More and more large companies are adopting professional mobile services to facilitate collaborative working and drive productivity and sales performance. In the AMEA zone, small businesses and “pro” customers are discovering that mobile solutions can leverage their business growth.
In mature markets, itinerant professions such as maintenance and repair people, delivery men and inspectors now use ‘hardened’ mobile devices - tablets, smartphones, laptop PCs, etc. - with communication and geolocation features. These help them anticipate, track and manage interventions locally or remotely with more fluidity, agility and efficiency than in the past. They are used to scan or input data that are then sent automatically to the enterprise information system to update logistics, sales and financial information in real time. Mobile devices are particularly useful for salespeople, since they can call up a client’s profile, help the vendor give personalized advice and prepare an instant price quote and purchase order for printing and signing on the spot.
In Africa, the mobile data ecosystem is maturing and spawning mobile business solutions that boost the business of craftsmen, small traders, liberal professionals, and the like, which represent 55% of the enterprise segment. Landline services are generally underdeveloped, which explains why cellular networks (3G) are expanding and improving (4G). Professional subscribers, like their own customers, tend to prefer smartphones to desktop computers, not least because there is now a wide range at less than $50. Mobile subscription growth (14% in 2013, 26% in 2015, 42% forecast for 2017) correlates with this smartphone penetration. Moreover, cellphones are increasingly used for financial transactions such as invoice and over-the-counter payments, money transfers and employee wages. In parallel, professional social networks are expanding: in West Africa, Viadeo and LinkedIn have 2.5 and 5.7 million users respectively. Telcos, OTTs and even governments are launching new professional mobile applications.
Mobile applications (mostly for Android) respond to four essential needs of pros and small businesses: visibility, customer relationship management, productivity and internal collaborative working (even external with the suppliers and partners). In practice this means creating and hosting turnkey websites or collaborative marketplaces that make them better known, put their product catalogs online and even enable e-commerce – backed by a secure payment system. And there is a wide variety of other applications too, for example telephone conference, multi-destination SMS messages, sharing of inventory data, mutual assistance platforms, and social contact networks for sellers and buyers. Some of these are specifically for farmers, healthcare professionals and business managers.
AMEA cellcos – including Orange – are starting to address this emerging B2B market. However, these telecommunications pure players will have to undergo a cultural transformation to become integrators of practical, value-added services for businesses.
The recipe for success in today’s dynamic evolutive ecosystem will be to package small, inexpensive, easy-to-install solutions backed by a good level of service.