“In fact, more than 1.6 million people use White Pages Mobile a week to make more than 2.2 million searches.”

As smart phones get smarter and consumers continue to add tablets to their list of digital gadgets, a mobile website has become a must-have for a business hoping to put themselves in the path of oncoming customers.

The fact is mobile devices have changed the way people surf the web and shop online. People are connected to the internet wherever they are, whatever they are doing, and when the need arises for information about a certain product or service, a website designed for mobile ensures your business can be found at that critical moment.

In fact, more than 1.6 million people use White Pages Mobile a week to make more than 2.2 million searches. The number of people searching on mobiles and smartphones is now growing faster than any other device so it’s critical to have an online presence.

The battle between you and your competitors is no longer won on foot traffic alone. A small business website may get the Google click when it is found in search results, but if it is sluggish or displays poorly on a mobile device there is no incentive for the customer to continue browsing.

To put it bluntly, you may have lost the battle for your customer’s attention. Here are four reasons why it is increasingly important for business websites of any size to be optimised for mobile.

1. Demand is growing

Let’s start with a question - how many people do you know who don’t have a mobile? The chances are, not many. As smartphone technology marches on, more and more people are choosing mobile phones that are connected to the web. According to Portioresearch, it is expected that by 2016 the majority of all mobile phones on the market will be smartphones, up from just 10 per cent in 2009.

In its Worldwide Mobile Industry Handbook 2012-2016, Portioresearch predicts there will be 8.5 billion mobile subscribers worldwide by the end of 2016. To put that in context, in mid 2013, there were 7.1 billion people on earth. (And to put that in perspective, technology giant Cisco predicts there will be 25 billion internet-connected devices – ie, mobile and desktop - by 2015.)

The rise in smartphone sales, therefore, is based on surging demand to access the internet via mobile.

2. The public are demanding

People will not return to your website if they have a bad experience. The most common smartphone customer complaints range from an inability to see products on the small screen to difficulties navigating the site and slow loading speeds. Sixty per cent of online mobile shoppers leave a site immediately if they encounter difficulties navigating it, with 30 per cent claiming that they would never return, according to Skava Consumer Mobile Shopping Survey.

With so much competition online, it is not surprising that potential customers would have little difficulty ignoring a mobile website which performs badly and seek one which is easy to use.

3. The demands of the impulse shopper

As the old sales saying goes, “if I’ll-be-backs were greenbacks I’d have been a millionaire long ago.” And with the rise of coupons and location-based shopping, a site not optimised for mobile use will inevitably lose customers who are at the point of sale.

If there is one customer you will almost certainly lose it is the impulse buyer. Their eagerness to buy should not be hampered by difficulties browsing or hitting the purchase button.

Companies can also deliver coupons via mobile devices to attract consumers, many of whom would never think of using coupons otherwise. And as online sales continue to grow, businesses cannot afford to ignore the impact of sophisticated mobile sites.

4. Location, location, location

Location-based shopping offers and coupons for mobile devices are growing in popularity. Many surveys show that more and more customers are engaging online while standing in a real-life retail store.

According to ComScore data, 44% of UK smartphone owners used their phone for some shopping activity while in store. Comscore reported that customers used their phone in-store to inform friends and family about products, to send a contact a picture of a product, to compare prices and to purchase goods online.

Today, a mobile website is something all small-to-medium businesses should consider. In the not-too-distant future, it may even be fair to say that a mobile website will be something a company can’t live without.

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