The last few years have proven that mobile is not a fad or trend, but here to stay. As people have been increasingly willing to adopt mobile applications into their daily routines, they have become more accustomed to the efficiencies and usefulness that mobility and constant connectivity brings them.
This familiarity has led to increased demand for B2B mobile apps; employees, buyers, and managers all want access to the latest tools to get the job done, whenever and wherever we are. We can see this evidenced in the highly successful launch of business apps such as SAP Concur, Slack® mobile group messaging, and Outlook for Android and iOS. Business demand for mobile has grown dramatically every year and we can expect to see enormous growth in 2019. In fact, Statista projects that by 2020, mobile apps will generate $188.9 billion in global revenue. In addition to the massive growth numbers, we can expect to see impressive advancements in technical innovation which will provide a richer experience for business users.
There are two real components fueling the demand for mobile business applications. The first is that employees expect to have access to the best tools for their jobs. As we have become more comfortable and grown dependent upon our mobile devices to get things done, we naturally expect the same efficiency at work. Employees generally expect to have access to email and voice around the clock. Given the regularity with which we are getting work done on our mobile devices, it only makes sense that the next step will be integrating more powerful business apps.
The strongest business value will be found where mobile apps link into the existing enterprise software including ERP, CRM, databases, and inventory management systems. Once truly interconnected, a company can leverage a much more flexible, efficient, mobile workforce. Strategy Analytics expects the mobile enterprise business application market will grow to $140 billion by 2023.
The second major contributing factor to the increase in demand for business mobile apps is a new wave of technologies that are currently being deployed worldwide. These new technologies exist because mobile has enabled them or the use of mobile has grown so much that they have become necessary. The buzzwords we hear today will become fully mainstream, adopted technological systems that we will rely on daily in our professional lives. We can already see this new wave of innovation taking shape; as it gains momentum, we should see increases in the speed, capability, usability, and efficiency of mobile apps as well as their transformative capabilities for our business systems and practices.
Here are a few of the most transformative technologies:
- New 5G – 5th generation cellular communications will drive massive increases in speed and data rates, while reducing latency. The improvements 5G offers will bring higher system capacities and far greater device and system interconnectivity. It is already starting to roll out slowly across the nation; as the 5G infrastructure becomes more widely available, businesses will begin to see this as an option from their service providers.
- AI & ML – Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are driving huge gains in how we interface with our devices. The proliferation of virtual assistants including Amazon’s Alexa, the Google® Assistant, and Siri® are all examples of how readily we are adapting to new ways of getting things done and expecting our devices to be a part of our daily lives. Another major innovation rooted in AI is chatbots. These automated computer programs convincingly communicate with customers and users. Businesses are leveraging chatbots to reduce their investments in customer service teams, as chatbots can often quickly and easily fix common customer problems without the intervention of humans.
- IoT – The internet of things is a network of devices, sensors, and various electronic components that can communicate with one another. They are able to transmit and receive massive amounts of data through the internet, where that information can be processed and utilized for various purposes. Some examples of IoT devices in the real world today are smart thermostats, the Disney MagicBand, and RFID tags that can track items as they move through your warehouse. IoT will allow your business to automate processes and make smarter decisions based on real-world feedback and data.
- AR/VR – Augmented reality and virtual reality give mobile devices the ability to “project” graphics and images onto a live camera view of the real world. Think of the Pokemon GO! craze from two years ago, or imagine a heads-up display of directions as you walk through a new city. AR isn’t just for fun and games; there are many ways that professionals can leverage the technology. AR and VR have the potential to streamline warehouse management. Imagine your warehouse employees being directed by a heads-up display through the warehouse to pick and receive orders. This would reduce the errors that are common when using paper and pen, as well as the time it takes to complete tasks as the software is able to optimize routes and collection patterns.
Mobile is changing the way that SMBs and large companies alike conduct business, make decisions, and become more agile. As technology continues to solve new problems for us, we will become progressively reliant on mobile technology to grow our businesses. How and when it is right for each business to adopt mobile technologies is a unique decision, dependent upon growth models, philosophies, and practices.
What all businesses, especially SMBs, need to consider when making decisions are the following questions:
- How does this mobile solution tie into my business?
- How will we integrate this into existing systems and processes?
- Can it streamline processes for us?
A mobile application is going to deliver true value back to the business when it can directly integrate with your existing back-end software. Direct integrations are where businesses will be able to leverage mobile devices to truly mobilize their workforce, enable big decisions to be made from anywhere, and put the important information literally in the hands of employees that need it, when they need it, and where they need it.
Mobile apps have made their way into the B2B market and because of their efficiencies and ability to streamline our working habits, we will only grow to depend upon the continued growth and innovation they inspire. 2019 looks to be a big year for mobile in the B2B sphere. It will be fascinating to see how the newest technologies will come together to deliver business growth, and how we embrace the possibilities.
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