If Software is Eating the World — Mobile is the Hand that Feeds it.

There’s no disputing the rapid growth of mobile. But, what does that actually mean for SaaS companies?

Let’s start with some background. In 2014 the tech world saw a massive power shift. In fact, according research done by Gartner & the team at a16z, the PC has reigned supreme for almost 30 years.

Then, the PC annual unit sales trend (above) started dropping. There was a new player in town named mobile … and mobile played to win.

Since then, the adoption rate of mobile devices as a whole has dwarfed the PC ecosystem by a factor of 5. Below is the same PC trend line with annual mobile unit sales overlapped.

If those stats don’t make you take mobile seriously, I don’t know what will. It’s a massive shift, and like all major industry shifts amongst the rubble is opportunity.

The SaaS Advantage in a Mobile First World.

In a mobile first world, SaaS platforms are given an automatic unfair advantage. SaaS platforms have minimal local hardware dependancies this allows them to run in the browser of mobile devices like an iPhone and work perfectly on thin client technologies like Chromebooks and Raspberry Pi. Meaning that SaaS applications can be accessed anywhere.

But accessibility is not the only advantage of SaaS apps in a mobile first world.

SaaS companies can take advantage of mobile in multiple ways to improve user experience, enhance security, and most importantly gather user data.

The Value of Mobile User Data.

The simple truth, is that the true value of data is how you use it. In general data units collected from mobile users will be significantly less than units collected from users on larger machines. This is because most SaaS apps were designed to be used on a desktop machine in a structured work environment. Examples of this would be Quickbooks Online, the Google DriveBusiness Suite, Atlassian, Hubspot, and Salesforce.

User logins from mobile devices on the platforms mentioned above will be outliers, but the data is worth more than gold.

Why? Let’s look at a few example use cases.

  1. Investing in a Mobile Application: Unless your business model is based around a mobile app, creating one is a huge investment of resources, and most of them fail to achieve the desired goal. Data units collected from users on mobile devices will limit your risk by proving the hypothesis that a mobile app would be of value to your users. To prove this, focus on measuring the frequency of mobile logins, and the percentage of users who have accessed your platform from a mobile device. If you are seeing >50% of your users accessing from a mobile device more that 1x per day, it’s a good bet that a mobile app will perform well.
  2. Using Push Notifications: Mobile has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for marketing. The push notification is one of the most effective and potentially damaging forms of marketing that you can use. The simple truth is that a push notification from an application that you access on your phone is acceptable, and one from an application you don’t is downright annoying. Mobile data will let you know if and how you can take advantage of this new form of marketing — and for the record, I include SMS in push notifications. If mobile users are accessing your platform on a weekly basis, you should consider using SMS to take advantage of the amazing open rates. An example of this would be in an industry that is desktop heavy but requires a mobile application as well, like construction mapping. It would be in your benefit to send an SMS with a download link to users who create an account on their desktop but then have your app on the job site as well.
  3. Feature Prioritization: Accessing SaaS platforms from a mobile device is inherently more difficult than on a desktop computer. Because of that difficulty, the behavioral analytics you capture will tell you what features your users can’t live without. You can use this data to double down on most important features, and focus on pushing these features to other users and creating habits.

If the true value of data is how you use it, the true value of a SaaS company is the quality of data they gather.

About the Author:
Jesse Williams is a young entrepreneur, husband, father, technologist and SaaS marketing expert. You can follow him on Twitter and learn more about him and his projects here.