Small Business Gets Boost From Mobile Marketing

XAD | 06 / 05 / 2013

Mobile search and shopping options have advanced to where customers can be located and served ads based by zip code, address and even the road they currently are driving on.

With steady rain muddying New Orleans right before the city’s famous Jazz & Heritage Festival in April, Evie Poitevent tweeted about the rain boots at her shoe store, Feet First.

Featured with photos and hashtags — #jazzfest, #rainboots, #nola — the first batch sold out in two hours. “I knew there would be a feeding frenzy for rain boots,” Poitevent says. “We had a stampede of women coming in.”

Like many natives of New Orleans, Poitevent chose to move back from New York after Hurricane Katrina ravaged her hometown. In rebuilding Feet First, founded by her parents, she turned to the usual, and requisite, e-commerce tricks — a website, online shopping cart and Facebook page — that have helped the business rebound.

But in recent months, her marketing attention increasingly has turned to mobile to engage social media-savvy customers who are ready to spread the word. Her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Snapette (a local fashion shopping app) accounts are updated frequently with new products and promotions.

Next on her to-do list is developing a website optimized for phones, though she’s also wondering whether it might be worth getting someone to build an expensive app for the store. “We need to start looking more closely at what devices people are coming from,” she says.

Poitevent’s quest reflects the curiosity and changing priorities of many small-business owners as mobile marketing tools broaden their potential message channels to reach nearby customers — and open their shops to the scrutiny of nitpicking critics.

Mobile search capabilities and shopping options quickly have advanced to the point at which customers can be located — and served targeted ads — not only based on their demographic data but by their ZIP codes, street addresses, even the roads they’re currently driving on.

From large corporations to local entrepreneurs such as Poitevent, money is pouring in. U.S. mobile spending —- including ads on phones —- rose 69% in 2012 to $6.7 billion, according to the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), and this year will be $10.46 billion.

Mobile marketing can be particularly effective for small businesses, says Greg Stuart, CEO of the MMA. “Local merchants have a better opportunity on mobile, in part because they can craft it to fit their business. Most consumers only go about half a mile for dry cleaners.”


For those relying on potential customers searching via Google (or Bing or Yahoo), the fundamentals of mobile marketing remain largely unchanged.

“There’s no magic formula,” says Jeff Licciardi, vice president of local at Performics, a search engine marketing agency. “Everything you do on your desktop for search engine optimization, it’s going to help you for mobile.”

The universe of websites that contain local shopping information is vast, with about 300 to 400 sources, he says. Find the most important sites for local business listings in the area, and make sure your business is listed and the information is up to date. Do the same with industry-specific listing sites.

Google Places and Yelp listings and reviews are the most important sources, Licciardi says. Yelp, eager to let users know it has a variety of businesses, says only 20% of its listings are restaurants.

Photos, menus, accurate hours of operation and deals help drive traffic. Consumers linger 2.5 times longer on Yelp sites that have photos, vs. those that are bare, says Vince Sollitto, spokesman for Yelp.

In a sign that mobile users of Yelp are more engaged, 45% of all Yelp searches come from its app, even though the app traffic is only about one-tenth of the overall website traffic, Sollitto says.

If your business information is inaccurate or inconsistent on some listing sites, there are professional services — such as Yext, Localeze or Universal Business Listing (UBL) — that can help update the information across multiple sites, says Dipanshu Sharma, CEO of xAd, a digital marketing agency that helps clients place ads on mobile devices.

Experts also recommend a simple mobile website that’s designed for use by the human thumb.

Avoid using too much text or Flash graphics that are difficult to read and take too long to load, says Itai Sadan, CEO of DudaMobile, which hosts mobile websites for small businesses. “No pinching and zooming,” he says. “You can’t overemphasize how simple you have to make it.”

A phone number prominently displayed — with a “call-now” button — can nudge customers to action. Roughly 20% of visitors to the sites hosted by DudaMobile use the click-to-call feature, Sadan says.

Consider assigning a unique phone number for any special mobile campaign, so you know where the leads are coming from and can conduct lead analysis, says Bill Dinan, president of phone call analysis firm Telmetrics.

Those who find building a mobile site daunting can turn to vendors, such as DudaMobile, that can covert your browser site to a mobile version or provide a template. Some developers, including Duda, host mobile sites for free but charge a few dollars a month for a premium version.

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