What is the current state of mobile, and how will this sector develop over the next few years? For businesses, is a mobile-first development strategy essential for their long-term growth and profitability?
As we enter a new decade, one of the key question businesses will need to ask is whether mobile will continue to expand. A clear and undeniable trend is that M-commerce will eclipse E-commerce over the next few years. Will apps continue to enjoy the popularity they have had? And will consumers see the communications channels they use to connect with brands as mobile-first?
According to Comscore 77% of UK and US consumers are spending more time on their mobile devices. Apps are driving this behaviour with 89% (US) and 86% (UK) of consumers spending their mobile minutes with apps, and making the vast majority (63% in the US) of their purchases in-app.
The expansion of smartphone usage, in particular, should be a key focus for all businesses. By 2025, the GSMA estimates the global audience for mobile services will reach 5.8 billion. Half of these new subscribers will come from the Asia Pacific region, with a quarter coming from Sub-Saharan Africa. Developing services specifically for consumers in these regions will be a focus for many companies.
CTOs and CIOs as content developers will increasingly place mobile at the centre of their service development strategies. The development and expansion of 5G will continue. The low latency fast mobile broadband network will enable technologies like AI to flourish.
With smartphone and smart devices expansion showing little sign of slowing, businesses need to ensure their product and service development roadmaps have a mobile component.
Consumers have shown over the past decade that they prefer mobile platforms at least to access focused services such as social media. The desktop still has its place, but the evolution of digital services is towards more mobile platforms.
There is little doubt that 5G will be transformative right across the mobile landscape. And 5G will be lucrative, as several research papers have indicated consumers would be willing to pay an additional 20% more for the enhanced services 5G will deliver, which would include IoT based platforms.
According to the Ericsson Mobile Report,“By 2025, 90% of subscriptions are projected to be for mobile broadband. We estimate that there will be 8.9 billion mobile subscriptions by the end of 2025, out of which around 90% will be for mobile broadband. This is a slightly lower share than previously forecast, due to a slower decline for 2G (GSM/EDGE-only) subscriptions in the Middle East and Africa region. The number of unique mobile subscribers is projected to reach 6.3 billion by the end of the forecast period.”
As the mobile broadband channel continues to expand, CTOs and CIOs will need to ensure their enterprises have the technologies, but also the skills required to build the products and services that can take advantage of the mobile channel.
Speaking to Silicon, Colin Yates, Chief Support Officer at WorkMobile, a mobile data capture solution advises: “One of the most common challenges faced by CIOs and CTOs when it comes to enterprise mobile app development is a lack of sufficient expertise. The skills required for mobile app development are very different from those needed for web development, for example, and not many organisations have full in-house teams with the right capabilities. While the obvious solution to this problem is to recruit specifically for these skills, the ongoing digital talent shortage means this is often easier said than done, and businesses find themselves having to make compromises when hiring. It is also expensive to secure the key skills required.”
Going further, John Gibbard, Director of UX at Spark44, explained to Silicon:
“Contextual awareness and multi-device synchronisation are the two that stand out. Despite our devices knowing their location, the patterns of use, times of day, weather and environmental contexts, they more often than not respond in identical ways.
“The breakthrough experiences we are looking to build upon will be those that can differentiate between someone using their phone in a cafe late at night vs on a commuter train in the morning, one that prioritises content and interactions based on the fact it’s a weekend and the user has just woken at home, or it’s plugged in to charge in an airport arrivals lounge 1000 miles from their home location.”
Gibbard concluded: “Equally, many of us are moving between multiple devices, tablets, laptops, watches and phones and multiple messaging scenarios. Frustration is building that conversations, content and interactions are not following us around, leading to repetition or unintentional neglect. Products and services that account for this and solve it will emerge at the front of the pack.”
The need to develop products or services that are multi-channel is vital to understand and action to ensure the multiple touchpoints consumers want to use are fully integrated.
The state of mobile
A mobile-first strategy is clearly a core driver for business development. However, as Chris Obdam is a programmer turned internet entrepreneur founding Betty Blocks with his brother Tim pointed out to Silicon, don’t forget to always place the audience for mobile services at the centre of every innovation.
“Making the most out of mobile really comes down to what your audience wants and how they need to access it. Many businesses make the mistake of creating mobile applications which don’t actually serve end-users any better than a responsive web application would have done.
“While there are many different shapes of mobile applications, it’s important to use the right flavour at the right moment. Always start off with the lighter version before moving up to the complex one. Don’t go building a time-consuming and expensive native app, if a responsive web app can do the trick just as well.”
According to the GMSA: “While their ubiquity means smartphones remain the focal point of the consumer internet economy, the range of connected devices (and therefore internet access channels) is greater than ever. In the most advanced countries, today’s digital consumers (using PCs and smartphones) will likely become tomorrow’s augmented customers, adopting emerging technologies such as AI (via smart speakers) and immersive reality.”
With Spark44’s John Gibbard concluding: “I contend that the best way to work with evolving tech like this is to look back and think deeply about our primal motivations and needs rather than the channel or technology. Famously Theodore Levitt observed: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” and mobile is no different, they don’t want a new travel planning app, they just want to get home as quickly as possible, our job is to work out how our evolving tech will help them achieve that more elegantly and effectively.”
By 2025, 500 million additional smartphone users are expected in India In the India region alone, the average monthly mobile data usage per smartphone has seen an extraordinary increase in recent years, becoming the highest in the world. A key factor has been the rapid adoption of 4G, boosted by a disruptive entrant in the market in 2016. Developing specific services for highly focused regions and their consumers is a vital component of any mobile service development.
The expansion of infrastructure (notably the 5G network) and the affordability of mobile digital devices will become key enablers for the mobile economy. Mass market consumers will want to see economies of scale and affordable services packages. Is the future of service and product development now mobile-first? The mobile channel will undoubtedly become increasingly important. However, businesses must embrace integrated multi-channel products and services to become truly innovative.
Silicon In Focus
Mark Jackson, Director of Telecoms, Media and Consumer Markets, Pegasystems.
Mark Jackson is the director and industry principal for telecoms & media at Pegasystems. In his role, Mark helps the world’s leading and most innovative organisations understand how Pega’s unique technology and journey at a time delivery methodology can deliver them real, quantifiable business value. He’s also previously held positions at IntraLinks, Cordys and TIBCO Software.
Are there any trends in the mobile space that businesses should be paying attention to?
In China, the growth in popularity in certain “super apps”, such as Alibaba and Tencent, cannot be ignored. Organisations must make sure that when developing for mobile channels in the future, integration with these particular platforms is covered.
I also expect augmented reality (AR) technologies to take off. We’ve already seen retailers, including IKEA, offering this type of app functionality, and it is likely to percolate into industries beyond retail, propelled by improvements in the AI technologies behind it.
What are the challenges CIOs and CTOs are facing when developing for the mobile space?
Customer engagement is an uphill struggle. CIOs and CTOs often know what needs to be done, but customer preferences and tech change at such a pace; it is almost impossible to react.
CIOs and CTOs need to think about using Low Code and Agile development tools that allow their organisations to react to changes quicker and easier. They should also look to remove the ‘shackles’ of existing IT development paradigms and expose these platforms to Citizen Developers who can build their own applications, thus scaling innovation in their organisations.
Is the App still king across mobile channels?
I think the mobile App is dead. Hundreds of apps clog up the average smartphone, and we are about to see a big app shake-up that could be terminal. Yes, smartphone memory is increasing, but the constant pinging of notifications, using up data and, battery consumption, has led to app fatigue. Customers are merely ignoring or deleting all but their essential apps from their phones.
CSPs (Communications Service Providers) will realise that investing thousands of pounds in an app that nobody will use is not the wisest initiative, particularly with today’s customers having more and more channels and devices available instantly to them to use – Alexa, WhatsApp, Skype and more.
In order to support their customers’ digital demands while simultaneously increasing engagement, CSPs need to deliver a personalised experience via combined omnichannel AI and end-to-end Robotic Automation to enable streamlined, efficient journeys.
When and how will 5G start to make an impact on the mobile channel that business can make practical use of?
As 2019 ends, you cannot escape how much carriers have raced out their 5G network go-lives with everyone wanting to claim a 5G first from first 5G village to 5G city to 5G shopping centre. But, let’s be honest, all this techno sound and fury is a game of retaining and winning those super-nerd customers.
Bundles that offer 5G some of the time in some places may dislodge or cement high spending innovator-class customers but aren’t going to pay for the huge costs of 5G deployment. The job of articulating why 5G matters to masses haven’t got off the ground much yet and, this will have to change in 2020 to pay for the high upfront costs of both 5G and maintaining the legacy services and infrastructure.
A full roll-out of 5G networks will also herald the beginning of the race for the ‘5G Killer App’. Although there is loads of talk about driverless cars and low latency real-time gaming, no-one has really found a way to monetise 5G yet. At the moment there is nothing you can really do with a 5G connection that you can’t do with a 4G or even 3G one. Until this happens, the impact of 5G will remain minimal.
How can businesses make the most of the mobile channel as it evolves?
A Design Thinking approach is critical. Think about the customer, what they want to achieve by visiting your mobile App or site, and what is their experience of interacting with you via mobile.
All too often, companies cut corners with their mobile experience, trying to make a unique digital experience for mobile and desktop. Or worst still, they try to create mobile experiences for customer journeys that simply are not fit for mobile channels.
Companies should think journey first, focusing on the outcomes they want their customers to achieve. Only then should they look to expose these journeys to one or more channels, specialising the experience for the channel in question. This approach allows companies to easily just modify the ‘specialisation’ for the mobile channel as it evolves.
As consumer increasingly use their mobile devices – and other new channels – to interact with brands, CIOs and CTOs must think ‘Channel-less’, building experiences that allow the customer to communicate via their channel of choice – which according to Bain & Company (https://www.bain.com/insights/your-customers-put-mobile-first-do-you) is increasingly ‘mobile-first’.