Eventually all businesses will need to go mobile, and the sooner they join the bandwagon the better. With that said, a mobile-optimized website is more important for certain types of businesses. Let's look to the data to find out who really needs a mobile-optimized website.

(Credit: Flickr user pasukaru76)

Internet activities performed on a smartphone

First, let's look at the different types of Internet activities people do on their smartphones. Activities like email usage, social networking, playing games, maps and music have been excluded because smartphone users prefer to use apps for this.

Graph with internet activities performed on a smartphone

Most of this isn't really surprising, but it gives us a starting point. Next, let's drill down on each activity.

Look for local businesses or services

With nearly all smartphone users looking for local businesses or services, it's the most popular Internet activity performed. According to Google, 1 in 3 searches on a smartphone have local intent, while 1 in 2 Bing searches are local.

"Local intent" means Google believes the searcher's intentions are to make a purchase offline. Take for example a search for "oil change", which implies the person will drive to the business and purchase an oil change. This would be local intent, even though the search term didn't include a geographic constraint like "New York oil change." Compare that to a search for "website hosting" where it's unlikely the intention is to make an offline purchase.

Here are the local businesses and services smartphone users are searching for:

Graph with local businesses searched on a smartphone

There's not doubt about it, local businesses need a mobile-optimized website.

But what exactly is a "local business"? A local business is one that provides products or services to a local geographical area. Here’s a list of the local business categories currently supported by Google, Bing, Yandex and Yahoo!

Help with shopping

With 79% of mobile users relying on their smartphones to help with shopping, it's changing the way people shop. According to Google, 15% of all shopping related searches now come from mobiles.

Here's how smartphones help with shopping:

Graph showing how smartphones help with shopping

We see that smartphones are used during the research and shopping stages. That's a big opportunity for retailers, and they need to be a part of it. In fact, Google's top recommendation to retailers is to get a mobile site.

Manage finances and bills

77% of mobile users manage finances and bills with their smartphone. Mobile apps are popular, but smartphone users still prefer mobile websites for personal banking.

Here are the finance related activities initiated from a smartphone:

Graph showing financial-related activities on smartphone

Clearly, financial service providers and finance related sites need to be optimized for mobile.

Look for news to stay informed

If you're like me, you're checking Google News whenever you're waiting in line somewhere. Whether it's standing in line or sitting on your couch, more than half of smartphone users look for news to stay informed.

Graph showing types of news sites visited on a smartphone

If you're in the business of getting eyeballs, shares, and inlinks for your content, then you need a mobile site.

Purchase products

35% of smartphone users have already purchased a product through their smartphone. Although barriers still exist, mobile shopping is becoming more popular.

Here's what people are buying on their smartphones:

Graph showing types of items purchased on a smartphone

Consumers are moving beyond buying digital goods like music and ringtones, and are purchasing real physical products. Surprisingly, high-touch categories like clothing and jewelry are quite popular.

For retailers, this list can provide clues to mobile usage within the various retail segments.

Make travel arrangements

24% of mobile users make travel arrangements on their smartphone. According to Orbitz and Travelocity, more than 60% of hotel bookings from mobile visitors were for the same day. On Priceline, 82% of mobile visitors will book a room within a day of arrival.

Here's a list of the travel activities initiated from a smartphone:

Graph showing types of travel activities initiated on a smartphone

Smartphones come in handy for last minute bookings. Businesses catering to travelers, such as hotels, flights, and car rentals, will benefit from a mobile-optimized site.

Make dinner reservations

With 51% of people searching for restaurant information, and 20% making dinner reservations, it's a hugely popular Internet activity on smartphones. Yet, only 5% of independent restaurants have a mobile-optimized site.

Here's a look at the types of restaurants smartphone users search for:

Graph showing types of restaurants searched on a smartphone

Listen up restaurants - get a mobile website!

Conclusion

With change comes opportunity, and the shift to mobile is the biggest change since the Internet revolution. Some businesses can afford to wait, while others need to get on the bandwagon now.

Here's our list of businesses that need to make mobile a priority:

  • Local businesses
  • Retailers (and etailers)
  • Financial service providers and finance related websites
  • News providers, blogs and magazines
  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Car rental agencies

I'd love to hear your comments.

This article presents key findings from 5 different studies: Understanding Mobile Users; Our Mobile Planet; The Mobile Movement, Mobile-local Search Stats (PDF); and Mobile Experience Survey (PDF).

Johan Johansson is a web developer at Pixelmade, a Vancouver web design + internet marketing firm.You can find him on Twitter and Google+.