At IBM’s Mobile Forum event in Toronto, customers ING Direct Canada and Shop.ca share best practices from their experiences in the mobile commerce trenches.

Three keys to mobile commerce success

Not only is mobile becoming primary, 90 per cent of smartphone users keep their device within arms-length 100 per cent of the time. Businesses need to be part of that, and it will mean re-thinking all the ways they interact with customers.

Those were among the take-aways from IBM’s Mobile Forum event on Wednesday in Toronto, where IBM Corp. brought together customers, analysts and their own mobile experts to discuss trends in mobile commerce, and how businesses should be preparing themselves for the mobile wave.

When speaking with a customer about their mobility strategy, Mike Riegel, vice-president of mobile and Websphere with IBM, said he has three key pieces of advice he offers.

Firstly, he said success in mobile begins with a shared vision across the business, shared by the CMO and the CIO.

“It’s not a tech project, it’s not a marketing project, and it’s not a cool project you can give to the interns,” said Riegel. It’s needs a cross-business vision and perspective.

Secondly, you need to rethink the client experience. That means looking across your business at all the ways you touch customers, and considering if they really make sense, and how they could be improved with mobile.

“You can’t just mobilize your web site,” said Riegel.

And third, Riegel said you have to design for mobile first, and think about mobile first. Analytics tools can help gain insight into how customers navigate and interact with you that can be used to drive better mobile design.

ING Direct Canada’s iPhone app, developed with IBM, also offers tips on ways to save your money.

Getting into mobility can be daunting, but Riegel advises businesses considering where to begin to try starting with their existing customers that you already have a relationship with.

“Can you do a loyalty program around coupons and promotions, something that will let your customers know you’re in the mobile world? Or something for your employees if you’re not in the B2C world?” said Riegel. “You’ll be surprised at how much feedback you get.”

The opportunity is certainly a large one according to Krista Napier, a senior analyst covering mobility for IDC Canada. According to IDC, in 2012, 15 per cent of Canadians had tablets and 59 per cent had smartphones. By 2016, those figures are expected to grow to 39 per cent and 84 per cent, respectively.

“Canadians are making the switch to feature phones faster than most other geography, behind only South Korea and Hong Kong,” said Napier. “Canadians are disproportionately connected, and in a good way.”

And we’re not just making phone calls. According to Napier, we use apps as often as we browse the web on our mobile devices, and we use mobile social networking tools as often as we use our smartphone to make a phone call. And if we have a smartphone we’re far more likely to shop online, whether on our device or on our desktop.

If the mobility wave is coming though, you haven’t been left behind yet. IDC research indicated 43 per cent of Canadian companies have yet to build a mobile app, and over half have yet to invest in mobile marketing.

One business that has jumped into mobile feet-first is ING Direct Canada, the virtual bank with no traditional bricks and mortar locations. For its CIO, Charaka Kithulegoda, mobile offers a key channel for the virtual bank to reach out to its customers.

“Mobile gives us the best opportunity we’ve had in our 17 years of existence to connect with our clients. Barriers are starting to disappear,” said Kithulegoda. “The biggest challenge is how do we very quickly find these connection points, connect with our customers, and respond to the ever-changing aspects of technology.”

ING’s iPad app, developed with IBM, has a tile-based interface that users can customize based on their frequently-transacted activities. They’ve also developed a Facebook app that lets users access banking information from within Facebook – a feature they stress is opt-in only and highly secure, with no information shared with Facebook.

“We’re not looking at the mobile channel because it’s the cool new thing to do. We really think it’s a convenience thing; we’re all about being simple,” said Kithulegoda. “We ask, will this help us build a better relationship with the customer and be more sticky?”

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