Today's business buyers are increasingly using smartphones and tablets to research products and services. According to Endeca's 2011 survey of B-to-B e-commerce providers (PDF), the mobile Web is among the top three most influential channels. With so many new mobile buyers, do you have an integrated mobile strategy—one that is tailored to the unique needs and preferences of B-to-B customers? If your answer is no, you're not alone.
Start with an evaluation of your current mobile investments. By understanding where your current mobile investments align with business and customer goals, you can anticipate gaps in your mobile infrastructure that could impact your strategy's long-term cost and effectiveness.
In the chart in the media player at right, we identify a hierarchy of mobile capabilities that you can deploy depending on your goals and where you are looking to engage customers in the buying cycle.
Early Stage Mobile Buyers Go to the Web
Your website is the most cost-effective channel in the awareness, lead generation and lead nurturing stages, especially for mobile visitors. Here's why:
- Most of Your Web Visitors are Still Anonymous In spite of the significant advancements in marketing automation, Web analytics and anonymous visitor tracking, the overwhelming population of your prospective customers are still anonymous visitors to your website and social media channels. They may be casual shoppers, early in their buying process where you should minimize your mobile app investments. Many of your web visitors are not even serious prospects for your products and services—they may even be competitors.
- The Rest of Your Web Visitors are Unsegmented While savvy B-to-B marketers are making huge investments in content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to attract targeted traffic, many B-to-B marketers still can't segment their Web audiences effectively. You just don't have enough data about your Web visitors to develop meaningful, actionable segments.
These and other limitations mean that early stage buyers who are visiting your website will rarely take the time to download a mobile app to consume your content, and if they do, the odds they use and update the app when you push out a new release are quite low.
To address this problem, many B-to-B marketers are taking increased interest in responsive design. It's an approach that allows support for a broad range of mobile device types over the web. With responsive design, you don't have to build, deploy and maintain a mobile website or multiple mobile applications for early stage buyers who won't use them. Your early stage buyers won't be confronted with an app to download and upgrade. They can consume your content when, where and how it's most convenient for them.
Mobile Apps Serve Customers Once They're Hooked
Once you've engaged prospective customers on your website and generated sufficient good will through the quality of your marketing efforts to entice them to identify themselves and their interest in your products and services, you're much better educated about their needs and interests. Now you can reduce your broad "anonymous visitor" population to a known population of actual prospective customers associated with real companies, known web browsing behavior and, in some cases, clearly articulated business needs.
The next step is to develop actionable demographic and behavioral segments that can be applied to distinct mobile content and transactional needs. By incorporating these targeted content and transactional needs into your mobile app requirements, you can develop a mobile application that your customers and prospects will download, use and maintain over time. They'll download your mobile app because the benefits are clear:
- Customized Content: Using targeted demographic and behavioral segments, your mobile app can deliver content that's tailored to their needs. Saving your customers and prospects the time and aggravation of sorting through irrelevant content, and saving you the time and expense of developing content that doesn't get consumed.
- Personalized Support: Tailoring your customer support model based on authenticated user profiles, you can provide differentiated support levels and thereby dedicate limited support resources to those customers and prospects with the highest potential value.
- Frictionless Transactions: Eliminating the need for multiple online and offline touch points, you can streamline the shopping and buying process, improve customer satisfaction, increase conversion rates and reduce your cost of sales.
Integrated B-to-B Mobile Strategy
Developing an integrated strategy for the mobile channel, one that supports B-to-B buyers regardless of the device they choose, requires deep knowledge and expertise across a broad range of disciplines—from content strategy, to experience design to, in many cases, web content management (WCM) systems. It also requires an enterprise view so marketing and technology teams can understand the short- and long-term implications of their decisions.
B-to-B marketers who rushed to deploy a mobile app without considering an enterprise mobile strategy are recognizing the significant long-term cost of what may have seemed a minimal initial financial outlay. Developing and deploying a mobile app without sufficient insight to buyer preferences can drain scarce resources. That's because it must be maintained and updated to support new device types and operating systems over time, regardless of whether it's enjoying high user adoption rates. The skills and capabilities necessary to support an integrated mobile presence, particularly experience design and front-end development; i.e., HTML5, CSS3, are also in short supply.
By deploying a scalable mobile infrastructure that leverages responsive web and mobile apps appropriately, you can reduce design, development and support costs, and, more importantly, better anticipate and serve their customers. To get there, follow these steps:
- Take a holistic approach to digital. It's important that B-to-B marketers think about the mobile channel as an extension of their digital presence, not a one-off or separate platform that must be developed and maintained. By viewing the mobile channel holistically, you will more likely recognize the opportunities for cross-channel engagement, content re-use, and other tactics that serve to provide an integrated brand experience for your mobile customers and prospects.
- Partner with sales and customer service to identify key buyer pain points and decision drivers. Taking the holistic approach to digital a step further, marketers must also take a holistic approach to how they identify and respond to customer needs. Sales and customer service can be powerful advocates in helping ensure that your mobile presence is a sales and customer service enabler and that you're investing marketing resources in developing the right content and transactional tools to facilitate the shopping, buying, and support processes.
- Engage design and technology partners with a long-term view. Because of the constantly changing mobile landscape, short-term, one-off investments can results in high long-term development and support costs. Whether you're working with in-house or outsourced resources, it's important to develop a long-term view of your mobile strategy and to assess each investment with an eye toward return on investment, factoring in attributes such as user adoption, scalability and reliability.