Going Mobile Has To Be A Transformation, Not An Experiment

burberry Instagram

Burberry Instagram

When it comes to adapting mobile and digital technology, there's a tendency to want to do it slowly, to dip a toe in the water before committing, and change one part of a business at a time.

That's especially true for small businesses who may be trying out many of these technologies in a business context for the first time.

According to a report from Capgemini Consulting and MIT, companies that commit to digital and mobile in all of their functions significantly outperform slow adopters. Advertisement

The best path for small businesses isn't to experiment with mobile. It's to use it to transform the way they work.

One great example of that lesson is Burberry, traditionally a well respected, but somewhat old-school British brand. As recently as 2006 they were significantly underperforming at a 1 to 2 percent growth rate while the whole sector of luxury retail was growing at 12 to 13 percent a year. Now, they're succeeding and are at the forefront of using digital and mobile technology to improve the customer experience in and out of the store.

It's not enough to just equip a sales force with tablets; it's about changing the whole company. Burberry decided to do this so it could aggressively target the millennial consumer, whose native language is digital and mobile, rather than "ladies who lunch."

The company has an entire department devoted to mobile, one devoted to social media, and another devoted to analytics. They work tirelessly to integrate all three from the sales floor to the back office.

That's exactly what small businesses need to do. Giving tablets to a sales force might make things more convenient for them. But being able to use all of the data they produce to make better business decisions boosts an entire company. In the past, the ability to get and analyze that sort of data was limited to big businesses with big IT departments. Now, those cost barriers are starting to go away. Capgemeni Consulting Global Practice Manager Didier Bonnet gave us a great example of the difference between a tentative and fully committed mobile strategy for smaller businesses. They looked at two insurance companies of similar size. One simply gave tablets to its sales people. The second company rigorously used data and connected those devices to data and decision making in the front office. The difference in the results was huge, Bonnet told us: Advertisement

"The first company was able to raise their productivity by a couple of percentage points. The other one raised not only productivity tremendously, but also the sales levels because they automated entirely, they used the power of their technology to change the entire process.

The best way I can express it is it was the difference between sticking a technology in an existing process, substitution if you will, versus really transforming the process with the power of what the technology can do. And the gains were an order of magnitude different."

Burberry's a great example of how to make that transition in an innovative way. They use mobile not only to augment but to completely transform the customer experience. The first step was making the full global collection available on iPads, regardless of what's available in the store. Shoppers can also buy items on the spot via a mobile device. Advertisement

But the company goes well beyond that, as CEO Angela Ahrendts told Capgemini:

"It also enables us to share the energy and excitement of key brand moments with our customers around the world. For example, by inviting them to watch our runway shows live in stores and enabling them to shop the collection on iPads immediately afterwards, for delivery in 6-8 weeks."

This visual capability allows Burberry to transition smoothly from the fashion show to a consumer experience, illustrating mobile's unique attributes. Further, the mobile experience integrates social media tools so shoppers can share their purchases and unique experiences with a larger community. Since Burberry has more Facebook and Twitter followers than any other luxury brand it's a particularly powerful tool.

The impact on the front end is easy to see for small businesses, but a digital and mobile transformation can affect everything, as Burberry shows. The fashion business is usually fraught with forecasting and a bad prediction can mean companies have to offer discount items in outlets. When customers order through Facebook and mobile devices weeks ahead of time from lines that just premiered the company can manufacture much more efficiently.

The company's IT department also collects data and feeds it back onto the sales floor so associates can tailor offerings to the customer's past purchases and preferences on their iPad

If a sales associate sees a problem at the store, they can use an internal social network to immediately let people at headquarters know on that same iPad. For example, the sales team used the tool to tell designers that larger men were unhappy with the fit of a certain suit, which allowed the company to adjust. Advertisement

Mobile works best, for businesses of every size, when its not just used flashy tool to show a customer how up to date a company is, but to truly improve every part of a business.