The smoke industry has changed. We now have smoke, head and vapor shops all competing with one another. This past weekend I was at the airport and thinking about change. And I thought about a great new idea that I wanted to research. I grabbed a pencil and wrote the idea down on a little notepad in my pocket. Then I popped a cassette tape into my Walkman and enjoyed my flight. Once I got home, I went to my desktop computer, dialed up my Internet provider and did a search on Ask.com to find out information about my topic. I’m sure you’ve had the exact same experience … back in 1984!
The reality is that the world has changed. Walkmans became Discmans became iPods. 56K dial-up became 256mb DSL lines became gigabit fiber optic services.
Our ‘portable’ computers became laptops became smartphones. (And yes, I had one of the Compaq Portable computers pictured, circa 1988. According to the marketing materials, it was “super easy to lug around … at just 20 pounds”).
The technology that we use today in our everyday lives has gotten faster, smaller, and more mobile. Did you know that an iPhone 3 has more computing power than all of the computers that were used to guide the astronauts to the moon? Pretty incredible.
Mobile is Mainstream
And the technology and move towards mobility continues to surge at an astounding rate. Mobile internet usage is increasing at a rate of 66% each year. Faster speed of service allows us to absorb more and more content. According to the Washington Post, it is predicted that by 2017 there will be over 6.9 billion connected devices (smartphones, tablets, cars, etc.) and that the average mobile user will watch 10 hours of video, listen to 15 hours of music, make five video calls and download 15 apps each month!
You may be saying to yourself, “Great – the world is going mobile. How does that affect my smoke shop business?”
If you are still popping cassette tapes into your Walkman and using dial-up for the Internet, then I’ll save you some time – stop reading here.
If you have progressed with the times (and want to be sure that you stay in business), then you must continue that progression and be sure that your website is friendly for your mobile visitors.
I looked at the analytics of 10 of our clients to see how many of their visitors were coming from mobile devices. On average, 47% of website visitors were coming from mobile devices (35% from smartphones and 12% from tablets). That’s half! Half of all visitors – on average – were visiting these websites via a mobile device – and that number is going to continue to increase.
Quit Turning Your Customers Away
If your website isn’t mobile-friendly you are alienating 50% of your website traffic. More importantly – you are alienating your target smoke shop customers! I’m sure that you’ve been there … you arrived on a website that wasn’t mobile-friendly and had to pinch and scroll to find the items that you needed. How long did you spend on that site? If you are like most people, you probably left the site as soon as you could.
83% of 18-29 year olds have smartphones and 81% of smart phone owners have incomes of $75K+ per year (according to Pew Research). These are the exact target customers that you are trying to capture, so making sure they can see your website and information easily via a mobile device is business critical!
Being ‘mobile-friendly’ is no longer an ‘added benefit’ of your website – it is a requirement, which is why we design all of our smoke shop websites with native responsiveness as a standard feature.
Now that we have identified the potential problem, let’s discuss some solutions.
Options for Mobilizing Your Website
There are a number of options that you can take to get your website to be more mobile-friendly. In some cases, you can present your users with a mobile version of your website (typically in a limited format with a link to ‘view full website’). The best way to offer your customers a great mobile experience is to have a ‘responsive’ website. The term ‘responsive’ means that all of the content on your website reconfigures itself automatically based on the viewer’s screen size. You get to offer all of the great content you have on your site to any visitor that sees it.
Best: Natively Responsive Design
The best way to make your smoke shop website mobile-friendly is to have it re-built on a natively responsive platform (meaning that the site is built from the ground up to be mobile-friendly). There are some great platforms upon which you can do this (we prefer and build upon the WordPress platform as it offers both great responsiveness and excellent tools for search engine optimization). When you are looking at a platform, be sure that you choose something that is natively responsive. This will probably require a few thousand dollars to get your website redone, but it is the best and longest-lasting way to make sure your site is mobile-friendly.
Okay: Pseudo-Responsive or Splash Page
If you can’t go that route, but you have a website built on the WordPress or Magento platforms, you could use plugins (pieces of code) within your website that can help present your mobile visitors with a version of your website that is mobile-friendly. Within WordPress, you can use a plugin like WPTouch that works to present your visitor with a pseudo-responsive version of your website (the plugin grabs the content on your website and works to generate a new version for mobile visitors). This requires some configuration to make it look nice (and may not work with certain themes), but is a good option for trying to replicate a responsive site.
Another option is to present a mobile-landing page for your visitors. This is designed to simply give them the core elements they are typically searching for (phone number, address, and hours of operation). You can then give them the option to proceed to the full site. This is something that can be done via a plugin, or via custom coding by your web developer. The page doesn’t change based on website content, but simply provides the quick contact information about your company. It isn’t the best solution, but is better than making them pinch and scroll across your site to try to find your content info on an unfriendly site.
Better than Nothing: Third Party Services
A third option, that kind of blends the pseudo-responsiveness and splash page features listed above, is to use a third party provider to render a mobile version of your website. If you don’t have a website designer to help with your mobilization, using a third party can be a viable alternative. Two options are DudaMobile and bMobilized. These services charge a monthly fee (based on the type of package you want) and they provide a make-shift solution to mobilize your website. They offer an initial landing/splash page (as above). For additional fees they provide additional features for your site.
The bottom line is that you need your smoke shop website to be mobile. The best solution is a natively responsive website that adapts automatically to the user’s screen size, but the other alternatives are better than nothing.
As you look at how you can increase your business for 2015 and beyond, you need to make sure that you are doing what the other successful businesses (and your competitors) are doing. This includes being sure that you are being seen at the top of the search engines and that you are giving your customers a nice, clean mobile version of your website.
Increase profitability – offer mobility! SSA
About the Author:
Jeffrey Arnold is the President of 4Spot Marketing. He combines 25+ years of management experience with his expert knowledge of search engine optimization, responsive website design, and Internet marketing techniques to help his clients become more profitable. His success is evidenced by his clients’ top Google rankings time and time again. Mr. Arnold can be reached at (702) 721-9763, via email at [email protected], or via his website at www.4SpotMarketing.com.