Mobile devices are attached to your customers, so where’s your app?

The video, “I Forgot My Phone,” created by actress comedienne Charlene deGuzman, has gone viral in the past week. The short film has garnered more than 12 million YouTube views, mentions in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Gawker and NPR and is also being picked up by global media outlets.

The two-minute video, which documents a day-in-the-life of deGuzman to illustrate how obsessive Americans have become about their cell phones, has clearly struck a chord with mobile users around the world. The video shows that while preparing for a run, having lunch with friends and even snuggling in bed with a partner, people are engaged with their mobile. The moral of this tale is that no matter what you’re doing, your smartphone is inevitably involved.

deGuzman’s video also demonstrates the urgency that B2B marketers should be feeling about crafting their brand’s mobile strategy. And we’re not talking about just the basics—the time for baby steps has passed. While optimizing brand websites for mobile is of paramount importance, we’re at the stage where B2B marketers should be moving into the realm of developing mobile apps.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a B2B or B2C environment, you need to take into consideration how mobile has changed our customers’ behavior,” said Paul Berney, CMO and managing director-EMEA at the Mobile Marketing Association. “Our expectation is that no matter where we are, we will be able to connect and engage with brands and organizations in real time via the mobile channel—and we expect there to be a two-way dialogue and a real-time interaction. As individuals, we can’t separate ourselves out into having a different persona or mindset at work or at home or with our friends or playing sports or while commuting. We’re the same person and we have an expectation of everything being able to be done via a mobile channel. B2B marketers need to switch themselves on to that.”

Working From Home

Recent research from the Harvard Business School bears this out. The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson, citing Harvard’s data showing that North Americans spend 88.5 hours a week working or “monitoring” work remotely, pointed to mobile’s influence. “Mobile technology has obliterated the very idea of a set-hour workweek,” he wrote.

Despite this, changing to a mobile-first mindset will be a challenge for B2B marketers. A recent Adobe survey found almost half of digital marketers (45 percent) said their organizations don’t have a mobile-optimized site or mobile application and rely on desktop sites only. Additionally, only 7 percent have built mobile apps and a fifth (21 percent) have implemented both a mobile-optimized site and a mobile app. Moreover, only 10 percent of B2B marketers have used mobile in the past year, according to BtoB Magazine.

Nonetheless, some B2B marketers have already begun to adapt—like Juniper Networks. The  networking technology company’s VP-CMO Brad Brooks said he believes that B2B marketers need to start responding to customers in a much more B2C-oriented way, and that necessitates prioritizing mobile.

“Too often B2B marketers think about their customers as businesses, not as individuals,” Brooks said. “The consumerization of IT—or what I like to call the Apple-ization of the IT—means that more and more individuals are making decisions around their IT choices at work. Everything is now about the user experience, and how it actually applies to me and my personal job. And as that becomes more and more the norm, that informs how our customers think about buying, and how they are making their buying decisions. So being connected to them in that way and understanding how that mobile experience relates to them becomes incredibly important.”

That’s why the company in July rolled out an app, which a company spokesperson said is “first of a series of major initiatives to make our digital properties optimized for the emerging mobile, social world in which our customers and partners live.”

Juniper 1on1 enables customers to explore Juniper’s products, network architectures, services and company pages; watch videos and access datasheets, case studies and customer references; interact with Juniper’s J-Net community as well as the company’s Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages; read the latest Juniper news; and learn about product updates.

“We’ve completely redone our Web experience for mobile application use so that we can have that consumer-oriented conversation with our customers,” Brooks said. “It’s not just a mobile app on the iTunes store; we’ve actually redone the entire Web experience that our customers come to and made it feel very mobile, and taken it to a very personal level around the individual user.”

The Customer Is Always Right

This type of service-oriented, utilitarian app is a perfect example of how B2B marketers can use mobile apps, according to MMA’s Berney. He pointed to the IHS Connect app as a prime case study of another B2B marketer that brought that full Web experience to an iPad app for its oil and gas industry customers.

“Our B2B customer needs are being influenced by B2C experiences,” said Kris Howery, director of product marketing IHS Connect. “So they want the elegance, the functionality that comes with a B2C app in their B2B app experience as well. So our No. 1 guiding criteria was to make this an elegant and easy-to-use system that could go head-to-head with any of the other apps being delivered in a B2C marketplace.”

IHS, a global information company, provides industry analytics, research, forecasts and other information to executives in a range of industries. The Connect iPad app, which was launched last April, delivers business intelligence, including industry analysis of energy markets, political, regulatory and geological information, global supply and demand trends, M&A trends and country risk information, to IHS’s global oil and gas customers. The app also enables IHS customers to browse IHS insights by topic of interest, create a customized dashboard to display information based on their own unique workflow, and access insights directly from industry experts on key events impacting the global business landscape.

Howery said understanding their customers’ journey was the first step in developing the app, which has been downloaded about 5,000 times.

“We thought about how our customers work,” she said. “What we’re finding is that the hours of nine-to-five are no longer applicable in a global marketplace. We know that customers want access to the kind of information they rely on to make their business decisions in real time at their convenience. We know that they are no longer just sitting at desks, so they need access to this information in the board meeting. You want to have real-time information when you’re sitting on a call with a customer or if you’re at a customer site and you need to know something. You want to have access to this information wherever you are or happen to be.”

Berney also emphasized the importance of establishing customer’s needs at the outset of creating a mobile app strategy. To develop an app, B2B marketers must first figure out how their target audience uses mobile, which mobile devices they use and when they use them.

“B2B marketers don’t know a lot about how their target audience uses mobile,” Berney said. “They don’t know what type of mobile device their audience is using. They don’t know the mindset of their customers. You want to be able to use mobile in a contextual way, you want to the able to hit the right person with the right message at the right time and the right place and that’s the best of what mobile does.”

Howery said it’s all about B2B marketers putting themselves in their clients’ position to determine how they engage and how they work. She also urged marketers to leave fear behind.

“This [reluctance to adopt mobile] is about not wanting to change,” she said. “If the goal is getting from point one to point two, why change? But as competitors come in and there is further development in the space, B2B marketers will be forced to change. We have to learn to adapt quicker.”

Howery is correct in her assessment. As deGuzman’s video illustrates, mobile is reshaping our workforce and changing how we all relate to one another, for better or worse. And B2B marketers have to grab hold of this fact if they want to continue to reach customers and prospects.

“Mobile has changed our behavior irrevocably,” Berney said. “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Once people know it is possible to, for example, get their bank balance in real time, why can’t they access data in real time in a B2B environment? There’s simply no excuse.”

Mobile devices are attached to your customers, so where’s your app? was originally published at FierceCMO on Aug. 27, 2013

One thought on “Mobile devices are attached to your customers, so where’s your app?

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