By Richard Stevenson, 1&1 Internet Ltd, www.1and1.co.uk, a global leader in web hosting
British businesses are working hard to create visibility for themselves on the Internet and adapt to the needs of the online consumer. Whilst retailers will always be most concerned with the standard of their products and service, no grocery trader these days can afford to neglect their business development.
There is clear evidence that more people are browsing the web on the go with devices such as the iPhone, BlackBerry or Android phone. For example, IDC, a global provider of market intelligence, saw that in the past year, Smartphones surpassed global PC shipments for the first time in history (100.9 vs. 92.1 million units).
Research shows that a worrying number of UK firms – local retailers – may be at risk of losing the audience they worked hard to acquire as consumers now switch to browsing the Internet from a mobile device. Despite 64 per cent of small business owners having used a mobile device to surf the web in their private lives, more than half (53 per cent) have not yet checked the appearance or functionality of their own business website using this method.
The smaller screen and touch functionality of mobile devices can often make it necessary to adapt the design of websites. Furthermore, a significantly higher number of operating systems and browsers have to be supported as compared to local hardware like PCs.
From businesses that have examined their web presence from a mobile, 41 per cent admit their website has a reduced appearance from a mobile device, and 36 per cent know of reduced functionality. Worryingly, only 7 per cent of firms were confident they have optimised their websites for mobile usage, whilst 65 per cent have no plans to do so.
It appears that many UK business owners today place a low importance upon whether their website can be used comfortably from a mobile device. Only the minority of owners (18 per cent) believe that a mobile-friendly website would positively impact sales revenue, 23 per cent recognise a link to brand enhancement, and 31 per cent feel it could provide access to a broader range of customers.
Some 43 per cent of owners agree that an optimised website could make a difference to the overall visibility of a business. The figures suggest that complacency on the issue has the potential to place firms at risk of losing website visitors and failing to engage with consumers.
Thus, it is perhaps unsurprising that mobile-friendly website features are still not common place. Remarkably, only 1 in 4 firms have a location map on their website, or have location listings on popular search engines such as Google.
Interestingly, the level of optimisation for mobile devices varies on an international scale. Spanish business owners are most likely to have checked their website for mobile usage (58 per cent), whilst German firms are the least likely (31 per cent). French companies have made the most efforts to optimise the design of their websites (13 per cent).
The data shows that many UK websites have not yet reached the Smartphone age. Retailers must ensure that when their website is viewed on a mobile, it loads promptly, functions correctly and comprises an attractive and fitting representation of them.
Tools for the mobile web
Today there are website packages aimed specifically at helping small businesses such as local retailers launch a compelling and effective website in minutes. In particular, there are packages from around £10/month that provide a choice of industry-specific templates and content, such as those for grocery traders that deliver a website automatically optimized for display on popular smartphones.
Every supermarket, co-op and convenience store must ensure they are online whenever and wherever their customers need them. By accommodating the mobility of their online audience, customer loyalty and spend can be enhanced. On-the-go web access is a trend that can be used to a retailer’s advantage.
1&1 Internet Ltd