How are SMBs using mobile solutions to interact with their customers, suppliers and partners? What are top mobile apps that SMBs offer for their external customers, partners and supplier to use? Just as important, what mobile applications are they planning to deploy?
We found out in our recently completed SMB Group 2012 SMB Mobile Solutions Study, in which we asked 717 U.S. SMB (small business is 1-99 employees; medium business is 100-999 employees) decision-makers and influencers about their mobile solutions environment, including:
- Mobile Device and Service Provider Use and Plans
- Use and Plans for Internal (Employee) Mobile Business Solutions
- Use and Plans for External (Customer, Partner, Supplier) Mobile Business Solutions
- Use and Plans for Mobile Web Sites
- Benefits and Obstacles to Using Mobile Solutions
- Use and Plans for Mobile Payments
- Mobile Budgets
- Mobile Procurement, Policies, Governance and User Roles
- Mobile Management Adoption, Solutions and Services
Rising SMB Adoption of Mobile Web Sites and Apps for External Users
As noted in The Yin and Yang of Mobile Applications Benefits For SMBs, the study revealed that SMBs increasingly see that customer-facing mobile applications can help them grow revenue, attract and retain customers, and keep up with the competition.
SMBs are using both mobile-friendly web sites and mobile apps to offer functionality to foster this interaction, as shown on Figure 1.
Figure 1: SMB Use and Plans for Mobile-Friendly Web Sites and Mobile Apps
Top 10 Mobile Apps that SMBs Provide for Customers, Suppliers and Partners
Regardless of whether SMBs are employing a mobile-friendly web site, mobile apps, or both, what are the top capabilities that they are providing to external audiences? And what do they plan to add in the next 12 months?
Among a field of 26 possible choices, the solutions in Figure 2 came out on top across small and business respondents.
Figure 2. Top 10 Mobile Functions that SMBs Provide and Plan to Provide to External Users
The study also revealed significant differences in the types of mobile apps SMBs choose to deploy based on industry. For example, the top customer-facing mobile app that professional services firms use is for scheduling appointments, while the top app for retail firms is to enable their customers to buy products/services.
Expanding SMB Digital Presence Via Mobile Solutions
Until recently, most SMBs got along just fine with a corporate website and/or a Facebook page. But SMBs are increasingly finding that they need to make sure that customers can interact with them anytime, anywhere and from any device.
But there are many options and/or trade-offs to think about–mobile web sites, mobile landing pages, mobile payments, mobile apps, etc. Does the company need mobile apps, or will a mobile-friendly web site and landing pages suffice? In addition,
Given limited IT staff and expertise in developing and managing mobile solutions, most SMBs will need help in thinking through these issues, evaluating solution alternatives, developing an effective mobile strategy, and implementing and managing it (Figure 3).
Figure 3: SMB Use/Plans for Mobile Management Solutions
The bottom line is that while mobile apps may be the headline, helping SMBs develop a solid strategy and framework for deploying and managing their mobile environments is likely to provide vendors with an even bigger opportunity in the mobile space.