HTML5, smartphones will change the way we interact with companies

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HTML5, together with massive growth in smartphone penetration, could see a lot more people interacting with companies using their mobile devices.

Many companies — such as banks and telcos — already enjoy major business benefits by allowing customers to transact with them, perform routine service tasks, manage their own accounts and conduct research through Web-based Self-Service systems.

Up until now, self-service has largely been limited to internet-connected desktop users. The rise of the smartphone is about to change all that.

The new, richer, apps will give people the flexibility and convenience to interact with companies wherever they are, using highly interactive mobile services, says Kevin Meltzer, co-founder of specialist self-service company Consology.

Meltzer reckons that with a range of low-cost smartphones on the market and low-cost mobile data bundles, the mobile phone is opening up a vast new self-service market. Using the cellular industry as an example, he says customers could be allowed to activate mobile services, check their airtime and data bundles, view a bill, order a new device, and update their details from their handsets.

“Though companies have been able to offer mobile Self-Service using options such as USSD and Interactive Voice Response, these are not as feature-rich and engaging as their web offerings. The limitations of cellphones and feature phones traditionally restrained what companies could do with mobile Self-Service,” he says.

“With their larger colour displays and friendly touchscreen or Qwerty keyboard input methods, smartphones allow for deep interactivity and functionality simply not possible on other mobile channels,” he adds.

Meltzer believes that HTML5 rather than native mobile apps for the different mobile operating systems will turn out to be the optimal platform for creating Self-Service solutions for mobile users. With HTML5, it finally becomes possible to offer friendly and attractive interfaces across a range of devices due to the app like experience that the mobile web can now deliver.

This also means that developers do not need to write different apps for different platforms at great expense. It’s also a great way of providing a consistent experience to users irrespective of the device they are using at a given time.

“The functionality that HTML5 supports is starting to offer rich mobile experiences which are similar in look, feel and navigation to native apps. The advantage however is that you are creating your application offering just once for the entire smartphone and tablet population rather than custom-developing for every platform,” says Meltzer.

Some additional benefits the cellphone offers as a Self-Service channel include portability, location awareness, ubiquitous connectivity and higher market penetration, he says To make the most of these advantages and to ensure rapid adoption of the mobile service channel, companies need to design HTML5 applications that cater for people’s needs and those of the devices they carry.

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