A new study by BIA/Kelsey and vSplash finds that when it comes to small- and medium-sized business (SMB) websites in the United States, 60 percent aren't even bothering to phone it in. The firms analyzed more than 1 million SMB websites for their "SMB DigitalScape" report, 700,000 of which were based in the United States.
According to the study, six out of 10 websites don't have a phone number, local or toll free, on their homepages. Not only are they denying potential customers an essential method of establishing contact -- and passing up an opportunity for good mobile SEO -- they're also ignoring the buying power of mobile device-toting consumers.
In a company statement, Umesh Tibrewal, CEO of vSplash, explains, "In an era when connecting and conducting business via the Web and mobile devices is increasing, SMBs are failing to capitalize on evolving consumer behavior trends and the vast digital commerce opportunity."
Compounding the problem are websites that simply don't play well with smartphones and tablets despite the fact that SMBs are increasingly using mobile devices during the course of their business day. A staggering majority of their websites, a full 93.3 percent, don't render successfully on mobile devices.
Ignore Mobile Users at Your Peril
In Small Business Computing's "Online Marketing Trends for Small Businesses to Know in 2012" report, mobile marketing ranked high on the list of SMB marketing priorities for the year. The reason is simple: consumers can't live without their mobile devices.
Laurie McCabe, co-founder of the SMB Group, a small business research and consultancy firm, gave a frank assessment of the mobile marketing landscape. "People want to do more and more on their devices, so I think in terms of digital sales and marketing it's the key to enable everything for mobile consumers," she said.
As smartphones and tablets redefine mobile computing, the time has arrived for SMBs to think beyond the desktop Web browser. Author Vangie Beal writes, "This means a small business website that's optimized for mobile devices is a necessity for success. To be successful, you have to make it easy for consumers with mobile devices to find information or place an order on your website."
Catering to mobile users isn't the only area where small business customer service efforts are falling short. BIA/Kelsey and vSplash found other quirks that are tripping up small businesses in their online efforts.
According to the firms, 74.7 percent of SMB websites don't provide visitors with contact email links on their homepages. Granted, it's not the worst crime against customer service. However, a large number of SMB websites don't even offer a contact form. Form-fill options were absent in 65.7 percent of SMB websites analyzed by BIA/Kelsey and vSplash.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of IT-related websites and as the Green IT curator for GigaOM Pro. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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