It’s no real secret that mobile technology, now more than ever, is transforming the way that we do business, and how businesses engage with their customer base. With large, established high-street retailers being put under pressure by falling sales and increasing rents – 1,772 stores closed in 2018 alone – businesses from across the sector are having to adjust. A telling example of this trend is that, according to research conducted by loveit coverit, over 40% of retail customers actively check prices of items on their mobile whist they shop, putting brick and mortar retailers in direct competition with online retailers, even in the physical space.
But how can start-ups and small businesses – both in the physical and digital space – effectively take advantage of this growing trend, and bring in new customers? Let’s asses how small businesses can utilise mobile technology to benefit their business and maximise revenue.
Mobile Point of Sale Readers
One of the significant trends we’re seeing in start-ups, especially within physical stores, is a move toward mobile-friendly point of sale systems. It’s estimated that by 2021, half of all sales will come from mobile (both online and physical), so it’s more important than ever to cater to this market.
There are a variety of POS system providers that are ideally suited to the start-up industry, with companies such as Square, iZettle, and Clover, offering mobile tech point of sale that’s cheaper to maintain than traditional card machines. One of the of the big advantages of these systems is that they can easily take mobile payments, as well as contactless and card payments, which is ideally suited to the growing demand. Furthermore, smaller operations can invest in portable, 3G-enabled contactless card readers, which means that mobile businesses that would usually operate on a cash-only basis, have the ability to attract new customers with alternative payment methods.
Finally, new POS systems allow small business to easily trace transactions and manage stock, with in-built tracking technology. This can be vitally important to small businesses that are time-poor, as it eliminates the need to constantly track inputs and outgoings, allowing business owners to put more energy into their customers.
Dedicated Mobile Apps & Reward Systems
With the advancement of smartphone technology, it’s now easier than ever for businesses to introduce apps that represent their brand. This is even true for small businesses and start-ups – and while it may not be appropriate for every type of business, in certain sectors it can help to boost customer engagement and sales.
Having a dedicated mobile app for small businesses allows them to be ever-present to their customer base and provides a number of unique opportunities. For example, an app can act as an online store, an ordering service, or simply as a customer service tool.
One of the most successful ways to implement mobile app technology is to create an application that acts as a reward scheme, with which customers can build up points and take advantage of special discounts or offers. The evidence suggests that this can have a huge impact on sales and customer spend; when Café Nero launched their reward app, they saw a 17% rise in unique customer spend.
In the age of digital and social media, SMS-focused marketing can seem slightly out-dated, however, it can still be a very effective tool for start-ups to utilise. For example, being a very direct marketing method, they can be used to inform customers of new or existing deals, offer incentives to visit the business, and drive more sales.
According to research from Single Point, promotional text messages have a 99% open rate, which is significantly more than can be achieved with other marketing methods, such as social media ads or email marketing. Another advantage is that every device supports SMS, and it’s used on a daily basis by customers, so there’s no need for them to download an app or engage with something unfamiliar.
The only significant drawback of SMS marketing is that businesses have to build a sufficient, GDPR-compliant database of people that they can market to. And with customers less likely to hand over their personal contact information, this can prove tricky.
The Power of Social Media
Social media is incredibly important to emerging businesses and start-ups, as it allows them to advertise their business for free and engage with customers. For those without a significant marketing budget, it can go a long way to building a brand and gaining a following – if used correctly.
According to a poll conducted by Intuit, SMEs win 42% of their new business from social media, indicating how vital it can be to a start-up’s revenue. What’s more, Maryville University states that “social media has become a critical tool for promoting products and building brands.” They go on to mention how social media marketing now makes up 12% of a typical company’s marketing budget.
Facebook business pages are a useful tool for small businesses to highlight their reviews, location, and open times, allowing them to easily engage with customers on their mobile device. Similarly, Instagram is a great way of advertising products in a way that potential customers can interact with. Furthermore, all social media platforms allow small businesses to create mobile-specific advertisements for reasonable budgets. In fact, research shows that SMEs spend nearly twice as much money as ‘large’ companies on social media, indicating its importance to the sector.
Whilst some of these solutions for utilising mobile technology to boost business may not be relevant to every start up or small business, they are a great start. For those looking to find new audiences and increase their business reach, embracing technology is an important, future-proof solution.