It’s the start of a new year—the time of year when business experts like to start spouting predictions and trends to look out for in 2015. But this isn’t going to be one of those posts. (Spoiler alert: I don’t know what’s going to happen for the rest of the year.)
Capterra recently surveyed 130 B2B software marketers about their mobile plans for 2015, and a shocking 41% said they had zero mobile plans in the works for the next 12 months (tweet this stat). That, despite the fact that over half of the respondents reported double digit growth in their mobile usage, and not a single person said that mobile usage had decreased year over year. And what’s more, 29% of respondents said that they didn’t actually know how mobile usage of their software had changed year over year because they can’t even measure it (tweet this stat).
I hope those answers surprise you, but they probably don’t. In all likelihood, you’re either in their shoes, or you have been recently. B2B software marketers have blissfully ignored mobile software trends over the past several years, knowing that it means a radical shift in the way we do business, and maybe even reinventing the software applications we sell altogether.
Why does mobile matter now?
Okay, I lied. In the vein of predicting the future, like the so-called experts like to do this time of year, let’s close our eyes and imagine what the future of work will look like. More specifically, how will people use business software in 5, 10, even 20 years from now?
While we can’t know for sure, there is some solid evidence we can use to help paint a picture of what’s to come…
- We know Millennials and Gen Z will inherit the workplace. By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce, and by then, we’ll also have a fresh wave of Gen Z workers (those born from 2000-today) starting their careers. Not only do both groups have an affinity for mobile over PCs, but a recent study from ComScore found that 18% of millennials are “mobile-only” users. As in, they don’t even own a laptop or desktop computer to access the web. Likewise, when asked what channels millennials prefer to connect with businesses through, email and search engines (the mainstays of current B2B marketing) ranked dead last. With schools moving to e-textbooks and tablet devices, is it hard to imagine the next generation of workers will find sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day to be a thing of the past?
- We know virtual workplaces are on the rise. Already, 30-45 percent of workers telecommute. By some accounts, that’s an understatement. And the software industry is leading the way. Quite a few notable tech companies are already 100% virtual—Basecamp, WordPress, and Buffer, to name a few. It goes without saying that as companies and employees move to a remote culture, mobile devices become essential to keep workforces in touch and productive. If we’re already expecting our own employees to access business software from afar, and we know that people working remotely rely more heavily on mobile devices, then why isn’t most business software mobile-accessible?
- We know that mobile exceeds PC internet usage. A year ago, mobile internet usage exceeded PC usage for the first time ever. While that has a more immediate impact on B2C marketing, B2B marketers would be remiss to think they’re unaffected. When’s the last time you ran to your local Best Buy or Radio Shack to purchase a computer game, DVD, or CD? Or do you use mobile gaming apps, stream YouTube & Netflix, and download music from iTunes instead? If you’re anything like me, definitely the latter scenario. If consumer technology is mainly developed for and consumed on mobile devices, what’s to stop business software from going the same way?
- We know the line between business and personal is blurring. Do you have your work email on your personal phone? Ever read a blog post (maybe this one) on your morning commute from your mobile device? While today we still talk about this notion of “work/life balance,” in reality, that’s a myth. People no longer separate their hours into working hours and leisure hours, and the blending of the two means that whatever device you happen to have at a certain time of day is the one you’re going to use to do business. That might be a PC, but as evidenced by the trends above, more often than not, it’s going to be a phone or tablet.
- We know B2B buyers are already using their mobile devices to research and make purchasing decisions. If you don’t believe business software decisions are going to be made on mobile devices in the future, then you’ll be surprised to hear that it’s already happening. According to 2013 data from Google, 14% of executives have made a direct business purchase from a mobile site, and 90% used smartphones to research business purchases. 34% said that they actually didn’t purchase because of a non-mobile friendly interface. When you segment those executives by age, the data for executives under 40 skew even more wildly in favor of mobile.
How many people are buying software on their mobile device today?
If you’re nervous that you’re already way behind the curve on this mobile trend, fear not. Many of the B2B software vendors we surveyed said mobile traffic is still a small percentage of their overall web traffic, despite the massive growth year over year.
Here’s a look at the breakdown of web traffic that software companies are seeing by device, as well as the breakdown of people researching business software on Capterra by device in 2014:
The above data suggests that, early in a software search, when buyers might access a site like Capterra, desktop and laptop computers are still the primary device used. But a growing chunk of that traffic is going to mobile and tablet devices (to give you a sense how big that slice of the pie is growing, our mobile traffic was just 6% of our overall traffic in 2013, compared to 13% in 2014, whereas tablet usage only increased from 5% to 6%).
When looking at the B2B software companies’ website traffic, once a buyer has identified potential software companies to research and they are further along in the purchasing funnel, the mobile slice stays about the same, but tablet usage increases. I think that makes sense because the closer a buyer gets to purchasing software, the more likely an executive or C-level person will be involved in the decision. Consider this Google data that suggests that company executives and C-level people are more likely to use a tablet or mobile device in B2B purchases. The research explains because executives travel more often, are often stuck in meetings, and working from home in the evenings, they’re inclined to use a tablet or smartphone instead of a laptop or desktop—and that accounts for the larger slice of mobile/tablet usage on B2B software companies’ websites.
What are my peers doing to address the growing mobile trend?
Great—you’ve decided there’s actually something to this mobile trend. Now what should you do about it?
In our survey, we polled software vendors on the various ways they’ve begun to address the rise in mobile traffic. Below, you can see the features that software marketers have already adopted, as well as the percentage of respondents who said they plan to adopt a mobile marketing tactic in 2015:
A mobile-optimized website (often referred to as a “responsive design”) was by far the most common tactic used. After that, a web-based app or software interface designed for a mobile web browser was the next most common response.
What’s the difference? The first just means that your website can be accessed and looks good on a mobile browser, whereas the second means your actual software can be accessed on a mobile browser (that’s generally only possible if you offer SaaS or web-based software).
If you don’t sell SaaS, then a native mobile app is a good alternative. That’s when users can download an app for your software from the Apple App store or Google Play to access directly from their mobile device, sometimes when they aren’t even connected to the internet.
Finally, there are specific features and functionality software vendors have added or plan to add to their systems, such as push notifications or text updates for mobile devices. For example, imagine your lead sales rep is on the road at a tradeshow or pitching a client, and a huge prospect submits a request to talk to sales. The CRM software app would push a notification to the rep letting him know about the prospect request. Or location-based functionality is another popular feature vendors are adding to their software, such as GPS tracking on mobile devices so dispatch managers can keep track of where field service representatives are on their service routes.
If you are part of the 21% who have not adopted any of the above strategies, or worse, part of the 41% that have no plans for mobile development in 2015, then I hope these mobile software trends have encouraged you to address this growing market.