If you’re at all active in mobile commerce or mobile sales, then Mobile Commerce World in San Francisco is the place to be next month. This three-day conference and expo runs from June 24-26 and features a great range of events, speakers, and discussions. It costs $1,699 for the full conference, but it’s one of those events where you could hear something, see something, or meet someone who could change your business.
You’ve probably seen the figures. Tablet sales have grown by an incredible 140% in the last year. Apple’s amazing sales growth of 65% for the iPad were completely eclipsed by Samsung’s stunning 280% increase. Meanwhile, PC sales dropped by 14% in Q1 – their worst results since 1994 – and Mac sales dropped by 7.5%. In 2012, PCs were easily outselling tablets by more than two to one. By the end of this year, tablet sales are poised to outstrip PCs, and there’s no sign of a slowdown.
So what does this mean for business? Is the tablet take-over genuine? Can tablets work for business, or are they just for leisure users? And do you need to take tablets into consideration with your business strategy?
Some commentators argue that tablets aren’t serious computers, and they’re nothing more than expensive toys. Linchpin SEO did a survey to determine what people actually used their tablets for. The results may surprise you.
The key facts are these. 43% of people spend more time with their tablet than with their desktop, and 28% of people use their tablet as their primary computing device. 42% use them for shopping.
Those figures mark the start of an undeniable trend – tablets are serious. Given that they’ve only been around for a few years, they’re already making huge inroads into well established patterns. Tablet users don’t just see them as toys – they see them as viable computing devices, and given the chance, they’ll use a tablet in preference to any other device.
Tablets vs laptops
When it comes down to it, individual users need to decide whether tablets or laptops meet their specific needs better. There have been numerous studies which claim that tablets still aren’t up to the job of replacing laptops, usually citing several familiar arguments.
Tablets don’t have the power. If you need plenty of computing power for multimedia creation, gaming, or programming, then tablets are probably inadequate for your needs. However, if you’re doing everything through a browser or other online app, then power isn’t a significant consideration. As more and more functionality is shifted to the cloud and to collaborative apps, we’re finding that we can do most daily tasks with less computing power. Storage can be an issue – if you need to carry hundreds of gigabytes of photos, music or video with you, then a tablet won’t cut it.
Tablets don’t have the apps. There’s certainly an issue here if you need specific software or features. Android and iOS have over a million apps, but most of them are very poor quality or irrelevant, and some vendors only support one or the other. Windows is lagging far behind in app support, although it’s arguable that the Windows marketplace hasn’t yet been flooded with the bottom end apps that plague the other platforms. For some users, desktop systems for Windows or Mac are still the only solution at this time.
Virtual keyboards aren’t good enough. Typing on virtual keyboards is slow and cumbersome, and auto-correct/auto-complete creates as many errors as it solves. Speech to text is still crude, and it’s not always convenient when you’re working in a noisy environment or in a place where you need to be quiet. While Bluetooth or other external keyboards are an option, they’re a pain to carry around, and they negate many of the benefits of having a lightweight portable system. If your needs involve a lot of typing, then a tablet may not be the right solution.
Tablets don’t have multiple windows. This can be a deal-breaker when it comes to productivity. The ability to flip quickly between different screens – between browser, email, spreadsheets, documents, messaging and so on – is absolutely essential for many people. Having to switch between different apps slows down the whole workflow. Equally importantly, not being able to look at one window and work in another can hamper you more than you realize. If multi-tasking is a necessity, then you’ll probably need a windows-based system,
Tablet operating systems don’t provide the functionality. Tablets are designed primarily for naive users who neither know nor care how their computers work. While that’s fine if you just want to surf the Web, listen to music, play games, or read a book, it has some major drawbacks. This isn’t just about power users who want to mess with the innards of their systems – there is seemingly basic functionality that’s either missing or hard to access. Copying a file from a tablet to another device, for example, isn’t straightforward. There’s no file manager, no simple copy and paste, and it’s not easy to simply connect a tablet into a home or office network. Printing is another example of a day to day task that can prove more tricky than you might expect.
Interestingly, more manufacturers are creating laptop/tablet hybrids, designed to give the benefits of both devices. However, they haven’t been well received so far – they seem to have the disadvantages of both instead. As one reviewer put it, “where the hybrids worked well as tablets, they fared poorly as document-creators, or the other way around. They show promise if you’re willing to give up typing speed for something compact, or if you don’t mind a heavy tablet that you’ll have to look down at in your lap.”
Tablets for business
With all that in mind, you might very well think that tablets aren’t yet up to the task of being adequate business computers. What it comes down to is your individual preferences, needs, and workflow.
For those of us who have to work on the road, the tablet can potentially provide a better portable device than a laptop for many reasons. It’s lightweight, less bulky, and has longer battery life. If it has cellular access, it means you’re online all the time, not just when you have access to wi-fi, and you don’t need to set up mobile hotspots on your phone. Tablets are also cheap – a Nexus 7 costs under $200, making it significantly cheaper than any but the most basic laptop.
If all the functionality you need when you’re out of the office is available via a browser or other apps, then the tablet may well be good enough. In many cases, your primary need when you’re with clients is for reference, accessing centralized data and involving minimal input. You need to be able to check your email, check customer details, make a few notes, and enter a small amount of additional information on each visit. Very little of that information resides on the tablet – it’s all held on a server and is accessible from anywhere.
When you get back to your desk, that’s when you deal with document creation and more intensive tasks. At that point, you can switch to either a desktop or a laptop. Over the last ten years, more executives ditched their desktops in favor of the portability of laptops. Now, we’re seeing signs that it’s the laptop which is under threat, and the preferred combination may be a desktop for office work and a tablet for mobile work.
Of course, if you’re the sort of person who likes to create PowerPoint presentations on the train, or work on white papers in Starbucks between meetings, then you’ll probably find you still need a laptop. There’s no perfect solution for everybody. Find what works for you.
Like It Or Not, Everybody Has To Be Tablet-Friendly
Whether or not you use a tablet in preference to a desktop, it’s not a platform you can afford to ignore. With 43% of people using tablets more than their PCs, you need to assume that a large proportion of your customers will be accessing your site on a tablet and you need to design accordingly. If your Web site doesn’t work well on their device, they’ll go to a competitor within 7 seconds, according to recent research on usability. For e-commerce businesses, it’s a no-brainer. Make sure you’re testing on tablets, and make sure you optimize for mobile users, or you’re losing business.
If you’re a software or service provider, it’s even more important to be tablet-friendly. Your customers want to justify their tablet purchases, and they’re looking at whether you provide the support. If your customer has an Android-based Google Nexus and you only provide iOS support, that could be a the single issue that clinches the deal in favor of someone else. With the relative dearth of Windows support (and who would ever have thought we’d be saying that ten years ago!) offering a Windows mobile app could be the thing that makes the difference and makes the sale.
Finally, the shift to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is changing the way people work. Good staff expect to be able to use their own kit and work in the way they feel most comfortable and most productive. If someone wants to use their iPad or their Galaxy Note instead of a laptop, then let them. You’ll get more out of them, and they’ll be happier and more motivated.
However you feel about tablets, they are an important part of the landscape. It’s unlikely they’ll drive the laptop to extinction, but they’re certainly poised to take a big, big bite out of the laptop world.
Tablet Sales May Be Soaring But Let’s Not Give Up On PCs http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrymagid/2013/05/03/tablet-sales-may-be-soaring-but-lets-not-give-up-on-pcs/
Pie charts of the day: Tablet sales grew 140% year over year http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2013/05/01/apple-samsung-tablets-idc/
Tablet-PC hybrids don’t fare well vs. ol’ laptop http://azstarnet.com/business/local/tablet-pc-hybrids-don-t-fare-well-vs-ol-laptop/article_60f77616-dd43-594f-b18b-34aabfba9a35.html
Tablets vs. Laptops: The Pros and Cons http://tablets-review.toptenreviews.com/tablets-vs-laptops-the-pros-and-cons.html
Tablet Shipments To Grow 69.8% YoY To 197M Units In 2013, As PCs/Laptops Decline 7.3% To 315M Units http://techcrunch.com/2013/04/04/gartner-2012-2017-devices-forecast/
Tablets Still Cannot Replace Laptop, Desktop PCs: 10 Reasons Why http://www.eweek.com/mobile/tablets-still-cannot-replace-laptop-desktop-pcs-10-reasons-why/
Can A Tablet Really Replace Your Laptop? http://pocketnow.com/2013/03/07/tablet-as-laptop-replacement
Laptop Vs. Desktop Vs. Tablet http://idaconcpts.com/2013/01/24/laptop-vs-desktop-vs-tablet/
Mobile and social have been the two big boom areas of the last few years. Businesses have rushed to embrace Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest, and they’re starting to adapt to the small-screen challenges presented by mobile. According to a recent poll, however, it’s the smaller companies who are doing better at putting the two together and providing an integrated, coherent approach.
This could be because small businesses know they have to be smarter and get a closer engagement with their customers in order to compete, so they see the importance of working with the technology. It could be an organizational issue, where larger companies handle mobile and social in different departments that don’t mesh well. Whichever it is, it shows that small businesses are leading the way and demonstrating their willingness to innovate.
A recent survey by the American Affluence Research Center (AARC) looked into online clothes purchases in the wealthiest 10% of American Households. Both men and women are increasingly using the Net to buy designer clothes – over 50% now purchase high-value clothing online. However, only 3% of women and 9% of men make such purchases via mobile.
AARC President Ron Kurtz suggests that this could be because shoppers prefer to make high-value purchases in a more leisurely and comfortable way, and for this a larger screen is better. He also suggests that mobile is better for spontaneous purchases or research. Kurtz made no comment on the gender discrepancy.
This has interesting implications for anyone in the high-end retail business: while mobile is clearly important, it may be necessary to crosslink it with a desktop site using a saved shopping cart, wish list or other delayed decision feature in order to enable the customer to complete the transaction on a different device.
The 2013 Mobile Commerce Insight Study, released earlier this month by Jumio, warns that two thirds of mobile shoppers give up when trying to check out because it’s too complicated. Reasons include the process taking too long, or too much complexity in entering payment information. Over 50% said that they did not feel comfortable entering credit card details via a phone.
Marc Barach, chief strategy and marketing officer at Jumio, commented that mobile retailers need to redesign their sites to allow for small screens and touchscreen keyboards.
However, these figures shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. On mainstream e-commerce sites, checkout abandonment rates vary between 60% and 90%. Perhaps it’s not the mobile element that’s at fault – it’s the entire way we do online checkouts.
Three figures you need to know. According to latest research by eMarketer:
In 2013, mobile commerce will reach $39 billion, up more than 50% over last year.
In 2013, 15% of sales will take place on mobile devices.
By 2017, 25% of sales will take place on mobile devices.
The massive growth in smartphones and tablets is driving more and more people to use mobile for everything they do. Businesses of all kinds, and especially those in sales, need to make sure they’re handling mobile well. Are you mobile-ready?
Mobile is the way of the future. That’s not some breezy statement – it’s a fact. More and more of us are abandoning our desktops and laptops in favor of tablets and smartphones. They’re not just for browsing, email, messaging and watching movies – we use them for shopping, banking, and doing business. For many of us, the heavy, bulky, battery-hungry laptop has been replaced with a small, sleek device. Younger users are growing up never having had anything but an iPad, an Android phone or a Microsoft Surface. The Mac or PC may be something they’ve only ever used in school.
In business, we all need to be smart about mobile. We need to ensure that we’re providing mobile users with everything they demand. Software developers must make sure that everything works via a platform-agnostic browser so that users can access whatever they need on any device, any time, any place, or they need to provide platform-specific apps that cater for tablets and smartphones. Mobile support can be a dealbreaker for both B2B and B2C companies these days. If the customer can’t use your service on their preferred mobile device, they won’t use it all.
Most importantly, anyone who’s selling anything needs to ensure that they address the needs of mobile users. This week, I’ll be looking at some of the important facts and figures that will help you determine your mobile strategy.
This time for Aplicor we talk customer engagement. There are a lot of buzz words that go along with this concept, but the real key is utilizing the right tools and creating innovative ways to use them. Remember that an engaged customer who has a positive experience is what drives revenue for any business!
- No doubt “digital” is one of the buzzwords mentioned above, but it’s for good reason. It seems that year after year new digital tools and applications are released, each offering a more personal way of engaging customers than the last; make the most of them!
- While there is no doubting the value of digital platforms in customer engagement, any medium is only as effective as the campaign behind it. To create truly effective engagements, don’t underestimate the value of creativity.
- It has long been known that social media is a goldmine when it comes to meaningful customer engagement. Despite that, the best way to utilize the medium hasn’t been established; according to some, social media as a customer engagement tool has finally reached maturity.
- Social media’s value isn’t just from generating customer engagement from “nothing.” Instead of seeing social media as a tool for sudo-cold calling, consider it as an extension of a larger multi-channel customer experience.
- There are a handful of mainstream social media platforms for any resourceful business to exploit, but one of the most valuable is undoubtedly Twitter. Using those 140 characters wisely can give a great bang for the buck!
- To wrap things up we talk more about social media. The book is still being written on the best way to utilize the medium for customer engagement, but its value can’t be disputed.
It wasn’t long ago that the internet was a brave new world still being developed and explored by the young and tech savvy. It didn’t take long for email to catch on, and almost overnight replace paper correspondence as the primary means of writing a message in both the professional and personal spheres. Widespread internet access has been with us now for almost two decades, and the latest digital tool that is changing day-to-day life is social media.
Social media has redefined the “norms” of interpersonal relationships for an entire generation. Over the past few years though, businesses have come to realize that the inherent personal and impersonal aspects of social media has made it a perfect vehicle for innovative customer engagement. Like any new technology though, the learning curve has been steep in creating meaningful engagements, and the proverbial book on the subject has not yet been written.
Despite the unknowns though, digital tools are without a doubt some of the best ways to connect with customers. Nothing can replace quality human-to-human interaction, but depending on the specific business, person-to-person contact with customers can be expensive at best, and often impossible to manage and maintain at a quality level.
Gamification. It’s a concept in business that involves the use of game design techniques and other types of tasks, and it is exploding in popularity due to the fact that it is usually engaging, fun, and much more interesting than traditional marketing strategies.
In simple terms, gamification involves making everyday consumer interactions feel more like a game than a chore. The concept of gamification means driving users to engage with your business, product, or service through the use of lighthearted games and fun tasks. It is an excellent way to keep users coming back for more between purchases, and has shown an amazing ability to drive loyalty.
How and Why Gamification Works
Gamification works by rewarding users for taking an action or engaging in a marketing campaign. The most commonly purchased form of loyalty program is the “buy “x” of this product, get one free” type of program. These programs work by allowing consumers to get one free product for however many specific products they buy; often, there are punch cards associated with these programs to help members keep track of their current position within the program. While punch cards and volume level purchasing benefits can be effective, gamified loyalty programs can boost memberships and loyal followers even more. Standard loyalty programs lack the ability to spur on virality, something that has become a crucial point in marketing with the importance of social media increasing. When you combine this with the ability to use entirely new, more exciting platforms to deliver gamified loyalty programs, you have a winning combination. These strategies have a higher level of engagement, increase involvement over a longer length of time, and draw in more members by referral.
Most people love a challenge, whether it is in their daily lives or within their loyalty programs. The key with incorporating gamified loyalty program challenges is to ensure that the challenges are of a suitable level. Making challenges too difficult will result in your members losing interest before they ever attain a goal. Making challenges too easy will have the same effect; additionally, it will water down the value of the prizes handed out, whether the prizes are digital or physical.
Points and levels:
Points and levels serve a number of purposes within gamified loyalty programs. At their most basic, they serve as a way for members to track their own progress. They can also motivate members to seek out higher and higher levels of attainment, especially if prizes become better at these higher levels. Point systems can be simple, with just a single number assigned to each level, or they can be more complex, made up of levels comprised of further sublevels.
Assigning benefits to those who set appointments or even those who take an action at a specific point in time can be an excellent way to drive sales on your own schedule. This type of benefit works especially well for drawing in new memberships. Assigning a reward for those who sign up or purchase an item by a certain date is an excellent way to use this type of benefit within a loyalty program.
Showing progress in a way that is engaging and user-friendly is extremely important. Often, this is best done in a visual way. It can be useful to show both where the user currently sits, as well as how far they have to go before attaining the next level.
Countdowns are becoming a frequent part of gamified loyalty programs, and for good reason. Countdowns can spur on users who have otherwise lost interest, as well as those who simply need more of a push to take action. A good deal always seems better when there is a countdown attached; human nature makes us want to join in and receive the same benefits as our peers. We often feel that if we miss out we are not, “part of the group,” and countdowns drive home that desire to be an accepted community member.
Sharing the Benefits and Virality
Virality can spurn programs into success, and designing programs for virality is important. Sharing benefits are usually done in such a way that the member receives benefits for sharing the loyalty program with their friends. Sometimes, this is tied into a contest; one common way this is done is to allow members one entry into a contest to win a prize for every new person they sign up. This tends to be an extremely affordable way to bring in new members, because there is no action needed on the part of the company providing the program other than the benefit. This type of sharing tends to have a trickle-down effect; for every person who shares a well-developed program with a friend, that person is likely to pass the program on to several friends of their own. This web is what makes achieving virality such an important strategy to attain.
Leaderboards allow members to compete directly with each other for either prizes or bragging rights. This is commonly seen in multiplayer online games, but the concept ports over to loyalty programs very well. For best results, leaderboards should be live or real time, or at least make regular updates. Leaderboards can also be woven into a competition for top prizes; for example, consider making a prize that is only assignable to a top level, or a top level within each category. Users who achieve the highest amount of points thus win the prize; then, assign a time frame for the competition, and allow users to compete up until this point.
Everyone likes to feel important and like they are at the top of their game. Humans are naturally competitive, and even if there is no particular prize other than bragging rights assigned to your VIP lines, your membership will still work to achieve VIP status. In the eyes of most consumers, “VIP” status means they are special and valued in the eyes of the company or business providing the loyalty program. Pairing better prizes or rewards with VIP status can push this concept even further.
Commending people publicly for what they achieve is also an excellent way to make your members feel that they are dealing with real people rather than a company. That personalized feeling is proving to be more important than ever due to the impact of social media. Consumers don’t want to feel like just another number or client, and they want companies to work for their loyalty more than ever. The more personalized you can make these messages and commendations, the better. However, even just making a public show of your top achievers by posting their names and achievements will have a great deal of benefit.
Churn is an issue with many areas of business. Naturally, numbers tend to wax and wane in any loyalty program, but there are methods to reduce this turnover that can be implemented in gamified programs. Forcing users to complete regular tasks to prevent loss of benefits, or implementing last minute actions can be an excellent way to spur users on. Those using gamified system should consider that as soon as a user moves on to a task other than the loyalty program, they begin to lose interest. This is why regular notifications and reminders of actions that must be taken are necessary.
Before You Start a Gamified Loyalty Program
There are a few things to consider before you start preparing a gamified loyalty program. At a basic level, you must be sure that your program is fun and engaging. Consider the following questions before starting your loyalty program:
- Is your program fun, and engaging?
○ You can offer all the benefits in the world, but if your program tasks or actions are boring and lack a high level of engagement, you will lose members quickly. Consider your target market and what drives them to seek out products or services like yours. This will offer clues as to how you can properly engage these members.
- Have you tested the program out on associates or those that are only indirectly associated with your business?
○ Beta testing any loyalty program is important; technical issues can be the downfall of a good loyalty program. Consider letting in a small advance group of members in the name of beta testing; offer a reward to these members for testing the program and giving feedback on it.
- What is the goal of your program?
○ Be sure that you have a clear goal before beginning your program. Is your goal to add more loyal clients or customers, or is it to drive purchases of a specific product? Perhaps the goal of your program is simply to make your company appear to be more friendly and personable. Whatever your goal is, you should be sure it is clear from day one.
- Who do you want to attract?
The simplest answer to this is that you want to attract your target market. However, the answer is usually a bit more complex than this. Within any target market, certain groups of consumers are more valuable than others. For example, if you are selling high end jewelery, those with disposable income and an interest in diamonds would be more valuable to you than those who are simply looking for engagement rings. The former is more likely to become a repeat client than the latter.