Why mobile is king of the customer journey

17th May 2016

Mobile technology has captivated us in a way that larger, less portable devices never could. Out of the time consumers spend interacting with digital devices, mobile phones alone claim 62%. American adults spend more than two hours per day on smartphones, while Millennials spend more than three.

Today, smartphones have become a central pillar for interaction with friends, family, and even brands. From the first time a customer learns a brand exists — to the first time she shares a product or service she’s purchased through social media, text, or email — mobile is at the heart of the customer experience.

While conversions via mobile are still dwarfed by other channels, conversion is just one action in the journey. Mobile plays a particularly important role in these key moments:

1. Brand Discovery

Social media is a powerful way to drive brand discovery, and it’s increasingly mobile. Facebook has become a hub for person-to-person interaction, making it the perfect place for consumers to also meet new brands. Today, with 1.39 billion of Facebook’s 1.55 billion monthly users active on mobile — and a significant portion exclusively using mobile — interactions are likely happening on a mobile device.

As a result, the majority of brands have established a social media presence, and many have invested in paid advertising on these channels, specifically on mobile. More than three-quarters of Facebook’s third-quarter 2015 ad revenue came from mobile advertising — up from two-thirds during the same quarter in 2014.

2. Research and Decision-Making

What’s the first thing you do after you learn about a new, exciting brand? If you’re like most consumers, you probably turn to Google to find out more. Last year, Google announced that more searches take place on mobile devices than computers in 10 countries across the world, including the U.S. and Japan.

This means even if brands connect with consumers through traditional media like print, TV, or out of home, consumers are likely to search for the product or service on their mobile devices. With a smartphone in every pocket, it’s understandable why 62 percent of Google survey respondents say mobile is the most convenient way to search, and 53 percent say mobile is the quickest.

3. Retention and Re-Engagement

Email is one of the most critical methods of customer relationship management, and 53 percent of emails are opened on a mobile device. This includes emails concerning everything from promotional sales to cart abandonment to new products and services. After opening an email on a smartphone, a consumer who chooses to take the intended action also begins a new customer journey on her mobile device.

The Mobile-Friendly Customer Journey

Mobile is brands’ best tool for customer engagement, but not every brand knows how to optimize its customer journey for the small screen.

Here’s how to make your brand’s customer experience more mobile-friendly:

  • Engineer your website to be mobile-first.

    Too many marketers shift their advertising spending into mobile without creating great mobile experiences for their audiences. For example, a financial institution might show Facebook ads to mobile customers, but users who follow the ad are often taken to a webpage that isn’t optimized for mobile. As a result, users can’t easily complete the intended action and have poor experiences — the advertising investment is wasted.

    One company that has mastered this approach is personal lending startup Upstart. By pairing mobile Facebook ads with a responsive website that’s easy to use, Upstart funnels prospective customers into an online application that is engineered for mobile.


  • Build customer relationships with a native app.

    Apps deliver value by managing the information exchange at the heart of the brand-consumer relationship. This includes storing profile information like measurements and sizes for brands that offer custom tailoring, storing past purchases for easy reordering, and managing purchases for future activity like hotel reservations, airfare, and events.

    Apps also create a dialogue through push notifications and in-app messaging that, when used correctly, can deliver tremendous value to both brands and consumers. For example, Waze sent a push notification to users who regularly drive interstate 280 that the freeway between San Francisco and Silicon Valley was shut down at 2 p.m. Waze saw a 25 percent jump in users during the closure; users who really appreciated the heads-up.

    Service apps like apartment rentals and job searches also get great results with push notifications. They can alert users of new listings, and when they’re appropriately timed, user engagement can be as high as 80 percent.

  • Deliver complementary functions across the digital ecosystem.

    While mobile plays a dominant role in the consumer journey, it can’t be a solo act. And product and tech leaders shouldn’t try to give every website, mobile application, or large format display the exact same feature set. Instead, determine the intent of your audience at each stage of the consumer journey, and ensure those touchpoints deliver the expected value.

    Both Instagram and Uber excel at delivering unique, complementary features between their web and mobile experiences. Uber doesn’t enable users to request rides from the website because that’s not how users are intended to use the service. The website is oriented around viewing ride history and managing an account, while the mobile application’s primary use is requesting a ride.

    Similarly, Instagram doesn’t enable users to post from the website because the platform is intended to be mobile and function in real time. Instead, the website allows customers to view profiles and image streams. Users can post exclusively through the company’s mobile app.

To improve your brand’s user experience, pay close attention to customers’ needs and expectations at the various stages of interaction with your brand. Our mobile devices might be small, but the role they play in today’s customer journey most certainly is not. 

Kevin Jennings is the vice president of strategy at Fuzz, a leading product agency based in Brooklyn, New York, that creates beautiful, usable products engineered to perform for brands including Forever 21 and Anheuser-Busch InBev. Kevin studied at Clemson University and has served as global strategy director for Ralph Lauren.

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