The Digital Business Impact of Multifunction Device Consumer Adoption

multifunction devicesWill 2013 be the year of smartphones and multifunction devices in general? Will it be the year of mobile? Of course it will. However, the past years were the years of mobile and multifunction devices too and I expect so will the coming years. The use of multifunction devices, smartphones and tablets clearly continues to change the way people buy and interact. Welcome to the mobile and digital business.

Multifunction devices also impact the ways we work and how social is increasingly spreading across the enterprise in general. Social business and mobile are more related than we often think. However, it’s not just about marketing or social business. Just look at how we use multifunction devices in several other business functions, beyond social and marketing. It’s about digital transformation and how we connect information (information and content management), people, processes (collaboration), technology and all business functions to achieve maximum efficiency and great customer/user experiences.

Technologies have a disruptive effect on the digital business because people embrace them. And the increasing adoption of multifunction devices will continue to impact us all. As you might know, at the latest edition of CES, multifunction devices were all around. Not only in the presentations and new products and technologies that were shown but also in the mind of consumers that didn’t even know about the event.

At the occasion of CES, Accenture presented the results of research it conducted the way consumers purchase and use consumer electronics. It has consequences for the consumer electronics industry itself but also for media consumption, marketing, retail, banking and other activities where these devices are intensively used. However, it has also important consequences for the way we work, collaborate and communicate, with an important role for social CRM, social business and digital business in general.

Context-aware technologies, as we see them arriving in TVs and gaming consoles, for instance, reshape the user experience and the ways we interact – literally – with the services offered by these devices. The exact same phenomenon can be seen in the differences between how people buy or inform themselves on tablets versus smartphones. Different screens , context and experience equals different business consequences. Context awareness, 3-D cameras capturing gestures, NFC and augmented reality join the ranks of the overwhelming amount of technologies that got introduced in the multifunction devices and often mobile devices these past few years: gyroscopes, sensors, cameras, compasses, you name it.

Digital transformation and multifunction dominance

Location and context of use become increasingly important and at the same time location becomes of no importance for consumers themselves: they increasingly share, inform, ask, compare, buy and interact, regardless of time, space, location and context. Mobile marketing will continue to grow but not simply as advertising. It will become as multifunctional as the devices people use are and as the multi-channel or omnichannel behavior of consumers.

Furthermore, although that vast and vague concept called ‘mobile’ is often mentioned from a marketing viewpoint, it’s about much more than that. The whole business will be impacted – and in many enterprises it’s already the case. Evolutions such as the consumerization of IT and BYOD, often driven by employee demand to be able to access data and work resources when on the go, is just one example and again an emanation of the evolutions in the digital business.

  • Social/mobile CRM. The use of CRM, for instance, grows as sales people and field reps get access to mobile CRM. Aberdeen Research conducted a survey that clearly showed sales reps and other workers would use the CRM system more and better if they could access it in a mobile way. Research by CSO Insights, showed 64% of sales people reach their goals against 58% when no mobile CRM is used. Needless to say that CRM – more specifically Social CRM – is one of the components of social and digital business. Again social meets mobile to transform traditional processes into proactive social business possibilities. According to a survey of 223 CRM decision makers by Nucleus Research, the use of mobile capabilities in CRM increases average productivity by 14.6%. Especially among salespeople, productivity gains are showing. Social CRM has a positive impact on productivity as well (11.8%), Nucleus Research adds.
  • Collaboration. Other examples include an increased possibility to collaborate and take decisions, regardless of time, place and platform. Accenture found nearly 60% of consumers say it improves their productivity to take conference calls and use collaboration tools from their personal devices. Nearly one-third of respondents use their smartphone for work-based social networking and social collaboration (tools). 39% of tablet owners use work-based social networks and 33% use collaboration tools on their tablets.
  • Connecting different worlds. There is also the ability to bridge online and offline activities, as we see in the omnichannel customer service and retail evolution but also in other digital business areas and with connected systems as important drivers.
  • Cloud adoption. Finally, refering to the previous point of integration and bridging systems and online and offline, let’s not overlook the importance of the impact mobile devices have on the ‘de facto’ adoption of cloud services, again an important component of social business from the technology perspective.

We have passed the stage of SoLoMo (Social, Local and Mobile) and are moving towards integration around customers, people, teams, projects and purpose. We are also far beyond social business and entered the age of digital business since quite some years now. And it’s not just about the screens we use today anymore either. Some key takeaways from Accenture’s report in that regard:

  • As said, consumers increasingly want multifunction devices.
  • The ‘big 4′ (PCs, HDTVs smartphones and tablets) are all climbing at double digit rates.
  • All of these ‘big 4′ are fighting over the multifunction preferences of consumers.
  • Consumers become not only channel-agnostic but also platform-agnostic.

The latter fact is important for marketers who are developing mobile apps or integrated mobile campaigns and adapting their channels such as email to the mobile reality today: people use multiple operating systems and are not afraid to experiment. But the same also applies for your employees. Add to that the fact that the ‘other screens’ will continue to become more multifunction, new devices and the challenges and opportunities become clear.

Multifunction means multichannel but also multipurpose. Work and ‘social business’ are part of that evolution and the devices and screens merely the input and output of connected systems driving that purpose without us realizing the technology behind it. It’s business: social, mobile and digital. And always human and driven by what people want. Multifunction devices are part of that changing ‘want’, across all business functions.

‘Mobile’ and ‘multifunction’ are catalyzers in what makes the lines blur. It’s the blurring of the lines and the dissapearance of traditional silos and disconnected systems/processes with more autonomy for teams across the enterprise that helps driving digital business and changing collaboration.

That’s disruption. And opening the doors for more agile, satisfying, real-time, people-centric and bottom-up innovation.

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  • Chuck Kent

    “Always human.” Those are the two words that stand out most here to me. As the marketing and IT worlds continue to blur, as the multiscreen, multifunction, multitasking nature of our lives continues to multiple, I grapple with the impact on our ability to not merely connect with and functionally enable people and organizations, but with our ability to enhance the human quality of their working lives. Will multiplicity of options increase the depth of our experience or only its breadth? I think of Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows,” in which he argues (caution: grand oversimplification ahead) that the digitization of our lives is literally rewiring our brains, leaving us less capable of deep thinking and experience. That book is now two or three years old – have you run across any other research-based commentary of late that addresses the impact of “multi-living” on people’s ability to communicate or truly take in communications (the most immediate concern, I think, for marketing communicators)?

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