How 5G will herald the next generation of mobile-first businesses

Chris Sims, MD Strategy and Marketing


With 94 percent of UK residents owning at least one mobile device, the way we live, socialise, consume media and communicate with each other has completely changed. This transformation extends far beyond our personal lives, with more than 80 percent of British employees (I am definitely one of them) using their smartphones at work. Whilst this is no real surprise, many small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) are changing the way employees use mobile devices in the workplace, shifting to a “mobile-first” approach and reaching customers better than ever before in an increasingly wireless world.

Defining mobile-first

So what is a mobile-first approach? Well, in recent years, mobile interactions have surpassed all other media for brand-based interactions. In other words, people are interacting with organisations via mobile devices far more than through desktop. If I am engaging with a particular brand, it’s more likely I will connect with them via my smartphone than my laptop, simply because it is always with me. And because of this, organisations are looking at a mobile-first strategy, putting the mobile experience at the core of every customer and employee touchpoint. This means looking at design, development, marketing and employee workflow through a mobile lens above all else. As this trend continues to rise, SMEs are increasingly asking questions such as:

  • What platforms should we leverage to best reach our customers?

  • How can we boost productivity of remote employees?

  • Does a mobile-first approach really enhance employee and customer satisfaction?

How SMEs benefit from mobile-first

A growing global workforce, a shift in media consumption and an increase in remote employees, mobile virtualisation has become a necessary and profitable option for SMEs.

Many businesses are starting to understand that a mobile-first approach reaps significant benefits for customer experience. SMEs depend on customer communications; a positive experience means high customer retention rates and ultimately business growth. Mobile-first enables SMEs to respond to customer queries and stay in touch at scale and at speed. When customers are increasingly demanding real-time and always-on communication, SMEs that do employ a mobile-first approach gain a competitive advantage over those that rely solely on desktop.

This can also be said for employees. Flexibility to work anywhere, anytime is made possible with a mobile-first approach. Employees can work autonomously, manage their own time and seamlessly switch from their personal lives to work commitments. Looking at my own workflow, this is something I highly value; the ability to use my mobile devices during my long commute between my home and my workplace allows me to be more productive during those “micro-moments” when I am not in the office.

This trend will continue to become a critical component to business success with the wave of Millennials in the workplace. By 2020, more than half of the global workforce will be Millennials who have been raised in the digital revolution and expect mobility, flexibility and a stronger sense of work-life balance. Within my own team, I encourage employees to find the balance that works for them, and organisations that understand this, and prioritise the needs of this next generation will likely experience much higher levels of employee satisfaction and well-being.

Mobile-first in action

One such business that is adopting a mobile-first approach is AccountsIQ, a cloud-based financial management software company. In our recent podcast, Lianne Gatti, Commercial Director for AccountsIQ discusses how she is constantly evolving the company’s mobile policy and why she firmly believes in a mobile-first strategy.

“Because we’re a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) business at heart, we have always implemented a mobile policy in that every application we use, has to be available on our mobile devices,” says Lianne. This also helps AccountsIQ to collaborate across its global workforce with staff located in the UK, Croatia, Argentina and Dublin. Whilst colleagues are not physically in the same office, they’re able to use their mobile devices to maintain a personal connection via FaceTime or Zoom Video for meetings.

AccountsIQ is a connected finance platform supporting 4, 000 customers on a global footprint. It serves mid-to-large businesses by providing cloud based financial management software. Gartner forecasts worldwide public cloud revenue will grow 17 percent this year, and there are already more than 50 million cloud-based enterprise systems being used. Employees are more frequently conducting work in the cloud, using mobile business applications to create spreadsheets, presentations and documents.

With more businesses, co-workers and consumers using mobile technology in all facets of life, a stronger network is required to transfer larger amounts of data over the air for faster speeds, reduced congestion and lower latency. And this is where 5G comes in.

How 5G will accelerate mobile-first for SMEs

The biggest enabler of a mobile-first ecosystem will no doubt be 5G. The race is on, with many of the world’s leading operators rolling out a 5G network to bring more speed, more capacity and lower latency to consumers and businesses. In fact, EE was the first network provider to launch 5G across the UK, offering increased speeds, reliability and connectivity to consumers and businesses.

And just this week, EE went one step further and announced its 5G Unlimited Data plans for SMEs, enabling businesses to maximise 5G usage with unlimited and uncapped data packages. Business users on the 5G plan will benefit from access to the UK’s fastest network as well as value-added features such as business-grade mobile security, unlimited data, calls and texts.

5G is a step-change in mobile networking and promises exponentially faster download speeds, greater latency and better reliability. Building on the capabilities of 4G, 5G boasts speed uplifts of around 100-150Mbps, with some users able to achieve speeds of 1Gbps on their 5G enabled smartphones. As well as improved bandwidth, a key feature of the technology is greatly reduced levels of network latency, making 5G more responsive than other mobile technology standards before it.

For SMEs, this will mean steaming high-resolution video, audio and images with practically no latency. 5G will be a game changer for businesses across virtually every industry and will empower the next generation of skilled workers across a global footprint.

And that’s just the first phase of 5G. Over the coming years, we’ll witness digital transformation for businesses that we’ve not seen before, with 5G IoT applications for analytics and business process automation completely transforming the way we work and connect. Smart cities, autonomous vehicles and smart environmental monitoring are just a few examples of how 5G will revolutionise our communities and businesses in the future.

Whilst this complete end-to-end 5G infrastructure is still some years away, SMEs can benefit right now from 5G’s superfast download speeds, data-sharing in real time, and streaming high quality video without interruption. It’s these SMEs who employ a mobile-first approach and leverage the benefits of 5G that will experience an unpresented level of business productivity, success and growth.