The ‘consumerisation of IT’ has brought tablet computing from the living room to the office. And tablets are radically changing businesses. Initially the tablet was perceived as a ‘third device’ – in addition to the PC and mobile phone. It’s likely though, that traditional PC sales over this next year will be squeezed as many business users adopt the tablet as their primary device. IDC (International Data Corporation) have revised their estimate of the tablet business globally, they now expect 123 million tablets to be shipped this year, up from their previous estimate of 117 million So rather than a ‘third device’ we’re seeing the emergence of ‘one device’. Access to faster wifi and wireless broadband ensure connectivity – a crucial requirement for the mobile worker. It’s this connectivity that empowers the mobile work-force to be more productive. Reading email and web-browsing remain high on the priorities of tablet users but the smart worker needs more, and connectivity for the tablet means access to company data, collaboration with colleagues and access to custom applications that were once only accessible from inside the office.
Cleverly used, tablets can reduce overheads, improve efficiency and can often give early adopter businesses a competitive advantage. And we’re not just talking about big business or government – the tablet revolution is changing the way small and medium sized companies do business. Tablets are helping sales people take orders, retailers look up stock availability, restaurants are using them for order taking, airports are using them for queue busting, airlines are using them as entertainment devices. And then some businesses are using tablets really cleverly; there’s an increasing trend for ‘hard-hat apps’: builders, architects and electricians are recording work and sharing it with customers and colleagues -workflows are being streamlined. If you have someone returning to the office less and less, overheads are saved, sales people have more time to sell and front-line staff have more time to look after their customers. The workforce is becoming ‘perpetually mobile’.
Custom apps make sensee: Today on Down To Business with Bobby Kerr we were joined by Mitch Wallis who told us about how his firm ProAdjust were cleverly putting iPads and a custom app in the hands of their team of insurace assessors to create a more streamlined work-flow for insurance claimants and companies.Company info >>
Streamline customer service: Another great example of companies using tablets to enhance their busines is the travel firm Highlife Ski & Snowboard who in January will be trialing Windows 8 tablets. With a reputation for unrivalled customer service, Highlife aee putting tablets to work and their coal-face is the mountain face.Company info>>
I’ve asked SME business owners about tablet use and some cite cost as bar to investing in tablets. Certainly, higher-end tablets can dent your cash-flow, but we are seeing clever ICT resellers and indeed some mobile phone operators providing single billing deals for business. I call this the managed-tablet. You pay a monthly fee, you get a tablet, software, mobile-device management and extended warranty and helpdesk support. Two or three years later, you can buy-out the devices; bring them home – or sell them to employees, and take advantage of a refresh from your service provider. It lowers capital expenditure, gets you the support you need – maybe even global exchange of devices – and ensures your technology is current. Like much of the burgeoning mobility business, new business-models are being developed in response to a competitive and demanding market.
Will mobile work for me?
Statistics tell us 20% of all web traffic is mobile traffic. Tablet and smartphone adoption over the next 2 to 3 years will see this figure only growing. Consumers are more cost, and offer conscious than ever. And consumers use their devices while shopping. – Mobile web users want to know 2 things when they visit your website: 1) your location and 2) your opening times.
In a recent US survey, 66% of small businesses say they do business online, with local consumers. So, whilst we often talk about the export opportunity the web brings for businesses, business owners shouldn’t forget about the local opportunity. More and more people are using their mobile devices to find your company. People will look you up, and if you’re open and you give them directions – they’ll come and buy. So in all this talk of tablets in business, remember to think about the slew of consumers who are now tabket users, and how they have new ways to interact with your company. In the future, their tablets may have payment capabilities like NFC – but for now, make sure your website is mobile friendly. Try it out yourself on a smart phone or tablet, and ask yourself is the key information there, and easily found. Browse the web and look up clever websites like appmakr and shoutem and create a test app for your business. Consumers are more and more inclined to download your app if you’re offering a deal – bear that in mind as you write your mobile stratecgy down. The web-browser isn’t dead – but it is mortally wounded, and the app is how consumers will shop in the next couple of years. This connected world comes with the chance for export and long distance selling but like never before, you have an opportunity to connect with local shoppers. And if they find you, start by telling them you’re open for business.
Think Mobile: If someone looks up your business online, make sure you show them a map and opening hours.
Think Apps: Try out a site like appmakr.. Build your business a simple, cheap or even free app.
External links & references
- IDC raises tablet forecast
- AppMakr – my favourite online app creation tool
- Microsoft news for small business
- iPad for business
- Podcast of this story on Down To Business with Bobby Kerr