In 1971 when Pete Townshend of The Who belted out the lyrics, “I can stop in any street and talk with people that we meet, goin’ mobile,” who could have imagined what goin’ mobile would imply in today’s world. With the speed of technological advancement growing every day, direct selling companies are presented with a wealth of technology in various forms and more than ever feel the need to embrace it in order to remain viable and sustainable. At the vanguard of the technological explosion are mobile applications and devices.
At Next Wave Logistics, we’ve found that sales fields love the flexibility of goin’ mobile to help manage their busy lives. For example, a rep might be in the midst of entering a large party order using his or her home computer, and if the call to duty of family life sidelines them at a soccer game, they can complete the order with ease. Or, the other way around—if a sales rep starts an order on her smartphone while she’s out, she can suspend it, and complete the order when she arrives home.
Create a Plan
While most companies feel they should embrace something in social media and mobile connectivity, it’s imperative not to jump in without a solid plan. Here are some factors to consider in identifying your level of readiness to embrace the mobile marketplace:
First, define your company goals and reasons for implementing a mobile platform. According to Gleanster.com—a company that measures, surveys and benchmarks best practices in technology-enabled ventures—the top three reasons to consider implementing a mobile-based strategy are to:
- Increase site traffic
- Increase customer acquisition
- Increase marketing ROI
Next, ask whether your IT and marketing infrastructure can support the real-time readiness required in this channel. Consider the following questions:
- Is your website mobile-enabled?
- Are your marketing campaigns mobile ready, or are you merely extending traditional email marketing?
- Can you handle explosive growth and activity?
Then review whether your company has technology and personnel that can focus on the four main delivery technologies for mobile content. Typically, you will need the following:
- A content management system that offers centralized administration to deliver a variety of media and content through multiple channels: mobile, personal websites, corporate sites, regional sites and sales rep business portals
- SMS capabilities for instant notification of a new recruit, a new qualification, a new promotion or a successful party
- An integrated email system, which can work hand-in-hand with other marketing efforts while providing real-time results
- A promotions tool that enables real-time flexibility
Lastly, determine how you will measure success. Clicks, conversions and impressions don’t always add up to increased revenue, so how will you know if your programs are bringing you value? Consider the following:
- Understanding the right metrics to measure is imperative, but knowing how to act on the business intelligence is even more important.
- Market penetration and consumer growth rates are critical factors, but further analysis will help you make strategic decisions based on true audience behavior and buying patterns.
According to Morgan Stanley Tech Analyst Mary Meeker, within the next five years, mobile Internet usage will ramp up substantially faster than desktop Internet usage did. Meeker, a heavyweight in tech analysis and now head of the global technology research team at Morgan Stanley, has compared iPhone/iPod Touch adoption rates to those of AOL and Netscape in the early ’90s, and determined that adoption of Apple devices is taking place 11 times faster than adoption of AOL did, and several times faster than adoption of Netscape.
This increased mobile usage will result in growth in e-commerce. Users appear to be more willing to pay for content on mobile devices than desktops for a variety of reasons, including the ability to personalize, small price tags and easy-to-use/secure payment systems.
A Tale of Two Companies
Once you’ve got a handle on your mobile strategy plan, the next challenge is developing a solid rollout to your salesforce. ABI Research, a marketing research firm specializing in technology, predicts that by 2015 more than $119 billion worth of goods and services will be purchased via mobile phones, a process now called m-commerce. End-user spending is expected to reach $15.9 billion for 2012. The winners in this arena will be companies that are focused on unique features tailored to the environment of the mobile user, not those merely building an extension of their current online applications.
Winning mobile apps must have simple-to-use features that cater to the mobile environment rather than act as a mobile extension of their online presence. More and more companies in direct selling are looking into mobile adoption, and the strategies can vary widely. What’s important is that executives in the company create a mobile strategy relevant to its needs. In comparing the processes we went through for two different companies, we can highlight some of these issues.
We first developed a mobile strategy for each, Company A and Company B. The underlying mobile platform was identical for both companies but the capabilities and targeted users were quite different. Client A wanted to offer a browsing user experience to anyone who wanted to download the app onto their iPhone or Droid. Several choices make this possible: Shop their products catalog, view specials and promotions or search on products with a “how-to-purchase” button and direct call to action offering options for hosting or attending a show or contacting a sales rep.
The mobile products catalog was managed by using our centralized content management tools—the same tools already in use for managing their products catalog, promotions and specials presented on their corporate website, sales rep personal websites and sales rep business portals. This is a game changer for direct sellers looking to deploy mobile apps, as most online content management systems do not offer centralized administration to multiple channels.
Client B took a different approach. They wanted to use mobile technology as an extension of their salesforce. Since the salesforce demographics were different from consumer statistics, we designed the mobile app specific to their sales reps. As a result, Company B embraced our mobileDS full m-commerce suite. Once logged in, a sales rep could place a personal order, a party order or a customer order; shop the complete catalog with the ability to view product videos; access a streamlined checkout process by using credit card and shipping information already stored; view news, specials, promotions and company announcements; and check order and shipping statuses—most of the key information a sales rep would access through an online business portal, but offered through a completely different mobile-user experience.
We can manage each of these strategies from our centralized content management system.
In the case of these two examples there is no right or wrong as to how a direct selling mobile strategy should be deployed; the key is having a solid mobile-enabled foundation and platform so your company can expand its service offering over time.
Building a strong foundation for extending products through this emerging channel is a great first step for any direct selling company to dip their toe in the m-commerce pool, but there is so much more available.
Gartner Inc., an information technology research and advisory firm, has identified what it believes will be the most important mobile applications in 2012. They include location-based services (LBS), more social networking, and mobile search and commerce.
The first one listed, location-based services, represents those apps which make use of the geographical position of the mobile device, for example directing you to the nearest movie theater, coffee shop or brand location. Location-based services also empower users to find interesting things to do in their general vicinity and to share details about locations or venues they frequent.
The convergence of geo-location, personal preferences and social influences will allow companies to serve up applicable contextual-based information. Yes, this means promotions with a punch and higher rates of returns on marketing dollars. Object recognition will become mainstream as our devices evolve into mega-pixel wonders. QR codes—a popular trend now—will be joined by other recognition encoding that completely outdate them.
Companies like Cisco are already redesigning their architecture to allow messaging and email applications to connect users without the need for 4G (or 5G or 6G)—these technical advances will turn the smartphone into smartoffices of the near future. The truth is we are already doing so, just not as efficiently as is possible in the next 24 months. Gartner expects mobile email users worldwide to increase from 354 million in 2009 to 713 million in 2014.
With all these promising and exciting capabilities coming at us at light speed it is important to remember that when goin’ mobile there are varying speeds that will get companies to their ultimate destination, as long as you clearly understand your audience—your salesforce—and their needs. At the end of the day that is what matters.
Greg Fink is Vice President of Sales at Next Wave Logistics.