Mobile workers now constitute about 75 percent of the work force, according to IDC. More than a billion smart phones are in use worldwide, with tablets comprising a smaller but rapidly growing segment. A year or two from now, more people will be accessing the Internet from their mobile devices than from desktop computers. So from any perspective, mobility is the order of the day. Those benefiting from mobile technology include consumers, field workers in insurance and healthcare, salespeople, professional services personnel and more.
Many organizations plan their Web strategies to ensure that their site provides a positive customer experience for people who access it through mobile devices. Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group owns and operates luxury hotels throughout Asia and in leading European destinations such as London's Hyde Park, as well as multiple metropolitan areas in the United States. With company growth, the need for improved Web content management (WCM) was evident. Mandarin Oriental began a systematic review of the top WCM systems through research, review of analyst reports and other sources.
Addressing the needs of travelers
Mandarin Oriental selected SDL Tridion R5.2 WCM from SDL, in part for its robust mobile capability. In addition, it provided translation functionality. "I had been evaluating hospitality and travel websites for several years," says Christoph Oberli, VP of e-commerce and interactive at Mandarin Oriental, "but until Tridion, I didn't see anything that met the performance level we were aiming for."
Assisted by systems integrator Siteworx, Mandarin Oriental launched its new website several years ago, and added language capability a year later. The mobile site capability was added most recently. "We now provide six languages in addition to English," says Oberli, "and we have both a mobile website and a native app for iPhones."
The same Web content management system is used for all the information, but the primary website, the mobile site and the mobile app deliver different pieces. The main website provides the greatest detail, and visitors generally use that option for more intensive research about the hotels and their services. The mobile site provides information that addresses the traveler's immediate needs (a list of Mandarin Oriental hotels, reservation services and special offers). The iPhone app provides detailed destination information that is geared toward current guests at the hotels. Next in line for implementation is a native iPad app, which will have the same look and feel as the desktop, but will be adapted to the tablet screen.
"Mobile bookings are definitely increasing, although they don't constitute a majority at this point," Oberli says. "Nevertheless, this option must be provided to our increasingly sophisticated clientele. They expect it of a hotel group of our caliber." The mobile bookings are likely to take place when there is a smaller window between the reservation and the visit date—a situation where time is limited and the customer might not have ready access to a desktop computer.
Providing mobile support for customers is not just about repurposing the website so everything is smaller, according to Ian Truscott, VP of products, North America, at SDL. "The user experience is different on a mobile device," he says. "It's important to anticipate what their needs will be, and deliver the right experience." The challenge is to think differently about content for mobile devices, while still providing an integrated user experience overall, regardless of channel.
For the organization, integration is equally important although for different reasons. "Mobile deployment should not result in siloed information," Truscott says. "Tridion ensures that the information for each channel will be properly rendered, and part of an integrated strategy."
In the financial services industry, for example, mobile banking has been very effective because people can do short tasks such as checking their balance, while leaving complex services for the desktop. "Our banking clients are able to provide a diverse set of options for their customers while sourcing the information from a common repository," Truscott explains.
Another area of rapid growth in mobile applications is business intelligence (BI). Being able to quickly access the information derived from vast data warehouses gives an edge to workers who might otherwise have to contact their office or fire up a laptop. Dealer Services, which finances the inventories of used car companies, places a lot of emphasis on maintaining strong personal relationships with its customers. "One of the main tenets of our company is to be present for our customers," says Chris Brady, CIO of Dealer Services. "Our goal is to make sure they have the tools to be successful in business, and we don't believe that can be done just over the phone."
The company has a national field force of more than 150 employees in locations throughout the United States. "These are road warriors who are equipped with laptops, broadband access and fax capability, but they didn't like the delay involved in booting up and logging in to their computers," Brady says. The prevalence of smart phone use by its sales force made a mobile application a logical option.
Already a user of Information Builders' software, Dealer Services decided to consider using its mobile capability about a year ago. "We discussed the idea with a committee of experienced field folks," Brady says, "and they helped design our mobile solution—what analytics it should have, what should be on the dashboard and so forth." After some initial testing and redesign, the mobile solution was deployed to the full sales force.
Employees are free to choose the mobile device they want, and now use a mix of smart phones and iPads. "Information Builders adjusts the output to whatever screen is being used," Brady says. "Our employees don't have to worry about formatting." Typically, the salespeople are looking up customer information, such as available credit and account status. Access is immediate, and when WiFi is unavailable, the employees can use the cell phone network. "Having information at their fingertips gives our staff a lot of flexibility," Brady explains. "After visiting one customer, for example, the salesperson might look up a few more in the same area to see if a visit is needed. They don't need to call in to get this information."
The tablet takeoff
Because the information is from a central source (the data warehouse), it is current and consistent. Dealer Services' implementation presents data that has already been crunched, such as year-to-date sales, although the mobile platform can also perform analytics. "The salespeople just put in the account number for the customer and can access what they need," Brady says. "It's simple and highly readable."
The mobile application reflects the same philosophy as its enterprise product, according to Jake Freivald, VP of corporate marketing at Information Builders. "We have always been about getting the right information to the masses," he says, "rather than only to business analysts or executives." Information Builders has been providing mobile BI since 2002, when it was delivered to Blackberrys and Palm Pilots, but "tablets were what really made it take off," Freivald adds.