It wasn’t so long ago that anytime I wanted a new sweater or needed to buy a birthday gift for my husband, I went to the local boutique down the street or shopping mall nearby.  How times have changed.

Mobile shopping takes flight

By the time you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ll be well on your way to checking your mobile phone for the 50th time today — nearly the national average. But your phone is no longer just a device; it’s a mobile behavior, and one that now is changing the way people shop.

And the way small business retailers connect with their customers.

Want proof? In 2016, Black Friday became the first day in retail history to drive over $1 billion dollars in mobile revenue — at $1.2 billion, a 33 percent growth year over year. By Christmas Eve, more than $17.6 billion was spent on mobile, making up one out of every three purchases.

What to focus on

So how can small business retailers capitalize on this shift to mobile to achieve their number one goal of finding and attracting new customers? It starts with leveraging the mobile phone to be their local advertising and sales solution.

The first step for businesses to optimize for mobile is to use Facebook and Instagram’s business pages. With a mobile business page, smaller retailers can enjoy special features to showcase their merchandise without having to build out or manage an entire website.

Take Kay’s Designer Consignment in Florida. After more than 10 years in a brick and mortar location, Kay closed her shop to run her business entirely on Facebook. Now she showcases her new products on her Facebook page, and even takes and process orders through the platform.

72 percent of consumers want mobile-friendly sites and almost 9 of 10 admit to searching for a local business on their smartphone once a week or more”


Given that 72 percent of consumers want mobile-friendly sites and almost 9 of 10 admit to searching for a local business on their smartphone once a week or more, having that online presence is essential for attracting customers. After establishing a page, targeted advertising can help a small business owner grow quickly.

Take Cupcakin’ Bake Shop in Berkeley. Owner Lila Owens wanted to grow the business and bring in more local customers. Through local promotion ads on Facebook, Cupcakin’ Bake Shop increased foot traffic to the store by 25 percent and saw a 30 percent increase in website traffic.

In addition to driving in-store or online traffic, small businesses must connect with the right people for their business. To find new customers that matched the profile of their existing ones, fashion retailer M.M. Lafleur used Lookalike Audience targeting. They created a shopper profile of their best customers and then tweaked their ad creative to depict models who looked like this shopper.

The end results were staggering: An 81 percent increase in new customer acquisition and 600 percent year-over-year growth.

Staying relevant

Of course, targeting the right audiences is only part of the solution. If a small business’ content doesn’t sing, potential customers might not listen. The good news is that developing thumb-stopping creative, including photo and video, doesn’t require a big budget or fancy A/V equipment.

All small businesses need is a mobile phone. With a few simple-to-use apps, like PicLab Studio, Gifboom or the Instagram app Boomerang, and select photography tools such as a clamp lamp or contact paper to convey an elegant backdrop, eye-catching creative is just a few cheap and easy steps away.

Every business owner I talk to, no matter how large or small, conveys the same message: At the end of the day, it’s all about finding new customers and growing the business. With a move to mobile, and a targeted advertising and creative strategy, small businesses can ride the wave of retail change alongside the big businesses as far as the internet can take them.