By Bob Wiggins

Having a digital strategy has become an integral part of doing business. Until recently, such a strategy typically included maintaining a Web presence with a dynamic and engaging site, but a website is no longer enough. Consider some recent findings:

  • Smartphone penetration is on track to surpass 80 percent of cell phone users in 2014.
  • In the past three years, Internet use on smartphones and tablets has nearly doubled the time Americans spend online.
  • Half of all local Web searches are made on a mobile device.

Consumers are relying on mobile devices to do more than make phone calls. So why do businesses need to take note? Think about the time and money invested in designing a company website. Then, take a look at that website on a four-inch screen. If the site isn’t compatible with mobile technology, it’s probably difficult to read and navigate, virtually guaranteeing that mobile users will avoid it.

Many small businesses in America offer professional or other services, and potential customers are often searching for their specific service, contact information and location on their mobile phones. From accountants and lawyers to dry cleaners and hair stylists, these businesses don’t necessarily need to sell anything online, but they do need to be discoverable, and to easily provide the customers the information they are looking for on their phones: How do I call you?  How do I find you?

To attract and retain customers online, businesses must ensure that their sites are easy to find and search from any device, whether a PC, tablet or smartphone. For customers conducting local searches, finding an address or contact number may be their highest priority. Many restaurants and retailers have learned the importance of a mobile-friendly site, but a surprising number of small businesses have not.

According to vSplash’s SMB DigitalScape Study, 98 percent of small business websites are not mobile optimized. Often, these ventures have few – if any – employees and may not have the technical knowledge, financial resources or time to address the new digital landscape. Fortunately, they have options.

One potential course of action is to rebuild a website, ensuring consistency across all viewing platforms. However, recreating a site can require a significant amount of time and be an expensive proposition. Depending on the design and functionality, businesses could easily spend into the thousands of dollars.

Another possibility is to take advantage of services that convert a standard desktop website into a mobile site with minimal effort. Generally, business owners submit their website’s URL and wait a brief period for its conversion into a mobile-friendly format. Costs and service providers vary based on the level of customization desired, how much of a site is being converted, and the functionality and complexity required. In some cases, a monthly subscription is charged in addition to an initial set-up fee, incurring ongoing costs.

These services automate the process of creating a professional-looking mobile landing page. Many will carry over your standard website’s existing look and color scheme, as well as its most important information, such as site navigation, address and directions, links to social media platforms, and contact information including click-to-call and email. However, it’s important to be wary of providers that charge ongoing or annual fees, create separate mobile URLs, or won’t share the back-end “code” that you can easily implement yourself.

A recent survey found that almost two-thirds of smartphone users will leave a web site if they don’t find what they are looking for RIGHT AWAY. Often, they just want a phone number and location, so make it simple. Expand a digital strategy to accommodate mobile devices: the success of a business may depend on it.