March 2019, article published originally in Capital Magazine

Future starts with M

 

A few days ago, I got into a taxi headed for the airport, as I had been invited to an event in another city. On the way, I received (on my mobile) an email suggesting I complete the registration form for the event. I opened the email. They were asking for my name. Underneath, my first last name. Then second last name (this was optional). They also wanted my gender, marital status, date of birth, ID number (DNI, documento nacional de indentidad), street I live on, apartment number, postal code, municipality, province, city, email address, and email address again for verification. They were interested in my home and mobile phone numbers (these were obligatory) as well as the company I work for, its fiscal ID number (NIF, número de identificación fiscal), address, and telephone number. My position in the company. In the end, I left the form half done. I landed, arrived at the event and received a very friendly welcome, but not without first being asked whether I had completed the online registration form, which they said was important for them.

This case may seem exaggerated, but it’s quite usual. In order to complete a transaction on a mobile phone, an average of 13 steps are requested (be they for forms and/or online purchase processes). And this, so frequent today, shouldn’t be normal. All companies know, or should know, that users are mobile (not just the device). That is, we use this device, which accompanies us at all times, while on the move, with the fingers God gave us (normally a lot bigger than the keys we’re pounding away at), and in complicated circumstances (in taxis, airports, doctors’ waiting rooms, …). In other words, with limitations. And these circumstances condition the development for those who do it wrong. And speed it up for those who understand it.

The people at MWC, in Silicon Valley and in Shenzhen know it. Companies that do it well, know it. You have to know your users and adapt to their channels. And users, both B2B and B2C, are mobile.

This point is relevant for B2C as well as B2B users.  For example, the MWC was just held in Barcelona. Although the media tends to focus on the latest device launches, the greatest volume of business generated in relation to the event takes place within the professional sector: companies interacting with companies. The opportunity for digital business in B2B (according to Forrester) is clearly greater than that in its counterpart for the end consumer.

For this reason, the professionals who met in Barcelona were very clear on the fact that more and more sectors have to be mobile first. In fact, with each passing year, we see an increase in the amount of mobile data traffic and the time we dedicate to the accursed gadget (don’t you get fed up with it at times?). The people at MWC know it. People in Silicon Valley and its Chinese equivalent in Shenzhen know it. Companies that do it well, know it. You have to know your users and adapt to their channels, not force your clients to your company’s channels.

Delving deeper into the idea that the mobile phone continues to gain relevance, we are faced with the paradox that in some countries considered to be developing, the use of the mobile phone (and m-commerce) has evolved somewhat differently from other markets. It happens at a faster pace due to the fact that it has “skipped” the table phone phase. In China, for example, between 75 and 80% of smartphone users make payments on their mobile phones (representing approximately 45% of the total population). This is due to a combination of factors. Among them is the incredible speed of technological adoption, a result of strong economic growth, which coincides in time with the boom of smartphones loaded with capabilities previously reserved for other apparatuses.

Think about it for a moment: for us, 30 years ago, it was normal to have a bank booklet and a computer at home, and 15 or 20 years ago, we all had credit cards and a mobile phone. So nowadays, taking a step further to having a mobile bank or making payments on a smartphone occurs naturally to us. On the other hand, in China, one could say they have skipped some steps in a short span of time: in just a few years, hundreds of millions of people that didn’t have a bank booklet or a credit card have begun using the mobile phone to interact with (and pay) companies (because, in fact, they don’t have a choice). In a similar way, in India as well as Africa, online payments via mobile phone have a high rate of penetration, relatively speaking. In some cases, even higher than in the so-called “developed West.”

So, with respect to the mobile phone, whether you are B2B or B2C, there isn’t a plan B. Future starts with M, m as in mobile.