Is Your Business Prepared for the Changing Times?

CarHop Mobile SiteAccording to a recent Advertising Age article, tablet users are expected to double by early next year. While the number of current tablet users may not seem outrageously high now—only 12% of American internet users (28 million people) are accessing the web through tablets today—a study by the Online Publishers Association and Frank N. Magid Associations predicts that roughly 54 million Americans (23%) will be using tablets for internet access by early next year.

So what does that mean for your business? It means you should seriously be considering the next steps for your online presence. If tablet growth continues at the rate it’s going, it won’t be long before tablet devices are a staple of the internet browsing experience for your customers, not just a rising trend. So there’s no better time than now to get ahead of the curve.

And keep in mind that it’s not just tablet use that’s growing. At ADwërks, we’ve seen a similar trend with mobile website usage. One of our clients, CarHop, has seen huge jumps in the number of visits to its mobile website over the past few months. From 3200+ visits in December to 5700+ visits in February up to 7500+ in April and May, the mobile site has seen an increasing number of visits each month and it looks like that trend will only continue moving forward.

It’s not hard to see that internet use on tablets and mobile devices will continue to grow in the future. As our dear friend Bob Dylan said, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” It’s up to you to decide if your business wants to evolve with the times or stay stuck in the past.

The Building Doesn’t Make the Business

How important are your building and location to your business’s success? I ask because, on my recent visit to a few CarHop stores, I learned something important about this subject. Specifically, branding and sticking to your brand promise.

Aurora Store v2To give you some background, when it comes to opening new locations, CarHop tends to move into previously used spaces rather than building new stores from scratch. It has been a successful facet of their business model, but it leads to an interesting aspect of their stores – no two CarHop stores are the same. At least, physically.

Some are larger and more open (such as the former restaurant space in Burnsville, MN), while some are small and more confined (such as the former gas station space in Omaha, NE or the old Sonic Drive-In in Kansas City, MO). Although many businesses rely on each space they occupy to look and feel the same—Sonic, Target, etc.—as part of their branding efforts, CarHop doesn’t have that luxury. So they have to deliver on a different level.

They have to offer a distinct brand promise that doesn’t come from a building’s shape, size or signage.

Colorado Springs v2See, it’s not the building that matters when it comes to a CarHop experience. It’s the people inside the building that really make the difference. CarHop promises customers they will be “Helping People Drive®  with honesty, fairness and respect,” and each and every CarHop employee strives to fulfill that promise.

And because employees are so dedicated to keeping that promise, you quickly learn that the space is not the most important part of the CarHop brand. No matter the shape, size or location, CarHop’s strongest brand aspect is its commitment to customers and its fulfillment of that promise. The way customers are treated and the way they react to that treatment is a stronger affirmation of CarHop’s brand promise than any building layout or location.

Can your business say the same? If you had to move into a building with an entirely different image than your current location, would customers still feel as strongly about stopping by your place of business or working with your company? If you’re not quite sure of the answer, you may want to take a page out of CarHop’s book on customer commitment and brand promise to see what effect it has on your business.

It’s not the building that makes your business. It’s what goes on inside the building that makes the business.

-Mike B.

Do YOU Take Time To Be Your Own Customer?

CarHop Store (for blog post)This past week, Natalie, Jim and I (Mike B.) got to road trip up to Minneapolis to visit one of our clients, CarHop. This was partially to get some business done but also to give me and Natalie a chance to visit a few CarHop stores and get a better idea of how the business engages with its customers.

We met with salespeople and store managers, went through application the process, and got to spend time with both customers and employees of two different stores throughout the day. As Jim was expecting, this helped us develop a better understanding of our client and should help us as we plan and focus our marketing efforts moving forward.

Based on our visit, here’s my advice for business owners of all types: consider taking some time out of your day to be your own customer. Give yourself an opportunity to see what it is your business does well, decide what it could do differently and figure out which little changes have the potential to have a BIG impact on your company.

A Frustrating Example

Hotel roomI’ll give you an example of why this approach can help. Last night we stayed at a hotel that will remain unnamed. As I went to plug in and charge my phone for the night (which was basically on death row after a full day of travel), I ran into a problem: there wasn’t an open outlet anywhere near my bed.

The only outlet nearby was full with the bed lamp and a clock. And although that clock would work as an alarm, I prefer my phone for a number of reasons. So I had to make a choice – either plug in my phone across the room, or unplug the clock or lamp. Ultimately I chose the lamp, so I dragged the little table out, unplugged the lamp, plugged in my phone, pushed it back in place, and then had to do it all in reverse again in the morning.

Was it the worst thing in the world? Of course not. Jersey Shore is. But it was inconvenient enough to frustrate me. And it also made me realize that, perhaps if the hotel’s owner had a full day of meetings and then stayed a night in his or her hotel with a dead cell phone, that owner would realize a solution might be worthwhile.

I’m Not The Only One

In a recent USA Today article titled “What do Road Warriors want in a hotel stay?”, Richard Hadden said he appreciates “electrical outlets that I don’t have to crawl around on the floor or move furniture to get to.” I’m with you, Richard.

And the solution doesn’t need to be as drastic as rewiring the building’s electricity. Maybe they could buy lamps with an outlet in the base or something to that effect. The point is, I’d have been happier with my stay if charging my phone had been simple.

Is it minor? Yes. But a company that excels in the minor details wins in the big picture as far as I’m concerned. So, if you are a business owner, be sure to visit your own business as a customer, not as the owner. You might be surprised at what you can learn. And you just might make your business better as a result.

-Mike B.

Hotel room photo by espensorvik. Thanks!
CarHop photo c/o ADwërks.