For B2B, Promise In BYOD?

The edges between B2B and B2C might be blurring a bit — if the devices have anything to do with it. Prabhat Agarwal, director of research at AppOptix, explains why consumers using phones to conduct business can present some opportunities (of the revenue kind) for B2B outfits looking to broaden their customer bases.

It’s been said that business is truly global, and truly always on, 24/7/365.

The same has been said of the consumer.

And, perhaps, so might it be said, increasingly, of consumers who are employees of businesses that are always on.

Earlier this week, Strategy Analytics’ AppOptix unit offered up a few stats that show how mobile might open up new avenues for B2B and B2C. According to a study conducted by the firm, as many as 50.4 percent of consumers use their personal smartphones (aka BYOD) to conduct business.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Prabhat Agarwal, director at AppOptix, explained that headline data point, and, of course, others were gleaned from 1,013 respondents out of a sample of 4,000 users in the United States (via opt-in panels) of the firm’s mobile application. That app helps get granular detail, along with demographics, about what people are doing with their smartphones, where and when — gaining some insight, of course, into why.

Of that 50.4 percent number doing business via mobile devices, 20.5 percent use those devices to get things done, professionally speaking, more than half the time.  When asked how frequently they use smartphones for business, 59 percent of those surveyed said they do so more than 25 percent of the time.

According to Prabhat Agarwal, several activities are being embraced across mobile devices that once were the province of laptops and even desktops. These include heavy weightings toward communications (yes, email, chat groups, video meetings and the like), but, added the executive, the data is also showing that other activities have been gaining ground, at least anecdotally. More employees are logging in with their devices to track and manage expenses, record them and submit them for reimbursement.

They also are submitting time sheets using mobile devices and, in other cases, making payments for invoices. A bit more generally, these workers, AppOptix found, are installing public and company-specific applications to collaborate and to share files, which in turn mean that business is being conducted outside the normal nine-to-five grind.

There seems to be some acknowledgement by the businesses themselves that benefits are accruing to the firms from such crossover (of sorts) activity. Just under 21 percent of business users get reimbursed by their employers for their phone expenses (in other words, their wireless bills). And another 7.2 percent are able to get their employers to foot 100 percent of the bill.

You might guess that these users skew a bit young, and you’d be right. Agarwal noted that the demographic data show that “there is a cultural element” to using mobile devices across so many different levels of personal and professional interactions. The age breakdown of the users shows a relatively heavier weighting across 26 to 35-year-olds with 44.7 percent; 36 to 45-year-olds at 21.9 percent and only 14.2 percent above that 46-year-old threshold.

When it comes to technology, said Agarwal to PYMNTS, individuals are at ease with technology at ever younger ages, and “there is a business sense that starts early too.” These tech-savvy users, as they become professionals and entrepreneurs in their own careers, will shift with aplomb between their personal and workaday lives as they interact with their mobile devices.

So, if the mobile phone is becoming a one-stop shop for transactions and other activities, both retail and corporate, what are the implications for B2B — specifically, the firms that sell to one another and operate up and down different supply chains?

Asked by PYMNTS about which verticals might be early winners in adapting to these changes and where B2B outfits might be able to offer their services to consumers (B2C), Agarwal said that “it is harder to think of verticals this would not be good for,” as anyone who runs a business is more than likely to have a device in hand. Network optimization players may get a boost, and mobile operators, too, can offer enhanced services and support. Use cases that might dovetail well with mobile as a conduit: consulting and verticals such as logistics and even energy, where operations are far flung or require on-site visits.