Mobile web development is a hot topic among small business owners and marketers. We all know that a large number of people now access the Internet through mobile devices. We also know that these mobile users expect a web experience that is compatible with their mobile devices. Things become less clear when business owners start to tackle their mobile web development strategy. I believe there’s a powerful tool to consult in these decisions: your customers.
Mobile Development Options
As Benjamin Wald wrote for Inc.com, there are three mobile development strategies that business owners should consider when choosing how to build their mobile web presence: a mobile app, a standalone mobile website, and a fully responsive website. I strongly recommend reading the article, as Wald does a great job of defining each approach to mobile web development, as well as its pros and cons.
If you’re lucky, then the type of mobile web presence your business needs will be clear-cut. For many businesses, a decision will be harder to reach. Do your customers mind using your standard website on their mobile devices? Is a standalone mobile site sufficient for how your mobile customers interact with your business? These can be tough questions to answer.
Luckily, every small business has a valuable resource in answering these questions: its customers. Chances are that you or someone in your business speaks with customers regularly. These conversations are great opportunities to learn how your customers interact with your business while using their mobile devices. Partnering with customers upfront will increase the chances that you make a decision that keeps them happy.
Here are some ways – there are obviously more – that you can engage your customers when deciding on the right mobile development strategy for your business.
If you have a store or office location that customers frequent, then you probably have opportunities for personal conversations. Why not use some of these conversations to ask customers about how they interact with your business on their mobile devices? You might write down a few questions to ask people when the opportunity arises:
- Have they visited your website from their smartphone or tablet?
- What were they looking for during past mobile visits? Did they easily find it?
- Would they mind visiting the site right now and giving you their thoughts?
- What do they like about your current site?
- What might be improved through your mobile web development project?
In-person conversations always provide the best ability to get specific answers from customers. You can easily change your questions based on what someone says. Just make sure that you take notes on all of your conversations and keep them in one place. That will come in handy when reviewing what customers tell you and making a decision on your mobile web presence.
Chances are you have some kind of customer email list. Consider building a simple survey and sending a survey link to your customer email list. A survey incentive – such as a one-time discount or special perk – will get customers more motivated to complete the survey. There are also tools that allow you to launch a mobile survey through the use of a QR code or a posted mobile web URL in your store.
If you don’t already have a website or lack a customer email list, then you might print surveys out on paper or postcards. You can ask interested customers to complete paper-based surveys in your store in exchange for some type of incentive. Whatever approach you take, make sure that you can easily compile and tabulate the customer responses.
Social media can be another great way to reach out to customers about your mobile web development strategy. This is especially true in social channels that are heavily used via mobile devices, such as Facebook and Twitter. If you have a Facebook for business page, then you can post questions and polls to customers. The best part about it is that a large percentage of your customers are probably using Facebook on their mobile devices. They may be better positioned to give you good answers because they’re already used to using mobile websites and apps.
You can also take a look at how your competitors have built their mobile web presences. Competitor research is especially useful if you have a rival that really understands its customers and how to market to them. Just be careful that you don’t only lean on competitors for insight. In many cases, your competitors may have made a poor decision that could also cost your business down the line. As a general rule, it’s always best to validate your decision with customers before starting to build a mobile marketing presence.
Once you have enough input from customers, your mobile web development decision will become clearer. Whether your customers prefer a standalone mobile website, a mobile app or a fully responsive site, you can proceed with more confidence that your marketing investment will pay dividends in the future. Your customers should be happy and your business should reach more people like them through its mobile marketing presence.