More consumers own mobile devices, and more of them are using those devices to research and find an attorney.
According to a 2013 Nielsen report, 94 percent of U.S. consumers have a mobile phone, and the majority of those phones are smartphones. There are tablets to consider as well. Forrester Research estimates that 112.5 million U.S. adults, more than one-third of the population, will own a tablet by 2016.
A March 2012 survey conducted by the Research Intelligence Group showed that 21 percent of consumers used smartphones to search for an attorney; 12 percent used tablets.
So does this mean law firms need their own apps?
The jury is out. Author Robert Ambrogi, a lawyer, writer and media consultant based in Rockport, Mass., said he is not sold on the value of an app for marketing.
There are challenges to creating an app to reach new clients, he said. In most cases, a potential client has to know about a firm before downloading its app. That means a firm has to have already reached out to a potential client through other forms of marketing. Another challenge is coming up with something about your app that will entice consumers.
If a firm is tempted to create its own app, the app should be something practical, Ambrogi said. For example, North Carolina divorce lawyer Lee Rosen offers the North Carolina Child Support Calculator. Rather than focus on Rosen and his firm, the app allows users to do something useful — determine the child support to be paid under the state’s guidelines.
Developing an app is not cheap. The cost to a firm can range from $2,000 to $250,000, depending on the app’s functionality and complexity. Various off-the-shelf options also exist for firms. One option from a company called Digome ranges in price from $995 to $3,995, plus annual support and maintenance fees of 20 percent of the purchase price.
Regardless of what a firm decides about apps, Ambrogi said every firm should make sure its digital presence is accessible to mobile consumers. This means making sure the firm’s site is optimized for mobile devices.
There are different ways to optimize a website. One way is to keep the site design clean and code it using HTML5, the latest version of the HTML markup language. Another approach is to use mobile device detection, which detects when a visitor is using a mobile browser to enter a site.
Given the smaller screens on mobile devices, ads have to be designed to make the best use of limited space. In addition, mobile users tend to be very intolerant of ads that are intrusive.
Firms should also consider adding features that take advantage of smartphone capabilities, such as a click-to-call button that allows a mobile visitor to call the office directly and a one-click button to bring up a map and directions to the office.
If a firm is already advertising on the Web, it should consider whether to expand into mobile advertising. Some analysts say mobile advertising will surpass standard Web advertising by 2016.