How smartphones re-wrote the customer acquisition playbook for small businesses

Today, instead of running to the library, we “Google it.”

Instead of cracking open the encyclopedia, we turn to Wikipedia.

If we want to know what’s happening in the world, we don’t turn to local news, see what’s trending on Twitter. And when we are looking for a place to shop, we don’t turn to the Yellow Pages; we turn to our smartphones. We do a “near me” search, read the reviews, compare the ratings, and check the hours and location.

We’re all aware of the changes smartphones have made in our personal lives. But we often forget that those same smartphones have changed the way people look for, choose, and visit local businesses. And just as smartphones have changed the way we choose where to shop, they’ve changed the way small business owners can connect with and engage new customers.

Life before smartphones

In the past, small businesses could effectively attract new customers by running an ad in the local paper, having a feature spot on the radio, or posting flyers on community bulletin boards. Back then, we had far fewer sources of media or ways of learning about local events and business. We didn’t have smartphones or social media. We had the Yellow Pages and the Sunday paper. Advertising was the only way to let people know about your business.

(Side note: While it may sound like we’re talking about the good old days, we’re only talking about 5-10 years ago, as smartphone penetration has skyrocketed in recent years.)

Today, people don’t window shop; instead, they browse your “digital storefront” on their smartphone. They also use their phone or tablet to compare products, read customer testimonials on review sites, and to find the best places to shop or eat. With this shift in consumer behavior driven by mobile search, old method of attracting customers no longer make sense. 

Trading the megaphone for a magnet

The classic advertising metaphor is someone shouting your marketing message into a megaphone. For decades, this approach was effective. It got your attention. But then there was another megaphone. And another megaphone. Today, “intrusive” advertising is seen as an annoyance to be avoided.

Most of the messages we hear on the radio, see on TV, or read on billboards or in the paper aren’t relevant. Even if they are, at the moment we hear them, there is often little we can do about it. If someone sees your advertisement while  driving their kids to school, stuck in traffic, or at the gym, they’re not in a position to act on it. The odds of that person taking action later are slim.

On the other hand, business listings on sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp help boost your business in local search results and ensure that you show up at precisely the time when consumers are looking to spend money. When consumers search these sites for businesses like yours, they are active on their shopping journey. 

In a way, the internet empowers your business to trade the megaphone for a magnet. Rather than shouting for attention, you just attract customers via the magnetic pull of the mobile internet. All you have to do is take control of your online business presence and let consumers find you.

A modern take on an age-old problem

Many local businesses struggle to attract new customers because they’re still trying to use outdated channels to connect with modern shoppers. In the past, customer acquisition channels like flyers, the Yellow Pages, local paper and radio ads were more successful because that was where consumers went for more information about businesses in their community. Today, they do all of that on their smartphone. If you want to attract customers, you need to meet your customers where they are, you need to understand the modern consumer journey.

The next time your prospective customer needs a plumber, haircut, or a quick place to grab a locally roasted coffee, make sure your business shows up in local internet searches. Start by claiming and updating all your business profiles on relevant social media platforms and review listing sites.

Attracting new customers is an age-old frustration. At times it can seem like a wasted effort or that people just don’t shop locally anymore. The truth is, while foot-traffic may be down 57% for small businesses, consumer intent to buy has tripled in the past five years.

To put it another way, while you may not have as many people walking into your store, those that do are three-times as likely to purchase. What’s more, 3 out of 4 people who search for something nearby using their smartphone end up visiting a store they find in that search within a day. Of those that visit, 28% percent make a purchase.

Smartphones have changed the way businesses attract new customers because customers now use smartphones to find businesses they want to shop.

Take action

Whether you’re new to review sites or looking for better ways to boost your online business presence, Womply makes it easier than ever. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!


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