The rise of mobile – and the implications for business and marketing

We live in a world with over six billion cellphones, over one billion of which are smart phones.

September 27, 2013

We live in a world with over six billion cellphones, over one billion of which are smart phones. As a result, more individuals have cellphones than access to safe drinking water. Within the next 10 years virtually all mobile phones will be smartphones, giving six billion people internet access and the power to connect with others, access information, and even shop differently. But what is leading the race as the key differentiator in the mobile space is software on these phones. Ultimately the applications will be the driving force for users, both at a consumer and business level.

“We see major innovation happening in disparate industries such as agriculture where it is less about farming and more about becoming a software business, as companies like Monsanto map the DNA of seeds or use satellite-based imaging to determine the best crop-growing areas,” says Advanced Cloud Technologies Managing Director, Patrick Evans. He says that software is rapidly becoming the key market differentiator between companies in the same industry.

“Mobile’s impact at a business level is inevitable. Not only will it assist in leap frogging your business, but the software you utilise will differentiate your business from others almost instantaneously, as evidenced in the South African banking industry over the last two years. Embracing mobility and innovation means that you are able to respond quicker, provide more functionality and develop applications as and when needed to better meet the needs of your customer,” says Evans. “And the same could be said for government, at a central or local level, where the lives of citizens can be enhanced with better service delivery levels.”

“However, it runs far deeper than this,” says Evans. “By embracing mobility internally, it provides organisations with an instant opportunity to interact and collaborate with employees across traditional silos, building knowledge and capability at every point. The sharp increase in BYOD, along with improvements in mobile technologies and the growing availability of business apps, are creating new ways for businesses to connect, empower their workforce and do things differently, like communicating with clients or citizen and hearing what they have to say,” he explains.

According to Forrester Research, 29% of the global workforce are now “anytime, anywhere information workers” who use three or more devices, while Gartner predicts that mobile app projects will outnumber PC-focused app projects by a ratio of 4:1 by 2015.

Application development has never been more important. More companies will develop custom mobile apps that are tailored to the specific needs of the organisation, and can integrate with many types of back-end systems. This is possible because software companies are delivering powerful mobile infrastructure platforms, hosted in the cloud, with integrated security, such as remote wiping of data from lost devices and the ability to keep sensitive data encrypted on back-end servers.

Closer to home, according to World Wide Worx, the African continent is now the world’s second largest region for cellphone usage, overtaking both Western Europe and North America, with more than half of all Africans using cellphones. In South Africa about 40-million people, or 80% of the population, have a cellphone. In 2013 smartphone sales in South Africa will overtake those of ordinary phones. According to Statistics South Africa, almost 20% of South African households already access the internet from their cellphones. That trend will follow in the rest of Africa in the coming years.

“These mobile growth statistics are astounding. It really illustrates the enormity of this new technology wave which promises to transform how we interact and operate in the coming years. Yet, what is disturbing to note is that almost half of all businesses don’t have a mobile presence,” says Evans. According to a recent survey by Adobe, 45% of marketers say their organisations still don’t have a mobile strategy in place. “Businesses need to realise that the new age of mobile technology is here, and that companies who act first and respond to mobile customers’ changing expectations will benefit the most from the capabilities of mobile. At the same time, businesses that delay in implementing a comprehensive mobile strategy could find themselves out of business as consumer interaction moves increasingly towards the mobile space,” says Evans.

“Businesses also need to realise that having a mobile presence is not just about advertising on a website. Customer expectations have been revolutionised by the power of mobile, making it a different kind of media that is more interactive and immediate than ever before. They don’t want to be bombarded by mobile messages and advertising. Consumers are looking for powerful mobile apps, tools and programmes of engagement that help them solve problems and become more effective in their daily lives. Consumers are looking for mobile services that are truly useful and interact in a way that is both contextual and location-aware,” explains Evans.

“Most companies are still engaging in isolated adhoc social media and mobile activities, such as launching a mobile application or developing a corporate Facebook page. What they need to realise is the importance of developing a comprehensive, integrated mobile strategy that links back to the overall business strategy and addresses mobile, business social, cloud and big data elements with the goal of improving the overall customer experience,” says Evans.

ACT has launched a number of new offerings in 2013, including a comprehensive mobile communication platform, coupled with a social commerce transaction platform to provide enterprises with everything they need to communicate bi-directionally with customers and create alternate channels to market. The company has also launched a one week workshop, interpretation and imagination experience to help enterprises understand how mobile technology can enhance and transform their business.

“ACT is not looking to sell companies a new software package, but to help them understand the changes that mobile technology will bring to their business and to help them strategise about how to capitalise on these changes in order to realise business growth and success going forward,” says Evans.

“The reality is that mobile technology is the next big wave in computer technology and is going to revolutionise business as we know it, in the same way the PC did since the late 1980s. Early adopters of a comprehensive and integrated mobile strategy will benefit the most from increased market share and customer loyalty. We want to help business and government leaders understand and capitalise on this new market opportunity by providing quality advice and know-how from industry experts and the latest communication and transactional platform. This combination is key to the formation of a workable mobile strategy that effectively responds to the rise of mobile technology in business today,” concludes Evans.