APPsolute necessity for local businesses

App stores give consumers hundreds of thousands of options at their fingertips

From health and fitness to finding the nearest doubles vendor with your phone, the use of apps for smart devices has exploded. Between APPLE, ANDROID and RIM, well over 40 BILLION apps have been downloaded from these operators. 40 BILLION! For some, the app-filled smart device is the new best friend, wingman or plain old companion. And why not? Strap it on and go jogging with it and there are apps that will track your route and pace and coach you on achieving better performance. Take a picture of the food you are about to eat and there is an app that will evaluate the nutritional value of what’s on your plate based on that photo. Looking for friends near to your physical location? Yes, there is an app for that too.

Serious work gets done on the smart device as well. Real estate, retail, restaurants, travel, there is even an app and a plug in device that will turn your smart device into a payment centre for receiving credit card payments. Vehicle location, field sales force optimizing and similar apps that use maps, show off the real productivity and creativity that blooms when smart devices and apps get together on a mobile network held together by the universal glue of mobile data services.

Mobile networks and mobile data are part of the landscape of the new marketplace. In fact, affordable mobile data service is increasingly an important consideration for users. Research by CISCO projects a growing appeal of smartphones, Tablets and videos influencing the future patterns of data usage. The research also projects that the number of smart devices (personal and machine to machine (M2M)), will exceed the world population in 2016 and reach as high as 10 billion devices.

CISCO projects that in spite of “uncertain macroeconomic conditions in many parts of the world” over the next 5 years unabated mobile video adoption is likely to occur. “Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2011–2016”

The parameter of more apps, more smart devices and faster mobile networks is suggesting that an Internet presence alone for businesses may not be enough. Facebook is reported to have reached 1 Billion users but a key concern of analysts and even people inside of Facebook is the absence of a clear path to mobile integration.

In more developed markets, state and private institutions and retail operators have married consumer analytics with special purpose mobile apps to create customised market offerings. These are tailored to specific interests of consumers and their intuitive, unique appeal is reinforcing the inseparability of the consumer and their smart device.

Businesses that have successfully made apps a part of their customer interface have seen improvements in sales and goodwill. Apps provide a fun medium for continuing the “conversation” with the consumer. The use of engaging multimedia treatments can be more appealing to a customer than a service rep offering to help them. The crush of alternative vendors also means that businesses have an avenue to make a mass market pitch feel like a one on one offer by reaching the consumer via a medium that is personal and unique to them – the smart device.

In the end, the eco-system of stakeholders comprising businesses, mobile operators and customers must work symbiotically. Consumers bring the buying power, businesses bring the apps and products and mobile operators bring a seamless link between buyers and sellers. Such data intensive environments require that network operators like bmobile be also well positioned with better backhaul capacity, which the CISCO study says is necessary to support consumer usage trends for faster data access and video services.