Mobile is Dead. Long Live Mobility!

Scan and Scram. Digital Wallet. Social Shopping. 3-Dimensional commerce, Augmented Reality, Virtual Assistant, Location-based Search

Question:  What do all of these have in common?

If your answer is “mobile,” you’re missing major (digital) business transformations that are changing the game across every industry.

  • Channel shift as customers increasingly turn to smart phones and tablets instead of sales reps and service centers
  • Value Transformation as real-time references, recommendations, specifications and instruction become an integrated part of “product”
  • Disruption as manufacturers are able to leap-frog distribution and retail to connect directly with customers right at point of sale

The Answer: they’re all behaviors (“capabilities” is also acceptable and most relevant to business).

“We need a mobile strategy.” 
In most cases, this is just business-speak for saying “We want a mobile app.” The focus almost invariably, and mistakenly, starts with the platform.

The good news is that mobile apps are cheap and easy to make. There are few barriers to checking that box. Of course, the likelihood that this approach would provide much value for your business or your customers isn’t very high either, as evidenced by success rates of mobile apps.

  • Nearly one in three downloaded apps are used just once
  • About half of mobile consumers delete apps within the same month they buy the app. Up to 90% are eventually deleted
  • Most (68%) of smart phone owners use five or less apps on a regular basis
  • The top 10 Android apps (of 250,000 total apps) account for 43% of all app usage

In the healthcare space alone there are already over 4,000 apps, including drug databases, medical calculators, reference programs, decision support for physicians, nurses, tracking (weight, blood pressure, etc.), patient history (accessing, managing, and documenting), collaboration tools and payer tools.

At the same time, combined smart phone and tablet sales are passing desktop and notebook sales. The “third screen” is already the first choice of highly integrated, connected experiences. Morgan Stanley is also predicting that mobile will be the primary platform for small business by 2015. Based on the current pace of adoption, they may have underestimated.

And the bar is being raised every day as customers and partners try and integrate newer, more innovative mobile capabilities into their everyday lives.

It’s People, Not Platforms
What’s missing in all these scenarios is a clear understanding of people, their needs and behaviors. Without this foundation, the probability of failure is high. Benchmarking competitor mobile efforts won’t ensure success. Neither will reading Fast Company, studying Forrester and eMarketer, doing a workshop or checking out the Marketing VP’s cool new app.

The focus needs to be on value, utility, immediacy, relevancy and context, anytime, anywhere and continually (re)defined by each individual.

Like any other business or marketing initiative, mobility efforts must be grounded in core customer (unmet) needs.

Key questions that need to be answered:

  • What need does this satisfy for this individual?
  • How is this substantially better, faster, easier than what our customer already does?
  • How does this interaction provide the customer seamless interaction with the brand across all touchpoints?
  • How does this provide differentiation in the marketplace?
  • How sustainable is the advantage we expect to gain? (read: how fast will competitors copy us and catch up?)

Three Signs You’re Headed Down the Wrong Path

  1. Trying to create a smaller version of your web site. Most companies tend to start with their Web presence (it costs the most so it must be most important, right?) and adapt it for a smaller screen. Yes, the brand experience needs to be consistent, but mobility is fundamentally different. Today, many companies are already designing for mobility first, then adapting that solution for the web. Forget the smart phone and think customers and magic wands. What do your customers care about in their lives? What if there was some way you could solve some need anytime, anywhere? Could technology be (part) of the answer?
  2. Being “Done.” Mobility is a journey, and a fundamental expansion of the relationship with your customer. Any initiative or app, no matter how brilliant, will ultimately fail if you don’t commit to a long-term strategy. The landscape is changing too quickly, competitors can copy you too easily and customers get bored with your solution too soon. Continuing – and accelerating – intelligence and innovation are the keys to success.
  3. It’s just an app. The actual mobile applications are just the tip of the iceberg. Complex integrations and interaction of systems and information are required to deliver the personalized experience customers expect today. One client invested heavily in an advanced mobile commerce capability – a very slick app that customers loved – only to find that their back-end systems and architecture was never designed for the “chatter” of mobility. Performance suffered, the app failed and the company alienated customers and lost tens of millions in potential sales.

Like all transformational changes before it (cars, TV, Internet), success in mobility requires a fundamental shift in paradigms and approaches. And while change will continue, starting from a people- and needs-based foundations and making strategic commitments (instead of app-based leaps) are required first steps toward building sustainable success and realizing the full potential and benefits of mobility.

Do you want to learn more about developing a strong mobile strategy? Check out how Acquity Group helped national brands establish their presence in a mobile world.

One comment

  1. Great article! It really resonates with David Armano’s article about mobility on HBR. I love your emphasis on devising a solid strategy with a focus on people. The 3 signs are great eye-openers as we are all guilty of almost jumping on the mobile band wagon at some point. Would love to do a repost on

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