Keep connected to stay ahead

People with the ubiquitous smartphone in the palm of their hands are more connected than ever and businesses must be sure to connect to this mobile market

You’ve just blinked. That’s about the time it takes for a competitor’s website to gain the upper hand in terms of customer preference. According to Google, people will leave a website if it’s just 250 milliseconds slower than another.

And don’t get started on video buffering – you’ve no chance, or rather around a 20 per cent chance, as the search giant also tells us that 80 per cent will walk away from a video rather than risk “bufferface”, to appropriate movie star Kevin Bacon’s latest advertising catchphrase for EE.

In short, we’re an impatient bunch. In a world where instant gratification is not just desired but taken for granted, offering equivalent user experience regardless of device is critical for businesses.

Embracing the mobile opportunity

Once upon a time we would not have dreamt of buying a holiday, car or kitchen appliance online, never mind on our phones, yet younger generations are mobile-first types, with 87 per cent of US smartphone users saying it “never leaves their side”, and fewer and fewer owning a TV. No Teletext holiday bookings for them, then.

Connected Retail
Retailers are reaping the benefits of the Internet of Things

Ian Carrington, Google’s director of mobile and social, says businesses failing to embrace the mobile opportunity will quickly fall behind. He cites inertia and flawed measurement for the lag in many businesses’ mobile strategy.

“It might be because there is an older person in charge and they wrongly apply their own behaviour across the entire customer base. But also, while people tend to do most of their research on their mobile device, using their phone during any moments of downtime, their connection may drop out and they end up completing the sale at a desk or laptop.”

For that reason, he says, the conversion statistics are misleading, failing to recognise that mobiles are the funnel at the start of the sales journey.

“Clients don’t yet have a unified view of the customer because the cookie technology is not there, so it’s hard to justify making investment into mobile when you don’t see it as a great channel. But if you look at the data in the correct way, you’ll see that it is,” Mr Carrington says. The theme of “the customer journey” permeates all aspects of the connected world.

If real-time knowledge is power, then it’s not only about knowing what your customers are doing, but what your products are doing also.

Connected retailers are reaping the benefits

With improving mobile access and the impact of the internet of things, supply chain management specialists Manhattan Associates are charged with creating systems that will enable mass real-time transactions and communications which will revolutionise the retail market, for example.

In the past, inventory was fairly accurate at the warehouse stage and in transit, but once products arrived in store things became a little less certain, relying on daily counts and manual updates between store managers and other stakeholders.

Manhattan Associates UK managing director Craig Sears-Black lauds Asda’s recent initiative ToYou, which enables its customers to collect and return orders placed with third parties at any of its 614 stores.

Asda says with 1.5 billion parcels delivered in the UK every year, it could benefit from up to 40 million extra store visits a year by 2019.

We can expect the cloud to form the backbone of the internet of things, as people and gadgets create, store, manage and share more data on a multitude of mobile devices

Mr Sears-Black says: “Historically data for those journeys has been very disjointed, so retailers are always on a back foot, only learning of a problem when the customer tells everyone on Twitter.

“This is now providing real-time visibility on mobile devices from the completion of the transaction to the product arriving in the customer’s hands. If there is a delay, you will know in advance and you can pre-empt it and take action.”

The future of mobile

As smartphone sales currently beat PC sales by a factor of five, they are set to outsell by ten to one over the next few years, according to Benedict Evans, a tech guru working in Silicon Valley.

Festival-goers at this year’s Coachella curated smartphone video content viewed collectively by 44 million people in just three days, from Snapchat alone, according to venture capitalists KPCB. That’s more than the entire population of Argentina.

While the size of the prize is clear, it will come at a cost and the vagaries around the potential reward may have been a major hurdle for business owners to date.

Smartphone
Smartphone sales currently beat PC sales by a factor of five

We can expect the cloud to form the backbone of the internet of things, as people and gadgets create, store, manage and share more data on a multitude of mobile devices.

Ade Ajibulu of Real Wireless concedes the nature of the industry means some will have to blaze the trail.

“If you are looking at managing your street lighting, for example, then you may be paying a fairly significant amount for your sensor and you need to ask are the annual savings enough to cover the cost of the sensor? That level of payback may depend on the technology that is being used,” he says.

Adapting business models

With practically every single facet of our beings looking to be connected seamlessly, instantly and continually, the prospects for businesses of all shapes and sizes end only with their imaginations.

Sue Daley of techUK says business needs must precede the need to compete in terms of technology uptake. Challenger banks, such as Fidor, Atom and Monese, are using the cloud to develop an entirely new business model through agile and responsive client offerings.

“The cloud supports businesses that may be at different stages of their digital journey by providing a flexible, elastic, pay-as-you-go approach to IT,” says Ms Daley. “This means organisations can scale up and scale down their requirements depending on business needs, and as they grow and develop.”