By Richard Jones, VP of National Accounts, Groupon UK and IE

There are over one billion smartphones worldwide today and mobile commerce (m-commerce) revenue is expected to reach 19.2 billion in Europe by 2017, according to Forrester. In order to remain competitive and profitable, SMEs should do all they can to target and support the ever increasing customer on the move, which will be a significant revenue driver over the next few years.

However, with so many different ways to enable mobile out there and perceived costs so high, it can be difficult for smaller businesses to decide the right route to support sales and marketing and ultimately, maximise their ROI. Many larger retailers with bigger budgets have invested heavily in their mobile strategies, for example Debenhams, has strived to improve its mobile offering over the past two years, which has contributed to an overall gross turnover rise of 3.4 per cent. It has developed mobile apps and mobile-optimised sites, implemented location based mobile marketing to drive footfall and sales and rolled out touch screen mobile devices in-store to help customers find stock levels across branches. They’ve spent a lot of money on this because they know it will all improve the customer journey, creating a seamless multichannel experience.

While the benefits are clear, you don’t need big budgets and in house digital marketing expertise to go mobile. Here are our top tips to help you explore the mobile market:

1. Calculating the mobile opportunity

In order to offer personalised experiences, it’s important to understand your customer base. You can learn a lot from the way your customers shop online and there are various analytics tools that can help you to understand their shopping patterns. These tools will also tell you how many customers are accessing your website from a mobile device and based on this data, you’ll be able to securely assess the need for developing a mobile optimised site, or if a full application is needed. Depending on how much you invest in these analytics tools (some basic applications are free) you’ll be able to see which areas of your website are most viewed, which products are bought most often, as well as pick out your regular and most loyal customers, all of which should give you insights to help your business grow.

2. Mobile optimisation

Before investing in any mobile technology it’s essential to question a sample of your customer base to understand what channels they use and prefer. This should give you an idea as to whether it will provide a sufficient return on investment. For example, it may be better to optimise your existing site for mobile users than create a dedicated application.
If you don’t have the budget to create a mobile website or application, you should consider working with other online retailers who can use their existing customer base to attract new customers to your business. Experience websites, such as Groupon, are a great marketing platform for SMEs as they are used by millions of UK customers and you’re only charged a percentage for the people that make a purchase.

3. Mobile payments

While it’s unlikely we’re heading for an entirely cash-free society, consumers are likely to become less dependent on cash as more choice in payments methods open up, particularly via mobile, so it’s important that businesses get on board where they can. The problem for small shops is it often seems there are many different mobile payments services at the moment, so they can easily and cost-effectively accept payments through this channel. For example, NFC terminals, which allow customers to swipe bank cards or mobile phones to pay for goods instantly. We’ve also developed our own mobile payments option, which can help SMEs.

4. Grow your customer base and engage with them

Social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook, are a great way to not only market a business but understand what motivates customers. It’s free and easy to set up, but you need to think long term and allocate the necessary resource to keep it running.

No matter how small, or niche the business, it’s worth setting up a profile on Facebook and Twitter as there may be many people searching online who aren’t aware your business exists. Once a fan base is built, businesses can poll customers to gain an insight into their likes and dislikes. Furthermore, you’ll be able to track anyone talking about your business online and use this insight to offer them incentives to keep them loyal and spending. Here are a couple of quick tips to get you started:

• Be honest and show your personality – you wouldn’t lie to a customer in real life, so don’t do it over Twitter.
• Think about social currency – when you post something online, be it a Tweet or a Facebook post, think about whether it offers up something fun, factual, and inspiring that people will want to discuss and share.
• Ask questions and get people talking – the best part about it is you can then listen and learn!
• Track yourself – be sure to set up simple Google Alerts on your name, product name, and company name. Only then can you respond and more importantly understand what is being said about your company. Google Alerts are free and take just a few seconds to set up.
• Commit – you will have to designate time for updating your social media channels regularly, so don’t set up on every one; pick one and do it well.

There are many ways to get on board with m-commerce but it’s important to select the opportunities that are relevant to your business. You should think about your business objectives and what you want to achieve from a mobile strategy – is it more customers, to improve relationships with your existing customer base, to generate more awareness, or offer more ways to browse and purchase? Whichever outlet you choose, the customer experience needs to be convenient, seamless and secure to achieve success.

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