iMarket Solutions Blog : Archive for June, 2011

Why Do People Use a Smartphone to Call a Plumbing, Electrical, or HVAC Company? Does Your Website Give Smartphone Users What They Need?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

For the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about the increase in smartphone use and the decrease in Yellow Pages use. As we have already observed in previous blogs, that adds up to two very important conclusions: 1) more and more of your potential customers will be looking for you on the web; and 2) many of those potential customers will be using a smartphone to do it.

Your website needs to be smartphone-friendly, that’s for sure.

But what exactly does “smartphone-friendly” mean?

Well, let’s start with the basics: your website must be compatible with Safari, the most common smartphone web browser.

Also, you need to make sure that there’s no Flash on your website. Flash can be cool, but iPhones (arguably cooler) just don’t get along with it. There are work-arounds that let people view Flash on iPhones, sure, but you have to have some technical interest and skill to implement them. Chances are your customers won’t be interested in doing extra work to see your website; they’ll call your competitor instead. Leave the Flash for your teenager to play with on YouTube.

But…even if your website is compatible with Safari and is Flash-free, it might not be truly smartphone-friendly. If you’ve ever used a smartphone to surf the web, you know that on some websites it can be really hard to get to the information you want. Often, navigation points like tabs, links, or buttons are so small on a smartphone screen that it can be difficult even to know what a website offers, much less get there. If there are a lot of navigation points spreading horizontally across the screen, you have to scroll and scroll and scroll to see them all. If “Contact Us” is all the way on the right of all that navigation, will your customers have the patience to travel all the way over to it? And, if the “Contact Us” button is really small, will they be able to press it comfortably or will they hit another button by accident? You get the idea.

To make sure that all our clients’ websites work optimally on smartphones, we’ve created a “quick action” mobile template and install it on every website we build. The experience is seamless for the user: if someone visits one of our clients’ websites using a smartphone, he or she is immediately taken to the mobile version of the website. (There is special code built into the programming that detects the kind of device that the visitor is using.)

To design our mobile website template, we asked ourselves two questions:

  1. When and why are people using their smartphones to call service companies?
  2. What information will satisfy their needs?

Based on our own experience and what our clients have told us about their customers, people don’t use a smartphone to look for extensive information about a service company. They may enjoy your blog, but they’re not going to use their smartphone to read it. When they go to your website via smartphone, they probably have an emergency or already know what they want to do (book an annual inspection, buy a service contract, etc). They want what we call “quick action” information: When are you open? Do you have 24-hour service? Do you fix toilets or do you only do HVAC equipment? How can they email or call you right now?

Our mobile templates put all that primary information out there, literally at users’ fingertips. Then, to make sure that everyone can see and access it easily, we make sure that the logo is big enough to see, the font is big enough to read, and the links and phone numbers are big enough for everyone to click on, even if they have great big clumsy fingers (like our CTO’s).

Of course, our mobile websites also contain a link to the client’s main website in case someone does want to research something more closely or read the blog – because after all, what is more exciting than a blog?

On that note of shameless self-promotion, iMarket’s blogger will sign off for this week. Next week, we’ll look at the other big new market that Bing is trying to break into – social search.

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Bing, SmartPhones, and the Demise of the Yellow Pages: Is Your Website Ready to Keep Up with the Trend Toward Mobile Search?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Last week, we made a case that Bing should be taken seriously as a potential competitor to Google. Here is another good reason to make sure that your company’s website is optimized for strong placement in Bing as well as Google: Bing has been busy signing all sorts of interesting partnership deals.

One of the most important deals Bing has made recently is its partnership with Facebook. We’ll come back to that in a couple of weeks.

For now, though, we’d like to focus on another Bing partnership deal. On May 3, 2011, Bing and BlackBerry maker RIM announced that Bing will become the default search engine for all BlackBerry devices. In other words: anyone who searches for a service company on their BlackBerry will do it using Bing.

So, you ask, exactly how many people are going to be using Bing on their BlackBerry? Let’s do the numbers.

In the first quarter of 2011, there were 72.5 million smartphones in use in the US. The total US population is 311,455,000, which means that about one out of every four Americans uses a smartphone.

According to a survey of 30,000 US mobile subscribers by ComScore, an internet marketing research company, the US smartphone market breaks down as follows:

  • 34.7% of smartphones are Android devices (up from 28.7% in the last quarter of 2010)
  • 25.5% of smartphones are iPhones (up slightly from 25% in 2010)
  • 27.1% of smartphones are BlackBerry devices (down from 31.6% at the end of 2010)

Doing one last calculation, we can estimate that more than 19.5 million people – six percent of the population – will now use Bing on their BlackBerry smartphone.

What’s more, Bing is now an official search option on the iPhone, which used to be Google-only. If iPhone users are impressed, as we were, by Bing’s user-friendly layout and features, they might switch their settings and start using Bing on their iPhones as well.

(Of course, Android is a Google product, so Android users are going to be forced to stick with Google on their phones.)

Now, let’s think trends. While it’s true that BlackBerry’s market share is diminishing slightly, the cell phone market in general, especially the smartphone market, is growing. Even more importantly, an increasing number of people are getting rid of their landlines and using their mobile phone as their only phone. There’s also the trend we discussed a few weeks ago: the sharp decline in Yellow Pages use because people are using the web to look up phone numbers.

Add all these up, and you can only arrive at one conclusion: if you’re a service company, more and more people will be using their smartphones to look up your number and call you. More specifically –  going back to the first statistic we mentioned – perhaps as many as one out of four of your customers are calling you from a smartphone.

Of course, you should make sure that your website performs well in BlackBerry users’ Bing searches. But one in four is a percentage you can’t ignore: you need to ensure that your website works well on all smartphones.

Next week we’ll talk about how we at iMarket program our websites to look great and function optimally on mobile devices.

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