Why mobile OS usage matters more than the handset

Enterprise IT leaders must differentiate between handset penetration and usage penetration, according to mobile industry observers at Tuesday’s MobiBiz leadership conference in Toronto.

“The reality is, different device types have different usage patterns,” said Alon Kronenberg, practice lead of mobile applications with IBM Canada’s mobile solutions unit. “It’s very important to understand usage patterns.”

To drive home his point, Kronenberg pointed to Air Canada’s mobile apps: one which let users acquire their boarding pass and another that allows customers the ability to check detailed flight information. For the first use case, Air Canada found the majority of mobile users were on the BlackBerry platform, Kronenberg said, while Android and iOS dominated the native flight status app.

While the ability to understand the usage of your customer-facing app is crucial, the same research has to be done internally for the apps geared toward mobile workers, he added.

Kronenberg said it’s about knowing where and how your employees are using the app, calling it “content awareness,” as opposed to a “location-based” service. These apps will determine not just where your user is geographically, but also what their state of mind might be, he said.

“Mobile apps aren’t the extension of the Internet,” Kronenberg said, adding that if your organization knows what your employee is doing, you can be smarter and more content aware with your messaging.

According to Lawrence Surtees, research vice-president of communications research at IDC Canada Ltd., organizations must stop thinking there is one type of mobile worker.

“As you go down the path of unified communications and mobility, it becomes incumbent to do an audit of what types of mobile workers you have, so you can put in place the proper apps to help people,” he said.

Tony Olvet, group vice-president of research domains team at IDC Canada, added that IT shops should “forecast their workforce” and look for types of apps that are designed for specific jobs.

Olvet said that while mobile OSes have consolidated down to a handful of key platforms, organizations should still want to provide as targeted an experience as possible for their employees and customers.

Kronenberg agreed, highlighting data from Priceline.com that suggests 82 per cent of people booking hotels with its mobile app are doing so within one day of their arrival. This was compared with 45 per cent who booked in a similar time frame on Priceline’s non-mobile Web site.

Targeting your mobile experience to address this type of that is crucial to building an app that users keep coming back to, he said.

This advice, Kronenberg added, underscores the fact that IT shops should actually have a strategy and purpose behind the mobile app’s they build. “You can’t just do mobile because it’s cool,” he said.

The MobiBiz leadership conference is a jointly produced IDC Canada/ITWorld Canada event.

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