As Australians invest in smartphones, tablets and 'phablets', mobile is emerging as a prime channel for organisations to deliver apps and services to engage customers.
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Australian consumers are quick to adopt each generation of mobile technology and as this year's Optus Future of Business Report 2013 shows, mobile is growing in importance as a channel for organisations and their customers to interact.
Mobile is rapidly becoming the next frontier for organisations seeking to reach customers who are moving beyond online channels. Today, 46 percent of organisations surveyed engage customers through the mobile channel but 82 percent expect to do so in three to five years.
As consumers buy smart mobile devices in ever greater numbers, their appetite for rich, interactive apps and mobile-friendly websites continues to grow - nearly 40 percent of consumers we surveyed expect to be able to use the mobile channel to interact with an organisation in three to five years.
With tablets expected to surpass PC shipments in Australia in the near future, more consumers are likely to turn to mobile apps to help them fulfil the same functions they would normally do online.
A holistic approach to mobile
To meet this need, businesses require a more holistic approach to customer experience across their channels. This could include, for example, integrating your contact centre with your website, mobile presence or social media.
An example of how to capitalise on integrated channels is in the retail consumer practice of 'showrooming', where consumers see and touch a product in store but shop for it online. Some bricks-and-mortar retailers have embraced showrooming, offering their own apps to exploit the fact that the customer's propensity to buy is high when they are in their store.
Using apps as an extension of your contact centre is another way mobile could enhance your multi-channel strategy to improve customer experience. For instance, the My Optus mobile app lets consumers chat with one of our service representatives to resolve an issue or make a query.
With only 9 percent of organisations surveyed claiming to have a fully developed, operational mobile channel, there are still opportunities to enrich their customer experience. The biggest hurdles to deploying a mobile presence are technology restrictions and cost, nearly a third of organisations said.
Mobile payments growth
Consumers are also keen to use richer, more functional apps to engage more meaningfully with businesses. Our research suggests that consumers expect organisations to offer apps with real-time information on their account or service, payment options, and location services to notify them of special offers when they are near a store.
People are increasingly mobile and, with the rise of more capable smartphones especially the larger-screened 'phablets', appear more confident about using payment apps. Nearly a third of consumers we surveyed expect organisations to offer apps for making purchases or payments in three to five years. This may include bill paying, buying tickets to concerts or shopping using mobile online websites and electronic wallets.
Businesses are responding to this trend, as 45 percent of organisations expect to offer mobile payments for their customers in three to five years. This growth in m-commerce activity will be supported by the deployment of faster and more reliable 4G networks covering a greater percentage of the Australian population.
The online extension
Organisations have already done much of the hard work to enable mobile by providing rich online channels that may include real-time (or near-real-time) stock levels, prices and availability. We found that consumers are already using their mobile device as a window to the online channel. Organisations are now looking to optimise their existing online investment for the mobile experience.
This could mean detecting mobile browsers to provide a user experience suitable to smaller screens or implementing mobile-specific features such as GPS and built-in cameras. New web programming languages such as HTML 5 make it more feasible to develop the online and mobile sites (or apps) at the same time.
Our research shows consumers prefer to use their mobile devices to research products and services, which is critical for organisations orchestrating their channels. Currently, much of this information is provided online but it could be represented through rich, mobile apps or mobile-optimised websites.
Mobile is rapidly emerging as a cost-effective and innovative way to serve, sell to and support customers. Organisations should ensure their mobile channel is integrated into their operations and that they provide consistent core functions across channels.
Leveraging the existing online channel is the first step on the way to a richer mobile experience for your customers.
By Philip Parker, Optus Business Director of Product Marketing (Mobility). More from Philip on Twitter: @pguestp
All views expressed are the author's own.