Mobile Payments, Social Media a Boon for Small Businesses

Small businesses are also turning to mobile to get customers in the door, with many using some form of mobile advertising to promote their businesses.

Small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) are increasingly embracing mobile and social platforms for improving operational efficiencies and promotion, according to the latest findings from the Local Commerce Monitor, research firm BIA/Kelsey's ongoing study of the advertising behaviors of midmarket companies.

In particular, mobile payments are gaining significant traction with SMBs, with 40 percent of those surveyed stating they now accept payments at the point of sale with a mobile credit card reader attached to a smartphone or tablet (such as PayPal Here, Square, and others). Another 16 percent plan to add this capability within the next 12 months, according to the report.

"Mobile continues to make impressive inroads into the SMB market, as both a marketing vehicle and as an element of the business infrastructure," Steve Marshall, director of research at BIA/Kelsey, said in a statement. "A closer look at the data shows adoption of mobile and social varies across SMB 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 POS terminals."

Small businesses are also turning to mobile to get customers in the door, with 32 percent of the SMBs surveyed stating they are using some form of mobile advertising to promote their businesses, up from 28 percent in 2012.

The report revealed SMBs are increasingly settling in to social media platforms like Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter to promote their businesses. Nearly three-quarters of SMBs surveyed (72 percent) said they were employing such platforms, and more than half (52 percent) of SMBs surveyed have a Facebook page for their business. Another quarter said that they have a Google+ Local page.

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

Survey results also suggested small business owners are satisfied with the way they are adopting social media: When asked how "engaged" their businesses are with their customers on social media (such as responding to online comments, regular blogging or tweeting, regular updating of their Facebook page, offering a loyalty program), 66 percent stated they are "extremely engaged" or "very engaged."

Despite SMB enthusiasm for social media tools, a recent survey from loud-based sales acceleration technologies and solutions provider InsideSales suggested many businesses are failing to leverage the most effective technologies and methods for generating leads and driving business awareness, with social media tools overused and executive events, telemarketing, webinars and search marketing underused.

The report also indicated generating leads and improving the quality of those leads are the most common challenges faced in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, yet salespeople and marketers are giving priority to channels with more perceived than actual value, such as social media strategies like Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.