Raymond Snoddy talks to two executives – one from a start-up, the other from big business – to discover how going mobile is boosting sales and customer satisfaction
HEAD OF MARKETING
In a previous life Jonathan Wilkins had a frustrating time at the Birmingham Post trying to drag traditional commercial newspaper staff “kicking and screaming” into the digital world.
As head of marketing at European Automation, a Midlands start-up, he is free to deploy the latest mobile digital technology to enable an even more traditional enterprise to compete on a global basis.
European Automation, launched four years ago, sources and supplies obsolete or end-of-line industrial equipment, the drives, pumps, motors and programmable logic controllers that power production lines.
Most equipment manufacturers, he argues, have got very little time for trying to replace obsolete parts and, even if they actually have the parts, delivery can take weeks.
“If there is a problem they push their new products and that can mean a multi-million-pound refit, whereas we operate in the space that says, if your line or plant is down for whatever reason, we can react within minutes and have a solution out the same day,” he says.
The company, which has gone from nothing to a turnover of £10 million, has more than 100,000 obsolete parts in a warehouse located deliberately close to a UBS hub near Stoke and also has established relationships with suppliers all over the world.
When the company recently found an obsolete Allen Bradbury motor for the French arm of German confectionary producer Haribo and got a stalled production line going again, the rewards included several kilos of sweets.
Within a couple of clicks of their smart devices, whether phone or tablet, engineers can very quickly put in a web inquiry
But Mr Wilkins noticed a problem with European Automation’s use of mobile. While more and more of the company’s traffic was coming from smartphones and tablets, it was not converting into serious inquiries or business.
The extra traffic was coming from engineers using their own mobile devices by the production line itself rather than, as they would in the past, writing down a parts number and walking to their office, perhaps 100 metres or even much further away.
The rising traffic was failing to generate expected levels of orders because European Automation’s websites were poorly configured for mobile.
The websites have been redesigned to be more responsive and the company has used services such as Google’s pay-per-click enhanced campaigns to boost its “weight” on search engines.
As a result, the European Automation executive reports a significant uplift in audience, but rather more important, an equal rise in customers.
“Within a couple of clicks of their smart devices, whether phone or tablet, they can very quickly put in a web inquiry or speak to a member of our multi-lingual team and, nine times out of ten, we can provide a solution,” he says.
Now potential customers, with a production line at standstill, can go to an apps store and download apps giving them mobile access to an inventory of 100,000 parts, including a nine-hour premium delivery service for Europe.
Mr Wilkins hopes that the use of the latest mobile technology will enable the small Stafford company, now employing 50 people, to double in size over the next two years.
HEAD OF SERVICE TRANSFORMATION
As befits someone with an expansive title – head of service transformation at British Airways – Glenn Morgan has equally grand theories about mobile.
First “mobile” as a word simply won’t do to describe both the complexity and opportunity offered to businesses which embrace a more sophisticated concept.
Mr Morgan leans heavily on Albert Einstein to encapsulate what he is talking about. E=MC².
The “E” stands for the new enterprise that executives like Mr Morgan are trying to create and “M” for mobility rather than mere mobile. The first “C” represents the increasing dominance of consumerism, the second for the cloud and third, which really should see the equation move to MC3, is for community.
When he talks about mobility, the BA executive means being connected to mobile devices, whether they have a one-inch, four or nine-inch screen. The cloud enables consumers on the move to tap into more computing power than they used to command at work, while community stands for the social effect of bringing large numbers of staff or even customers together.
The airline has given 11,400 iPads to everyone from senior cabin and flying crew to ground crew management
“A lot of people refer to mobile as being the inflection point, but I think it is the power of what is represented by the equation that creates the inflection,” says Mr Morgan, before flying off on BA to his native New Zealand with his parents.
He believes that, if you look through a solely mobile lens, you come up with different and inappropriate solutions to some of the most pressing business problems, such as putting standard IT equipment in the hands of staff.
Indeed, but what happens when the grand theory is put into practice?
The airline has given 11,400 iPads to everyone from senior cabin and flying crew to ground crew management.
Flying staff can check the colleagues they are about to be fly with while, on the ground, information can be pulled up on individual customers and any problems they might be experiencing.
“Our customers expect a seamless digital journey and we want to have a linked-up conversation throughout the whole journey experience,” says Mr Morgan, whose personal life is as high-powered as his business thinking. In his spare time he is an international motorcycle rally racer.
As part of the practical spread of the theory, BA has just launched a mobile tracking service for delayed luggage. Instead of having to wait pointlessly at the carousel, customers will receive a message, ten minutes after landing, warning their luggage has been delayed, informing them which flight it will now arrive on and checking the delivery address.
Next up, information direct to consumer’s screens on gate numbers, gate changes and what’s happening to the flight itself, with an emphasis on information appropriate to particular screens.
“I wouldn’t say we were there yet, but that vision goes from 365 days out until you have had the journey experience,” says Mr Morgan.
Above all, thanks to the E=MC² approach, he promises mobile will be transcended, and replaced by joined-up and personalised information “to enhance your journey”.