January 11, 2011 was a big day for me.
As a Verizon Wireless customer, Verizon announced what I’ve been waiting nearly four years to hear: The iPhone is coming to my network. On February 3, I will assume ownership of an iPhone and hand my beloved Android device off to my wife, doubling the smartphone ownership in our home.
The “Ramsey Smartphone Increase of 2011” (as it’s already being called) is just a microcosm of what’s happening to the smartphone adoption rate. Smartphone ownership is growing at a ridiculously fast pace, and I believe Verizon’s announcement will only accelerate that trend. The middle ground of text-message-only and minor-media-capable phones is going to be eroded as the cost for full-fledged smartphones decreases (hooray for competition!) and the understanding of the smartphone platforms increases.
But what does this mean for your company’s brand? Simply put, more people are going to be looking for information about you while they’re on their mobile device. They’ll be looking for your address. Reviews of your products. A quick way to get in contact with you.
But what will they find?
At the very least, your website needs to be viewable on a mobile device. That means no critical components (navigation, main content, contact forms, etc.) of your site should be Flash-driven. However, if you have the right platform, partner or knowhow, building a mobile-specific site is often your best bet.
A mobile-only site typically includes simplified navigation, fewer graphics, and condensed, relevant content.
If you are a retail-driven company, you simply cannot afford to ignore the power of online reviews. Sites such as Yelp!, Urbanspoon, Foursquare, and Facebook Places are empowering and equipping people to provide honest, unfiltered feedback about your business quickly and immediately. Many of these sites have mobile-driven apps, making it stupidly convenient for people to post content on-the-go.
Depending upon your industry, you must be aware of, monitoring and when appropriate, responding to this feedback. (If you’re unsure of which sites to focus on or how to begin monitoring them, shoot me an email – I’d love to help you get started).
It doesn’t make sense for every business, but building a mobile app for users can extend the reach of your brand and provide helpful information quickly and easily to your customers, clients or fans. For many companies, the cost of development pushes this outside the realm of possibility, but for larger organizations, with a broad audience, it is worth the investment.
Before beginning development, do your due diligence. Don’t just launch an app because your competition is. Uncover what mobile platforms your customers are using (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.), if they would use an app if it existed and whether or not your existing website can “power” your app – if possible you want to avoid updating information in multiple places.
Now is the time to begin preparing yourself for the flood of smartphones in the hands of your customers. Take care of your website, manage your brand’s reputation online and figure out whether or not a mobile app is right for you.