This week I found myself in a home improvement store, staring at a huge selection of cabinet hardware and wondering if the store's prices really were the best deal in the area. Instead of jumping in the car and driving to the next store, however, I simply pulled out my smartphone, scanned the bar code for the type of hardware I was considering, and searched the price at five different stores in the area. It turned out that I could buy them for almost two dollars less at a hardware store just down the street, so I headed down the road for the better deal. Most online shoppers don't go as far as I did in terms of actually driving to a brick-and-mortar store before checking online for the best deals. In fact, according to a report from iMediaConnection.com, 46% of online shoppers will do their research first before going out to a store to make a purchase, while 41% do both the research and purchasing online. This trend toward shopping solely through mobile devices has all types of businesses scrambling to keep up and figuring out new ways to reach their target audiences. The question is no longer, "Should small businesses consider mobile marketing and accessibility?" but, "How can small businesses use mobile options most effectively?" To app or not to app email and only a few social sites that they like to update regularly, they typically have the apps for these sites installed on their phones. Shopping, however, is a whole other animal. While shoppers may be loyal to a particular store, that doesn't mean that they won't check out options at other sites before making a purchase. This makes it difficult to determine if a retail shop should have a downloadable app or just a mobile-friendly website. For most small businesses, it comes down to whether or not you feel your fan base is big enough so that enough people know to download your app and use it regularly. Making your business mobile-ready While online shoppers may be able to view your website from their mobile phone, if your website is not set up for mobile viewing, it could be a difficult process trying to navigate your site. From downloading hi-res images to trying to read the multitude of tabs across the top or side of the home page, standard websites tend to be a chore to use and typically turn the online shopper away before they see their first sales page. But creating a mobile version of your site doesn't have to be a labor-intensive process. There are several online companies that offer conversion services, from free mobile website builders to monthly paid programs that make sure your mobile site continues to function properly and stays on top of the latest functions and features. Reaching your customers Once your site is mobile accessible and perhaps even features a downloadable app, the next step is to drive customers to your virtual front door. If you already know who your target audience is -- age range, gender, preferences -- then start identifying ways to get in touch. If you have a Facebook page, let them know to check out your new mobile site or app. You could also tweet the news or even upload a picture of your new mobile homepage onto Pinterest or look into mobile marketing. Have you created a mobile version of your website? What mobile conversion services have worked best for you? How have your website statistics changed after installing a mobile-friendly option? Photo credit: www.whichbetter.net Bio: Thomas Ford is the Marketing Director of 123Print.com, one of the foremost suppliers of online custom holiday cards and labels, as well as business holiday stationary.