From his vantage point at one of Ireland’s top digital agencies, Tibus director Andrew Maybin has his finger on the pulse of how firms are handling the challenges and opportunities of the digital age. He says reaching the connected consumer begins from within the business and being prepared for sweeping changes being brought by cloud computing and big data.
“One of the interesting things media companies are telling us is that most of their traffic is being consumed by smartphones and tablets,” Maybin explains. “The government and e-commerce sites are following these trends, too. This is not a change in traffic but additional traffic.”
Maybin is explaining one of the most potent shifts being experienced by organisations that embraced the internet age early enough to notice what’s happening. As a provider of digital services to businesses and media companies across Ireland, Tibus has a front-row seat to the action and the trends.
The proliferation of tiny digital devices that we can bring with us anywhere is leading to a phenomenon known as the ever-connected consumer. Any business that wants to sell to these consumers needs to understand how to reach them and, of course, to realise that in the world of the connected consumer a bad experience could translate into a bruised reputation via social media.
Understanding the connected consumer
“People are using the internet as they would have done at work, only now they’re using it on the commute and in the evenings at home. The reason for this is smartphones and tablet computers, the so-called second screen. They may be watching TV in the evening but they’ll have their smartphones or tablets beside them.”
Maybin says the internet experience for a typical consumer or family is manifold – it could be happening in the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom or the back garden – and not just in the home office like it used to be.
“This is all causing a massive increase in additional internet traffic – people are simply consuming the internet in a different way.”
For businesses navigating this bewildering, always-on environment, Maybin says that education and not a little patience will go a long way.
“The key is educating the business. This means also producing content, and that could be video explaining the hotel rooms you are selling, to the text that is on your educational site.
“The education process behind this is long and requires patience,” Maybin says, adding that more firms in Ireland need to start using the internet in a transactional way rather than as a brochure for their businesses.
I put it to him that one of the reasons why firms are behind on internet commerce is infrastructure, or a lack of it.
He agrees. “In Northern Ireland, they’ve made leaps and bounds and today the region has the most dense fibre network in Europe.”
This, he says, contrasts with the Republic of Ireland. “There are plenty of reasons for this but there’s no reason to rest on laurels, it can change. We’ve made tremendous inroads with organisations like INEX and IDA Ireland and this has been great for Ireland plc in the eyes of the world.
“But broadband and availability outside the cities in Ireland is poor and it needs to improve. Collaboration and investment, public-sector help are needed, but it must improve.”
Enter the cloud and big data
The reason why it must improve is largely down to the massive progress in computing technology. We are now in the era of the cloud. Most prevailing technologies used by businesses and consumers are in the cloud, whether firms or individuals are aware of that or not.
The sheer number of people carrying smart devices and their always-on nature means the sheer volumes of data being generated should function as a treasure trove for firms that know what to do with it.
This opportunity is known as big data and means firms will soon need to be equipped with the ability to sift through everything from tweets to data collected by sensors to get a very real sense of what they need to do next.
“Analytics is key. That’s one of the real benefits of trading online – you can see where customers are coming from, which device they are using, whether they’ve bought or haven’t bought.”
The next stage, Maybin explains, is finding out why they haven’t bought something or when they are likely to buy something. That’s big data.
Another opportunity is open data, and that means vast data sets that have sat locked away inside local government vaults could be used to give businesses even more clarity about the world around them or allow entrepreneurs to create useful products and services.
“In the UK, Transport for London has made all its data available for free for anyone to interrogate. It would be fantastic if in Ireland the public transport authorities were to make this data available.
“This kind of data will allow firms to recognise trends, identify opportunities to serve connected consumers and supply the things that people will want in their daily lives.
“This is an opportunity for Ireland and the Irish internet industry,” Maybin points out.
Ireland’s digital leaders will be joined by international speakers to discuss Ireland’s opportunities and challenges in the age of the connected consumer, at a forum hosted by Silicon Republic on 21 September in Dublin. Digital communications expert Neville Hobson and Wired‘s editor-at-large Ben Hammersley have been confirmed as keynote speakers.
Confirmed panelists include:
- Jeroen Hoencamp, CEO, Vodafone Ireland
- Tanya Duncan, CEO, Interxion Ireland
- Múirne Laffan, managing director, RTÉ Digital
- Maurice Mortell, MD Ireland, TelecityGroup
- Colm O’Neill, CEO, BT Ireland
- Andrew Maybin, network services director, Tibus
- Daniel Adams, Executive Director, Communications, Media & Technology, Accenture
- Anna Scally, Partner, KPMG in Ireland
Highlights from the last Digital Ireland Forum in March can be viewed here.