First understand the mobile options that fit your customers’ needs. Then deliver the right mobile experiences to differentiate from your competitors.
B2BecNews recently published study results that indicate most manufacturers and distributors are behind in developing a mobile strategy. In fact, less than 50% of manufacturers currently have a website that is optimized for mobile.
I’d like to start by addressing why mobile is being underutilized by many B2B organizations, as well as outline the different mobile strategy models available to businesses looking to dive in. Finally, I’ll provide several considerations that B2B businesses need to be aware of when developing their own mobile strategy.
Why are B2B organizations ignoring mobile?
Most B2B companies don’t have a solid mobile strategy, because they don’t clearly understand what mobile is. For many manufacturing and distribution companies, mobile simply refers to a responsive website, while for others it might include mobile apps or progressive web apps. Not long ago, I led a mobile roundtable on this very topic. What I quickly realized from the conversation, is that many companies struggle with even getting their website to a responsive state and mobile apps and progressive web apps are not even a consideration. It seems to me that the struggle to get ongoing investment to expand the digital commerce business is the bigger struggle for many companies, and this alone has a big impact on investing in a mobile strategy.
Every company needs to have a digital strategy that includes mobile. As consumers, we have become accustomed to exceptional digital experiences in our personal lives and that includes mobile experiences. As a result, we begin to develop the expectation that those digital experiences should carry through to our jobs. It is not that all consumer experiences are relevant in B2B, but the way we interact and the information that is available is being influenced by our personal experiences.
Defining Mobile Commerce
Part of the disconnect, when it comes to mobile for B2B organizations, is understanding what mobile really is. There are multiple options businesses can choose from when integrating mobile into their commerce strategy, and it’s important to choose a model that is the best fit for your business based on your customers’ needs. This might mean having a single mobile channel is the best option for your business, but it might also mean that you require several mobile channels to deliver the right experience to the right user at the right time.
Responsive Web Design
In my experience, responsive web design is what comes to mind for most B2B organizations when thinking about mobile. Responsive design is basically a technology that allows web pages to resize themselves based on the web-access device the visitor is using. It essentially means that, when users access the site from a mobile device, they will be presented with an experience that is automatically scaled for a phone or tablet. The experience is based on website design technology that sizes pages based on breakpoints and delivers an experience scaled for phones, tablets and even laptop and desktop computers.
Having a website with a responsive design is crucial to providing a cohesive experience across multiple platforms, and it improves the user experience for those who want to explore a site on a smartphone or tablet. A responsive website design benefits mobile users and traditional desktop users alike. With computers in the palm of our hands, it’s no surprise that customers are accessing sites in a variety of ways and on a multitude of devices. Providing a responsive design ensures a cohesive experience for your customers at every touchpoint. However, while a responsive design is a great solution for users searching for general information or just browsing your site, it lacks the capability to deliver a more personalized and relevant experience.
Progressive Web Applications
Progressive web applications (PWAs) take responsive web design a step further. Still a widely misunderstood asset, PWAs are websites that are built to look and respond like a mobile application. Users can access a site built on a PWA through their usual internet browser and will be presented with an experience that looks and feels like a native app without having to download a physical program.
PWAs tend to load faster than mobile apps, can operate offline, and even allow users to set up notifications and shortcuts on their devices’ home screens. By providing app-like capabilities through a web platform, users have faster access to the information they need. Users who are on the go are more likely benefit from a PWA than those who work primarily from a desktop. However, frequent customers may desire more advanced features that a PWA can’t provide, such as automatic login and account linkage.
Native apps are perhaps the most complex mobile experience you can provide to your users. Only accessible by installing the program on a mobile device, apps provide users with an even more scaled-down digital experience. Customers can sign into their accounts through the app and see only the information that is relevant to them. For instance, rather than scrolling through an entire product catalog to find a part to reorder, users have access to past orders on their account and can quickly find what they’re looking for.
However, not all of your customers will gain enough value to make downloading a mobile app worthwhile. Those who work in an office and primarily access your site catalog and their account information on a desktop computer are a prime example.
But what about users who don’t have access to a computer while they’re working? People who work out in the field or are on the go don’t want to constantly be logging into a website or searching through your entire catalog to find what they need. They may not be able to download manuals and search part specifics from the field in a browser. In this case, a mobile app would be the more efficient option. Additional capabilities like QR code functionality and allowing multiple users to connect through an account to communicate are all features that a mobile app could provide that wouldn’t be possible through a responsive website.
Where does mobile fit into your business?
The reality is, you need a mobile strategy of some kind. Start by understanding your customers and your users. Know how they engage with you and how they want to engage with you in the future. I recommend taking a “crawl, walk, run” approach to your mobile strategy. Begin with identifying your customer needs and desires, then experiment with the different mobile experiences you can provide to support them. Once you gather usage data and feedback, you can begin to expand and build a more robust mobile approach.
At the end of the day, B2B is all about helping people do their jobs more effectively and more efficiently. It’s not about shopping—it’s about buying. You need to take into account all of the things impacting your customers’ jobs, what experiences will be beneficial to them, and how you can provide those unique experiences to differentiate yourself from your competition. If you can give your users the information and data they need to do their job with ease, you’ll become an invaluable part of their life.