Mobile technology has had profound impacts on life and business that were unimaginable a decade ago. I first realized the potential of mobile devices when, in 2008, I moved across the country to Seattle, having never set foot there before. Had I made the move just two years earlier I would have been utterly lost in a new city, but with a smartphone in my pocket, I could navigate like a native. Mobile GPS allowed me to instantly pull up directions and go anywhere I needed to with ease.
Where consumers go, marketers will follow, and the mobile landscape is no different. Nearly half the apps I have installed on my phone today are provided by companies I also frequent in the “real world.” I download these apps because they provide me (as a consumer) a benefit, but they also clearly pay dividends for the companies behind them. Case in point: ever since I installed the Starbucks app, I go there twice as much as I did before, despite the abundance of independent coffee shops in Seattle. The mobile app makes it easy for me to pay from my phone, and when I do, I earn points that accumulate toward perks I can collect on future visits, incenting me to keep coming back. In the near future, we’ll see more companies use mobile apps as a primary means of serving and engaging with customers.
While B2C marketers eagerly seized the mobile opportunity, mobile remains new territory for many B2B marketers. According to Regalix Research, 67% of B2B marketers have been using mobile for less than two years. Only one third collect customers’ mobile preferences and behavior data, and only 21% leverage mobile device tools. The opportunity is huge, but few B2B marketers seem to know how to take advantage of it.
The Home Depot, a big box home improvement retailer, has been an early adopter of B2B mobile marketing, and illustrates how B2B marketers can successfully engage professional customers by using mobile devices to make their jobs easier.
The “Home Depot PRO” app is separate from The Home Depot consumer app and features mobile functions specific to the professional user. The PRO app is designed to help a small business professional, such as a contractor, plumber, or other home repair service provider save time and work more efficiently. Here are a few key features of the PRO app that will be timesavers these in the industry:
- Create/manage shopping lists for individual projects: This feature helps you simplify work streams, manage costs and stay organized by placing orders and tracking expenses by project.
- Review past purchases and receipts: As a contractor you can be on a job site all day, and may rarely have a chance to sit down at a computer; the PRO app helps you stay on top of expenses while away from the office, and also provides an easy way to verify and show expenses to clients, if needed.
- Reorder frequently purchased items: If you’re a contractor buying the same sheetrock or lumber several times for a particular job, this saves you the time of repeatedly navigating to and selecting these products online.
- Real-time inventory for every product in every store: You can confirm inventory for a part before leaving the client’s home, never wasting another trip to the store.
- Order from phone, pick up in store: The Home Depot will bundle orders placed through the PRO app so they are ready for in-store pick-up. You can place an order from your tablet the night before to pick it up on the way to the job site in the morning. In some markets, The Home Depot will even deliver these orders directly to the job site.
The Home Depot has found ways to take advantage of the versatility of mobile devices to engage their professional customers. The Home Depot PRO mobile app adds value for business users by simplifying the business user’s day and making his job easier. What ways can you follow “The Home Depot model” to engage professional users through their mobile devices?
Use the following questions to consider how you can use mobile to engage with your B2B customers:
- What service do we offer that could be provided through a mobile device?
- How could we create a differentiated experience for our customers by taking advantage of mobile device features (camera, GPS, Bluetooth, etc.)?
- How can we use mobile devices to fill gaps in the customer experience?
- What common problems do our customers face that we can help solve with mobile tools?
Check out more related reading about making the case for mobile marketing in B2B.