AUSTRALIANS are more willing than ever to spend money using their mobile phone, and businesses need to catch up with these potential customers by implementing a savvy mobile strategy.
Research by Google Australia has found that 40 per cent of shopping-related searches originate from smartphones or tablets.
Google's Ross McDonald says there will soon be more Australians accessing the web via mobile devices than from their desktops or laptops.
He says the rapid uptake of mobile commerce has taken business by surprise: "Consumers are moving much, much faster than anybody anticipated. We even find in our business we haven't anticipated how quickly consumers will pick up their smartphones and use them," says Mr McDonald.
"The first thing people do when they wake up is check their mobile phones for any messages or alerts. They'll then typically spend the next couple of hours on a mobile phone, maybe read their news as they have breakfast, or on the bus."
Typically mobile web access drops off between 9am and 5pm when people are using their desktops at work, and it resumes when people leave the office, he says.
"The evening commute goes a bit longer: a couple of hours of mobile phone usage. From about 7pm to 10pm, people use the tablet when they're in the home. It's called 'couch-commerce' - once the kids are in bed, you sit back on the lounge and pick up your tablet and start browsing."
This shift in usage has taken place so quickly that most businesses are still catching up on simple mobile offerings, such as as having a mobile-friendly website, Mr McDonald says.
"The key message to business owners is that mobile is just going to continue to boom, because we're at a point now where we've got just over half of Australia's population with a smartphone, and that will increase rapidly as people upgrade their existing mobile phones."
Chief executive of mobile specialist Alive, Luke Harvey-Palmer, works with businesses to create useful technology. He says the mobile commerce boom presents an opportunity for businesses to prioritise a review, not only of their mobile technology capabilities but of their entire web presence.
"Most business can't tell you what their website accounts for right now. If Google analytics says you have 1000 hits to your website today, so what?
"One thousand hits might be from a robot, 1000 hits might have translated to 50 sales, or 150 in-store visits, but businesses don't know," he says.
"Where it all starts is the way your website is set up for user experience. What do you want people to do on your website? You can set up analytics to track people's path through your site, you can set goals . . . and set up your analytics program to actually track a customer or prospect going through your website."
Understanding your customers is fundamental to establishing a savvy web and mobile offering and it's only once you recognise what people want that you can start to think about how you can offer it to them, Mr Harvey-Palmer says.
"For a lot of people that is as simple as find our location, find our phone number to contact us, find our opening hours or find our catalogue or product listing. For a lot of company websites if that's all people did, that would possibly still be achieving a good outcome."
A lot of businesses are over-complicating the process and either blowing their budgets or becoming overwhelmed and doing nothing, he says.
"In its simplest form it is about knowing what your customers want to do . . . It's about being easy to do business with."
The importance of understanding your customer is exemplified by mobile technology because of its nature, Mr Harvey-Palmer says.
"Mobiles are a very personal thing and everyone wants to do something different. Therefore, it is about understanding exactly what a customer wants and how they want to access your business. All the mobile is doing is making business owners more focused on that fact," he says.
"You've got a smaller screen, you've got less time, you've got a less powerful device. A phone is not a desktop computer; you can't run Flash on Apple devices. All those limitations mean that more than ever you need to serve what's needed, not everything.
"Go back to simplicity, right across your business. Mobile forces you to do that," he says.