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‘Mobile’ is dead: Seven ways to make your new digital strategy work

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1st Aug 2014
Deputy Editor Sift Media
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We’re all too aware that it’s harder than ever to keep up with consumer trends. No sooner have you gotten to grips with the latest digital or behavioural development than it’s already been made redundant by something new. With this in mind, you’d be graciously forgiven for thinking that your ‘mobile first’ approach is keeping you relevant. But even that concept is expiring as we speak.

Mobile is not an important part of your digital strategy anymore. Mobile is your digital strategy.  

This is the sentiment of IBM’s vice president of mobile, Bill Loller. Speaking to MyC, he discusses the desktop’s redundancy and what’s next in the world of mobile.

If you look at past patterns, you can see the increasing pressure put on brands to adapt to new devices. “Think about how [consumers] have adopted technology,” says Bill. “It took a few years for the desktop computer to become important and ubiquitous, it took about another eight years for the laptop, and if you count the smartphone era starting from the launch of the iPhone, that was about five years ago, then tablets, especially the iPad, was about three years. So there’s a time compression in terms of how we're adopting these devices and how we're using them [as consumers]. We’ve become mobile, our behaviour is mobile.”

This may be all great news for the consumer, but it presents some serious challenges for the enterprise. Security and accessibility issues are just tasters of what they have to work around, meaning they’re constantly struggling to keep up with the consumer’s demands.

It’s a struggle worth the effort though; mobile is affecting your business to a greater extent than you may think. Bill explains: “We [IBM] work for some research companies, and one of the great, great facts which came back to us after doing some research was that if people have a bad experience on your mobile site or app, that affects how they think about your brand in general. It doesn’t matter what their experience is from bricks and motor or their regular website or whatever – it’s that mobile experience that affects everything, affects their overall perception.

“You can see it in the way that Wall Street and the markets are reacting to it; if you’re doing well in mobile then your stock prices are well rewarded and if you’re not doing well in mobile, well, then you’re punished.”

So, with ‘mobile first’ thinking fast approaching its best-before date, Bill thinks that brands should prepare for the era of ‘mobile only’. “I keep being struck by the fact that people want to talk about desktop and regular websites, but that world is dead and I don’t know why anyone would invest anymore time or effort in the desktop world. We’re all about mobile devices. I think that that’s the world that’s going to happen. I keep thinking about my daughter; she has hand-me-down tablets and smartphones. She’s never going to use a desktop and I’m willing to bet she’s never even going to use a laptop,” says Bill.

With the death of desktop becoming ever-more nigh, Bill gives six key pieces of advice to help brands deal with this technical bereavement and move into the mobile-only world of the future.

1. Make the transition easy
“Because we’re still in a transitional phase, you need to have a consistent experience between your existing desktop site and your mobile app or your mobile site,” advises Bill. “Think about it like this: I fly United Airlines all the time and I’m so used to United’s website that I can move through that website with my eyes closed. But about, I don’t know, six months ago, they changed their app. And I’m sure their app developers thought that it was the greatest way to build a new app, a new experience for all their dedicated users, but it was completely different from the website.

“I learned about this change when I was literally walking through Heathrow airport, my flight had been cancelled and I was trying to book a new flight. And I couldn’t figure out how to use the app. I had sweat on my forehead, I was going to miss my flight and not be able to see my family, and all I could think about was, if it was the old app, which was exactly like the website, then I’d know how to use it. But I just couldn’t figure it out. In retrospect I can see how cool the app was, but it wasn’t a good experience because I couldn’t figure out how to use it when I needed to use it most.

“When you think about when you use your phone or your tablet, you’re task orientated, right? I mean, you’re trying to find something, and when you find the results you’re going to do something with those results, you’re going to do it or walk away. You’re not picking up your phone for the hell of it. So, there’s an immediacy to things, a task orientation to things.”

2. Identify current breakages
“There are many different ways I think to [work out where the breakages are],” asserts Bill. “First of all, the App Store feedback is incredible; I don’t think people actually realise how much information is there. Literally, people go down to the level of ‘hey, this is the error message I got’ – that kind of information. So there’s an incredible level of detail there.

“Then you can even get down to the level of what IBM and Tealeaf do. We work on the level of ‘here’s what the user saw, here’s what they did, here’s the experience – and here’s the replay of it. Here’s literally the customer journey and what worked or didn’t work’. And I think there are a lot of different levels of how to look at it and it becomes important to string them together to really understand what your customer is experiencing.”

3. Give the consumer what they want
“Think about how your customer use their mobile phones – by nature they’re mobile. They’re travelling, they’re in a car or on a train or plane. Then think about what people often want to know – how much money they have. So travel and banks had to adapt first, while retailers in particular are behind the times. They resist it. Part of [the reason for this] was that mobile supports showrooming. [Customers] are coming into the stores, looking at what's there and trying to find a way to get it cheaper – so it was almost like an instinctive block to doing it instead of being really receptive to the customer and helping them in the retail environment.

“Obviously, that’s got to change, and I think it is changing in many ways. About a year ago I did an Econsultancy event in London with a bunch of retailers, and taking to them, I thought one of the most interesting things they mentioned was that they could literally see on the in-store cameras that when somebody came into the store and couldn’t find Wi-Fi, they walked out. We’re in this world where the consumer expects – no matter where they are, no matter what the environment – that they’re going to be online, they’re going to get free Wi-Fi, they’re going to look at what you’ve got and they want you to make it easier for them to buy.”

4. Stop getting defensive 
“There’s no way you can stop people from showrooming, but what you can do is make your in-store experience, with your mobile technology, very compelling. Think about it like this: I was in London last week and I went into Fortnum & Mason with my mother, my wife, my daughter and we were all looking at stuff and buying stuff. There was no Wi-Fi there which was, you know, unfortunate. But I was thinking, Fortnum & Mason is a great store, and I want to buy from them. And all I want is to understand a little more about what I’m buying. Take it in the general sense: if I could get on Wi-Fi very easily then I could browse things and I could understand things, it’s all great. I want to leave that store with something in my hand. I’m not trying to game the system. I think that’s how retailers think about it. They’re always worried that you’re trying to game them.

"[Instead,] embrace the consumer. If you have the technology there, give them the information they want. Give them a Wi-Fi network. Go on Wi-Fi and give them a coupon. I mean, you can really make it a compelling experience.”

5. Be responsive
“I think responsive web design is a huge thing right now. Picture an experience when you can’t find something on an app or a mobile site – you go back to the desktop site. And so responsive web design is a great way of giving the consumer all the information they want that they would get from the regular website in the mobile website or even the app if you take it that far. I think that’s super important.”

6. Keep it simple, stupid 
"In mobile, you need to rethink the user experience, rethink simplicity, ease, the happy path. I think about when I was just starting my career in tech and Netscape was just coming into being. They had a mantra which was that if it takes the user more than two clicks to get to something, they’ll never go there. And so I think in mobile, if it’s more than one or two steps away they’re not going to do it."

7. Look forward
“We’re very focused on touch right now, but soon it’ll be voice. We’ll be talking to apps and we’re going to be using eye movements. I think time compression plays a really big role there. I don’t know if wearables is necessarily where we’ll go next, but certainly we should be looking at apps and websites from a watch or interacting with them somehow from a wearable device. That stuff is going to start to inform retail experience right, it’s going to start happening and it’s going to happen pretty fast. 

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