It amuses me when I hear people say “oh, the Internet is really slow today”, just because the page they want doesn’t pop up the instant they click on the link. I can still recall browsing the web on an Amiga computer through a 9600bps dial-up modem. To put things into perspective, downloading your average 3 minute YouTube video (10MB) on that type of connection would take 2hrs 25 1/2 minutes at 100% efficiency, which is impossible. So realistically you could expect it to take anywhere from 3 1/2 – 5 hrs, and that’s only if your connection didn’t drop out. I think I found a lot of patience during those years.

But things have changed and technology has moved on, most of us are permanently connected to broadband connections at home, at work and on the go. That’s progress for you and is a true testament of how hungry people are for instantaneous information and communication. The communications sector has experienced huge growth year on year, but how long can this growth be sustained and how will this affect the way businesses interact with their customers?

According to new figures in Nielsen Online’s Internet and Technology Report released at the start of the month, mobile ownership has almost reached saturation point in Australia with 92% now reporting to own a mobile phone, with 2008 seeing a rise in the number of devices that are capable of mobile internet, particularly for users (16-29). Furthermore, the report states that more Australians than ever before are signing up to broadband services. In 2007 84% of Australian internet users reported to have broadband access at home. In 2008 that figure reached 97%. The potential to supply high quality digital services and the ability to communicate digitally with people regardless of whether the are at home, in their offices, or whether they are outdoors has never been so great.

As the cost of sending and receiving data through wireless devices such as mobile phones and wireless broadband decreases, the number of people who will be exploring the technology will increase. In the past 12-months we have seen the emergence of many web enabled services go mobile. All the major web based email provides (Hotmail, GMail, YahooMail) have mobile versions of their product, as do most of the major banks with mobile versions of their on-line banking services. For many, the convenience of having a service or product accessible in the palm of their hands, no matter what time it is or where they are is too great to pass up. For myself, this extension of the product could be the difference between choosing one service provider over another.

It’s about time more businesses wake up to the fact that good customer service and product delivery doesn’t have to end the minute the customer leaves the store or the premises. In extending access to your products and services through digital technologies, you not only offer a fuller service to your customers, but you also make your brand more accessible in the marketplace which helps solidify the relationship between customer and the brand. I encourage all business to review how accessible they are to the mobile customer and investigate the potential of technology today and into the future. We are well equipped to assist you on this journey.

The brick-and-mortor business model was the first to be challenged by the digital age, giving rise to the click-and-mortar model. But I think that the era of click-and-mortar is coming to an end, superseded by a model that does not rely on customers to be tethered to a computer at home or at the office. At the end of the day, as technology changes, we must remain in touch with the markets’ demands, which includes how they choose to consume information.