When the iPad first launched, many experts viewed it as a device focused on consumer applications, not businesses. But with companies such as RIM launching their own tablets, competition is heating up and tablets are making their way into a business setting. If your company markets to business customers, you need to know how tablets might affect your interaction with them.
The Enterprise Council on Small Business (ECSB), which has done a lot of research on SMBs’ tablet use, cites Deloitte’s Technology, Media, and Telecommunications data predicting as much as one-fourth of the tablet market will eventually be business users. Businesspeople will turn to tablets to complement smartphones and maybe even replace laptops. With larger screens, better security and more processing power than smartphones, tablets are better suited to many of the tasks businesspeople are already performing on their smartphones.
What kinds of business owners are driving tablet use, and how are they using tablets? Somewhat surprisingly, ECSB research found that the younger generation of business owners aren’t leading the pack. The highest percentage of business owners using tablets in the workplace (11 percent) was among Generation X, not Generation Y. Gen X had a 65-percent higher adoption rate for tablets in the workplace than any other generation.
Not only were more mature entrepreneurs taking the lead in tablet use, ECSB also found that mature businesses (those in existence for three or more years) were twice as likely as startups or newer businesses to use tablets in the workplace. The researchers believe high prices may be holding younger users back from tablet adoption, along with the fact that (so far) tablets are best for consuming media, not for working productively.
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How are tablet owners using the devices in their businesses? The study found they’re more likely than smartphone users to use mobile and Web capabilities, including maps and GPS, video and online directories, for business purposes. They’re also twice as likely as smartphone users to use their devices to go online or to download business-related apps.
Speaking of apps, Prior ECSB research found that most business users prefer the Web to using apps for business-related tasks such as researching or purchasing products for their companies. ECSB saw a similar split with tablet users. Although they were somewhat more likely than smartphone users to download business-specific apps, when it came to interacting with suppliers, they were still more likely to use a supplier’s website than a supplier’s app.
What might the move to tablet computing mean for your B2B business? First, apps aren’t the be-all and end-all. Although apps still matter, you’ve got to get the mobile Web right, too.
Users will be accessing your website or your apps on their desktops, on smartphones and (increasingly) on tablets. Keep in mind the unique challenges and opportunities that each format presents.
Finally, with more manufacturers offering tablets, it’s more important than ever to be sure your website and apps support the three major platforms (Android, Apple and Blackberry).