Smartphones are changing the way SMEs work

Vodafone’s latest research on how smartphones are fuelling businesses uncovers
some fascinating findings. It’s incredible to think that 82% of the UK population now
owns a smartphone (up 29% over the last four years) and how quickly the smartphone
has gone from a nice-to-have to a necessity for many people.

Smartphones have cemented their position in the business world too. The research
supports my belief that smartphones are now key to small business owners and
employees who want to enjoy more good days at work. They’re changing the way we
run and grow small businesses in the UK. They’ve opened up opportunities for SMEs
to create exciting customer experiences that can increase sales, boost productivity
and recruit top talent.

Enhancing the customer experience

The research reveals that 96% of the internet-enabled population goes online as part
of their purchase journey. On top of this, 66% of all e-commerce traffic and 51% of all
online purchases are taking place on either a smartphone or tablet.
These stats show just how important it is for businesses to optimise their content and
create experiences that delight customers on mobile devices.

Data drives sales via smartphones

The Vodafone report shows that 73% of ambitious SMEs believe that analysing
customer data – including real-time location data – is vital for a successful business.
Real-time geolocation marketing is one way SMEs can effectively reach engaged
smartphone users.

Geolocation marketing uses the smartphone’s GPS to locate the user, so you can
target them with timely and relevant offers and marketing via a smartphone app.
If the user has given the app permission to use their location details, it’s an effective
way of targeting customers with offers and promotions whenever they enter your
store, or even when they visit a competitor’s.

Engaging experiences are made for mobile

Smartphone apps are a great way of connecting with customers. Besides encouraging
purchases with real-time marketing, you can also use them to reward customer loyalty.
Brands like Nando’s have given their loyalty cards a digital makeover – rewarding repeat
visits by uploading loyalty points straight to the smartphone app. Applications are also
often the best way to optimise the customer’s mobile experience – they can be used to
easily browse and order products, find stores and unlock the latest promotions.

Still, even without a dedicated company app, small businesses can create conversations
and showcase products and services through social networks such as Facebook,
Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat – which can be accessed any time, any place
on a smartphone.

It’s an easy win for SMEs – communicate with your customers in a creative way and you
can create lots of love for the brand and engagement that’s often consumed via
their smartphone.

Opening up a new world of experiences

As the report rightly identifies, smartphones are supporting new and exciting marketing
methods. Virtual Reality (VR) could be the answer for SMEs looking to lead the way and
create memorable customer experiences.

Smartphones can be connected to virtual reality headsets to take creative marketing to
new levels: the Irish estate agent chain Sherry FitzGerald can show you around a house
that hasn’t even been built yet via virtual reality, increasing their sales of off-plan homes;
and Audi took customers on the drive of their life, letting them go for a spin in the VR
version of their new TT model at their London showroom.

You don’t necessarily need a big budget to create something special. VR apps and
programs are becoming more popular and easier to use, enabling small businesses
to create their own bespoke virtual reality experiences using smartphones and VR
headsets. Customers aren’t the only ones benefiting either; SMEs can use VR to
improve communication between employees by creating virtual meeting rooms that
let colleagues interact with each other without being in same room. Virtual interviews
can help businesses find the perfect candidates, and VR is increasingly being used to
train staff – putting them in a more realistic environment, enabling them to interact
with objects, and offering an effective way of learning new skills.

Boosting productivity

Smartphones are creating more good days for employees too. The report found
that by implementing real-time digital channels into a business, communication
is improved by 49%, working practices are made 47% more efficient and decision-making
is enhanced by 43%. Whether it’s communicating with colleagues over
mobile messaging services, using VoIP or accessing files and documents on your
smartphone via the cloud, smartphones have become an essential communication
tool for businesses.

This is underlined by the report’s finding that a UK small business misses an average
of four new business opportunities every working day it does not have access to a
functioning smartphone.

Using smartphones to boost productivity is something that the public sector excels
in. Both Surrey Police and West Yorkshire Police gave their officers Samsung Note
smartphones so that they could perform a number of everyday tasks while policing
their communities without having to return to their stations, saving each officer
around two hours per day. By developing bespoke smartphone apps, officers can
issue paperless tickets and fixed penalty notices, as well as make database checks
and fill in missing person reports.

West Middlesex University Hospital also used smartphones to save time and money
by developing a way to detect atrial fibrillation on the Samsung Xcover3 smartphone
instead of having to perform expensive heart monitoring tests. The productivity-enhancing
opportunities smartphones offer are endless.

Building internal talent

Smartphones empower employees. But they also help to bring the brightest talent
into your business.

The Perspective series report, ‘Millennials, Breathing New Life into the Workforce’
found that the majority of millennials are searching for jobs online, with 64% turning
to Google, 57% using job search engines and 51% looking to company-specific
websites; 42% of these are using their smartphone to find their next role. This figure
is likely to grow too, with an increasing number of employers requesting creative
applications through the likes of smartphone-friendly apps such as Snapchat.

As this report shows, smartphones, coupled with a powerful network, are a smart
move for SMEs looking to enjoy more good days.

For more great insights, download the full Vodafone UK Perspective series report ‘How to unleash the full power of the smartphone’