This year, superfast 4G wireless services will roll out across the UK, making mobile browsing quicker and more reliable for consumers. With online mobile traffic already experiencing meteoric growth, the arrival of universal 4G represents a step change in the way people access content and services while on the move. It will also further boost the number of consumers looking to take advantage of a faster, more immediate and responsive online mobile experience.

Yet a recent study by Barclays Bank found that 89 per cent of UK businesses have still not developed a website optimised for mobile devices, and are not ready to take advantage of the 4G mobile boom.

That’s despite the fact that 50 per cent of those businesses questioned for the Barclays Online business outlook 2013 study said they believed the availability of 4G will mean that more people will access their websites from a portable device like a smartphone or tablet.

Going local
Failure to implement a mobile-friendly online presence means these businesses risk missing out on a major opportunity – especially when it comes to maximising local market exposure.

Two years ago, Google was already reporting on the dramatic rise in online searches from mobile devices when it identified that mobile search was experiencing 30 per cent quarter-on-quarter growth – eight times greater than searches originating from the desktop. Since then, mobile search growth has surged ahead, thanks to the fact that more and more people now access the internet via a smartphone or tablet in a bid to run their lives while on the move.

That’s a real plus for local businesses because, according to Google, 95 per cent of smartphone users now regularly search for local businesses and services online. What’s more, 68 per cent confirm they’ve called or visited a business after finding this information on their phones. And these users are acting fast on their needs. According to the Mobile Marketing Association, 70 per cent of all mobile searches result in action within one hour.

What mobile users want
However, Google’s study reveals that having navigated to a site – often via a search engine, 61 per cent of mobile information seekers would take their attention and wallets elsewhere if the site they visit isn’t mobile-friendly. In fact, these potential customers are five times more likely to abandon the search altogether if they don’t find what they like.

When asked to identify what they really want from a website, the requirements of these online information seekers are surprisingly straightforward. They want to be able to view key information – such as a company’s location and contact details – on a clean site that loads instantly, fits on the screen, and eliminates the frustrating need to navigate using ‘pinch and zoom’ to find the basic information they’re looking for.

Clearly, mobile information seekers don’t behave in the same way desktop users behave. Ready to take action quickly, they’ll have already conducted their background research or are doing a search ‘on the fly’ and are ready to buy. This means they need to be able to quickly identify if a business can deliver what they’re looking for by viewing a succinct business profile or price list.

Furthermore, they expect to be able to undertake basic tasks like ‘click-to-call’ or ‘click-to-email’, and even ‘click-to-purchase.’ This is because when mobile users conduct a mobile search, they are ready to take action or buy. Unlike desktop users, they don’t expect to undertake intensive research before they take the next step – they want to call or engage with a business right then.

Capturing the demand
A simple mobile-ready contact business profile, complete with click-to-call and click-to-email links, is all today’s businesses need to capture the huge number of prospects searching online using a mobile device.

Run as standalone or in parallel with an existing website, a simple yet high impact single page displaying key contact information in a smart and mobile-friendly way is a powerful and effective way to deliver the information immediacy that satisfies today’s mobile online searchers.

A click-to-view map option allows users to locate a business using a Google maps link, while a click-to-pay option enables consumers to make payments anytime anywhere via PayPal. Meanwhile, mobile information seekers with the time and inclination to explore a business  in more detail can click-to-visit the company’s full .co.uk or .com website, or explore a company’s social media channels at their leisure.

Preparing for the 4G revolution
Forward-thinking UK businesses are already investing in a mobile-ready online presence and reaping the benefits; last year mobile-ready online businesses generated more than a quarter of their revenue from mobile.

As we’ve seen, sitting on the fence will no longer be an option as super-fast 4G networks stimulate more and more consumers to make mobile search their first choice when they look for services and products, locally and further afield.
As Barclay’s managing director and head of technology, media and telecoms Sean Duffy puts it: “UK businesses know that they have to act now: 64 per cent of online businesses in the UK believe a mobile strategy is an important factor in their 2013 business success.”

And the good news is that a mobile-friendly web presence is within the grasp – and budget – of any scale of business. Today’s mobile-ready business profiles can be created within minutes and maintained and updated with ease – eliminating the technology, complexity and cost barriers that in the past may have inhibited even the smallest UK businesses from initiating a dynamic mobile marketing strategy.

Ian Bowen-Morris is CMO at Telnames