Get your (mobile) thinking straight

Oct 29 2012, 03:40 IST
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SummaryThe world has fallen in love with mobile technology; that much is plain.

The growing tide of mobility brings huge and often unexpected opportunities with it—but to avoid being swamped, CIOs need to do some strategic thinking upfront

Vasanth Balakrishnan

The world has fallen in love with mobile technology; that much is plain. There are nearly six billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide, with more being added daily. Even though the vast majority of those phones are still feature phones, virtually all new phones connect to the Web as a minimum. And smartphones are getting ever cheaper: emerging markets are leading the way with innovations such as Huawei’s $80 Android smartphone for the African market, and Datawind’s $46 Android tablet for India.

What all this means is that a greater and greater proportion of the population has access to versatile devices with truly formidable computing power. Mobile has moved beyond voice communication to become the popular arm of computing. One could even think of it as the democratisation of IT: cheap mobile devices and a much more accessible network are allowing millions to leapfrog into the digital age.

Asia is at the forefront of this mobile revolution, and now almost 18% of total Web surfing in the region is performed on mobile devices. India is leading the charge, with almost 50% of internet activity occurring on mobile devices. This startling growth opens up a number of opportunities for Indian businesses, both internally and externally. Externally, it’s obvious that mobility opens up new ways for companies to interact with consumers—but, it must be remembered, consumers who are now empowered. In a sense, this is simply a replay of what happened in the first internet revolution via PCs. Mobility makes comparison shopping for products and services possible and now, with the advent of mobile social media, consumers have a powerful voice.

One example of this new consumer power is the ability of consumers to report on bad (or good) experiences on social media sites; that is, without the “cooling off” period returning to a PC would ordinarily entail. Also, via apps like Foursquare, smartphone users can bring friends to locations they recommend.

Companies intent on building profitable relationships with customers—and which ones aren’t?—must have a strategy for engaging via the mobile channel. For business the possibilities of building a channel to customers that is with them all the time, are legion. Not the least of these opportunities is the opportunity to access much more detail about customer behaviours in real time, thus

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