Monday Mornings with Madison

How Are Smartphones Revolutionizing Business? – 2

Streamlining Business and Solving Problems

It is a bit hard to believe that the first mobile phone was invented only four decades ago and smartphones have been around for only 22 years. Considering that nearly 80% of all adults in the U.S. are expected to have a smartphone by the end of 2015, practically no other technology in the history of the world can boast such lightning-speed adoption.  For that reason, the future of every business today resides squarely in the palm of the leadership’s hands – figuratively and literally — in how well they embrace and adapt to the world of smartphone users.

Smartphones are quickly and deeply influencing and changing people’s shopping and buying behavior.  However, the high-speed advancement of smartphone technology has understandably left many companies scrambling to keep up with the new opportunities and realities that smartphones present.  Companies that aren’t on the mobile bandwagon already need to jump on or risk being left behind.  But how exactly does a business become not just more mobile-friendly, but specifically more smartphone-friendly?  This can be a challenge, especially for companies that are not selling widgits.  How can businesses make information, services and support accessible on a computer screen that is typically about 2” x 4” wide?  More importantly, how can businesses leverage smartphone use to reach customers in a more timely and personal way?

Harnessing the power of smartphones

Let’s start by considering what smartphones can already do to streamline any business.  Regardless of what a business does or how it delivers products or services, at the very least every business can provide its employees with the latest smartphone technology and apps to maximize efficiency.  Providing company-paid smartphones is an expense that just makes sense.

1.  Smartphones can empower employees. If every employee has a smartphone, they will be able to:

a.  Increase productivity.

With a smartphone, employees can do many of the routine tasks of business no matter where they are or what time it is, including:

  • read, forward and reply to emails quickly
  • follow conversations on Twitter
  • connect with new contacts on LinkedIn to keep lines of communication open
  • interact with social media followers
  • take photos at events and post them online without waiting to get on a computer or laptop
  • instant message colleagues and clients
  • video conference with far-away contacts
  • manage the company blog
  • moderate comments
  • publish new posts
  • see website traffic stats
  • get directions to a meeting when lost
  • book air travel and hotel rooms
  • take notes at a meeting
  • record a seminar or meeting to review later
  • review and edit appointments
  • add and update contact information
  • create and edit documents

b.  Provide portability.

Of course, all those tasks can be done with a laptop or tablet, but those don’t fit in the average pocket, belt holster or purse.  On the move, a smartphone provides an added level of portability that is lacking in bigger devices.  With a smartphone, all those tasks can be performed from practically anywhere that has cellphone connectivity.  In the U.S., that is practically everywhere (except perhaps underground subways and tunnels, school buildings and certain government buildings).  Even airplanes are starting to relax rules about smartphone use on flights for most functions except talking.  Smartphones also have a longer battery life than the average laptop, which makes them even more practical on the go.

c.  Better manage time.

Just as smartphones can provide tools that can increase efficiency and effectiveness, they also deliver devices that – if used at work — can waste time.  Indeed, along with apps that increase connectivity and allow faster response times, there are apps that can eat away at employee time if not managed carefully.  Game and shopping apps allow employees to quietly use company time in unproductive ways.  Fortunately, there are also Mobile Device Management tools that allow managers to see which apps are installed on any connected device.  Apps that aren’t approved of can be remotely removed if the smartphone is provided and controlled by the employer.

In addition to the obvious benefits of providing smartphones to employees, businesses should consider how to use smartphone technology to help solve problems and deliver goods and services more easily to smartphone-friendly customers, which very soon will be practically everyone.

2.  Smartphones can grow business.

Here are four things most businesses can and should do that are smartphone-friendly and can increase brand awareness, build relationships and grow business.

a.  Make the company website smartphone compatible.

Visit your company’s website using a smartphone. How was the user experience?  If the site has not been made smartphone-compatible, chances are that it was a very poor user experience. It is like looking at a billboard up close through a keyhole. To read it, the viewer has to zoom in so that the font size is readable, which in turn means that the reader can only see a tiny segment of the overall message on any given page. It can be infuriating. To gain a competitive advantage, a company’s online presence needs to be become mobile-friendly because increasingly customers and prospects will lose patience with websites that aren’t mobile-friendly.

How does a company make its website smartphone-compatible? To create a mobile version of the website requires reformatting the navigation, text and graphics to fit the smaller screen size of smartphones. Content from the main site must be streamlined, shortened or eliminated to focus primarily on key information.  Images are used only as needed, rather than for aesthetics. Files are then published on the web server and a special code is added to the regular website to identify the type of device accessing the website. When a user visits the website, the appropriate version of the company’s website will display, depending on if the person accessing it is on a mobile device or a computer. It’s a good idea to provide links from the mobile version to the full site as some users will elect to visit the full-size website.

b.  Advertise using text messages

More people now use their mobile phones for texting, rather than making phone calls. And most users have it attached to their hip… literally.  Thus, advertising to an audience via SMS (Short Message Service) text message can be powerful and direct.  Text messages provide an opportunity to get a prospect’s attention… anytime, anywhere. Smart marketers often include a chance for the recipient to win something by responding to the text. Text messages can also deliver mobile coupons, event invitations, mobile alerts, and special promotions.

SMS text marketing works for many industries, is relatively inexpensive, and allows businesses to create highly-targeted campaigns. Text message advertising is especially powerful when coupled with location-based advertising to reach a nearby audience.  The first step in launching a text-messaging campaign is to find a company that provides subscriber lists and can distribute ads.  An online search for “mobile marketing” or “SMS Text Marketing” or “SMS Advertising” should deliver a plethora of companies that provide this service.  Beware that all SMS text messages should offer a simple way to unsubscribe in order to not irritate those who don’t want to receive a particular company’s offers.

c.  Engage mobile customers through social networks

According to a Ruder Finn study, more people access social media via smartphones than with their desktop computers. Research also shows that people who go online using their smartphones are more likely to socialize online than those using a desktop computer. The study found 91% of mobile users socialize online, while just 79% of desktop users do.  Companies that are not following and tweeting are probably missing out on opportunities to connect and engage with potential customers. Social networking has leveled the playing field, allowing even small companies with tiny ad budgets to make a big impact… if they so choose. Businesses that not only create a presence on social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter but actually leverage that presence in consistent and creative ways will be able to expand their reach, increase brand awareness, and create a loyal following of customers.

Besides setting up social media profiles, companies should also create short videos that are authentic and to the point about the company’s services or products. If there is a larger message, it is important to break it down into a series of shorter segments.  While there are hundreds of video sharing websites, it makes sense to start with YouTube since it’s the 2nd largest search-engine.

d.  Create a smartphone app

Typically, smartphone apps are created to solve a problem, increase productivity, offer an intrinsic benefit, or entertain.  And there are certainly a lot of apps.  In October 2013, Apple announced that the IPhone store had over 1 million apps available for download and users have downloaded more than 60 billion apps. Android also has a million apps.  Most apps are free.  Some have a very minimal cost of $1-2 if it is a highly-desirable game or tool.

A company needn’t be a geek-squad member to capitalize on the app trend.  All that is needed is an idea for an app and there are plenty of companies that can help develop an app for a given idea. The app can be offered for free or it can be sold, depending on its functionality and applicability. To develop an app, the first step is to do the due diligence and check the developers’ references to ensure the company’s intellectual property and ideas are protected. The more complicated the app is, the more it will cost to have it developed.

Keep in mind that an app doesn’t have to be complicated to be useful or to connect with customers.  One toilet paper manufacturer created an app that allows customers to find clean public restrooms in any city / area by using the GPS tracking device that all smartphones have.  It also allows customers to provide feedback on public restrooms wherever they go and they aggregate that information.  That is an app that is highly useful, not terribly complicated and certainly connects with the company’s product.  It isn’t elegant, but it is certainly valuable.

Smartphones are changing human behavior. It is time for businesses to get mobile-friendly or risk falling off its customers’ radar.

Quote of the week

“The smartphone revolution is really under-hyped.  More people have access to phones than access to running water. We’ve never had anything like this before since the beginning of the planet.” Marc Andreesen


© 2014, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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