Not only is mobile becoming primary, 90 per cent of smartphone users keep their device within arms-length 100 per cent of the time. Businesses need to be part of that, and it will mean re-thinking all the ways they interact with customers.

Those were among the take-aways from IBM’s Mobile Forum event on Wednesday in Toronto, where IBM Corp. brought together customers, analysts and their own mobile experts to discuss trends in mobile commerce, and how businesses should be preparing themselves for the mobile wave.

When speaking with a customer about their mobility strategy, Mike Riegel, vice-president of mobile and Websphere with IBM, said he has three key pieces of advice he offers.

Related Story: Canada’s mobile appetite forecast for rapid growth to 2017

Firstly, he said success in mobile begins with a shared vision across the business, shared by the CMO and the CIO.

“It’s not a tech project, it’s not a marketing project, and it’s not a cool project you can give to the interns,” said Riegel. It’s needs a cross-business vision and perspective.

Secondly, you need to rethink the client experience. That means looking across your business at all the ways you touch customers, and considering if they really make sense, and how they could be improved with mobile.

“You can’t just mobilize your web site,” said Riegel.

And third, Riegel said you have to design for mobile first, and think about mobile first. Analytics tools can help gain insight into how customers navigate and interact with you that can be used to drive better mobile design.

Getting into mobility can be daunting, but Riegel advises businesses considering where to begin to try starting with their existing customers that you already have a relationship with.

“Can you do a loyalty program around coupons and promotions, something that will let your customers know you’re in the mobile world? Or something for your employees if you’re not in the B2C world?” said Riegel. “You’ll be surprised at how much feedback you get.”

The opportunity is certainly a large one according to Krista Napier, a senior analyst covering mobility for IDC Canada.

According to IDC, in 2012, 15 per cent of Canadians had tablets and 59 per cent had smartphones. By 2016, those figures are expected to grow to 39 per cent and 84 per cent, respectively.

“Canadians are making the switch to feature phones faster than most other geography, behind only South Korea and Hong Kong,” said Napier. “Canadians are disproportionately connected, and in a good way.”

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