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Your BtoB Customers Are Going Mobile—Don’t Get Left Behind

October 29th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

If you’re like me, you’ve been reading a lot lately about how consumers are increasingly using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to shop, buy and do just about everything else. But while most attention to the mobility trend focuses on consumers, business-to-business companies aren’t left out in the cold. In fact, if your company sells business-to-business, a new study by CDW pinpoints just how important it is for you to “go mobile.”

The Mobility Edge:  CDW’s 2012 Small Business Mobility Report polled business owners and found a growing number are using mobile devices to handle everyday business tasks—and this trend is only picking up speed. Here’s a closer look at what CDW found and how it might affect your BtoB sales.

First, computers are becoming obsolete in some industries. By “computers,” of course, I mean desktops and laptops. About 36 percent of IT managers in the survey said some of their companies’ employees have completely replaced desktops or laptops with a tablet or smartphone. An additional 20 percent predict this will happen at their companies within the next two years. Construction and foodservice were the two industries in which this was most likely to happen.

Speaking of industries, the survey found that construction, foodservice, manufacturing, professional services and retail were the five industries in which the innovative use of mobile devices had the most potential to transform business. Here’s how these industries are using mobile:

  1. Retail: 67 percent were using mobile to enable consumers to buy products; 50 percent used it to help consumers access information about products. There’s room for opportunity, with just 16 percent having a mobile app.
  2. Professional services: The top uses for mobile devices and apps were enabling communication with customers, accessing information about the company, allowing customers to execute a service. There’s room for growth: Just 29 percent used mobile apps to automate processes.
  3. Construction: These companies primarily use mobile to help consumers access information about their companies, and to improve communication between the main office and employees in the field. Room for growth: About one-fourth used mobile to help customers execute a service that used to be more complex.
  4. Foodservice: Half of these companies reported some employees had already replaced computers with mobile devices, and an additional one-fourth expected this to happen in the next two years. Room for growth: With this the single industry most rapidly adopting mobile, there are still many ways mobile can improve the customer experience.
  5. Manufacturing: These companies primarily use mobile to improve communication with customers and among employees. Mobile enables them to be more responsive, providing quotes quickly and collaborating with team members.

What does this data mean to you? First, if your customers are in these five industries, you, too, need to be adopting mobile so you don’t get left behind or viewed as a “dinosaur” who doesn’t understand the way they work. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and that you communicate with these customers in the way they want to be reached. Second, think about ways you could provide mobile products or services (such as apps) to serve their mobility needs. Finally, consider how they might use mobile in their businesses going forward, and what new opportunities that could open up for you to better serve them.

A particular growth area is tablets. With smartphones almost saturating the marketplace already (81 percent of respondents say they use them daily for work), tablets have the most room for growth. Just 25 percent currently use tablets on a daily basis, but tablet use is projected to grow by 117 percent in two years.

Image by Flickr user Aatomotion (Creative Commons)

The views expressed here are the author's alone and not those of Network Solutions or its partners.

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