by Brian Stacy, VP of Customer Experience at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @brian_stacy44
How do you order a pizza, buy a pair of sneakers, or rent a car? There’s a good chance a mobile app is your starting point, even if it’s not the whole journey. You might discover the sneakers on Instagram or Facebook, learn and explore more about them in the mobile app—even asking questions via chat or by reading online reviews and finally purchasing them online. This is the new normal. Today our consumer touch points are increasingly integrated—we expect a seamless omnichannel experience, but that often begins in a mobile app.
The vast majority of Americans now own smartphones. For millennials and Gen-X, ownership is almost ubiquitous. And thanks to the fast, reliable connectivity provided by 4G and in the future 5G, they’re using their mobile devices to consume media, organize their lives and research and make purchases. Consumers are turning to their mobiles to check reviews of products and prices when in store. And they’re not waiting until they’re back home to book that vacation—they’re doing it straight from their phone.
For many consumers, the first thing they’ll turn to when they’re thinking about making a purchase—be it new clothes or a new car—is a mobile app. Mobile is where the customer journey begins. And that’s why it’s something that every organization should be embracing.
Speed and convenience
On most occasions, consumers want speed and convenience. That’s what the best mobile apps offer—ecommerce on the go. They can help to streamline the entire buyer process, making your service more attractive to busy people seeking convenience and instant gratification.
Mobile apps can also help win new customers and encourage brand loyalty. Many customers’ view of your brand will be based on social recommendations. They’re more likely to trust a brand if they’ve seen good reviews online—and especially if it has been recommended by friends or family. From your mobile apps, customers can instantly share their purchases on Instagram, or send push notifications requesting a Facebook review. This can help you to build brand awareness quickly, and attract a wider audience.
The benefits don’t end there. Mobile apps can save your business time and money. Imagine you’re a busy hotelier or restaurant owner—a mobile booking app could mean your staff spends less time answering phones and taking manual reservations, freeing up time for other proactive guest activities to create experience differentiation.
The ecommerce landscape is rapidly evolving and there’s huge potential for innovation. New and upcoming trends include sophisticated AI chatbots, digital assistants and virtual reality shopping. If used wisely, these features can enhance the user experience, differentiate your organization and enable rich personalization.
Need inspiration? Keep an eye on larger brands that are leading the way in mobile customer experience (CX). Retail giant Sephora has released an app which scans your face and lets you try on makeup virtually. It matches your chosen look with real products you can purchase online or in-store, creating a tailored shopping experience.
Concierge apps like Pana are changing the way we travel. Book your sightseeing, flights and hotels within the app, or use the built-in chat support to instantly connect with travel agency professionals. Running late for a flight? Grab shows you the nearest restaurants in your airport. Order your food within the app, and grab it as you rush to the terminal. You can even forward on meal receipts for expense reporting.
Mobile CX is already harnessing the power of 4G. The arrival of 5G promises to enhance this even further, with predicted speeds of more than a gigabit per second. Customers will be able to quickly download videos on the go, vastly improving the mobile app experience. The future of mobile CX looks promising.
Where should you start?
Whether you’re planning to develop your own mobile app, or simply make your existing website mobile friendly, there are certain things you should keep in mind. Here are three key considerations for your mobile strategy.
Using content delivery networks (CDNs) can enhance your mobile app performance. CDNs help provide a smooth user experience by accelerating the speed of content downloads. This is especially important if your customer base is spread around the globe. Even a second-long delay can cause a drop off in your mobile conversions—so it’s important that your app is lightning fast, no matter where your users live.
One of the most crucial considerations is payment security. Consumers put their trust in you each time they make a purchase online, or within an app. To protect both your customers and your business, get up to speed with security requirements including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and The Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA DSS).
Don’t fall into the trap of going mobile for the sake of it, or blindly following your competitors. Your mobile app must work for your customers—not frustrate or impede them. Begin by tapping into your existing consumer base. Conduct journey mapping research to find out what they want, and how you could improve their experience. Think about every possible touch point on your customer journey, and try to create a seamless omnichannel experience which makes their daily lives easier.
As many small- and medium-sized business owners have learned in recent years, the days of not connecting with your customer base online has quickly disappeared. Sure, many small businesses are getting more and more engaged in social media channels or leveraging cloud-based services. However, one essential tool that can’t be ignored is the business’s website.
It’s critical that your company website perform at the highest levels and reflect the performance of your business in the minds of your customers – both current and potential. What do I mean by this? If your website is consistently down or doesn’t visually appeal to your customers, or have the same stale content day after day they may very well decide the business is not ‘up to par’ and move on to one that screams high performance. Think about your own online habits. Don’t you tend to visit websites more frequently that are intuitive and user-friendly when you’re online?
So, finding the right web hosting partner becomes that much more an indispensable asset for your business. It’s critical to have the right support. Whether that means 24/7 phone and email support, support in finding the most appropriate package for your business or support to keep your business up and running all the time…you need to find the right web hosting partner.
At Verizon, we’ve just launched a new website building service that’s so easy to use and gives you a lot of bang for the buck with domain name, web analytics, and e-commerce capability all included at no cost to you for the first year when you sign up for a qualifying bundled package. I know it’s easy, because I tried it out myself designing an easily navigated website and it literally took 10 minutes to complete – No lie!
In addition, we’ll offer a valuable service that lists in up to 100 local directories free for the first year when you sign up for one of our new bundles of voice and FiOS Internet or High Speed Internet. Being listed on local search sites will help your business appear when customers search for your type of business in your particular area, instead of directly searching for your business's name. So what are you waiting for? If you don’t have a website for your business, sign up now.
If you do have a website, be sure to ask yourself if you are truly satisfied with the layout and attractiveness of your online storefront. If you aren’t, then maybe it’s time to take matters into your own hands. Does your current company website have a lot of online traffic? Can your current website allow you to communicate with your customers through a blog, podcasts or videos? Can you easily update, make changes or completely redesign your business website in minutes? Can your website handle sales online?
Each of these questions should be part of your evaluation process. By choosing the right features, you’ll get the best experience for yourself, employees and, most importantly, your existing and potential customers. Choosing your web hosting partner does not need to be an excruciating process. However, factoring in a few different variables can make a world of difference in the overall experience.
Remember, Verizon can help you through all of this. We can either help get your small business online for the first time or upgrade the current experience to one that will not only attract customers, but keep them coming back! Don’t forget, we offer so much more than just services and products – we offer a one-stop online resource called the Verizon Small Business Center.
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