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Business strategy: How mobile mature is your enterprise?

Mobile Business

With the rapid rise of mobile technologies and cloud-based computing, mobile devices are now being lauded as the next frontier in both enterprise and consumer computing needs. Businesses from a wide array of industries are scrambling to establish a mobile presence, although many are still building their apps and services by mimicking the functionality and features of their desktop-based services, which makes for a poor user experience (UX) both for the organization and its clients.

Forrester Research, an independent research firm that provides marketing advice to businesses, earlier released its 2013 report on mobile maturity, focusing on strategies, development, and future services of companies. According to the report (premium download), companies that have better commitment in their mobile undertakings are better at formulating strategies and making e-business decisions than those that are still in the early stages. This applies to small and medium businesses and even large enterprises.

Methodology

Forrester Research shows that mobile companies that are ahead of the curve are the ones that showcase an intrinsic understanding of mobile trends. On the other end of the spectrum are those who are at the “early stages” and in the middle-ground are companies at the “working on it” phases of mobile maturity.

Forrester actually quantified mobile maturity into three brackets:

  • Companies with a mobile strategy for less than a year;
  • Companies with a mobile strategy for one to two years; and,
  • Companies with a mobile strategy for two years or more.

Mobile companies were asked different questions about their marketing strategies, current challenges, and future plans. The result of Forrester Research’s surveys was as expected: mature e-business firms show traits that are effective and crucial in the progress of mobile services compared to their fledgling counterparts.

Findings

In gist, the study determined these salient points:

  • Mobile success is brought about by commitment from the company’s senior management.
  • Mobile-mature organizations take a strategic approach in their execution.
  • Mobile-mature organizations collaborate better.
  • Experienced organizations offer a broad spectrum of mobile services.
  • However, e-businesses do not take a strategic approach to their vendor relationships.

Higher-level commitment leads to earlier maturity

The first factor that Forrester looked into is the level of mobile engagement within a company, in particular whether its executives in senior leadership positions are deeply involved in the firm’s mobile strategy. Some highlights:

  1. Among e-business professionals who have had a mobile strategy for more than two years, 91 percent believe that their senior leadership understood the value of mobile, and 88 percent believe that their organization understood the weight of what mobile could bring to the success of their company.
  2. As a business grows, those responsible for Internet and mobile-related aspects of the business also rise among the ranks. Among the companies surveyed, 52 percent of those considered mature have decision-makers in vice presidential roles or above. These have a say in the companies’ mobile strategies.
  3. Companies that have more mature mobile-business strategies also allocate more funding to their mobile endeavors. Twenty-nine percent of e-business professionals who are at the early stages allocated at least $1 million for mobile; while 49 percent of mature e-business professionals spend at least $5 million. Thus, the more solid their strategies are, the longer and more upscale their expenses become.

Mobile-mature organizations use strategic and methodical approaches to developing services

Much has been said about having a mobile-first approach when building applications and services. Forrester Research has determined that e-businesses that have had mobile strategies in excess of two years are more deliberate and mindful in their actions and production plans. They they choose to be more strategic and methodical in their approach, thereby developing more streamlined and easy-to-use services. Giving much importance to systematic approach, mature mobile companies exhibit the following characteristics:

  1. Established mobile companies are able to determine approaches that are unnecessary, untimely, and inessential in the development of their mobile services and give more value to realistic strategies that offer profit potency and customer appeal.
  2. Mature e-businesses are able to separate tablet strategy from smartphone strategy. Considering mobile phone and tablet features, owner usage, physical attributes, and resources, mobile-oriented companies that have had an established strategy for more than two years are capable of determining what modern consumer wants for their devices.
  3. Mature e-businesses also develop services in-house. Mobile companies that have had a mobile strategy for more than two years put emphasis on building their mobile services internally with their own team, including app development, mobile optimization, and corporate integration.
  4. Mature e-businesses focus more on revenues, while those at the early stages focus on interactions.

Better collaboration

Mobile-mature organizations give much importance to having close business relationships within their tech team. They also exhibit good collaboration with other teams across functional areas, fields, and geographies. These companies see broad and extensive mobile usage in different aspects of the industry such as marketing, sales and customer support, compared to the novices.

Differences in the performance of mature companies to those who are just starting out are also visible in their geographic scope: experienced organizations’ mobile strategies are better-coordinated across functional areas, while those who have had a mobile strategy for less than a year is centralized only within a region.

Broader spectrum of mobile services

E-businesses with established mobile strategies offer a wider array of services, catering to various platforms. For instance, these include iOS apps (for iPhone and iPad), Android apps and mobile web-optimized sites. Here are some plans that surveyed companies have shared:

Firms plan to establish a mobile web presence by the end of 2013. 98 percent of e-businesses surveyed plan to expand to mobile-optimized websites, 74 percent of which plan to execute this with HTML5. 88 percent of companies who were surveyed with a mobile strategy for more than a year plan to have iOS application, 82 percent will have a native Android application and 60 percent plan to have hybrid Android application before 2014.

Results from the surveys show that companies tend to put emphasis on iOS first than Android, seeing that it provides little fragmentation compared to iOS.

Firms plan to extend their efforts to tablets. Mobile-mature companies are able to expand to tablets more easily than their early-stage counterparts. Among mobile users, 60 percent opt to build an iPad app first over Android. Only 30 percent of mobile strategists have Android tablet apps, and are concerned about the fragmented nature of the platform. However, this may change if Apple releases new screen sizes or resolutions. (Note that the survey is focused only on the 10-inch tablet experience.) Forrester Research’s report shows that 82% of mobile-mature firms include tablets in their mobile strategies.

Mobile-mature firms plan to collaborate with companies that play bigger roles in serving mobile consumers and online shoppers, such as Amazon, eBay, PayPal, banks, payment processors and the like.

Vendor relationships are not strong enough

Although e-businesses in different levels of maturity use mobile vendors in their marketing strategies, experienced mobile companies are much less likely to work with vendors than their inexperienced counterparts. Surveys show that 41% of mature e-businesses reported that they develop strategic relationships with mobile vendors, but 49% also stated that they work with vendors only by contract or on a per- project basis.

Mobile companies’ decisions on how their services and platforms will progress are based on the responses and demands of consumers. This consumer feedback is mostly influenced by the media, social networking sites, and their social activities. Thus, e-businesses will benefit from spending more time online engaging with target audiences, adding more useful applications, and establishing a solid online presence.

Meanwhile, companies that are in the early- and intermediate stages of mobile commerce can benefit from learning from the experiences of the more mobile-mature firms in their respective industries. The objective of Forrester Research report is to provide a useful guide on how companies can maximize their mobile-oriented efforts to better address the needs of both their own organization and their clients.