Small businesses are an under served market in mobility. We constantly hear about the importance of small businesses to our economies, yet today few would argue that this sector is properly served and serviced from a mobility standpoint. Of course, carriers have plans but many times they simply rebrand a family plan as a small business plan and push it out. The effort to sell to the smallest of small businesses is often not worth the return to some of the larger players. This is all improving and will continue to do so as the cloud and open source makes business models that cater to the smallest firms much more attractive and manageable. As a small business owner you may already be seeing some improvement and your mobile strategy is starting to take shape.
Or maybe as a small business owner you still feel ignored and you don’t know what to do with this mobility thing. My humble guess would be that the vast majority of small business owners are not thinking or even remotely contemplating a mobile strategy. There are many different angles to take on the topic of small business and mobility, but for today and for now let’s just focus on one part of it: as a small business would you benefit from a mobile application?
Small Business and Mobile Applications
The simple answer, and I am sure many would agree with this, is no. The time and effort required to design, build, distribute, market and maintain a mobile application is not what you are in business for. A few may try to sell the idea of a mobile application to you but you will be hard pressed to make a case for it.
Without a mobile app you are seemingly left without mobile options. The thought of not being present when the need arises in your customers (when mobile) may worry you. In fact it may even terrify you. This is where search in general and local search in particular become your best option.
A Case for Local Search
Human geographers will tell you that everything happens in space; a particular point in space. All human interactions happen somewhere. For you as a small business owner your work, your clients and customers are mostly local. This is why local search is your friend, why competition in this space will heat up and why existing players with key advantages stand to benefit the most.
It is about convenience … local convenience!
It is the middle of January and you and your family are returning from Costa Rica where you just had a wonderful eco-tourism vacation. You are happy to hear that you just missed some of the coldest weather in years… unfortunately you walk into a freezing cold house due to a broken down furnace.
What do you do?
- Blame the kids?
- Boot up your computer in the basement?
- Go back to Costa Rica?
- Take out your smartphone?
If you answered ‘take out your smartphone‘ you answered the way I did. The other option of digging through night tables and recycling boxes to find a telephone directory doesn’t even enter my mind for this scenario. Your phone is right there with you.
Now what would you do?
- Browse to your favourite search engine?
- Then search for ‘emergency furnace services Toronto‘
- Click on the first few options?
- Click on an ad?
Or would you instead…
- Open up a local search application
- Search for ‘emergency furnace services Toronto?‘
- Click on ‘closest to your home‘ option
- Look at the first few (perhaps check a video)
- Pick one and call them immediately!
We spend our money and buy a majority of our services locally. Our context is local! We may research products on the web from around the world… but when it comes to actually purchasing them we do a lot of that locally.
As a small business owner seeking presence in the minds and wallets of mobile consumers you want to be there when the moment of need arises. Lots to think about. We will try and come back to this topic over the next few weeks.
Here are some other things to consider…
How social can a local search app be?
What about product availability and inventory?
Menu and prices?
So what other things could be leveraged on top of a local search application?
In your opinion is local search the best option for small business?