8 Mobile Trends For Small Businesses To Watch In 2012
A small business can get overwhelmed trying to figure out which social networks or new types
of communication should be added to their communication toolbox. First it was Facebook. Then
Twitter. Now, things like Foursquare, Instagram and Pinterest are all the rage.
As a business owner myself, I try to take a two-pronged approach, focusing on tools that help us:
1) Improve communication with customers and partners; 2) Grow the business by reaching
current or prospective users/customers in a new, better way.
And, that's exactly why small businesses can't ignore mobile opportunities. Over the holidays,
the number of tablet/e-reader owners doubled. Very soon, people will access the Internet on their
phones more frequently than on their PCs. So what trends do you need to be paying attention to -
and acting on - in 2012? Here are eight trends that I foresee impacting small businesses.
1. Explosive Tablet Growth
In 2011, the tablet market experienced explosive growth, thanks to the iPad 2, Kindle Fire, the
now-defunct HP Touchpad and a dozen other tablet PCs. Tablet adoption has dwarfed prior
technology shifts. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if tablet ownership doubles in 2012.
How will this impact your company? The acceleration of tablet adoption will significantly
increase many aspects of business, including content consumption, customer touch points and
mobile commerce. Just look at all the apps, publications, websites, social media and other digital
content that's readily available with the swipe of a finger. How will you leverage mobile
opportunities to cut through the noise and foster more productive relationships with customers
2. Mobile Search Explosion
While tablets support our "always on, always connected" way of life, nothing feeds the beast
quite like mobile phones. Smartphones help us navigate the day in ways we never could have
imagined. Beyond apps, consumers are now searching the web from their phones. In fact, Google
sees 4 billion local searches each month, with 61% of those resulting in a purchase. Did you
know 55% of consumers report using their mobile device to buy a local service or product?
How will this impact your company Think about your sales funnel. Every business is a little
different, but this much is becoming clear: At some point in that sales cycle, people are turning
to the Internet for more information. It's mission critical for your company to understand the
basics of local, mobile search optimization and put these skills to work. By ignoring mobile
search, you're willingly sacrificing business to the competitors. And in this hyper
economic climate, that's just not smart business.
3. Mobile Marketing Becomes a Must
Initially, I wasn't so sure about mobile marketing. But, then reality set in. Mobile marketing isn't
an option. Ecommerce and online properties are leading the way as early adapters, but we'll see
businesses take the leap of faith.
more "bricks and mortar" and traditional bus
How will this impact your company? Start with the low-hanging fruit. For example, optimize
your website for mobile viewing, monitor your reputation on Yelp and Angie's List and leverage
Foursquare and Zaarly.
customer-acquisition tools like Fours
4. The App Debate Continues
Do you need a mobile app? Or should you invest in a mobile website? Your guess is as good as
mine. While "experts" want to declare one or the other's demise, the truth is that no one knows
which will prevail. Instead, we may end up in a world of apps, mobile-optimized sites, even apps
that incorporate mobile websites (yes, I'm looking at you Facebook). Apps continue to offer
superior performance to mobile sites on the whole, but technology is catching up to enable a
much better experience on the mobile web.
How will this impact your company? You know your business and your consumer best, so I
can't in good conscience tell you if you should opt for a mobile app or a website. But, that's not
the point. Consumers are longing for a better mobile experience - and it's your job to deliver.
Think about this: Usability Science puts the mobile user experience on par with web usability
circa 1999. No wonder customers want more!
5. Less "Black Box." More "Data-Driven."
Mobile advertising and mobile SEO are in their infancy, which means tracking results and
outcomes is also relatively primitive. As I've spoken with business owners, agencies and brand
marketers who are exploring mobile ad opportunities, I've come to realize that they're
(understandably!) confused, which makes it hard to justify ROI. However, the mobile sector
knows that the data must improve before businesses will invest major dollars in mobile
How will this impact your company? We won't get all the answers in 2012, but expect ad
networks to begin to provide more accurate statistics. By opening the proverbial kimono, you'll
be better equipped to make data-driven decisions - ensuring you're maximizing your marketing
6. The Maturation of Mobile Payments
Doesn't it feel like we've been predicting mobile payments since Michael Douglas sported an
early cell phone in Wall Street? People longed for the days when we could pay through our
phones, eliminating the need for wallets and credit cards. While mobile payments are increasing,
we're not quite there yet. In 2011, PayPal facilitated $4 billion in mobile payments, up from $750
million in 2010; however, that represents a small fraction of the entire PayPal transaction
volume. We're still a long way away from mobile payment ubiquity.
How will this impact your company? You may not need to start accepting mobile payments yet,
but it needs to be on your radar. Expect mobile payments to increase -- and customers to begin
asking for mobile options - thanks in part to continued pressure from major players like Amex,
Visa, Intuit and Google. Plus, startups like Square and Dwolla are forcing the issue. But, don't
leave your wallet home quite yet.
7. More Watching... on Mobile
Newsflash: People like to watch video. (If you spend any time on YouTube, you already know
that's true!) In fact, YouTube is the second largest search engine, behind only the behemoth,
Google. And, we don't mind watching video on our phones' tiny screens. As Hulu, Netflix and
YouTube apps continue to provide quality mobile content at low cost, consumers will become
even more used to watching video on the go.
How will this impact your company? There's an entire part of our population who turns to
YouTube to search (like how many of us automatically start looking on Google). We're all vying
for customers' attention. Don't lose out just because you weren't willing to create a few videos.
As you begin to develop a content strategy for sites like Facebook, Twitter or a blog, give equal
attention to YouTube. (And, in certain industries, give even more attention to video than those
other channels!) Not quite ready to start producing videos? That's ok. Instead, look at mobile
video advertising opportunities.
8. Facebook + Mobile Advertising
What would an article about 2012 trends be without mentioning Facebook? This year will be
huge for the dominant social network, thanks to the impending IPO and the "unlocking" of the
mobile platform for advertising. In the not too distant future, we'll have a captivated 300-million-
person audience, ready to receive targeted mobile ads.
How will this impact your company? Facebook hasn't yet revealed how they're going to inject
advertising into the mobile experience, but this much is certain: If you've built a loyal Facebook
following - or hope to do so - Facebook is about to give you access to 300 million people on their
phones. That's a number - and a major shift - that you can't ignore.