Not long ago, business saw investment in mobile as a nice to have, something that was going to be needed in the future but not necessarily now.

That is dated thinking. The future has arrived.

Most marketing-savvy businesses are now designing websites that are mobile friendly first and desktop friendly second. There are many sound business reasons for this change, not the least of which is this:

Mobile traffic accounted for 25% of consumer sales during Thanksgiving 2013. Think about that a moment. Even on a holiday dedicated to the idea of offering great deals to get people into brick and mortar stores. A quarter of all the sales – and about half of the online traffic – came from mobile.

Those are the type of statistics that get your attention.

Understand Why Mobile Matters for Small Business: Increased Use of Mobile

Over the past several years, the use of mobile devices in all types of transactions has increased rapidly.

For example, an estimated 61% of consumers now read some of their emails through mobile and 30% read their emails exclusively through mobile. These numbers – and those above – have been reported in a number of places, in this case Digital Bungalow.

A 2014 report from Cisco projects the use of mobile – particularly smartphones and tablets – is accelerating rapidly.

Cisco reported that mobile Internet traffic grew 81% in 2013 and that the amount of mobile traffic was 18 times more than all Internet traffic in 2000.

More than half a billion new mobile devices and connections were added in 2013, increasing the number to more than 6 billion. Meanwhile, Cisco reported, network connection speeds more than doubled, making it that much easier for consumers to shop online.

Cisco expects the number of smartphone connections to exceed the world’s population in 2014. The company also projects the amount of mobile traffic to increase 11-fold by 2018.

Those are powerful numbers and they make it clear: consumers long ago moved online, and an increasing number are on the Internet via a mobile device. Faster speeds and more mobile-friendly websites are making the switch happen even faster.

How Mobile Can Help Small Businesses

Mobile can be especially useful for those in small businesses. For example, technology advances can now allow for businesses to target ads toward consumers based on area code or even the street they are on.

The smart companies are getting onboard. An estimated $10.5 billion was spend on mobile advertising in 2013, a huge leap from the $6.7 billion spent in 2012, according to USA today.

Experts advise that keeping it simple is the way to go. Businesses should avoid loading up a site with too much text or graphics – fast load times and direct messaging are keys to success. Itai Sadan, CEO of Dudamobile, told USA Today another key element is a straightforward call to action for consumers, such as a prominently placed phone number.

Otherwise, many of the same rules that govern the proper search engine optimization for websites are also key to increasing the flow of mobile traffic.

More Tips for Small Businesses Moving Into Mobile

People often use the phrase “mobile marketing” as if it’s all one thing, when in truth there are many different strategies a business can executive using mobile. These areas below can help a small business owner begin to build a framework for how they want to use mobile.

What is the goal? As with most things in business, you will only get to where you plan to go. Businesses must decide where to focus mobile efforts. These can include: driving traffic to a website, offering special deals, building brand awareness or trying to increase traffic to a brick and mortar store.

Build a Mobile App. An app is the most convenient way for people to access your message or offer.

Reward Mobile Users. Offer a discount to those who make a purchase via mobile, or offer a coupon or rewards program.
Make Message Mobile Friendly. Don’t use a lot of flashy graphics or load it up with too many words. Make it user friendly for those on a smartphone or tablet, which means getting across the message in the easiest way possible.

Optimize Landing Pages. Statistics back up what you already instinctively knew: mobile users want information right now and are typically more ready to make an on-the-spot decision. Mobile landing pages should be designed with mobile consumers in mind.

Whatever strategy is pursued, the numbers from Cisco and other studies – and your own observation of people on smartphones and tablets wherever you go – makes it clear that making an investment in mobile is a smart move for a small business. Just to be clear, mobile matters for small business, its just a fact in today’s market.