Friday, 17 February 2012

Mobile is not an island

Forrester predicts the mobile wave will engulf us all. One billion smartphones by 2016. As smartphones increase in numbers so does their effect. Who betide the company that does not make ready for the coming deluge.

The mobile user is not a specific type of user, a distinct breed form the “standard” PC user. In many cases the mobile user is the user. They will only engage with you via their phone. For many the principle form of engagement will increasingly become via mobile. The principle analyst at Forrester, Ted Schadler makes the point perfectly:

“Mobile is the new face of engagement,” Mr. Schadler said. “Businesses should stop thinking about it as a small Web site on a tiny computer, and start thinking about mobile as being deeply embedded systems of engagement. That turns out to have huge implications.”

It is no longer enough, or even right, to think of the mobile user as only requiring a subset of the functionality and content of your standard digital offering. If the only way someone will interact with you is via a mobile device then that does not mean we should limit what’s on offer.

The mobile user does have hurdles to overcome, the UI has to accommodate the restrictions of smaller screens, in the case of IOS they cannot access Flash content, which while it may be in its death throws it is still a common delivery medium. The smartphone user has distinct needs and usage patterns. We need to accommodate their on the move mentality.

But the mobile user gives us so much more than their desk bound counterparts. We need to reward the knowledge they give us about their location and time of interaction. We need to deliver meaningful and useful services. In some ways they are a super set of the traditional user. We should deliver the full web site package and then some.

We should see mobile as part of the complete interaction spectrum. A spectrum which reaches from the actual engagement with the brand product, through the social consideration and interpretation of the brand through all forms of digital interaction. So while the mobile experience should not be the poor partner of the PC experience, neither should it exist in isolation from it. Interaction is a continuum where the historic engagements play their part in current and future actions and reactions. The digital offering which is not only cognisent of this history but adaptive to it is far more powerful than an island of interaction.

When developing today’s mobile strategy it should weave its way through all parts of the digital strategy and indeed, the complete marketing and sales strategy. Assigning responsibility for the mobile deluge to one department will not work.  As Karl Heiselman the author of a his report "Game Changers" puts it in a recent Fact Company article:

"Companies are only valuable if they prove themselves useful, time and again. Viewed with that lens, most companies come up short. "What’s interesting is that, on the client side, it’s never anybody’s job to own the customer experience," says Heiselman. "Some people think about pieces of it, but it’s nobody’s job to think about it in any kind of joined-up way."

Joined up thinking is such a tired expression, but from a user's experience they are dealing with one entity through many touch points and medium. They do not see or expect a mobile interaction to differ in quality and value from a marketing engagement or a sales experience or an after sales encounter. They increasingly expect the company or brand to know them and know about them and previous encounters. As mobile is taking a leading role we have to rethink our digital priorities and no longer consign it to a niche activity but make it a prime element in the spectrum of engagement. Make ready to take advantage and ride the wave, or else get soaked. 

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