As a CIO, you certainly understand the importance of keeping your company competitive by applying the latest technologies. You’ve upgraded hardware and software, implemented enhanced network security features, and have probably leveraged cloud computing.
But while you’re focusing on the internal technology issues of your organization -- the tools and services your employees use and have access to -- have you defined a company-wide mobile strategy based on the transformational changes, namely the use of smart devices by employees, vendors, strategic partners, and customers? Chances are the answer is no.
The fact is we are currently in the midst of one the biggest software and hardware revolutions we’ve ever witnessed. With processing power, storage, and bandwidth increasing exponentially, smartphones and tablets are becoming our main computer. And while you may not have realized that mobility can transform every business process you have, customers, employees, and other stakeholders are bringing and using their smartphones and tablets everywhere, and that definitely impacts how they see your company and how they interact with you on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, many CIOs continue to view smartphones, tablets, and the consumerization of IT as a threat. In reality, they are major, game-changing opportunities. Never before have companies been able to interact with customers anywhere at any time and start a meaningful dialog with them. Rather than throw a bunch of advertising messages out and hope your customers not only see them but also act on them, you now have the opportunity, via the mobile devices, to engage your customers directly with the precise information they need to make a buying decision. That alone is a big reason to develop a comprehensive mobile strategy right away; one that focuses on two key elements: apps and adaptive websites.
Many organizations have dabbled in the world of apps, either by allowing employees to use certain productivity apps on company devices, or by creating an introductory consumer app with limited functionality. Now it’s time to think much bigger so you can extend your company’s reach.
First, realize that society has rapidly shifted from the information age to the communication age. So rather than just inform people of your products, services, and promotional offers (which is static and one-way), your mobile strategy needs to enable you to connect, interact, engage, create, and share with consumers (which is dynamic and two-way). The more you empower these abilities, the more powerful your mobile strategy is. Therefore, any apps you create need to do more than just push offers and show where your stores or offices are, they need to get people excited about your company and engaged with your message.
So how do you do that? Consider these points:
Look where technology is going, not where it’s been - Apple recently introduced Siri, which is a natural language technology that allows you to ask a question in regular language and Siri answers in a human-like voice. The power of Siri is in the cloud, and other mobile platforms are coming up with their own version of this early stage ultra intelligent agent. The time for an organization-specific or retail-specific version of Siri is ripe. Think of it like a mobile concierge for your company. Yes, the technology is there. It just hasn’t been applied in this manner yet.
Apps can make it easy to do business with you - Many retail stores are so large these days that it’s difficult for shoppers to find things. And to keep costs under control, stores keep staff lean. But when customers can’t find what they’re looking for and can’t find a salesperson to help them, they leave the store frustrated. Imagine how many more sales your company would make if you offered consumers an item location app that enabled them to find exactly what they want anywhere in the store.
Additionally, the app could directly download to their smart phone via a text message when they enter the store. Rather than work off of GPS, the location feature would work off of wireless local-navigation in the store so consumers can see the store layout and where the salespeople are in real time. Then they simply type in or ask, “Where are the digital cameras (or ladies jogging clothes or gluten-free potato chips or anything)?” and the app or Siri-like assistant tells the consumer exactly where to go in the store.
But this isn’t just for retail. Service provider firms could also have a custom app that makes their clients’ live easier. For example, if you are a financial planning firm, you could give each client an app that lets them manage their portfolio and get daily updates and alerts from you, for example.
The possibilities for apps are endless. Talk to employees on the frontline, as well as colleagues in the marketing, sales, and customer services departments of your organization to get a better idea of what would make doing business with your company easier… then give it to your customers in the form of an app.