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  • October 13, 2021
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

No More Excuses: Be Mobile or Be Disrupted

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Though the Apple iPhone is often considered the first real smartphone as we know it today, IBM actually was the first to market with this technology, named Simon, in 1992, 15 years ahead of the iPhone. Aside from its calling capabilities, Simon could send and receive email, faxes, and pages and featured a rudimentary word processing program, an address book, a calendar, a clock, and an appointment scheduler. Users could run several third-party apps if they bought a special PC card or tinkered with the limited on-board memory. Simon wasn’t a huge success for Big Blue; it only sold about 50,000 of them.

Apple’s first iPhone came out in 2007; Android followed in 2008, and the now defunct Windows phone debuted in 2010.

So either way you look at it, 2022 is a milestone for the smartphone market: It’s either 30 years since the IBM entry or 15 years since the iPhone premiere.

But before we get too nostalgic, this walk down Memory Lane raises one significant question: If your business doesn’t already have a mobile app, what the heck are you waiting for? These days, it would seem that everyone has a mobile app. Google Play, the marketplace for Android mobile devices, lists 3.5 million apps; the Apple App Store is home to about 2.2 million apps. Granted, there might be some crossover, as many of these apps no doubt work on both platforms, but still, that’s a lot of apps no matter how you download it.

And the market for these is huge. Roughly 4.9 million smartphones are in use today worldwide, covering close to 62 percent of the global population. Again, some people might have more than one device, but that’s still a lot of phones. And the average smartphone user checks it 85 times a day, so you know it’s getting used—a lot.

If yours is one of the many businesses that still doesn’t have a mobile presence, you can take solace in the fact that you are not alone. While a significant percentage of larger enterprises have mobile apps, less than half of small and midsize companies do, according to most researchers.

That should be small comfort, though, because not having a mobile app puts your business in serious risk of disruption. If there’s one thing we’ve learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that having a mobile presence has become imperative for business survival.

As mobility continues to redefine how companies do business, they also need to realize that competition today is not just coming from similar companies in the same geography anymore. Mobile-first companies—perhaps half a world away—might have already captured a significant share of the market that was undeniably yours just two or three years ago. Just look at how Uber disrupted the market for local car services.

Some companies have likely been hesitant to get into the mobile arena because finding success there is not an easy task. Breaking into the mobile market is an iterative process that requires in-depth research, extensive planning, unwavering dedication, and the right mix of resources.

Finances are also an issue, with mobile app development costs coming in at anywhere between $50,000 and $150,000 or more depending on the functionality and the number of features.

But as we outline in this month’s cover story, “A Road Map for Creating a Winning Mobile App,” the barriers to mobile app development are diminishing. Fortunately, development and rollout of mobile apps are more feasible and affordable, with platforms and available resources making it easier to implement one than ever before, writer Erik J. Martin notes.

And, with many no-code or low-code options available, mobile app development has been democratized to the point that huge IT resources are no longer a requirement.

So there really is no valid reason not to have a mobile app. And today, they’re easier than ever to incorporate into a comprehensive marketing, customer service, or sales strategy.

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