How Mobile Can Empower Your Business

Five things to keep in mind when optimizing your business for the mobile era.
Customer Experience

As the domination of mobile continues, people's habits are changing. It's not uncommon for landlines and desktops to be replaced entirely by smartphones and laptops; m-commerce is on the rise; and location is now virtually irrelevant since modern technology allows us to access information, communicate and work from anywhere.

As such, smart businesses are adopting a mobile-first strategy to take advantage of these trends. One way to do so is through the adoption of online communities that allow employees and/or customers to interact, share information, and receive company updates from any device. These communities can improve employee productivity and customer engagement alike, strengthening a business on all fronts.

Mobilized online communities bring about these benefits in three main ways. First, they offer a pressure-free place for consumers to give feedback, which lets businesses know where and how they need to improve. Second, features such as message boards and forums provide customers with a sounding board to have their questions answered, which decreases the number of customer service requests going to the company and the volume of calls to the help center. Third, they give companies a way to streamline documents, information, and messages, enabling remote working and improving employee productivity and collaboration.

If these sound like benefits your company could use, below are five things to keep in mind when optimizing your business for the mobile era.

1. You don't have to do it from scratch. Once you've determined the type of online community that is best for your business-whether it be customer- or employee-facing or both, as well as the features it will need, look into existing templates and starter kits before building it yourself. Not only will these tools save time and effort, they'll help you launch your platform effectively and smoothly, based on the experience of many online communities before yours.

2. Pick the best features. If your community is for employees, you'll likely need features such as real-time chat to allow co-workers to discuss projects and reach each other remotely, as well as advanced search capabilities to save time when employees are searching for existing documents. If it's a customer-facing community, you'll want things such as message boards and forums for customers to ask questions and give feedback, as well as groups for customers to discuss specific products or services.

3. Keep your options open. A downloadable native app may make sense for some goals of the community, but sometimes a commitment-free mobile website is all that's required. For example, let's look at Titleist. Michael is a golf enthusiast and a typical customer for Titleist. Before purchasing his newest set of golf balls from Titleist, he grabs his mobile phone to check out the reviews on the specific type. He opens his mobile Web browser, searches for his question about type, and finds results that link to the brand's official community, where customers are discussing various types of golf balls. After he clicks the link, he wants to quickly read the comments in the forum and swiftly make a decision. He does not want to be prompted to download a whole new app. Communities are meant to foster engagement and collaboration and some engagements make more sense in a mobile Web format, while others lend themselves to an app experience. It is imperative that you offer both so that you can provide the best experience for your customers.

4. Optimizing for differences in platforms is important. With new devices being launched all the time and a variety of Web browsers available, companies need to make sure that content is accessible and optimized across devices. Scrolling through a community on an iPhone requires a much different display than clicking through it on a traditional desktop, and it's vital to cater to those differences. The use of responsive design ensures that your community is up to par to fit any and all screens.

5. It's a good financial decision. In addition to reducing customer support queries and allowing employees to be more efficient, online communities can also drive sales. When customers have a central online hub to ask questions and find out more about your company and its products, they're more likely to feel confident enough to make a purchase. Learning from customer feedback also helps companies fine-tune research and development processes and strengthen product lines moving forward, increasing profitability and return on investment (ROI).

In the age of mobile, businesses need to adapt to changing technologies and preferences. Mobilizing your business benefits the company internally by improving customer service operations and employee productivity, and externally by improving customer satisfaction. Productive employees, happy customers and up-to-date technology are the ultimate recipe for success.