Mobile applications are playing an increasing role in digital transformation. Comms Business takes a closer look at the trends and functionality required by channel companies.
Demand for mobile applications has grown massively over the last 18 months. This is due to numerous factors, but the overriding theme has been the disruption of supply chains and methods of sale. As such, businesses and traders have needed to find a digital, resilient way of communicating with customers and continuing to trade despite the limitations of lockdowns and distance.
James Clarkson, CEO of Adventoris, a software as a service provider, explained, “For those who relied heavily on physical visits and meetings with sales representatives, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been huge. It has meant that those businesses have needed to reevaluate their core processes and day-to-day methods of getting the job done. Mobile applications have played a huge part in making that change and the subsequent recovery of businesses.
“Mobile applications have not only ensured businesses can continue to trade in these many months of uncertainty and turmoil, but they have ensured a solid, digital future for these businesses.”
Clarkson added that whilst the pandemic pushed forward digital adoption, this was a trend that he was seeing before lockdown. This was a sharp acceleration, with attitudes towards digital now at levels that were not forecast until 2024.
Adam King, CEO, SwipeStation, agreed the world has faced unforeseen changes in the past 18-months, with businesses across the globe realising the importance of developing a mobile application. He said, “The global pandemic has altered the way that consumers eat, drink and pay, and whilst consumers were often obliged to use mobile solutions to stay safe during the height of Covid, they have now become accustomed to the convenience and flexibility of ordering or paying with their phones to skip queues. In order to meet the rising demand of customers, businesses are adopting the newest technology trends and making investments in mobile application development.”
Channel companies are the perfect candidate for adopting mobile applications, according to Aman Shergill, CTO at Adventoris. He said, “Channel partners can really make the most of innovative mobile application developments. The opportunities for retailing products and services via apps are unmatched. Demand for a company or manufacturer to have an app where customers can make their purchases and communicate with brands is growing, no doubt because of the pandemic, but this trend will continue to grow.
“With so many companies adopting this technology, other businesses may feel the need to do the same, if only to keep up with competition. Those that do not digitise run the risk of being left behind in the wake of their digitised peers. More and more businesses are looking to adjust their operations to incorporate more remote and flexible options for staff, meaning that a digital presence will be essential for firms to continue operating at their current levels and for future growth.”
Resellers and distributors can access a multitude of opportunities through mobile applications, Shergill explained. “Resellers and distributors have a real opportunity with the growth of mobile apps. Full adoption of mobile technology will significantly reduce the need for physical sales visits and admin tasks usually associated with placing and managing orders.
“Customers can benefit from a number of app features when using apps, including access to offers and promotions, shopping lists, favourites tools, product information and user manuals at the touch of a button.”
Businesses that foster app technology are also opening up another marketing channel to communicate with customers, as he highlighted, “App notifications, special app-only offers and being in a customer’s hand 24/7, are just a few of the opportunities available through mobile app technology. Businesses are in full control of their own apps, whether that be branding or competing for attention on other digital platforms, a mobile app can be completely bespoke to your business and exclusively output your key messages and information.
“Our clients themselves have reported end customers saving up to 50 per cent of the time in preparing and submitting orders, an often time-consuming process. Our clients have experienced their customer sales increasing by 100 per cent when using app technology.”
King at SwipeStation believes for businesses in the hospitality and retail sectors, making the transition to mobile ordering solutions in line with shifts in global consumer demand, will bring huge opportunities to grow. He said, “By removing deliberation, ordering and payment from the service area, businesses are able to improve customer experience by transforming staff into super-efficient service experts without the cost or effort of training them how to use a till system.
“The benefits are not just operational and financial. The data generated through mobile ordering is far superior to anything tills can offer – since all purchases refer back to an individual email address and phone number. For the first time, operators are able to learn the annual value of a consumer – as well as send them targeted offers both on and off a match day. Integrating mobile payment services into fan apps only serves to enhance the cashless evolution, transferring away from outdated tills and into a user-friendly, end-to-end spectator experience with just a mobile device in the hands of fans.
“The world has experienced a dramatic shift in mobile usage spurred by social distancing, government-imposed lockdowns and isolation. Whilst mobile usage has steadily risen for years, it’s now evolved from a preferred channel to an essential one. A key example of this is the rise in popularity of mobile ordering across many industries. The pandemic has forced businesses across the globe to innovate beyond just ‘going cashless’ – which does little to overcome social distancing concerns or reduce queueing times.
“As a result, people are now using their phones to order coffee, a takeaway, a supermarket delivery, and even buy a drink in a pub. The progress is significant, and it is forecast that 1.31 billion people will use a mobile payment app worldwide by 2023. One thing is clear: the pandemic has drastically advanced attitudes towards mobile ordering by a few years in just a few months.”
Mobile applications can also enhance the user experience of the hardware offered by resellers. Manufacturer Konftel has developed a mobile app called Unite which allows users to share control of conferencing solutions.
Jeff May, UK sales director at Konftel, said, “Konftel Unite switches the operation of meetings from the traditional keypad to the screen of a mobile phone or tablet. Start pre-scheduled meetings with one click, call contacts and groups from a personal contact book and control the conference phone’s functions during the meeting.
“We have always argued for flexibility when it comes to all the collaboration tools available, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Webex. Now safety is paramount too. Despite the vaccine roll-out, experts agree the virus isn’t going away. More variants are being formed and there’s likely to be a surge in cases once colder weather returns at the end of the year. We are all going to have to live with Covid for the foreseeable future. But there are many effective ways to reduce the risk of transmission. Mobile applications can play an important role.”
Cherie Howlett, CMO, Jola, echoed the feeling by many that the pandemic has changed behaviors, driving demand for mobile applications. She said, “Working from home, consumers wanted an easy way to buy goods and get them delivered. Businesses that adapted to this change have benefitted from higher sales during lockdown. In the channel, having a white-label portal that is easy to use and gives full control to resellers has always been important.
“The fastest growing suppliers continue to innovate their portals and mobile applications to offer a better buying experience. Partners can benefit from this shift by developing online ordering or extending white label ordering portals to allow end users to also place orders directly. Pricing tools available make it easier and quicker for resellers to respond to quotes, often improving their win rates. We have growing partners who sell SIM cards on Amazon to meet the needs of their own target audience.
“As marketers we prepared for users accessing our websites and materials on mobile phones long before the pandemic but my own web statistics show a rise in users on mobile devices which is expected to continue.
“At Jola we have seen a rise in sales from resellers using our Tariff Tool app to price up roaming M2M and IoT SIMs as well as from intelligent routers which come pre-configured with a Jola app, which are managed within our Mobile Manager portal.”