By Claire West
British firms are neglecting the needs of consumers accessing websites from mobile devices, according to research released today by 1&1 Internet Ltd, www.1and1.co.uk, a global leader amongst web hosts.
From a study of 530 small firms, 53 per cent have never checked the appearance or functionality of their website for Smartphone users. From companies that have, 41 per cent admit their website has a reduced appearance, and 36 per cent offer reduced functionality. 65 per cent of firms have not optimised their websites for mobile usage and have no plans to do so. Despite widespread adoption of mobile browsing by Britons, the data reveals less than 1 in 4 firms recognise that their sales or brand could be enhanced with a more mobile-friendly website. Many companies could be alienating mobile online consumers and risking their own growth.
British businesses have worked hard in recent years to create visibility for themselves on the Internet and adapt to the needs of the online consumer. At the same time, there is clear evidence that more people are browsing the web on the go with devices such as the iPhone, BlackBerry or Android phone. IDC, a global provider of market intelligence, predicts Smartphone shipments worldwide will jump by 55 per cent this year - 10 per cent more than projections it made earlier this year. However, research from 1&1’s ‘SME Mobile Website Audit’(1) finds that a worrying number of UK firms 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 companies 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.
Oliver Mauss, CEO 1&1 Internet Ltd. said, "Many websites have not yet reached the Smartphone age. As a result, small firms in particular can miss a massive opportunity. Businesses 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".
British 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. 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. Some 20 per cent of companies were submitted within local business directories. Only 2 per cent offer eCommerce functionality optimised for a mobile device.
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). German companies were most apathetic to the issue, with 50 per cent foreseeing no potential benefit at all to their business — in stark contrast to American firms, 28 per cent of which believe a mobile-friendly website could lead directly to an increase in sales revenue.
Mauss added, "On-the-go web access is a strong trend, one that can be used to every business’s advantage. Firms of all sizes must ensure they are online whenever and wherever the consumer needs them. By accommodating the mobility of their online audience, customer loyalty and spend can be enhanced".
In order to help business website owners to benefit from the boom in mobile internet surfing, 1&1 currently offers it web hosting packages with free professional web design software. For a limited period, depending on the chosen hosting package, new customers receive full versions of either NetObjects Fusion 1&1 Edition or Adobe Dreamweaver CS4, (both for Windows OS). Both solutions allow easy creation of a website optimised for mobile viewing. Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 includes the Adobe Device Central module that enables testing for the latest mobile devices. In doing so, users can ensure their website is fully optimised for mobile visitors.
As the world’s largest web host, 1&1 is well placed to deliver a high quality service to business customers. The company currently holds more than 9.5 million customer contracts worldwide and manages over 11 million domain names.
For more information on 1&1 hosting visit the website at www.1and1.co.uk
(1) 530 UK small companies with a website surveyed via electronic feedback form