Imagine this story: Your spouse has been nagging you for weeks to finally fix the furnace's humidifier. On your way home from work you grab your iPhone (now your only friend) and browse a few websites for local heating repair contractors. The first site is in disarray, littered with miniature images, tiny text, and worst of all, you can't find a phone number. The next site you visit has large text, one image, and a big, time-saving phone number front and center.
You are desperate to win back your spouse's affection and free yourself from doghouse exile. So, do you waste time exploring the first site, zooming in and out to find a phone number? Or, do you simply click the phone number on the second site and save your marriage?
Ok, maybe it's an extreme example, but situations similar to this happen much more often than you might think. And, it's going to happen more frequently as consumers increasingly access the Web on their cell phones. The bottom line: mobile web matters to your HVACR business today.
Smartphones are on a clear path to outsell standard mobile phones by Q1 2012. Smartphones can handle web browsing, email, and run thousands of apps while standard mobile phones – dumb phones, if you will – can only make calls and text. In March of 2010, The Nielsen Company reported that Smartphones accounted for 25% of the U.S. mobile market, up from 23% in the previous quarter. By the end of 2011, Nielsen predicts Smartphones will overtake basic mobile phones in the U.S. market.
What this means is that more and more people will be surfing the web from their phones. Web marketing is going to experience a new revolution as businesses begin to invest in mobile-ready sites that can be easily navigated on a Smartphone screen.
The stats don’t lie. The first Blackberry was released in 2002. Apple followed in 2007 with the iPhone, and the Google-backed Android came out in 2008. In just a short time, these phones have become the top-choice for Americans looking for a multi-functional electronic device that provides phone, data and internet access 24/7. According to research firm ComScore, estimates put the number of Smartphone owners in the year 2010 around 45 million. This trend is showing no signs of stopping in the near future as more companies begin producing Smartphones, driving prices down and user adoption up.
And many consumers in 2010 see their mobile phones differently than they did in years past. As these phones have improved their ability to display Web content and mobile web connectivity in the U.S. has increased, Smartphone owners look to their device as a computing device not just a convenient way to make calls on the go. For some, Smartphones are a replacement to buying a laptop — in fact, a 2010 Rothman Research study estimates that Smartphones will outsell personal computers as early as 2012.
Here is a finely-crafted, two-pronged web marketing strategy for dealing with what is the beginning of a major shift in consumer behavior:
Prong One – Make sure your phone number is in a prominent place on your home page (upper right or left corner to be specific). Though high-end mobile devices now display web pages better than ever, the displays are still small (hence the “shrinkage” reference in the title). Prominent placement ensures your potential customer can easily find and read the number.
Prong Two – Make sure that the phone number is created for your web page in text, not as an image. A phone number housed in your website’s HTML code as text rather than a gif or jpeg image gets treated more intelligently by Smartphones. In fact, Smartphones can identify 10 or 7 digit combinations as phone numbers and allow a user to simply touch or mouse over the number to initiate a phone call. It’s basic stuff now for Smartphone programmers but a great leap forward from where these phones were at just two or three years ago.
For a little background, older mobile phones use “WAP” (Wireless Access Protocol) pages specifically designed for phones, written in a very light & limited code called HDML (Handheld Device Markup Language). Newer Smartphones can display full websites as they appear on the web. However, their small screen size generally makes full-page websites difficult to navigate. This is where a “mobile website” built specifically for Smartphones comes into play.
Why You Need a “Mobile Website” Today
Typically, companies want multi-page, fully interactive pages for their website that display as much information about the business as possible. That style of website design does not transfer well when loaded on a Smartphone. Such a website would be difficult to load and even more difficult to navigate. Constructing a mobile-ready website is the most practical solution to getting in front of the Smartphone using consumer.
You might be wondering how Apple’s iPad or the numerous Google Android-powered tablets fit into the mobile space, and the short answer is that they don’t really get classified as mobile devices. Due to their larger resolution screen size, they typically render websites the same way as any small laptop would.
Now, HVACR contractors and distributors are all going to want to know how much a typical mobile-ready website will cost. The good news is that unlike typical websites, mobile sites are much easier to build and often can be done in just a few days. Because of this, don’t expect to pay a design company more than a few hundred dollars for one. Keep in mind that this is a growing trend and many website designers haven’t even begun to break the ice on mobile-specific websites.
Ask your current website marketing provider if they can build you a Smartphone-ready website – inexpensively. If they cannot, find a vendor who can. There is no doubt that mobile web is a huge growth area. The sooner you get in front of this wave, the stronger your competitive advantage.
Griffin Davis is VP of Marketing for Market Hardware, Inc. (www.mobile.markethardware.com). Griffin has worked in Internet Marketing and Small Business marketing since 1993. Market Hardware helps HVACR contractors and distributors compete on the Web and offers special discounts for trade association members. Ask Griffin any Website or Internet Marketing question by emailing [email protected] or calling 888-381-6925.