The evidence pointing toward the emergence of consumers making the shift to mobile seems to mount with each passing day. According to data released by Gartner, downloads of mobile apps will increase to 268 million by 2017. Those downloads will generate a revenue exceeding $77 billion.

According BIA/Kelsey's U.S. Local Media Forecast there is a nearly 50/50 split between local mobile search and local desktop search. By 2016, local mobile search is expected to exceed desktop by more than 27 billion annual queries.

Related: New Google Calculator Tracks Value of Mobile Marketing Efforts

According to data published by MITTCOM, 20 percent of media consumption is spent using a mobile platform, tablet shipments increased by 83 percent in 2012 and interaction on second screens has increased for smartphone and tablet users during primetime TV.

Research indicates that the average consumer in the United States spent two hours and 38 minutes on tablets and smartphones each day in 2013. Based on these numbers, within just three short years, mobile apps will become completely mainstream.

Clearly, the future of marketing lies with mobile formats that provide businesses an entirely new way in which to interact with consumers. Digital marketers who tap into the power offered by mobile media are able to enhance and simplify the consumer experience.

New research indicates that as the usage of mobile devices grows, users have become increasingly reliant on mobile technology and have even come to expect it. To thrive, or even survive, in a digital age driven by consumers, businesses must learn how to leverage the power of mobile technology. One of the biggest problems is many simply do not know where to get started.

There are five key areas where you can capitalize on the power of mobile to gain a competitive advantage, enhance consumer experience and connect with customers.

1. Optimize for tablets. Smartphones once ruled the mobile world but no longer. Tablets provide a tremendous amount of convenience that tablet users are more than willing to take advantage of. If you have a mobile site, make sure it is optimized for tablets to ensure you provide an excellent user experience and do not lose out on sales.

2. Shorten and simplify the checkout process. You are losing sales when it takes a long time for a customer to complete information in multiple forms and progress through various stages of the mobile shopping cart process. Streamlining the process significantly increases conversions.

Consolidate the checkout process to as few pages as possible (preferably one) and reduce the number of required fields. Save customer profiles so they can quickly prepopulate when they return for subsequent purchases.

Related: 10 Ways to Find Customers with Mobile Marketing

3. Increase the speed of your site. Slow loading times are as much a problem as a lengthy checkout process. Ensure that your site loads quickly and processes orders fast to avoid customers abandoning their shopping carts.

4. Provide relevant content. Well designed mobile offers a tremendously enhanced customer experience but 79 percent of consumers will not revisit a mobile app more than twice if their initial impressions are less-than-great. To stand out from the competition, deliver a presentation that optimizes efficiency, has clear value and provides a simple presentation.

Brands that excel in leveraging specific moments in a user’s interface include Zappos, 7-Eleven, and Home Depot. Each delivers relevant content, including appropriate deals, based on a variety of factors such as when the app is opened, the weather and time of day.

5. Take advantage of proximity marketing. Proximity marketing involves marketing specifically to a consumer who are nearby. You can setup a “geo-fence” around your store, restaurant or event with a proximity-based push notifications system that automatically messages everyone with your mobile app who is nearby.

Notifications drive foot traffic from your customers and fans who are already close by. It’s a great way for restaurants and bars to share happy hour and dining specials, entertainers to promote events, athletes to promote appearances, or retail stores to offer discounts.

Mobile marketing is big business. If you are not leveraging the power of mobile, you are missing out on sales and a powerful competitive advantage.

Related: Mobile Marketing and the Magic of Push Notifications (Infographic)