect to regularly engage with their customers can definitely benefit from having an App.   But consumers don’t generally remember to use more than a few apps, and an SMB app can be easily forgotten.  

About the Author

Peter Krasilovsky runs Local Onliner, a consulting firm that focuses on how digital channels target local consumers. “Local” has been a focus for him since 1995-96, and the firm's practice now includes search, marketplaces, geotargeting, vertical media and loyalty and promotion services. Peter was Chief Analyst and Vice President for BIA/Kelsey from 2006-2015. He holds an MA from The Annenberg School of Communications at The University of Southern California and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. He currently resides with his wife Sharon in Ashland, Oregon.

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