Mobile web - the next frontier for your business

The mobile web is changing the way that businesses interact with consumers. Customers don’t need to be at a computer, or in your shop, in order to do business with you. Instead, the power of the mobile web means they can make decisions about purchases from virtually anywhere in the world.

Simply Business this month launched its very own mobile site, allowing customers to get a quote, make a claim, or request a callback all from their mobile phone.

Your business can leverage the power of the mobile web in a range of ways. But what exactly is the mobile web, and how does it affect you?

What is the mobile web?

The mobile web is, quite literally, the internet in your pocket. Consumers no longer need a bulky computer to access the web, check their email, or do their shopping. Instead, they can carry out these tasks using a web-enabled smartphone.

The rapidly increasing availability of smartphones has meant that consumers’ browsing patterns are changing. They don’t need to be tethered to their desk in order to find the information they need. The mobile web has been so successful that it is now referred to as one of the seven mass media – along with television, print, and radio. Businesses need to consider how best to use the mobile web in order to continue to engage with their customers in the most effective way possible.

What can I do with the mobile web?

The range of potential uses for the mobile web is limitless. For example, imagine you own a restaurant. A hungry consumer is wandering around, trying to find somewhere to eat. They fire up Google Maps, or Qype, or the Hardens Guide on their iPhone, and it directs them to the best restaurants near them. If you have a presence on these applications, you will stand a chance of having that consumer sit down in your restaurant.

But not all the potential uses are location-based. Mobile web advertising is now a multi-billion pound industry, and one that you should consider leveraging. Conversion rates for mobile advertising are increasing all the time, and this can present a great new opportunity for you to reach potential customers.

You should also remember that the mobile web is not just browser-based, and it is not just about being listed on other services. The increasing power of smartphones, and the perpetual ingenuity of developers, means that you can now build applications (or apps) that help your customers connect with your business more effectively. The range of apps that companies have already built is staggering. Some simply help customers to find their premises, or peruse their catalogue. Others, though, take a more creative approach. Outdoor pursuits company Snow+Rock, for example, have built an app that calculates and stores hiking routes. Apps that provide users with added value, or something extra and unexpected from a company, tend to be the most effective.

What are the problems?

For all its potential, though, the mobile web still has a range of problems. It remains a technology in its relative infancy, and this means that certain teething problems are yet to be ironed out.

To begin with, there remains confusion over the standards to which mobile web sites should be developed. There are currently several different standards competing for primacy and, in the short term, this means that some developers are building things that don’t work on every platform. This is problematic in the short-term, but disputes will gradually be ironed out.

Perhaps more serious is the problem of accessibility, and the limitations intrinsic in the technology. Some of the things that we take for granted in our desktop browsers, like Javscript or Adobe Acrobat, are not available as standard on mobile handsets. Again, this will become less of a problem in the medium-term, but right now it is a major consideration.

Why do I need to bother with it?

There are a few reasons why the mobile web demands your attention. The first of these is that you simply cannot fight it. If you have a web presence, you also have a presence on the mobile web by default. This means that you have to start thinking about how your existing web site performs when viewed in mobile browsers. A site that breaks in mobile browsers, or doesn’t load properly, can do your business more harm than good.

You should also consider the remarkable rate at which consumers are adopting the mobile web as one of their platforms of choice. If you are to continue marketing to potential customers, and connecting with existing customers, in the most effective way possible, you need to embrace the power of the mobile web.