Businesses must develop mobile websites to keep up with smartphone usage: Nielsen

Businesses must develop mobile websites to accommodate for the huge number of smartphone owners using their devices to access the internet, a new Nielsen report suggests.

The firm’s new survey, which measures the amount of engagement smartphone owners have with their gadgets, indicates that 43% of all mobile phone owners are able to access the internet with their handsets, with about 29% of those now actively using the internet via their phones.

Additionally, smartphone users are most prominently using their smartphones for searching, with 73% of mobile internet users having conducted an internet search on their mobile, representing an increase from 30% just one year ago.

Other popular activities included checking news and weather at 59%, up by 18 percentage points, checking email at 58%, looking at maps and directions at 56% and social networking at 39% with Facebook the most popular platform at 98%. Twitter followed at 20%, with MySpace at 17%.

Matt Bruce, managing director of Nielsen’s online business, says now is the time for Australian companies to be developing mobile sites if they haven’t been working on them already.

“I think certainly, now is the time. Everyone has been talking about the big change in smartphones, and obviously the iPhone is the most well known of these. We’ve seen in our figures that smartphones are a killer model for internet use, and people are using them more. Businesses should be building sites that work well with smartphones.

But it isn’t just dedicated mobile sites that should be developed. Bruce says businesses should pay attention to growing trends such as searches for maps and location-based queries.

“I think the very interesting factor here is the increased usage of maps. Google is making big plays in mobile, both in terms of maps and mobile search. I think businesses need to pay attention to local business listings, and that type of activity, because people are increasingly using these tools to get around.”

But it isn’t just smartphones businesses need to watch out for. Bruce says that as more devices flood the market, such as the upcoming Apple iPad, businesses must ensure their websites become “device agnostic” – they must be easily read on a number of different screen sizes.

“We’re increasingly seeing devices become agnostic, and I would imagine you’re going to want your business site to be designed so it can fit a number of different screen sizes. Your site needs to adapt.”

While Bruce says he is surprised at the relatively low amount of users accessing the internet through their mobiles, he expects this to grow. The new report shows 13% of users anticipate conducting a mobile search through their mobile in the future, with 11% indicating the expectation of undertaking internet banking.

“I’m actually a bit surprised about those figures, but I expect when we see the data for next year they will be substantially higher as more and more people switch over from the current phones to smartphones to access the internet.”



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