With smartphone penetration on the rise, more consumers than ever before are using their mobile devices to research product information and pick a retailer that best meets their needs during the buying process. This has real implications on businesses: The use of location tools, targeted mobile advertising, and responsive websites can drive consumer traffic and dramatically increase sales if used correctly. Consider a few of the following key data points concerning mobile purchases and product research:

– 56% of consumers now own a smartphone.
– 48% of mobile shoppers begin their research at a search engine.
– 69% of buyers expect a seller to be no more than 5 miles from their present location.
– Mobile outreach strategies drive purchases on smartphones, desktops, and in brick-and-mortar environments.

So, how does a 21st century company adapt to the mobile revolution and bring their business front and center when a consumer searches for a relevant product? The answer involves 5 key strategies, each of which clears a “mobile path to purchase.” Whether it’s enabling better company contact, facilitating better customer research, or simply driving traffic to a physical retail location, these elements are key to success in a highly mobile, and rapidly changing, digital economy.

1. Websites Must Be Responsive and Easy to Use

Nothing turns off a mobile shopper more than a desktop-optimized website that’s nearly impossible to use on today’s compact smartphones. While desktop websites are perfect for the precision of a traditional cursor, their smaller text and tiny links are virtually impossible to read and click precisely on devices like the Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy devices. The solution is simple: Today’s business owners need to move to a responsive design that intelligently detects the consumer’s screen sizes and reshapes the design to match it.

Responsive designs leverage the power of CSS, XHTML, and JavaScript to detect the window size being used by today’s mobile shoppers. On smartphones, that means a website shrinks down to a single column with larger text, bigger buttons, and tools like click-to-call that make it a one-step process to get in touch with a business’ representatives. On tablets, this responsive effort makes designs somewhat wider and more desktop-like, but still easy to use on a touch-based device. Desktop users will be largely unaffected, since the website will scale nicely to meet their needs as well.

2. Create Mobile-Targeted Online Ads

It’s no longer safe to assume that search visitors see a company’s ads solely on the desktop. In fact, a large number of customers primarily use their mobile device to conduct searches and research a potential new product that they’re considering. This means it’s more important than ever for companies to specifically target mobile users with advertisements that use mobile-friendly language. Encourage visitors to call immediately, and make sure that mobile-targeted ads lead to mobile-friendly landing pages.

The goal is to create a well-rounded, comprehensive mobile experience that takes advantage of contextual clues. With a seamless experience from search, to advertising, to the landing page that results, consumers will be more likely to click through, call, and come in to buy a product.

3. Don’t Forget the Checkout Process

While plenty of website owners have switched their designs to be responsive, far too many have forgotten about the checkout experience. All too often, that means consumers effortlessly navigate a mobile site only to be greeted by a complex, cursor-friendly checkout that causes them to back out of a sale and turn to alternative companies who can better meet their needs. Do not fall into this trap. There are plenty of checkout applications available that are just as responsive as most of today’s website designs. Furthermore, tools like Google Wallet’s “Instant Buy” feature make one-click purchases a breeze.

Make sure that the entire buying process, from research to website navigation to successful checkout, is as smooth as possible. That means not only optimizing responsive sites and reducing clicks, but also permitting a mobile-responsive, secure payment channel to greet those customers ready to close the transaction.

4. Use Location Indicators in Contextual Advertisements

Most customers prefer a business to be within 5 miles of their current mobile location in order for them to place an order or visit the establishment in person. Without the right location indicators in mobile ads, however, it’s impossible for customers to know where a business is, how long it will take to get there, and which roads to take in the process. Google’s AdWords, and contextual products from several other industry leaders, allow companies to tie their contextual ads to their physical location.

The result of this process is an ad that communicates how far away the business is, providing one-click access to directions via Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze, and other popular mobile navigation apps. By telling customers the business is nearby and easy to find, businesses virtually guarantee that more customers will be willing to make the trek and close the sale.

5. Analyze Cross-Device Statistics and Conversions

AdWords and Google Analytics both provide tools that allow business owners to estimate cross-device conversions and other statistics. This is useful since most consumers research the product on one platform and often buy it on another. Estimated cross-device conversions allow business owners to see how effective their mobile advertising is, how many people are using their desktop site for purchasing, and how many mobile users converted to brick-and-mortar users to close the sale. Improvements can then be made to make these numbers more favorable to the company’s bottom line.

The Mobile Revolution is Here, and it’s Time to Embrace Big Changes

From the basic design of a website to the checkout process and search advertisements, today’s business owners need to embrace the mobile revolution in order to keep their sales numbers on track. More than ever, consumers expect easy access to products, a nearby retail location, and one-click access to phone number, directions, and inventory. By putting these methods to work, businesses can stay relevant in an era of mobile salesmanship.

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About the Author: Jennifer Mathews