It’s crazy to think how things change every 10 years.
30 years ago, few people had cable or satellite TV.
20 years ago, few people had home computers.
10 years ago, few people had smartphones.
Throughout the ’90s, cable and satellite TV had their heyday. Throughout the ’00s, home computers had their heyday.
But the smartphone changed the paradigms. And as of right now we’re still in the smartphone paradigm.
What does this all have to do with local businesses?
Well, when things change so drastically, as they have with smartphones, it can be difficult to adapt. It can be difficult even when the benefits of adapting are so great.
Many local businesses have shied away from the advantages the smartphone offers. But many have seen the benefits and are engaging.
Here are some of the ways the smartphone has changed local business and how to use it to your advantage.
1. Customer Amenities
When you walk into the doctors office or dentist office or any waiting room, do you see people reading magazines?
10 years ago the answer would have been a resounding, “YES”.
Today? It’s probably close to zero. Nearly everybody is looking at phones.
Heck, there are restaurants and bars with huge TVs with the big sporting events on and people still spend more time checking their phones than watching on the big screens.
What does this mean for local businesses?
It means that it’s important to understand that people want to and will continue to use their phones. Making it easy for them to use their phones is a good idea. Take the magazine money and get faster wi-fi. Or install larger windows so cell reception is better. Add some charging stations on the walls. Make it easy for people to pay with their phones.
People place a high importance on their time. It may not always seem like it, but think of how angry you got the last time it took 10 seconds to load an app on your phone instead of the normal 1 second. We get super angry when that happens.
Smartphones have tapped into our love of speed and time. We’ve become very accustomed to getting things fast. Anything that takes time is just not worth it.
For local businesses, the longer a product or service takes the less likely people will be to buy. There are certainly exceptions, but it’s a fast moving world today. The faster and more efficient you can make your service or product the more likely you’ll be to succeed.
I loved the movie, The Founder. It was about how McDonald’s took fast food to a new level. They broke unwritten rules that seem ridiculous today like giving customers forks and plates.
Speed has always been important. It’s just more important now that people have fast options with their smartphones.
People can find just about any information on their smartphones. What you want to create is a brand that people search for online. Whether it’s on Google, Google Maps, Facebook, Instagram or whatever the channel or platform.
The more people that recognize your brand the more successful your local business will be. And the advantage for local businesses is that you don’t need to win over the entire country. Just your city or town.
If you’re a dentist, your goal should be to become the most recognized brand in the city. Post the most on Instagram and Facebook. Post the most YouTube videos and podcast episodes. All the things people consume on their smartphones.
People consume more information today than ever before. But the somewhat strange thing is that they want even more. They want as much as possible and it seems that we haven’t even gotten close to reaching our capacity for information.
The smartphone has allowed for a great leap. The brands that create the most information are learning what people want. They’re learning how to get attention.
Two takeaways from this – 1) if you want to win the attention of customers you need to create more information 2) you have to make sure it’s easy for customers to know your address and contact info because they expect it to be easy.
This is one that hasn’t changed.
One trapping of the smartphone is the idea of likes, shares and things like that. Little positive things that make us feel good in the short-term. We try to figure out what will get us the most likes.
And that’s fine. But don’t do it to the detriment of focusing on your product and service. The smartphone has changed a lot of things, but it doesn’t change the fact that businesses are built on products.
Know what makes your product unique. Know what your customers love most about your product. Highlight those facts with your marketing. And focus on staying different from the competition. Focus on innovating by finding gaps in what people need and filling them.
This will always be true in the business world.
The smartphone has been great for local businesses. Yes, it’s easy to look at Amazon as a local business killer. The smartphone has certainly made it easier to shop on Amazon.
But the same thing happened with Walmart. And Sam Walton said that local businesses had opportunity to compete alongside Walmart. But to do so they would have to sell more customized and rare products that wouldn’t work for Walmart, which focused on buying in bulk at low prices.
The smartphone offers opportunity for local business. The key is knowing how to make the smartphone work for you and not against you.