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Mobile is dead. Long live mobile. 5 tips for brands in an untethered world

mobile is dead

I recently heard a director of digital and e-commerce of a retail brand say, “we don’t really care about mobile” and nearly shat myself.

I’d recently had Mexican, and it wasn’t agreeing with me.

I’m kidding…their statement did almost cause an involuntary bowel movement.

Luckily I have a strong sphincter (read: I do kegels) and the crisis was avoided.

I was, however, momentarily stunned by the statement of someone I assumed knew that mobile commerce was one of the largest contributors to retail revenues in 2015 – to the tune of a projected $104 billion according to Internet Retailer.

With mobile accounting for more than 30% of all US e-commerce traffic, I chalked the executive’s statement to early morning alcohol consumption, clandestine drug use or undiagnosed Turrets.

But as I thought on it further, I realized that perhaps the functional addict of an exec was actually on to something.

A decade ago websites were the holy grail for e-commerce.

Five years ago SMS was an absolutely essential component of brands’ marketing strategies.

A few years ago having a mobile site or app was critical to a brand’s success.

And now brands are weighing the importance of having a wearable strategy.

All this to drive traffic, increase engagement and conversions on websites, mobile sites, and apps.

With the advent of IoT, wearables, ‘smart’ devices, and thin clients are going to enable incomprehensible levels of engagement – making the actual platform used to connect virtually irrelevant.

This shift is changing the way we interact with the world around us and the brands that want to reach us.

So in honor of the wayward exec I maligned, here is my top 5 list for preparing for an IoT world.

1. Accept that people are always on.

We are always reaching for our devices. Sleep seems to be the only time we’re not literally on our devices. But with devices like the Apple Watch doubling as a nightstand clock/alarm clock, we’re closer than ever to achieving actual ‘always-on’ status. At a glance, we can get weather updates, stock tips, heath status, schedule and virtually any random piece of information one desires. No longer are we required to ‘boot up’ a computer or suffer some cumbersome process in order to get information. Today, we can just ask Siri, Cortana or any of a dizzing number of virtual assistant (even on our damn tvs!) and activate/initiate some desired action. With IoT, there’s no going back.

2. Be diffuse but don’t dilute.

water down

Once upon a time, mobile sites we trimmed down versions of full desktop sites. The thought process was that with the smaller real estate, users wouldn’t be able to process the same amount of information, and that information overload was the equivalent of a poor user experience. So many brands opted for ‘brochure’ mobile sites, stripped of the functionality available of desktop sites save a few basic options. Today we know better. With smart phones housing increasingly powerful processors, greater real estate for presenting content from larger screens, and loads of data about mobile user behavior, having a mobile site that functions like a full desktop site or offers the same utility, and is adapted to mobile user behavior ensures that you’re enabling your users rather than hampering them. In the age of IoT, brands will become adept at applying the lessons learned in mobile to wearables to avoid watering down utility.

3. Meet your audience where they are.

meet people where they are

I’m sure you’ve heard of brands adopting a multi-channel or omni-channel strategy as it relates to targeting their users. Basically, these terms refer to the evolving mindset that you can no longer build it and expect them to come. Today, you’ve got to meet them where they are, which increasingly requires that you first understand where they are, and second how to engage them in those spaces. You cannot simply say, “I’m going to make my website available on mobile and tablet devices and wearables” (unless you want to fail miserably). Yes, you should have an approach or strategy for intelligently being present in the spaces your users are, but don’t blunt the efficacy of your presence with a one-size-fits-all mindset.

4. Build bridges back to you.

hyperlink

I once received an email offer in my inbox with no hyperlink to a landing page or the website for the offer itself. There was no specific call to action or clear indication of how to take advantage of the promotion. Outside of communicating that there was a sale, the brand didn’t make it particularly easy to take advantage of it. Major miss. If you’re a brand with a compelling offer, make sure that you make it super simple for recipients of that offer to take advantage of it. For example, if you’re offering 20% off at checkout and that ad is my entry point, make sure there’s a cookie that auto fills the promo code box at checkout and the user doesn’t have to backtrack to find the code.

5. Think like a user.

personas

I recently read an article about a shopping app, in which the app’s creator was the first user/shopper. The article went on to explain how the app’s creator continued to use the app to shop, even though he had thousands of shoppers and a staff of thousands. Why? Because knowing the user experience from a first person perspective was critical to ensuring that the app contained to meet the needs of shoppers. As a brand, it’s one thing to have an idea and quite another to see how you idea manifests in the real world. Make sure you’re putting down your marker, stepping away from the white board, and walking in the shoes of your users to know exactly what their experience is in the real world. As a corollary to this point, make sure you build personas which speak to the different types of people who will engage your brand, so you’re thinking through not one user journey, but the many possible user journeys of the various users.

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My Top Ten Takeaways from INBOUND14

INBOUND 2014

At this time last week, I was leaving INBOUND14, HubSpot’s annual conference, which brought together some of the biggest and brightest in marketing, technology, e-commerce and business.

Over the course of four days, I sat through numerous keynotes, talks, breakouts and hands-on learning sessions, led by industry titans like Malcolm Gladwell, Simon Sinek, Guy Kawasaki and Martha Stewart.

Yes. I said Martha Stewart.

I finally had a chance to go over all my notes in Evernote (I’m kinda digging Evernote, y’all) and I’ve put together a list of my top ten takeaways from Inbound 2014.

1. It’s all about context.

While everyone is talking about mobile, mobile, mobile, we should be talking about mobile in context to the overall user experience. Our focus should be on how optimizing users’ interaction with our brands regardless of entry point (desktop, tablet, mobile or kiosk).

2. Experience over technology.

If you line up two similar products, side-by-side, the one that performs better is the one that’s going to win. When you’re competing for users’ time, attention and money, you’ve got to create an exceptional, seamless, quality user experience, for all touch points.  Brands should focus on ensuring that their website, mobile site, application, or products enhances the user experience.

3. Blend the physical with the digital.

Users are expecting brands to provide them with greater information to enable them to make informed decisions in real time. The best brands are allowing users to seamlessly move from physical (a product with a QR code) to digital (which is scanned and provides product information and “Buy Now”, “Add to Wishlist” or “Email to a Friend” options) are the brands that are going to win.

4.  Think customer first.

Old school marketing put the brand voice first. New school marketing puts the consumer voice first. Today’s engagement focuses on the consumer and is tailored to address their needs. More listening and less talking. When designing online, mobile or interactive experiences, the focus should be on building (or deepening) brand equity rather than selling.

5.  Rethink mobile.

Stop thinking of the mobile device as THE entry point, and start thinking of it as AN entry point. Rethinking mobile means placing the consumer at the center of your strategy (and not the device). It means realizing that sometimes a user is not going to want to interact with you via mobile, and being okay with that. It means to stop comparing mobile to desktop (and expecting engagement, conversions, page views, time on site, etc.) to be the same. It means that if the user is spending any time with your brand over any medium, you’re doing something right.

6.  Stay fluid.

It’s very easy to be set in your ways. But it’s better to be agile and responsive. You should always be listening, be prepared to react and be willing to change. Users respond favorably when they know you’re listening, paying attention to their concerns, and implementing solutions that make interacting with your brand easier or more fulfilling.

7.  Think holistically.

Sometimes, the best way to engage users may, in fact, be offline. Since we always have our mobile devices with us, brands have the ability to seamlessly marry our off and online worlds. By paying attention to more traditional modes of communication (billboards, text) brands can create numerous opportunities for engagement, where the medium is subservient to the message.

8.  Subtract, don’t act.

One theme that was repeated throughout the sessions, was the importance of simplifying your apps to accommodate the user’s primary objectives when interacting with your brand. Brands like Hilton and Torchy Tacos simplified their apps to “bare bones”, which pushed engagement and increased their bottom line.

9.  Think about why we are mobile.

While most of us equate “mobile” with “phone” it really means “the act of moving about freely.” Your mobile strategy should be about enhancing that sense of freedom, and not restricting it. Brands should focus on understanding the behavior of their users, and devising strategies that meet us where we are, rather than forcing us to interact in rigidly defined ways.

10.  Facilitate experiences.

When it comes to mobile, your primary objective is to help people do what their doing better. Moreover, your mantra should be: “Don’t interrupt. Enhance.” Rather than simply push a new app, update or feature, focus on what your customers are doing and seek ways to enhance the user experience.

If you’re interested in checking out some really great recaps of the sessions, visit inbound.org.

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The Secret of Success? Planning and Execution.

I frequently consult young entrepreneurs seeking advice on establishing new business ventures.

Typically, they’re a group of close friends, former classmates or loose affiliates, galvanized by a strong central figure or idea that they collectively believe in.

Often this allegiance manifests itself in some form or other, that evidences the sincerity of their commitment and desire to bring their idea to fruition.

Sometimes this manifestation is a one-sheet or prospectus.

Other times, it’s the first draft of a business plan.

And still others, its a landing page or website.

Very rarely, though, I come across a young entrepreneur or group of entrepreneurs, who have it all: business plan, marketing materials, financial projections, website and launch strategy.

I’m always excited when I encounter individuals like these, because it’s much easier to refine material that’s been primed, than trying to work the raw material itself.

Recently, I’ve been approached by an organization that seems to have the hallmarks of this rare breed of entrepreneur.

Since I’m bound by an NDA, I can’t talk about them or their project in any real detail.

But I can talk about what makes them exceptional, as a case study for other young entrepreneurs seeking to find success outside of a traditional 9 to 5.

So here are the five signs of a successful entrepreneur.

1. Planning makes perfect. One of the most important traits of any successful entrepreneur is the ability to plan. Success doesn’t ‘just happen’. It comes as the result of careful planning. I frequently refer to Sun Tzu, when I talk of planning, because it’s through planning that one defeats their enemy. Failure is the enemy. And as the saying goes, “he who fails to plan, plans to fail.” I’ll take it one step further and say, “he who plans poorly, fails miserably.” To avoid the pitfalls of no/poor planning, I recommend the use of online project management and collaboration programs, like Basecamp, to take your planning to the next level.

2. Document everything. Having an idea of how you plan to get something done isn’t the same as documenting that plan. It’s important that your plans are memorialized in writing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it puts everyone on the same page (pun intended). If you’re concerned about maintaining documents in a usable and shareable way, Google Docs is an excellent tool for storing, sharing and editing documents online.

3. Scared money don’t make no money. A serious entrepreneur understands the importance of raising and spending money. The best ideas in the world go nowhere because they can’t get investment. I’m not talking IPO money or VC capital to build a prototype, hire staff and file patents. I’m talking basics: get a domain name, hire a web developer, get some business cards made. You’ve got to have a strategy for funding your company or idea, especially at its initial phases. Optimally, you can get your business up and running and generating revenue before you have to ask anyone (beyond friends and family) for money. Once you’ve got it going, you’ve got to have a strategy for sustaining and growing it. The presence/absence of a fundraising strategy is one of the key indicators of the viability of any business. Kickstarter is a great resource for jump starting York fundraising initiatives.

4. Get your tech on. In business nowadays, technology is the great equalizer. One trait that I find particularly intriguing about young entrepreneurs is their propensity to develop new platforms, and the fact that they understand the strategic importance of positioning technology in the marketplace. A good idea can become an overnight success through the effective utilization and implementation of technology. Whether its something as innovative as a new platform or as mundane as having a mobile website, integrating technology into your strategy is a sure means of differentiating you from your (potential) competitors.

5. Get sound advice. Have you ever drafted what you though was the perfect email? You labored over every word and read and re-read until you were certain it was just right. Then, satisfied, you press send. Of course, the minute it leaves your desktop you notice you’ve misspelled something. Or used “your” when you meant to use “you’re”. Or “there” instead of “their”. If only someone else had proofread it before it went out!

Starting a business venture is like preparing that email. Even when you think you’ve thought of everything, a more seasoned eye can spot things that you’ve missed. Having an experienced advisor, advisors or board of directors can be a valuable tool for not only launching your business, but growing and expanding your business as well.

If I had to give a formula for a successful entrepreneur: success = planning + execution.

Lots of people have good ideas.

What separates them from the guy sitting on his couch saying, “Hey! I thought of that years ago!” is that they got off their asses and did something about it.

Now get off your ass!

If you’re interested in getting some advice for your business idea, feel free to drop me a line.

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The Importance of Convergence: Social Media and Mobile

Social media plus mobile equals audience.

One of the strategies I advocate when meeting with clients, is implementing social media and mobile into their marketing efforts.

Mobile and social media are so ubiquitous, that I routinely counsel my clients to incorporate them with all deliberate speed.

For the select few that truly comprehend their importance, they’ve become a primary approach to reaching their target audiences.

For others, social media and mobile are part of a long-term strategy, that they understand needs to be implemented, even if they don’t immediately ‘get it.’

From the technical to the ergonomic, the aesthetic and interoperability standpoints, mobile and social media represent an unprecedented amount of bang for the buck.

You get a far greater ROI utilizing social media and mobile, than virtually any other medium.

More importantly, mobile and social media have an inherent metrics-based foundation, making them the perfect tool to query your database for useful and immediately applicable information.

One of the key virtues of mobile and social media, is the fact that they provide a point of convergence for a brand’s marketing efforts.

Instead of having to develop separate and distinct campaigns for each medium, you can structure one comprehensive campaign, that incorporates the fact that it will be deployed across several mediums simultaneously.

If you read Mobile Marketer or Advertising Age or any of a number of progressive on or offline marketing publications, you’ll see this trend is growing.

As the Obama campaign made clear, the social media and mobile platforms are the standard for galvanizing support around your candidate, product or brand.

I’m sure that there are many who still doubt the veracity of my position, but alas, you may lead a horse to water…

I’ll post updates about the brands that I’m working with, paying specific attention to how they are utilizing social media and mobile to expand the breadth and scope of their respective messages.

Over time, I’m sure, almost every brand will have some form of social media and mobile presence.

Those that don’t, I fear, may go the way of the dinosaurs.

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