Business Technology

Three thought-leaders on thinking big with mobile

8 min read

28 May 2013

We spoke to three thought-leaders in mobile about how businesses can grab the game-changing opportunities that come with the mobile chapter in the digital revolution.

The influence of mobile developments on all industries is vast, fast, and absolutely game-changing. For businesses, this means both exciting opportunities and threats. We spoke to three mobile veterans – Alex Newman, head of mobile EMEA at OMD International; entrepreneur, investor, UK government advisor and AdMob founder, Russell Buckley; and Dennis Jones, CEO of Judo Payments – about how mobile is disrupting SMEs in the UK.

What’s the most exciting development in mobile right now?

Alex Newman: We are seeing big developments in the use of mobile as an in-store shopping companion, as micro-targeting comes into existence. Developments such as Bytelight, which provide new and exciting ways of talking to consumers when they are in particular in-store locations, are opening new possibilities.

Russell Buckley: It’s got to be the confluence of the end of the PC Era and the start of the Mobile Era, just as the Wearable Era is kicking off. Speed of change is going to mean huge opportunities and threats for new and old companies alike.

Dennis Jones: When the internet opened up access to information it opened barriers to smaller companies, making it much easier to compete. Now mobile is facilitating similar opportunities.

Which industries are being most disrupted by mobile right now?

Alex: Retail.

Russell: Desktops and laptops are on the way out, so that has to be the biggest disruption in the last 20 years. But mobile also disrupts everything from alarm clocks to A-Z maps, from cameras to make-up mirrors.

Dennis: The media. The payment industry. The hospitality industry. Many industries are driven by the sharing economy. Companies like airbnb are cutting into hotels, car sharing services, even plane sharing services. Retail is also affected by mobile, in terms that it’s becoming easier to find exactly what you want. Small businesses have the most flexibility to take advantage of the mobile revolution – for big business it’s a big risk to change their business model, but small business can experiment really easily. Their ploy is to grow by taking advantage.

Which industries will be disrupted the most in the next couple of years?

Alex: Health and education.

Russell: This accelerating trend isn’t going to change, with everything from identity, over health monitoring to education poised for rapid change.

Dennis: Retail will be increasingly affected. Then home services – anything from people that do repairs in their home, any delivery service, window washers, dog walkers, all professions that used to be highly localised, will be able to create bigger, sustainable businesses.

What percentage of UK businesses would you say are “mobile first”?

Alex: Ten per cent, if not less.

Russell: One per cent.

Dennis: Really low. Probably one per cent.

What “solutions” should business owners be most sceptical about?

Alex: QR codes.

Russell: I’m still very sceptical about location-based marketing in its purist form. I also worry about the “Let’s YABA do” approach to mobile. “Yet Another Branded App” rarely works as a strategy, at a time with over one million apps competing for mindshare and a tiny, tiny percentage achieving any kind of longevity it terms of usage.

Dennis: The way people should be thinking about this is that mobile should never lock you in for a long period of time.

What would you say will be the main impact of mobile-natives (a generation that grew up with the ubiquity of mobile) on business and consumption in general?

Alex: Mobile natives have different behaviour patterns when compared to older audiences. They expect to be able to engage with a brand at any time and on any platform they choose. Brands have yet to realise this and take appropriate action.

Russell: The inability of companies to transact digitally without a brilliantly executed mobile strategy. And the transformation of the physical shopping experience.

Dennis: When I think about the mobile native generation, I would say it includes anyone born after 1985. In the mobile generation, we’re already seeing the increased importance of network decisions. We can no longer be as easily influenced by individual brands, it’s about what people share. Instead of saying “what is the world telling me to do” we’re asking “what are people around me telling me to do”.

Mobile payments are considered a promising trend. What do you think will it take for them to become omnipresent?

Alex: Apple to incorporate NFC into its devices. NFC opportunities to become widespread. Consumer confidence in security to improve.

Russell: The iPhone 6 enabled with NFC will be the start.

Dennis: I honestly think the trigger is just time. “Mobile payments” is an abused term, most people think of a dongle or the ability for traditional shops to accept mobile payment. But it is going to be bespoke payment solutions. It’s going to take a long time before that happens; and I don’t think mobile payments will ever replace cash.

What, in your opinion, should be the first step to take for a small to mid-sized business trying to adapt to mobile?

Alex: Research your audience, build up a picture of what your audience is doing with mobile devices, and understand what they want – then give it to them.

Russell: If you’re asking that question next year, you may be a non-existent business. But the start has to be a mobile optimised website.

Dennis: The first thing to do is to engage with your customers. That’s the big advantage SMEs have; they’re close to their customers and can engage with them through simple platforms. Through mobile, customers will provide insight back to the business on what would help them have a better experience. The customer will guide you in the right direction.

As a general rule, what’s the first app you visit in your working day?

Alex: Email, BBC News.

Russell: Not counting my Gmail, Citymapper has transformed the way I travel around London. It’s not just the first thing I open, but the last too, as I plan my next day. It’s also something I consult about five times a day.

Dennis: I love music, so the first thing I open is Spotify, then Sonos.

What are your principal mobile devices?

Alex: Nokia Lumia, iPhone5.

Russell: Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and iPad.

Dennis: My iPhone5, my iPad.