Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 2172
, Published on 08 May 2013
Mobile phones today have become ubiquitous, both in presence and in usage. From their basic use in communication to small-time fun like playing games or listening to music, to productive work like document creation or office conferencing or stock-market updates, to use in emergency scenarios like earthquakes, these technological marvels are perfectly poised to script the biggest technological success story since electricity and the internet. This mobility and smart-computing boom has been fueled by a convergence of innovations in software architectures, back-room data centre operations, high-speed network communications, and numerous other smaller yet powerful client devices that all the stakeholders in the value chain. Industry analysts project that the global mobile workforce will exceed 1.2 billion as early as in 2013 and the overall mobility market will top $1 trillion by 2014.
So what is it that drives this growth? For starters, it is easy to see that mobile phones succeeded because they brought the gargantuan power of the internet into the palms of one’s hand. Below is a list of factors that have accounted for and will continue to account for the growth in mobility in recent years:
Mobile Penetration: Mobile phones are present with a far greater proportion of people than PCs. This not only helped bring internet into the hands of a huge audience, but also, the vast market opportunities also drew in businesses to attempt to tap it, thus catalysing growth and even more penetration.
Consumer Impulsiveness: Mobile phones granted people an easy-to-access medium which they could use for exercising an action. Earlier, if they saw some advertisement, they had to delay any action till they could get access to the internet from a certain location, by which time the impulse to take action would have died. But now, they can take action immediately, such as with the help of QR codes, on their phones. This enabled businesses to tap the impulsive behaviour of consumers much more easily.
Integration with other systems: Mobile phones became an integral part of our daily lives because of their ability to easily integrate with other hardware systems and services. With features like camera, music-player, bar-code reader, projector and apps that extend other functionalities, they became the all-in-one device for everyone. With new technologies expected in future, like driving a car or unlocking the house through the phone, the mobile-phone is poised to become the “universal-remote”.
Personalization: The ability to customize our mobile-profiles to suit our own needs, using services available off the internet, has been a great driving force behind the adoption of mobility. It enabled greater integration of mobiles into our lives and thus drove consumers to use it more.
To better understand their impact, let us break it up into two directions: the impact mobility has had on existing businesses and the impact in creating new businesses:
Impact on Existing Businesses
Existing businesses that used to thrive through brick-and-mortar models had to jump on the internet bandwagon when it arrived. Similarly, now, all internet businesses have had to move into the mobile arena to compete. Companies that managed to do this properly by designing from the ground-up, prospered. Let’s examine some of the ways in which mobile-phones impact the various aspects of businesses:
Marketing: This is the area that has been most affected by mobility. Considering the ease-of-access that mobiles brought into our lives, consumers are more likely to act on their impulsiveness and take a purchase decision on their phone. Marketers are not letting this opportunity pass by. We saw the advent of QR codes that enable consumers to immediately access more information on the product/promotion they are looking at. Most apps/sites today are location-based and they use this location to make personalized offerings to the user. For example, apps like Open Table or Where use GPS to find out your current location and display nearby restaurants. Existing businesses like HP have developed printing apps for mobile-phones, using which one can print digital content on the phone to the printer through Wi-Fi or the Cloud. This also takes advantage of the impulsive nature of consumers, wherein they would be tempted to take immediate action for printing after probably having taken a picture on their phone. Same goes for actions like booking movie tickets, downloading songs etc.
- Increased access/nearness to customers
- Better customer targeting, acquisition and retention
- More value added customer engagement and personalization
Finances: The availability of mobility enables people to make purchases immediately off the phone itself, which is why companies are pushing e-wallet and online-payment services like never before. This helps companies garner revenues much more easily and quickly.
- Increase in revenue due to reaching out to more users
- Faster and more organized cash-flow
Operations: Companies have had to adapt their business to the mobile arena. Firms started taking orders, receiving payments, showing ads, offering services, all through the phone itself, thus obtaining a new avenue of reaching out to consumers and making money. It has also brought about inclusion of many people – even those at the lowest rungs of society - who were earlier not within a firm’s target radar. While this all is enabled due to the internet, mobile-phones acted as a catalyst for the whole phenomenon.
- New channel for value-chain activities like ordering, payment etc.
- Wider reach at reduced costs
Impact on New Businesses
Mobile systems don’t exist alone, but as an entire ecosystem, whose growth is dependent not only on external demand, but also on internal innovations. The ecosystem which earlier comprised of network-providers, phone-manufacturers and operating-system makers, has had a new level added to it, the app-developers, who have cropped up to support and exploit the growth of mobility. It has allowed many entrepreneurs to come up and earn a living by setting up their own business catering to user personalization, entertainment, communication etc. and have been very successful indeed. Websites like mobile9.com, reddodo.com, Rovio etc. are thriving due to the advent and expansion of mobility.
What should Businesses do
Business owners, both big and small, need to improvise in order to sustain in the world of mobility. This can be done by following the 3As:
Accept: Firstly and most importantly, businesses need to accept the importance of mobility. Even today, businesses feel that this is merely a passing fad. A survey of 500 small business owners revealed that while 60% had a website, only 26% had a mobile-friendly website and only 14% had a mobile-specific website. It is important for them to realize that they need to get into the mobile arena not just to grow, but in order to survive.
Adopt: Once they have warmed up to the fact that mobility is inevitable, they need to start adopting it. This stage shall include:
A mobile website (for customer acquisition)
A mobile app (for customer retention)
This stage sets the foundation for all future mobile interaction with the consumers and so must be flawlessly executed. Loopholes at this point can drive a customer away from the website without any chance of return.
Adapt: Merely having a mobile site/app is not going to be enough. It should not be made for the sake of having a mobile presence, but must be treated as an independent and important arm of the business. Such behaviour, while prevalent in small businesses, is also seen in large and experienced firms, like Nokia. Firms must stay true to the core digital values of accessibility, transparency, authenticity and responsiveness, all the while providing innovative and compelling services to the consumers - not by blatantly shouting out, but by delivering true utility - while continuously analyzing their own progress to ensure a fun social experience and build brand value.
On the horizons of conclusion, it seems proper to say that the onset of mobility is inevitable. It has brought with it many changes for the good and will continue to do so in future. As companies look to align mobile technology with operational and long-term business goals, they also need to ensure they have the right expertise to support their implementation and manage successful deployments. In the future, expect to see the mobility penetrate everyone’s lives and play an even bigger role in it through technologies like the cloud, social-networking, GPS, augmented-reality, NFC(Near Field Communication) etc. The process has already started. For example, FedEx provides SenseAware to its customers, a GPS-enabled software for tracking valuable and sensitive packages. Apps like iOnRoad Driving Lite for Android are available for making driving safer using augmented-reality. Companies such as Toshiba and Sony are planning to put Bluetooth into all their products, like toasters, video-recorders and microwave-ovens. Once all those devices can talk to each other, the mobile phone handset could be outfitted to control them all, thus becoming a sort of Universal Remote Control. The bottom line is simple - firms need to understand that consumers have not changed, but merely another channel for reaching out to them has been added to the portfolio. The basic rules of consumer engagement remain the same. It is up-to the firms to adapt themselves to be able to tap into this channel.
This article has been authored by Sidharth Nanda from IIFT Delhi.
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