five industries where mobile is transforming the customer experience

According to eMarketer over a third of the world’s population will be using smartphones by 2017, and this is creating new opportunities for businesses to improve customer experiences and increase loyalty and engagement.

This is because mobile devices are changing consumer habits, transforming the customer journey into a more complex multichannel (or even omnichannel) process, in which they use different digital touchpoints as they decide to buy products or services.

We look at how five different industries are exploiting smartphone opportunity to improve the digital customer experience.

1. healthcare

Patients want to interact with their healthcare providers. They want to speak to doctors, book appointments, and get health advice using mobile devices. Moves by smartphone giants, Apple and Samsung to develop supporting infrastructure for health-related technologies on their platforms shows the growing momentum behind mobile health.

In the US, Pristine is developing medical solutions to enable surgeons to make use of Google Glass devices during surgery. TactioDiabetes is an iOS app that works with the TactioHealth system to enable doctors to remotely view and monitor the condition of patients with diabetes, while the UK Stroke Association is currently testing iPad apps that enable aphasia sufferers to communicate with gestures.

The main thrust of mobile health in the first wave may be self-care and illness prevention, but the future promises improved diagnosis, remote medical monitoring and more. This should enable patients to enjoy better diagnosis and care, while empowering time-strapped doctors to look after a growing elderly population.

2. travel

The impact of mobility on the travel industry is most clearly evidenced by the fact that 73% of smartphone users already use their devices for automated check-in. It goes beyond this -- travelers want to set-up their in-flight preferences such as seat position and meals; request late checkouts and receive personalized offers. When they reach a destination they may use Uber to book a cab, apps to find a hotel, restaurant or coffee shop -- even translate local street and information signs. Airbnb now gets over a quarter of its traffic from mobile, and expects that to reach more than half.

British Airways has already combined its loyalty and customer information to improve customer service online, on the phone and when customers board the plane. The aim being to deliver customer recognition, convenience and service across all its touchpoints.

Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia CEO says: “Research has shown that 90% of online shoppers start their shopping with a handset or a PC and then go to a tablet, then they go to another device. So we have to make sure that the experience that these consumers have is consistent in an appropriate way across the devices.”

3. ticketing

Mobile devices are increasingly replacing physical tickets for public transit and live events. Smartphone users like to flash their device to get into the show, or swipe their NFC-enabled mobile to climb aboard a bus or train. In a 10-month NFC ticketing trial run by Orange in Malaga, Spain, 94 percent of users said they wanted to use the system regularly and would recommend it while customer satisfaction levels climbed.

In New York, the Metropolitan Ticketing Authority is preparing to allow consumers to buy and display public transit tickets on their smartphones, saying the move should eliminate the customer inconvenience of queueing for tickets at peak hours. "More convenient ticketing options means a better experience using the train," Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti said. "We want to make riding the train as easy and convenient as we can."

4. retail

Even as UK shoppers set new records for shopping by smartphone, UK retailers are developing mobile experiences. The mobile customer is becoming the norm, prompting service improvements such as in-store price matching and click-and-collect services through which customers select their shopping online for later collection from the high street shop. That’s in addition to already well-established mobile retail channels, now also made available by most big retailers within mobile apps.

"Sales via mobiles will continue to rise in 2014, this is now mainstream," said Chris Webster, head of retail at Capgemini. As mobile devices become cheaper, retailers report more elderly customers making purchases using these devices.  “Retailers say they now see spikes in online activity late in the evening, as people shop while watching television, or early in the morning as purchases are made before work,” the Guardian reports.

5. financial services

Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins notes customers use mobile banking services 24 times a month on average, compared with just two branch visits. This is a fundamental trend, as half of all smartphone users in the developed world keep mobile money management apps on the front page of their devices. They use apps for balance checks, account management, financial transactions and are becoming accustomed to making transactions with their devices.

More recent evolutions have enabled use of the smartphone camera to bank cheques without visiting the branch. Meanwhile GFT claims over one trillion US dollars will have been invested in mobile payment solutions by the year 2015. The evolution of online payment system providers (such as PayPal, which now has 137 million users) is driving new competitiveness in the financial services markets, where Jenkins says, “Innovation is crucial, at speed and with scale, for our industry.”

Accenture predicts that by 2020 an estimated 15% of traditional bank revenues could shift to online-only firms. This is going to drive a shift in how banks operate, Accenture believes -- but this hasn’t happened yet.

Digital customer experiences need to be connected, consistent and quick. Need help getting it right? Visit Orange Business’ extensive Digital Customer Experience website for more ideas and information.

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Jon Evans

Jon Evans is a highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men's interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.