The Mobile Revolution

Get on Board or Be Left Behind

Hang on to your hats: 2018 promises to be one wild ride for business owners.

All signs indicate that this will be a year of massive change, especially when it comes to technology and how it intersects with the consumer experience. It’s not just that everything is going mobile—which it is—but even the concept of mobile itself is changing.Already, more than half of consumers are using mobile devices for anything they do online, according to the global research company Gartner. In the US, 71% of total digital minutes used are spent on mobile devices. Google reports that more than 50% of searches worldwide come from mobile devices, nearly three-quarters of them for “Food & Beverage”. For consumers, mobile devices offer convenience; for retailers, they deliver sales as well as data that allows them to target their marketing. Now, with the advent of new technologies such as AR, VR, AI and voice-activated assistants, a brave new world of opportunities awaits.

In 2016, Pernod Ricard CFO, Gilles Bogaert, told the news website Business Insider that the digital revolution “fundamentally changes the way we interact with the consumer, it changes the way marketing is done, and it can bring us a competitive advantage if we move ahead of the others.” Yet the Canadian Internet Registration Authority reports that some 40% of Canadian small businesses don’t even have a website, let alone mobile capability.

Today’s consumers expect information quite literally at their fingertips, 24/7. A business that doesn’t cater to those expectations risks losing out to a competitor that does. Here are six ways to make mobile technology work for your business.

1. Make it Functional

In late 2016, Google announced that it would begin indexing websites based on their mobile sites, not their desktop sites. That means if you want your business to be found, it’s essential that it be mobile-friendly. Your web pages need to load properly on mobile devices, buttons need to work on touch screens, and text needs to be readable on a smart phone. Speed matters too: the marketing research firm Think with Google reports that if a page’s loading time increases from one to five seconds, the bounce rate goes up by 90%.

Not mobile yet? At the very least, sign up for a free Google business listing so when people search your business name, a box containing essential information pops up on the screen.

71% of total digital minutes used are spent on mobile devices.

2. Make it Social

It’s the paradox of modern technology: we may be spending all of our time staring at screens, but we’re doing it to connect with people. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat allow businesses endless opportunities to build community through loyalty programs, discounts, sales, special events, games, and contests. Social media also allows a retailer to gather information about its customers, and control the messaging about its brand, especially when there has been a complaint.

3. Make it an App

An app is specially designed software, typically with a narrow focus, that is primarily used on mobile devices. When it comes to beverage alcohol, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of apps for everything from choosing wine in a restaurant to finding classic cocktail recipes. But before you launch an app for your business, keep in mind that not all apps are created equal. The website BiznessApps reports that by 2020 progressive web apps—which combine the reach of the web with the ease of an app—will have replaced 50% of general purpose apps. By 2021, it’s expected that the world will spend US$1 trillion reinventing the web to make it mobile first through these progressive web apps.

4. Make it Voice-Activated

Siri was just the beginning. Consumers are already getting used to the convenience of asking for what they want through chat bots, digital assistants, smart speakers, and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI). Now they want even more voice-based engagement, though whether they are ready for Google’s voice-assisted shopping program remains to be seen. (Walmart and Target are betting they are.)

Artificial intelligence will revolutionize marketing by 2020.

The Mobile Marketer website reports that voice will become “a primary interface to the digital world” as early as this year. According to BiznessApps, 80% of all marketing executives predict that artificial intelligence will revolutionize marketing by 2020, by which time more than 3.3 billion devices will have a virtual digital assistant. A survey by Strategy Analytics Inc. has found that 24% of US consumers already own at least one smart speaker such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple’s HomePod. Now Amazon, which introduced Alexa in late 2014, is planning to licence it for everything from lighting systems to automobiles, while incorporating sponsored product ads.

5. Make it Visual

By 2019, says BiznessApps, video will account for 78% of the world’s mobile data traffic. Alcohol companies have already found that posting videos on YouTube and Facebook is a successful means of marketing products to millennial consumers seeking to engage with experiences rather than labels. It’s no coincidence that these sites also allow them to gather personal data, making it easier to target advertising.

However, it’s not just traditional video that is capturing consumers’ attention, or even fleeting, ephemeral video like Snapchat’s live stories. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)—technologies that add a digital overlay to the real world—are expected to enter the mainstream this year, especially through gaming and social apps. Experts predict they will generate US$63.7 billion in revenue by 2021 as Apple, Facebook, Google, and others introduce platforms that offer tools for marketers fighting for consumers’ attention.

Meanwhile, improved visual search and image recognition technologies are also changing consumer habits. Target, for instance, is already using Pinterest’s Lens technology for visual searches. The really big development, though, is the anticipated integration of visual search, image recognition, voice assistance, AR and QR codes—all on mobile devices.

6. Make it Easier to Shop

Forbes magazine reports that online sales are growing at almost 10% a year and will account for 50% of total sales by 2035. Already, many consumers plan and order alcohol delivery from their phones and tablets through companies like Dial a Bottle and Liquor Valet as well as retailers such as Darby’s and Everything Wine. Expect that market to continue growing, especially once retail apps enter the market.

Meanwhile, mobile payments will become a bigger part of the retail experience. Thanks to vastly improved cyber security—such as multi-step and biometric authentication features—experts anticipate that mobile wallets will surpass the use of both credit and debit cards by 2020. And although hackers will be less able to steal consumers’ personal data, marketers will have increased access to it, which gives retailers the opportunity to target their consumers with specialized promotions and advertising.

Experts say that the best mobile strategies are comprised of a combination of engagement with consumers, collecting data from them, and sharing information across multiple platforms. But the most important step of all is just to get mobile—before technology leaves your business behind.