SMEs and the mobile imperative

The rate at which mobile technology has evolved over the past ten years has transformed the way we do business, collaborate as employees and deliver customer service. Mobility has introduced vast opportunities to businesses of any size, particularly SMEs who can appear larger than they are and deliver an equally as great customer service as their larger counterparts by mobilising workforces and operations. Your Ready Business recently spoke to Ben McCarthy who is leading a regional initiative in Leeds working closely with Yorkshire based SME customers to understand their unique business challenges and help ensure their business is reaping all the benefits that mobile can deliver to its bottom line, and most of all its customers. Here, he discusses the importance of mobile devices to small businesses and how these small yet powerful devices enable entrepreneurs to reach more customers and drive revenue.

“A common theme is emerging, contrary to the stereotype of the fast-paced London based, small business tech start-up, many smaller businesses are in reality falling behind larger rivals because they are slow to adopt mobile technologies

Go mobile to generate sales

Software, apps and other tools accessed through a smartphone can help businesses reach more customers and streamline internal processes, creating more sales and making the business more efficient.

Meanwhile, businesses with mobile-optimised websites will benefit from increased traffic and from more customers accessing their goods and services in a greater variety of ways.

Yet this is a key area where we see businesses failing to make the most of mobile. Not enough are ensuring their online shops are geared towards the mobile browsing experience. A recent survey by Impact Research revealed that only one in 10 SMEs have optimised their websites to work with mobile devices, a fact which could cost them around £77 billion this year.

The good news however is that SMEs are beginning to embrace the ‘mobile opportunity’ with almost a quarter of them planning to introduce a mobile-optimised website in the next 12 months, according to statistics released earlier this year by eBay.

In fact nearly half reported increased sales with 8% of small businesses saying they had increased by more than a fifth, demonstrating how powerful having a website can be in reaching more customers and driving revenue.

In the UK 93% of the adult population own a mobile phone according to a recent Ofcom report, and 66% of UK adults use a ‘smartphone’ meaning they are able to access the internet via a data connection on their handset. This huge UK adoption of mobile has, as a result, changed what customers expect from brands and what they see as good customer service. Before we became a hyper-connected society, customers looked for choice and value for money. Now, they expect this plus responsive customer service, the ability to get help with an enquiry through any channel, and convenience and choice with the ability to purchase products or services anywhere, anytime.

That’s how SMEs can capitalise on just one facet of mobile, but mobile technologies present more than just a chance to boost sales and tap into a connected customer, there are strategic and organisational benefits too. It’s possible to run a business on a far more efficient footing with a mobile workforce at its core. To do this staff must be equipped with mobile devices and utilise these to boost their business.

Boosting business productivity through mobile

Employees can spend more time working with customers and less time rushing from meeting to meeting. What’s more important to your business? Spending valuable time working with your customers or doing office admin?

It doesn’t have to be a choice between the two. Businesses that fully embrace mobile with simple productivity tools like voice, text and email as well as operational tools such as job tracking and analytics, and sales and marketing tools like CRM systems and apps such as OneNote, Genius Scan and Skype give mobiles the power of a virtual office.

Naturally there are some hurdles to fully mobilise your business, the biggest of which could be equipping your workforce with the right skills to use the technology, this doesn’t have to be a hard process and there are a variety of training programmes that can help.

Vodafone for example has partnered with Freeformers, a digital transformation company helping business owners and their employees gain the knowledge and digital skills they need.

One of our customers, Clarkson Safety, by investing in mobile communications solutions were able to cut the time it took for their staff to respond to customers in half.

Mobile has opened up the opportunity for small businesses to reach more customers and increase their sales as well as their competiveness. ‘Going mobile’ doesn’t require a big investment, little changes such as equipping staff with the right technology or ensuring your business has a mobile optimised website that is ready to tap into customers searching for products and services on their phones can deliver a big impact. Make sure your business isn’t missing out on the mobile opportunity.