Small and midsized businesses (SMBs), which traditionally lag far behind large enterprises in technology adoption, are pretty much on par with their larger counterparts when it comes to mobile applications, according to research from The SMB Group.
"I've never seen a technology that has taken off this fast in the SMB space—ever!" says Laurie McCabe, a partner at The SMB Group. "It's taking up a pretty big chunk of their budgets right now, and most are planning to increase their spending."
The research found that 91 percent of SMBs are using mobile solutions to help their businesses. SMB adoption of mobile apps for employee collaboration, such as calendars, email, file sharing, and conferencing, and for business apps such as CRM has risen by about 20 percent in the past year alone. SMBs are also ramping up their use of customer-facing mobile apps and mobile-friendly Web sites to enable customers to perform a number of functions, including scheduling appointments, making payments, and accessing customer service.
To further highlight that growth, Sanjeev Aggarawal, founder and managing partner of The SMB Group, pointed out in the report that mobile apps account for a growing share of SMBs' technology budgets: SMBs currently spend between 11 percent and 20 percent of their technology budgets in the mobile space, and 68 percent expect to further increase spending on mobile applications and Web sites in the next 12 months.
Among the mobile applications that SMBs are using, 55 percent have mobile apps to manage social media, and 20 percent more plan to deploy those apps in the next 12 months. Additionally, 53 percent of SMBs are using mobile CRM apps, and 24 percent plan to deploy them in the next year. Forty-one percent are using mobile marketing and advertising apps, with 26 percent looking to add them in the next year. Thirty-eight percent are using mobile business analytics apps, with 24 percent looking to add them in the next 12 months.
"What stands out [from the research], even at a very basic level, is how important mobile is to [SMBs'] business and marketing efforts," McCabe tells CRM magazine. "Mobile is now an integral part of their business, and it will be a real driver going forward."
Through their mobile apps and mobile Web sites, 49 percent of SMBs allow their customers to share information via social media widgets, access customer service and support, schedule appointments, and make reservations. Among the other capabilities are checking delivery status (43 percent), adding or editing personal information (43 percent), accessing marketing offers (41 percent), and joining or managing loyalty programs (33 percent).
Among the business benefits, 49 percent of SMBs say mobile apps allow them to respond faster to customers, partners, and suppliers; 45 percent say they help them attract new customers and provide a more personalized experience for existing customers; 37 percent say they enable customer self-service; and 36 percent say they help them grow revenue.
Among SMBs that haven't deployed mobile solutions, security and cost were the top concerns, but 36 percent said their customers were not demanding mobile apps or Web sites, and 33 percent said integration with existing business apps was an issue.
SMBs "have to make sure that their mobile apps integrate with all of their other business apps and their Web sites," McCabe says. "As their use of mobile apps continues, they'll need to take even better care of this."
McCabe says SMBs also need to make sure that they have policies, procedures, and applications in place to manage the bring-your-own-device craze. "You want to be able to remotely delete apps and information if a device is lost, for example," she states.
In that type of an environment, cloud storage of data and apps is a game-changer, McCabe adds. "A lot of SMBs are using apps in the cloud so employees can access them on their mobile devices from anywhere," she says. "The cloud is pretty ubiquitous in the SMB space."