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Small businesses gain social, mobile ground

CHANTILLY, Va. — Small businesses are increasingly embracing mobile and social platform to improve their operational efficiency and promotion, according to the latest findings from local media consulting company BIA/Kelsey’s “Local Commerce Monitor” tracking survey.

Mobile payments, particularly, are gaining significant traction with small businesses. Of those surveyed, 40% confirmed that they now accept payments at the point of sale with a mobile credit card reader attached to a smartphone or tablet (PayPal Here, Square), and another 16% said they plan on adding the capability within the next 12 months. 

Small businesses are also turning to mobile to get customers in the door. Of those surveyed, 32% stated that they are using some form of mobile advertising to promote their businesses, up from 28% in 2012.

"Mobile continues to make impressive inroads into the small business market, as both a marketing vehicle and as an element of the business infrastructure," said Steve Marshall, director of research, BIA/Kelsey. "A closer look at the data shows adoption of mobile and social varies across small business industry sectors. The LCM data reveals professional and home and trade services are embracing mobile in a big way, with service providers essentially becoming walking point-of-sale terminals." 

Nearly three-quarters of SMBs surveyed — 72% — indicated that they are using social media to promote their businesses. In addition, 52% of SMBs surveyed have a Facebook page for their business and 25% have a Google+ Local page.

"Together, mobile and social tools are transforming the way SMBs acquire and retain customers." added Marshall. "With the heavy use of social media, small business marketing is quickly becoming a two-way engagement rather than a one-way promotion."

Many small businesses gave themselves high marks on their level of social engagement. When asked how "engaged" their businesses are with their customers on social media (e.g., responding to online comments, regular blogging or tweeting, regular updating of their Facebook page, offering a loyalty program), 66% stated they are "extremely engaged" or "very engaged."

BIA/Kelsey will present these findings at its upcoming Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing conference, which takes place Sept. 11-13, in Austin. The latest developments and opportunities around mobile and social solutions for small businesses will be woven throughout the conference, and in particular during keynote addresses and panel sessions featuring: 

Matt Baker, head of small business partnerships, Facebook (Keynote) 

Russ Laraway, senior director, small business, Twitter (Keynote) 

Vikas Jain, head of business development, Google/Wildfire (Keynote) 

Seth Priebatsch, CEO, LevelUp (Keynote) 

Zorik Gordon, CEO, ReachLocal (Keynote) 

Raj Kapoor, senior director, local and mobile advertising, Microsoft 

Surojit Chatterjee, head of global mobile search, Google 

James Price, VP, digital, Dex Media

Local Commerce Monitor is BIA/Kelsey's ongoing tracking survey of small and medium-size businesses conducted online with research partner Ipsos. The survey measures where small businesses are spending their advertising and promotional budgets and how their media usage and spending habits are evolving. For this study, a small business is defined as a business having from 1 to 99 employees. Local Commerce Monitor draws its sample of business respondents from a mix of nationally scoped metropolitan statistical areas, which include first- and second-tier markets. Local Commerce Monitor Wave 17 was conducted in July 2013 via an online survey of 568 SMBs.

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