Tablets versus smartphones versus websites: what’s the real opportunity for b-to-b?
March 6, 2012 — Will PCs soon be a thing of the past? According to an article on GigaOm, the answer is yes. Tablet sales have continued to skyrocket as PC sales plummet. It is steadily becoming more essential for b-to-b businesses to create tablet-friendly apps and websites as b-to-b readers access information in different ways on different devices. According to Horace Dediu, author of the Asymco blog, tablet computers will outsell traditional PCs by the third quarter of 2013. The popularity of tablets has put b-to-b businesses in the position of weighing the importance of creating apps for tablets versus apps for smart-phones versus mobile websites.
Here, ABM speaks with two b-to-b mobile platform experts, Oke Okara and Hitesh Chitalia, who offer their takes on emerging mobile strategies. Okara is the general manager and global head of mobile for Bloomberg.com. Chitalia is the director of e-business for McGraw-Hill Commodities and Commercial Markets.
American Business Media: How do you think readers will be using the iPad app in different ways compared with the iPhone app? How does the content differ?
Hitesh Chitalia: The tablet and the smart phone, while both allowing user mobility, serve different experiences to the user. The smart phone is an “on-the-go” device where a user might have a few minutes to quickly check status and updates. Maybe the user wants “quick-hit” information because they are running between meetings. The tablet experience is more of a “lean-back” experience. This user has more time to read, navigate and peruse through information. The usage statistics confirm this trend -- users on tablets spend over 20 minutes per session on average.
As a result, we have the opportunity to provide different types of information based on the device types. Knowing that on smart phones, users want quick hits, we can provide status updates, short bits of information, alerts, etc. On a tablet, we can provide more interactive and immersive experiences.
ABM: What role do websites play as more readers turn to apps? Do business and b-to-b publishers need to make sure their sites are optimized for mobile? Is it a necessity now? Why or why not? Is so, what does that entail?
My recommendation is to start with a great mobile website, then follow up with an app for a specific platform if there is a strong business case supporting it. This way, you get the best of both worlds. You can reach everyone irrespective of device then you can deliver that richer experience on a specific device platform where the business case supports it.
People expect to be able to open the browser on their phone and type in your URL and get an experience that works. They expect to be able to run a search on their phone and tap on the results and see a site that works. They expect to be able to tap on a link shared via social networks such as Twitter, Linked-In or Facebook and get to an experience that works on their mobile device. You cannot do any of these with an app, but you can with a mobile optimized website and appropriate redirection rules for traffic originating from mobile devices. To get started, you should enlist the help of a mobile website development company that can help you figure out the best approach for your business.
Finally, in the next three years, mobile websites and apps will be one. The mobile website will be at the heart of what powers the app. And, in full disclosure, at Bloomberg, we have an extensive portfolio of mobile products (apps and mobile websites) across all the major device platforms -- iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone, Android Tablet, Blackberry smartphone and Symbian -- including experiences for Bloomberg, Bloomberg Businessweek+, Bloomberg Radio+ and Bloomberg TV+.
ABM: How is app revenue growing for Bloomberg Businessweek? How do subscriptions and advertising compare?
Okaro: While we don't release revenue metrics by business unit, I can tell you we are quite pleased with revenue growth and engagement. We launched Bloomberg Businessweek+ on the iPad in April 2011, and in the last 11 months it has acquired 100K subscribers, 40 percent of which are outside the United States, as compared to print, which has 8 percent outside the United States. The current print circulation is 980,000. In addition, last week we re-launched Businessweek.com, which currently has more than 13 million unique visitors. The site has experienced a 20% YOY increase from 2010-2011.
Currently, consumers can download the app on the iPad and get access to a free issue. The subscription is $2.99 per month or $29.99 per year. Current magazine and/or iPad subscribers can get the app, including each issue, at no additional cost.
By Risa Dixon