Since they were first launched back in 2007, smartphones have radically changed our personal lives. We have the power of information in the palm of our hand, can communicate with our friends and family anytime and anywhere, and enjoy games and entertainment wherever we go. However, while the business potential of the smartphone is equally enormous, many enterprises struggle to know how to use this technology to engage customers, drive down costs and increase profits. And yet, this is incredibly important – businesses that understand the value of mobile technology leave their competitors far behind.
Any business considering using mobile technology needs to think about it in three different ways – doing more business, doing better business, and doing more efficient business. In other words, they need to focus on what mobile technology can do to bring in more customers, to deliver new capabilities, and to create internal efficiency.
The first of these is intimately tied up with marketing and sales. Creating a compelling mobile experience for customers – particularly in the retail sector – can drive significant revenue growth. Google’s Mobile Search Moments Study has shown just how effectively mobile engagement can drive sales – no less than 73% of mobile searches trigger additional engagements by the customer. Furthermore, fully 28% of mobile searches result in conversions – including visits to stores, phone calls and purchases. When you compare this to typical conversion rates for desktop searches, the difference is astounding. Beyond this, mobile technology in combination with social media can be used to create user communities – which can dramatically increase word-of-mouth sales if managed correctly.
However, the marketing and sales benefits of mobile are not limited to consumers – mobile can also be incredibly effective in B2B scenarios. It is a powerful way of getting to key decision-makers – for instance, a recent survey of business executives showed that more than half respond to mobile advertising and are willing to make business purchases using their mobile device. It can also make sales forces more dynamic and effective. For example, Benetton now pushes electronic catalogs to its sales force in over 120 countries, rather than shipping out garment samples and paper catalogs – their sales force uses this to engage in-country retailers to secure wholesale deals.
When it comes to delivering new product and service capabilities, mobile devices provide an unparalleled opportunity for innovation. Smartphone apps can be used to augment product value and create competitive differentiation – remote control of home devices such as thermostats or security systems when customers are away from home is one simple example. Improving installer networks is another – not only can up-to-date documentation be pushed to installers, smartphones can be used to do things such as automatically configure internet-connected products such as home-theater systems and other consumer electronics. This reduces costs for the installer and provides better quality to the consumer. To reiterate, these are only examples – every business will find its own unique applications.
When it comes to internal efficiency, smartphones deliver spectacular results, particularly when combined with cloud technology. For instance, using services such as Google Docs and Google Drive allows employees to share information in real time no matter where they are – they can even work collaboratively on the same document. Not only does this make employees more efficient, it makes it possible for more employees to become mobile workers – which in turn drives down real estate and other business operation costs. Mobile technology also has major benefits for field workforces – delivery fleets, maintenance engineers and so on. Rather than recording all of their activities on paper and reporting status over the phone, they can now access mobile workforce management systems using smartphones instead. This allows them to read and update schedules, record activities and even punch in and out on virtual punch clocks. Again, these are only examples of the potential of smartphones to reduce costs, streamline operations and unlock the creativity of employees.
To take advantage of the full potential of smartphones, businesses need to carefully evaluate each of the areas where the technology could be applied, evaluate the payback and prioritize implementation. Rather than trying to take on everything at once in an overall enterprise mobility initiative, they need to select areas where smartphones can deliver high value relatively quickly – in other words, low-hanging fruit. Otherwise, they are destined to fail because of the sheer scope of any such initiative. However, while doing this, they need to still have an overall strategy, so that individual projects build into a cohesive whole over time.