More Small Businesses Put Focus on a Mobile-First Strategy

GreenPal CEO Bryan Clayton came to realize he had to scrap his company's $90,000 website. The business aims to link homeowners with lawn care companies, but its software wasn't equipped to easily handle requests from mobile users, and 85 percent of visitors using those devices left without a transaction.

"We knew we had to completely gut the entire experience and build it from a mobile-first perspective," Clayton says.

More small business owners are recognizing that however they've reached customers in the past, mobile not only needs to be part of their strategy but may need to be the primary focus of their marketing. Research showing phones and tablets edging out other means is helping persuade them. And some are operating only with apps on mobile devices, forgoing websites.

When GreenPal was launched in 2012, the site was set up for traditional computers. "It was almost a different world," Clayton says. A year later, GreenPal realized it had to change. Now, 95 percent of customer interactions come from mobile devices. Customers get bids from lawn care providers, make appointments and can pay using GreenPal's mobile site or app.

"You don't walk into the other room and sit down at your computer. You just do it on your smartphone," says Clayton, whose company operates in metropolitan areas including Atlanta and Decatur, Georgia; St. Louis; Nashville, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida.

More than half of Google searches, which number in the trillions, take place on smartphones and tablets, and more than half the visits to websites that use Google analytic services come from mobile devices. What's known as responsive design has made it easier for companies to fashion sites that work for smartphones, tablets and traditional computers, taking pictures, text and links and reconfiguring them for the particular type of screen.

As consumers rely...

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