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August 6, 2015

Internet shift to mobile could help or hinder business

Ofcom report reveals that smartphones are now the UK's favourite way to get online.

By Alexander Sword

Smartphones have replaced laptops as the most popular device for getting online, creating a range of new opportunities and challenges for businesses.

According to Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report, 33 percent of internet users now see their smartphone as the most important device for getting online. This compares to 30 percent who still use their laptop for the same purpose.

In addition, 66 percent of people now own a smartphone, a rise from 39 percent in 2012. The figure rises to 90 percent among 16 to 24-year-olds and falls amongst 55 to 64-year-olds to 50 percent.

This year’s report shows a marked difference from 2014, when 22 percent used their phone first and 40 percent their laptop.

In the month of March 2015, mobile users spent an average 1 hour 54 minutes per day online using a smartphone, compared to 1 hour 9 minutes spent online by laptop and PC users.

The move to mobile is partly fuelled by a huge rise in 4G subscriptions, which rose from 2.7 million to 23.6 million in the year of 2014.

89.5 percent of UK premises now have access to at least one 4G mobile service and 42 percent can choose from all four providers, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.

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2014 saw the biggest increase in time online in a decade, with users spending three and a half more hours per week online than in 2013.

People generally believed this was benefitting them, with 64 percent of online adults agreeing that being online is invaluable for keeping informed about current issues and 60 percent believing it helped them keep in contact with family and friends.

Rob Bamforth, Principal Analyst at Quocirca, told CBR that this will place a different set of pressures on businesses.

"It is increasingly the appetite of people to do things with their devices. We snack a lot more on data than we used to. You can cope better on a small screen. We’re typing less and conversations are getting shorter.

"Businesses’ employees’ behaviour is changing as contributors to the businesses – this is evident in BYOD. Organisations have to cope with the idea that employees will be contributing differently.

Andrew Ferguson, editor at thinkbroadband, highlights the differences between age groups arguing that higher usage of smartphones for working amongst the younger age bracket will lead to different ways of working in a business.

"The younger age bracket are the future business leaders. They are bringing in changes."

He adds that companies will have to look at social media policies as part of their strategy; the report highlights that 62 percent of respondents use social media.

"Every member of staff is now potentially a walking press agency."

The report also shows that employees are not the only stakeholders that businesses need to consider, with 4G driving a growth in eCommerce. 55 percent of 4G users shop online compared to 35 percent of non-4G users, with similar figures for online banking of 55 percent and 33 percent respectively.

"The same is going to be true of customers," Bamforth continues. "If you look at regular websites, even on desktop, there is increasingly a trend towards streamlining. This may be the natural evolution of content; the next stage is streamlining based on what people need.

"Businesses need to be adapting access and content to fit your need."

Michael Allen, Solutions VP at Dynatrace, said: "This report gives us an unmistakable sign of the huge opportunity that mobile provides as a digital business channel.

"As such, if businesses want to reap the biggest rewards, their website has to be optimised to offer a seamless user-experience on mobile devices."

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