Monthly Archives: March 2014

What You Need to Know about Mobile Commerce

What is it? Simply, mobile commerce, mCommerce or m-commerce is all about handheld devices such as mobile phones, smartphones, tablets, phablets and even laptops being used for carrying out online transactions; whether that be at home, up a tree in Sherwood Forest or whilst travelling in Vietnam. Included amongst those transactions are services like mobile banking, the ability to transfer money and pay bills, mobile ticketing, content purchases like music and buying goods like food, clothes and so on.

Baby with clothes and credit cardMobile commerce is increasingly being used due to a wider range of goods and services becoming available to buy through mobile phones and tablet PC’s like the iPad. The capabilities for mobile commerce have been on the increase for quite some time due to demand from a growing customer base which is ‘always on the move’ and it looks set to increase for many more years with mobile devices being used more widely. Part of that increase, you could easily say is down to trust. The mobile world itself is subject to many security issues, but as issues with data and financial security are resolved and new measures are adopted into the latest technology it becomes easier for people to trust. The cycle begins to loop in on itself – the more people trust it, the more they use it, the more money it brings in the more mobile commerce gets developed and so on.

I remember when people didn’t trust online banking (quite justifiably at the time), but as the technology develops in the mobile arena, I see the same people now trusting those traditional e-commerce methods to carry out their business. I’m not saying e-commerce is now bulletproof, nothing is; it’s just a lot better than it used to be.

Having introduced this ‘mobile topic’ to you all, I’d like to point out a few essentials regarding the world of mobile commerce, starting with:

1Mobile commerce is ready to go!

The main thing I’m trying to say here is that it’s very much here; it hasn’t ‘just’ arrived. We’ve been using apps for quite some time now; eBay, PayPal, Apple, Google are all embracing innovations in mobile commerce and making their products and services widely available through your handheld devices. It’s literally a ‘watch this space’ scenario as multinationals, banks and other business all vie for your attention and custom. I remember the day when you had to go to an ATM to see a balance on your bank account; even then it may have been three days old. Then they brought in ‘available balances’ and now we can check balances and pay other people instantly, making sure it’s happened through our devices with a few simple touches. Gone are the days of having to go into a branch to pay for things.

More people use it than you may think!

However, if people aren’t buying through their devices, they’re at least using them to browse the web, send emails and much more – meaning the potential is at least there for everyone to start using their devices to buy the things they need. How many people do you know use Twitter and Facebook for iPhone? How much easier is it to just check your emails through your phone than head upstairs to the now ancient PC? If people are doing basics with social networking then it’s only a matter of time before they stumble across the Sainsbury’s app, or the iTunes store. I’m a sucker for a deal myself; do you ever find yourself, on the rare occasion that you’re actually in a shop, checking online for better prices?

Imagine that exact situation for a moment – you’re in the supermarket looking at an apparently great deal on a TV but you think ‘I’ll just see what the reviews online are’ and notice the same TV on Amazon…“Good reviews…hang on what’s that; £40 cheaper and free delivery so I don’t have to carry it home?” [Leaves store having ordered the product online]. It’s a no-brainer, having said that, I personally find that the only thing that makes me buy in-store nowadays – using cash or a card – is when I need something that day.

On that note…

The competition for your mobile-business is always increasing

Now I’ve discovered it, I want to buy everything with my mobile!…I hear you say? We’ll that’s the thing; you can’t just yet but business are quickly catching up. A rather welcome addition to the mobile commerce market for me was the supermarkets. Being able to buy my shopping online and have it delivered when I want. Sign me up!

Wait a minute, is it safe?

We’ve all seen the big websites in the headlines with privacy issues being slammed in their faces and the issue over security and privacy will continue to be at the forefront of people’s concerns about mobile commerce for a while yet – it’s all related to the ‘issues being resolved, new measures being implemented into technology and everyone learning to trust’ that I was talking about earlier. I haven’t had anything drastic happen yet [touches wooden case on iPhone (bought on eBay – only £1.99)].

Contact-less payments are something to watch and they represent a potential new direction in mobile commerce altogether, with many issues surrounding security and privacy – “hang on Big Brother, just need to swipe my phone at the till”. As phones perform more and more functions they now know more about you than ever.

…I don’t think being able to swipe my phone at the till will get me back into a real-life supermarket though, personally. Where do increased functionality, privacy and security issues bring us though…?

Advertising – it’s now in your face; literally

Something I think the majority of people can confess, rather embarrassingly, is that they’re glued to their phones – whether it’s because they’re calling people all day (using it traditionally!), or because they’re texting, Snapchatting, Liking, Tweeting, Pinning or buying goods. It’s on this observation – and as a result of increased functionality – that advertising has launched itself on to the mobile platform; dramatically increasing the potential for mobile commerce to occur. Little advertisements pop up in your apps, mobile sites have adverts, analytical programmes are ‘locating’ your every move, determining what pages you visit, what you’ve bought and what to offer you next (if you let it – touching on privacy again). The thing that’s different, but also quite obvious about mobile advertising, compared to online advertising generally, is that it was ready to go straight away – it didn’t take much for advertisers to exploit – not like it did with the internet as it evolved; but that was probably down to technology, bandwidth and how many people could afford or even get the internet (geographically). Some apps even have ‘in-app purchases’ enabling the customer to get rid of the adverts for as little as £0.69. Multiply that by 10,000 customers – raw as it is, it’s still mobile commerce (wish I could do that with TV adverts).

The mobile world is like sliced bread, but better

The user experience is just so much better on mobiles than the cluttered internet (if you’re reading this on a mobile device you’ll notice that First Directory’s blog page itself is optimised for such devices). Having said that, a traditional screen is still better for some things, like writing articles in Word, graphic design and viewing pictures of items on eBay. The user experience, overall, is ‘really getting there’ on mobile. Websites are optimised in a mobile format; making them easy to navigate, apps have a clean interface aimed at making everything easier to do (especially when it comes to buying) and it doesn’t stop there – because this is all still in development and undergoing continual improvement. I can’t wait for a proper Word app on my iPad (Edit: Office for iPad was released within a week of this post going live), at which point I’ll truly be mobile and can cast all material objects out of my life, barring my phone, clothes and toiletries! Further to this, whilst purchasable content like movies may not be the best to watch on your iPhone, you can now stream them to your TV using products like AppleTV, Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV. The TV in the sitting room is the next front in the battle between traditional content producers like the music, film and TV industries and the the new internet based content providers. All fighting for our attention and advertisers money.

My apps even update themselves automatically now, in fact as I read this I’ve received an email from HSBC saying the latest version of my app has an ATM finding feature now built in (not sure when I’ll next need an ATM, but it’s good to know I can still go out and touch real money – people may even meet up occasionally just to use real money for the nostalgia).

The future

It’s on that note that I wonder where all of this will go. Where will the new developments be? Perhaps we’ll have chips implanted into our fingertips which can be scanned to confirm a transaction; a mobile commerce of a different kind perhaps? I’ve heard rumours that apps aren’t part of the future as websites become better designed for mobile devices. Are apps are in fact ‘dying?’ – I can only speculate that apps may not have a place in the future but that they’ll be replaced by something even better; technology will take an even smaller form, communication will be more intuitive and mobile buying will allow for crazy levels of comparison across the globe. I personally love where mobile commerce is at the moment, but the horizon promises developments of a very intriguing nature, developments I’m personally looking forward to embracing in the interest of convenience…

…and because it’s cool.

Networking Made Easy

The exciting thing about business networking is that you never know who or what is around the corner. The potential is huge! A five minute conversation, in the right place at the right time, could literally catapult your business to success.

So, what’s networking all about? Well, it’s generally a low-cost method of marketing used to build relationships, boost connections and raise visibility. It provides business owners and workers with opportunities they didn’t have before.

Where to start

There are a wide range of networking tools and avenues out there for the taking, so it’s important to think about the direction you want to take and how much time you are willing and able to dedicate.

Take a moment to think about what you want to get out of networking. Who do you want to network with? What is it you want to achieve? With a clear objective, making decisions on how and where to network becomes an easier task.

If you’re not sure where to start, ask people you already know in your sphere of influence for some advice. Where do they go to network? Who do they know? Invite them for a coffee to discuss, and remember to think about how you can help them too.

Go online

For the savvy business networker, a healthy balance of online networking and offline networking is the best way to build relationships and stand out from the crowd.

Join online forums and social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn to keep in the loop with upcoming networking events and activities. You may also want to consider joining high-profile and widely recognised networking sites such as: The Institute of Directors (IOD – an exclusive networking community for director level professionals), Chamber of Commerce (a high-profile and independent business network), BNI, and 4Networking. These platforms are perfect for forming relationships with like-minded people; introduce yourself, ask questions, plan meetings and share your knowledge with other members.

Local, National or International Networking?

If your goal is to boost visibility and connections within your local community, then attending community events, sports events and other local activities is a great place to start. You might want to think about volunteering to help organise and run events, or you could put yourself forward as a guest speaker. The more you can get involved, the greater visibility you will have within the community.

If you are looking to connect and communicate with people further afield, take time to research upcoming events, conferences and exhibitions on a national and/or international level and plan in advance which ones you want to attend.

Be prepared

If you decide to attend a conference or social business event, it’s important to do your homework beforehand. Try and find out about the speakers and the attendees and make a list of who you would like to meet. Who is most likely to pass referrals or do business with you? Contact people you would like to meet before the event and arrange to meet them there. If you can’t find out who is attending, ask the organisers on the day, or ask other people that you know.

Think about how you will present yourself and how you will describe your business. What are the key things you want people to know about you and your business?  What do you want people to remember?

Get involved

Networking is about making connections. The more people you know, the more business opportunities you will discover. Approach new people and engage in conversations as much as you can by asking open questions, offering advice and imparting knowledge. Try to determine the potential of your new contact as soon as you can. If you spot potential, push further to find out more. If you find yourself stuck with someone who can talk the hind legs off a donkey but shows no signs of enquiring about you or your business, politely try to wrap the conversation up and move on to the next person.

Follow up

Matching names to faces after an event can be tricky so it’s a good idea to jot down some details after each event. Include the event name, date, names of who you have met and maybe even some keywords from conversations to jog your memory later on.

Some people like to keep in touch by email or phone, while others prefer to connect via social media sites such as LinkedIn. Remember to ask new contacts which method they would prefer and try to make contact within a few days to show you are interested.

Whether you want to generate referrals and leads for new business, find a new job, or improve basic business practise, networking provides you with a wealth of new opportunities – all you need to do is get out there.