Mobile enterprise trends gathered momentum in 2013 as the smartphone and tablet juggernaut rolled from the consumer space into the enterprises. Vendors tweaked their operating systems to be more enterprise friendly as the bring your own device (BYOD) concept knocked down more doors.
The increasing trend toward mobile business provides both entrepreneurs and hardware or service vendors with more opportunities. The reality is that anything you currently do on a laptop or desktop computer is or will soon be a mobile-enabled task.
While 2014 will be headlined by the arrival of sleeker, curvier and more powerful smartphones, behind-the-scenes features will interest businesses and marketing. Smartphones offer — in increasing detail — a wealth of information about customer behavior, mood and location, allowing for new levels of tracking and interaction.
The past year saw trends around mobile enterprise coalesce toward one increasingly dominant issue. If you can't do something on a mobile yet, you soon will, and those who delay or resist seem to be fighting a futile battle.
Between improving services apps and peripherals, mobile devices like phones and tablets are taking over from laptops and desktops everywhere from shop floors to corporate offices. With the inevitable rise of the Internet of Things, there will be more opportunities for these devices to interact with potentially huge numbers of sensors and peripherals.
While that's good news for mobile vendors, those that can't keep pace, notably BlackBerry, are suffering. BlackBerry saw its enterprise ambitions culled in 2013, with Microsoft/Nokia looking to avoid the same fate in 2014. An improving range of tablets, Microsoft's heavy promotion of Skype and Yammer on mobiles, plus closer integration of the Windows systems — through Project Threshold — should help boost its offering.
This year, we saw more focus on the ability to run smaller businesses entirely from mobile devices. Square and others continue to improve mobile credit card payment systems for smartphones, with Forrester predicting $90 billion in mobile payments by 2017. Most application suites now run effectively on phones and tablets, with the world really only waiting for Microsoft's Office for iPad.
Even big iron and big data are heading mobile. IBM and MongoDB announced their collaboration over a new standard to make it easier for companies to implement data-intensive apps running on the leviathan DB2 and MongoDB databases for the Web and mobile devices.
All of this enables new businesses to set up faster, run leaner and generate business with less overhead than in the past. Vendors and marketers need to highlight the simplicity and security of their services or add them to their roster as more businesses look for on-the-go operating solutions.
Mobile's Local Focus
Having ensnared the wider world, all players across social, mobile and e-commerce are returning to the thorny issue of local, which has seen only modest success.
Twitter is the latest social media service to narrow its Sauron-like gaze on the local business, no doubt with attempts to monetize likely to follow soon. Twitter acquired local information specialist Spindle back in June.
That was followed by Google Plus opening up local reviews in July as it tried to gain more traction as a social media service with a wider mission beyond group chats. With location-based advertising, user-needs awareness and location technology starting to move beyond the smartphone into glasses and smartwatches, the pieces are falling into place for a real drive to local marketing, advertising and associated management services.
These new playgrounds will require new ideas and thinking beyond converting the horrors of local radio and newspaper advertising to the mobile space, a challenge for marketing
Mobile Enterprise Driving App Stores
The discussion around BYOD is pretty much done and dusted. The likes of Apple, Google, Samsung, even Amazon's Fire OS now provide features through OS updates to allow secure zones on smartphones, keeping personal and business data secure and manageable by the IT department, reducing their opposition to user-owned devices.
Increasing adoption of cloud services — with IBM recently offering vertical-specific options — sees less reliance on in-house systems and frees up workers to operate on the go. They can access data through web services or native apps, often from an enterprise's own app store, and run tasks that were previously only performed on desktops and laptops.
The stats for mobile enterprise kept on stacking up in 2013, as shown in this CMSWire infographic. About 68 percent of businesses planned at least one app, while 25 percent of enterprises are likely to have an app store of their own within a few years. Note the preference for hybrid apps outstripping native ones, suggesting business is focused on the task, not the device.
2014: Mobile Meets Wearable
This year's rows over privacy and spying could soon look pretty hollow compared to where technology is driving users. In fact, this year's marketing highlights may seem like small change compared to what's to come, all of which create more opportunities for digital marketing.
The big concept for 2014 is that of the quantified self, which might be a voluntary, opt-in experiment for now. But soon apps like Saga which merge the input from a raft of other apps to combine location with mood, experiences and imagery, will let the data tell the world know how someone is leading his life, rather than through the current social media snapshots.
Give it a few months, perhaps with the arrival of a market-shaking wearable device plus more gadgets like smart glasses, watches, sensors and clothing, and a groundswell of users could be adopting it. Certainly the first efforts will be personal and socially focused, but it won't take long for the big data machines to start folding and combining the glut of received information to learn more about a person and creating marketing opportunities.
Year of the Beacon?
Beacons — the common term for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) — have huge potential for 2014, and could push NFC out as a method of payment. Far more interactive with a greater range than NFC, Apple has already started on the road to "beaconizing" its stores with its own-branded iBeacons to send advertisements and offers to shoppers as they're in the shop.
PayPal and others are also using the developer kit and hardware, made by Estimote, which could easily be adopted in stores and airports. Walk by a coffee shop and a beacon could send out an offer or coupon; the customer goes in and buys a drink, and can purchase it instantly via their phone, no cash required.
Beacons, regardless of platform, could also help users navigate large indoor spaces like airports, transit systems, museums, malls or hotels, where GPS often fears to tread. That's a tempting combination for both marketers and advertisers, talking more directly to customers, with more timely information and more relevant offers. However, the onus is on advertisers to improve the customer experience, not bombard them with useless deals or information.
Selling on the Second Screen
As marketers can now interact more with customers in stores and other locations, the prime real estate is still on the couch in front of the big-screen where American consumers spend much of their time. Increasingly, second screen apps are tying in content from the big screen with offers on the second.
Read the 2nd Screen Society's research for lots more detail, but for now be prepared for an influx of apps and sponsored content to interact with live events and expanded advertising with immediate purchasing opportunities. Providers like Axonista and Civolution can provide apps using their Ediflo platform and SyncNow watermarking to trigger content synced to on-air shows.
All of these opportunities come with increased responsibilities for marketers and advertisers, as they become ever closer to the consumer. The story for 2014 could just as easily become one of technology failing — or at least turned off — as users push back against overly keen intrusions on their activities. Or, it could signal an increased acceptance of smarter marketing and have businesses scrambling to find the best ways to use it.
Title image by Vallepu (Shutterstock).