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Whilst some consumer sectors, such as retail, are forging ahead in the mobile channel, it sometimes feels as if B2B is lagging behind.

It’s not surprising though. While retailers can use m-commerce or drive purchases through discounts or incentives, the opportunities and the ROI in mobile B2B seem less obvious.

Formation CEO and Econsultancy trainer Mark Brill chaired Mobile B2B roundtable at Econsultancy’s Digital Cream Event. 

Here are his thoughts on the day's discussions...

Significantly, there was a distinct shift from the previous year’s discussion. We are starting to see businesses in the sector develop and improve their mobile offerings.

Those attending represented a broad range of B2B sectors, including financial, publishing, telecoms and technology, logistics and education.

Chairing such diverse groups presents challenges to keep everyone on a common agenda,but at the same time, it also brings out some excellent insights across the different sectors.

The discussion topics addressed both challenges and successes:

The case for mobile

Spending in the channel is still small in the B2B sector, and while most digital marketers understand the need for mobile, it is a difficult sell to other parts of the businesses.

As with other sectors, it is important to draw from the growing number of successful examples to sell the idea of mobile into the rest of the business.

One example is the growth of mobile email, which is predicted to overtake desktop usage this year.

Mobile optimised emails are easy to develop (responsive design is the simplest solution), bringing higher read and click-through rates in a highly competitive channel. 

It’s the law

In many other B2B sectors, particularly finance, legal barriers seemed to be the greatest challenge. Or at least concerns about regulation, combined with a lack of understanding of the mobile channel.

One example demonstrated practicalities of delivering terms and conditions on mobile. It is too hard to display them clearly on a smaller screen and often, legal teams felt that if a customer couldn’t

read them, then they may not be within the regulations. It has become a reason not to pursue a mobile experience. One solution is to create short form, or summary T&Cs that would display well on mobile, and would link to the more detailed versions on a mobile optimised site.

Computer Says ‘No’

Coupled with the regulatory issues, many B2B organisations see existing IT structures as a further barrier to implementing mobile.

Responsive vs adaptive websites was well debated throughout the event, but for many, the greatest stumbling block was convincing IT departments that there was a need for mobile and to integrate it within existing back end systems.

Some businesses have over 60 global sites, and the logistics of creating mobile versions requires an investment that simply isn’t available. Off the shelf products and tactical microsites offer solutions to address this.

Show me the money

A number of business publishers were represented at the round table. For this sector, it is the age-old problem of monitising content. While the traditional print advertising and subscription models are being eroded, customers do not value mobile content as much, and are simply unwilling to pay for it.

One way to address this is to use mobile and tablet content within a bundles subscription.

Many of the business sectors understand the power of content marketing, but the costs and resources can be prohibitively high. Curating content from the vast number of RSS feeds presents one solution to the problem.

The opportunities

The growth of tablet devices, bringing a richer, longer content experience was identified as a significant opportunity for B2B marketing. This is being driven particularly by the BYOD (bring your own device) trend.

Overall, this was a useful roundtable which addressed some significant problems and offered some real solutions.

And the key take-away from the event? The excellent fish and chips served at lunch-time, of course.

Graham Charlton

Published 3 April, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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