Mobile technology and the related application market are experiencing huge growth. The associated trends and impact of this growth will have a major influence on business for years to come. So why is mobile technology so critical? The main reason is its portability. Seventy-five percent of the world's population has access to cell phones. In North America, fifty percent of mobile phones are smartphones, allowing the users to access the web and a variety of applications ("apps") based on their preferences. The majority of these users carry these phones with them everywhere they go. They provide an almost continuous link to the user. In addition, the popularity of tablet devices such as the iPad illustrates that the consumer wants the convenience of portability. In 2012, twenty-three percent of North American internet users own a tablet and that number is expected to double over the next two years as prices for that technology decline. Following are some key trends to be aware about in this marketplace:
- Mobile Browsing – Most companies today have a website that is a key resource for consumers to find them, learn more about them and ultimately make a decision to engage that company. The problem is that only about ten percent of websites are fully optimized for mobile devices. The amount of mobile browsing usage will increase substantially over the next few years, so it is critical to ensure that your website is optimized to ensure that the mobile user will engage and you do not lose traffic to a competitor's site.
- Mobile Commerce – This refers to the consumer searching for product/service information or conducting a purchase over the internet. Increasingly, North American consumers are becoming more comfortable with this type of transaction with US eCommerce and Online Retail sales projected to top US$226 billion in 2012, an increase of 12% over 2011 (Forrester Research Inc. Study: "US Online Retail Forecast, 2011-2016"). Mobile technology will play an integral part in sales transactions with mobile sales expected to reach US$119 billion by 2015 (ABI Research Study, February 2010).
- Near-Field Communication – this technology allows the mobile device to communicate with another NFC enabled device to transfer data or automate a task. Most notably, the current Samsung Galaxy III employs NFC to transfer photos between phones or interact with other NFC devices or tags. This allows for unique opportunities such as using NFC tags to redirect consumers' phones to certain websites or purchase items as an example. On the other hand, it also raises the concern around the ability for fraud as thieves could download data by simply standing next to you in a line.
- Electronic Payments – using NFC technology, your mobile device can become a tool to make electronic payments by scanning it on a NFC enabled pay device. This would be a substitute to the Interac debit card used today. This will eventually occur, but likely not until approximately 2015 according to experts.
- Location Based Apps – involves data sent to your device based on where you are. For example, the mobile device would alert you regarding the nearest restaurant or sporting goods store, depending on your preferences. This is a unique ability for business owners to market directly to potential consumers and gain awareness of your store.
Keeping on top of these trends is important. Mobile usage will continue to grow and you need to ensure that you address the opportunities and risks that it may bring to your business.