The rise of mobile technology has had a significant impact on the way businesses across every industry operate. Pre-pandemic, the growing popularity of cloud technology was already contributing to a boost in the use of mobile technology for business management.
In addition, over the last 18 months, the coronavirus pandemic has also meant that many small business owners have turned towards digital solutions to keep operating during lockdown. For customers, this has often resulted in an improvement in customer experience with the added bonus of COVID-secure transactions for those who feel uncomfortable using cash or receiving a service in person.
With mobile technology revolutionising the way small businesses operate, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the different devices and technology available to help your business reach more customers.
The different types of mobile technology that can help run your business
Simply speaking, mobile technology consists of portable communications devices that are usually internet-enabled. To help you understand how mobile technology can be used for business, it’s important to understand the types of devices you could use and the different types of communications technology available.
In terms of devices, the term ‘mobile technology’ may make you think of smartphones, smartwatches, and contactless payment terminals. But it’s also important to note that mobile technology can be used on laptops and GPS devices.
And, in terms of communication technology, you could be using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, network services such as 4G or 5G, and even VPNs (virtual private networks).
The type of mobile technology best suited to your business will vary massively depending on the industry your company falls into.
For example, private medical practices may leverage the use of text messaging to offer patient appointments. On the other hand, restaurants may consider using QR code technology to help customers view menus and order items directly to their tables. A delivery company, meanwhile, may turn to the use of GPS for route optimisation so that their operations are quicker and more efficient.
To help you understand a little more about the types of mobile technology for your business and industry, we’ve listed some of the most popular types of mobile technology used by businesses today:
Mobile apps are software applications that can be downloaded and run on mobile phones, tablets, and smartwatches. With more and more consumers accessing websites and purchasing products through their smartphones, it’s easy to see why so many businesses are turning to apps to improve or expand their customer experience.
Over the pandemic, many in the hospitality industry have created apps to help provide a smoother and COVID-secure customer experience. Some hotels, for example, allow customers to check-in, order room service and even pay for their room, all through the use of an app.
For internal operations, many professional services firms have also leveraged the use of apps to help keep teams connected. The RingCentral app, for example, allows teams to seamlessly contact one another via message, video call, or sharing links easily, no matter what their location.
2. QR codes
Another form of mobile technology that’s gaining momentum in recent months is the use of QR (quick response) codes. Simply put, a QR code works in the same way as a barcode on a product you’d see in a supermarket. Using your smartphone, you can scan the QR code using the camera application on your phone, and this will automatically bring up a page with an action to complete.
In terms of customer-facing uses, QR codes are often used by restaurants to allow customers to access an up-to-date menu, reducing the need for physical menus which would need to be cleaned or thrown out after each use. QR codes can also be used at events in museums to give users access to an audio file or can be used by small businesses to take payments. Back of house, QR codes are also very useful for business management processes such as stocktaking or inventory.
3. Personalised marketing
Over the last few years, mobile marketing has become a core component of many small business’ overall digital marketing strategies, with the use of text messages and ads being the most popular. Technology such as geofencing is particularly popular for targeting customers within a specific radius of your restaurant or store.
Using this technology, small businesses can send texts, emails, or app notifications to customers who are nearby to let them know about special promotions or offers in the store closest to them.
Other types of hyper-personalised marketing could also include mobile-first ad strategies, where you can personalise ads for a specific audience, based on the user’s browsing and buying habits. Mobile marketing technologies are particularly popular amongst those in the retail and hospitality industry, especially since footfall has started to increase again after lockdown.
4. Contactless payments
As mentioned above, more and more UK consumers are turning towards cashless transactions in the wake of multiple lockdowns. As such, being able to offer your customers the option of contactless payments has become vital to small business owners.
Whether it’s through QR codes, Google Pay, or contactless card readers, there are multiple technologies you can leverage as a small business owner which will enable your customers to make contactless payments using their smartphones or smartwatches.
The most popular mobile payment types include:
- Browser-based payments: customers can visit an ecommerce website where they can add their payment details to complete a purchase or pay using PayPal.
- In-app payments: using a mobile app, you can allow your customers to fill in their card details or use PayPal to purchase items. This is particularly popular in bars and restaurants to provide a contactless and COVID-secure transaction.
- Wireless card readers: a popular option at supermarkets and across the hospitality industry, wireless card readers allow customers to pay for goods by simply tapping their credit or debit card to a device.
- Mobile wallets or contactless mobile payments: using Bluetooth technology, customers can also pay for goods or services by using their smartphone or smartwatch as a payment device. The technology used for this is called near field communications and allows for secure data transfer for mobile payments wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
5. Flexible working
Finally, the use of cloud technology has also had a direct impact on how mobile technology can be used for business operations. When the first UK lockdown came into force, many small businesses turned to mobile cloud computing to help facilitate the move to remote working.
Cloud computing is a type of online infrastructure which allows users access to shared servers or applications, securely. This means that employees can access everything they need to complete their roles remotely. Mobile devices, such as laptops and phones, can connect to the cloud so users can access software and business programs over the internet.
Examples of popular cloud technology accessed via mobile devices include applications such as RingCentral or Google Drive, and more complicated technology such as data analysis tools. Cloud-based tech is particularly useful for businesses that have a strong legal responsibility around compliance, as cloud services often come with increased security to manage sensitive information.
The use of mobile technology and cloud computing for business has been so effective during the past twelve months, that many businesses are now looking at ways to shift to a hybrid model of remote and in-office working.
Pros and cons of mobile technology for business
There are plenty of reasons to implement the use of mobile technology into your business’ operations. For example, with cloud technology you could see an increase in productivity of your staff, especially if they work from home or have to travel often.
Delivery services or fleet management businesses could leverage GPS mobile technology to help optimise their delivery routes, for example, saving both time and fuel costs. Meanwhile, if you run a boutique shop or independent deli, being able to take contactless payments may increase footfall, especially during the pandemic when customers may be less comfortable handling cash.
Finally, using mobile technology will also improve the overall service you’re offering to customers. Providing them with the option to book appointments or purchase products through an app, learn about offers through the use of geofencing, or simply pay for a service through Google Pay, will undoubtedly show your customers that you take their experience and needs seriously and are committed to offering them the best service possible.
In terms of cons, there are two aspects to consider when it comes to mobile technology. The first is the cost of developing/purchasing the devices and software that your business requires.
On top of the initial cost of hiring a developer or outsourcing the development of your technology requirements, there may be other ongoing costs associated with maintenance and management. Although mobile technology may bring you more customers, improve staff productivity, and increase revenue, it’s worth considering the initial costs you’ll need to cover. You may also need to factor in training and upkeep costs to ensure your staff are fully-trained to use the technology.
In order to facilitate this, it’s worth looking into the business finance available to you, especially products that are built around the needs of businesses that need to pivot their offering or purchase equipment and software.
There are many alternative finance providers available in the UK who may be able to help, and it’s especially important to look for a provider who can tailor finance to your specific needs and offers some form of flexibility. Look out for those that offer some breathing room in case you need to top-up your loan or need a repayment holiday during quieter periods.
The second consideration to bear in mind is cybersecurity and ensuring your apps are secure. With any new technology, it’s important to assess the associated risks and plan accordingly.
Cybersecurity risks increased significantly for many businesses during the first lockdown when many employees had to work from home for the first time. As such, it’s vital to ensure you’re aware of how to protect both your devices and your data from any threats. This can also come at a cost, so it’s important to budget accordingly to ensure you’re prepared and consider how a finance provider may be able to help with any unexpected costs.
As lockdowns lift, the economy reopens, and businesses begin to thrive again in the ‘new normal’, there’s no doubt that mobile technology will continue to play a pivotal role for many UK business owners.
Whether it’s the use of cloud computing to support remote working teams, QR codes to help customers access restaurant menus, or personalised ads sent to customers using geofencing, mobile technology is a vital part of connecting with customers and providing them with a great user experience. It’s also important for small businesses to consider mobile technology so that they can keep up with the changing needs of their customers, as consumer habits have shifted so drastically over the pandemic.
Looking ahead, it’s more important than ever to consider how a shift to digital may improve your business operations, cut costs in the long run, and even make your customers feel more comfortable by offering them COVID-secure interactions and contactless payment solutions.
With the emergency of 5G technology, which may boost browsing speed by up to 23 times, along with the growing use of AI for mobile marketing, there’s no doubt that the coming years will include many more leaps in terms of the technology and devices available to both customers and business owners.
With so much to offer, mobile technology should certainly be incorporated into your marketing, customer retention, and customer success strategies going forward.