Tag Archives: utility

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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The utility company of the future is mobile – today.

electric meter

Virtually everyone in the world is mobile.

That’s a fact.

We spend more time with our mobile devices, than we do our spouses and children.

Sad, but true.

But since we are inextricably tied to these devices, and use them obsessively, it only makes sense that brands should cater to this behavior.

I’m not saying that brands should make us more drone-like, such that we never put our devices down.

What I am saying is that since we seem to draw greater and greater utility from them, brands that understand user behavior, can benefit themselves significantly by paying attention to this trend.

Think about it.

Before you used to have to go to the bank to make a deposit.

And you could only do it during banking hours.

Then came ATMs and you could deposit funds even when the bank was closed.

Today, you don’t even have to leave your house to make a deposit.

You can simply snap a photo of your check with the banking app on your mobile phone and you’re done.

The banking industry paid attention to it’s users and came up with solutions that met them and technology where they were.

A similar opportunity exists for utility companies.

Back in the day, if you had a problem with your service, you’d have to go down to the utility company, take a number, and wait in line to actually speak to someone.

Because lord knows that calling them was a massive waste of time.

A year ago, the best you could do was log into your utility company’s website from your desktop computer to check your bill, input a meter reading or schedule an appointment.

But today, you can pay your bill, connect or disconnect service and input a meter reading all from your mobile phone.

No longer are you tethered to a computer to accomplish basic (and sometimes fairly sophisticated) tasks, you can perform these things on the go.

You’re probably wondering, “why is this fool blathering on about the utility company?

I’ll tell you why.

I just paid my PSE&G bill, sitting in my boxers on my phone.

No. I was not sitting on my phone.

I was on my phone, while I was sitting in my boxers.

Whatever.

My point is that we’re seeing a wave where more and more businesses, especially businesses which offer utilitarian value (banking, utilities, cable) streamlining their offerings for mobile.

And consumers are becoming increasingly discerning about who they patronize, and making these decisions based on how well they meet their mobile needs.

I can tell you that I’m automatically turned off by any brand that doesn’t have a mobile website.

And I don’t just mean doesn’t have a mobile website, but one that auto-detects that I’m using a mobile device and renders the appropriate screen.

So you can imagine my glee in discovering the PSE&G had made the leap to mobile.

I wonder how many more utility companies are following suit.

If your’s isn’t – shame on them.

But I’d imagine that it isn’t far off.

 

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10 Billion App Downloads and You DON’T Need One?

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard the recent announcement by Apple that they’ve just eclipsed 10 billion app downloads in the Apple App Store.

Starting from the release of the iPhone in 2007, the Apple App Store passed the 1 billion download mark in April of 2009, after opening in July of 2008. That’s a ridiculous pace by any standard.

Tap Tap Revenge is one of the more popular iTunes Apps

Even though much of this traffic was driven by highly popular titles like Tap Tap Revenge and Angry Birds, the reality is that apps have captivated much of the public’s attention, and are as common as the devices upon which they are deployed.

If you’re not an Apple-o-phile, you’ll still be impressed by the estimated 2.8 billion Android apps that have been downloaded to date.

Android is making a strong showing in the app space as well.

What does this all mean?

It means that people find great utility in their mobile devices and much of that utility has been driven by apps.

It also means that apps are a useful tool for brands interested in providing utility to their audiences, in what is becoming an increasingly traditional methodology.

Own a brick-and-mortar establishment? You should have an app that at a minimum, provides turn-by-turn directions to your door. Sure, they can go to GoogleMaps and find you, but why give Google those metrics? Why force your potential customer to take that extra step?

Are you an artist? Your app should stream your music (or at least snippets), provide access to your music video, pictures, show dates and special event, like listening parties or release dates. If you’re interested in making money, your app should direct users to your mobile-based store front allowing purchases downloaded directly to their device.

Maybe you’ve got a service-based business. Your app can simply be an abridged version of your website, providing one-click access to your phone, email or full mobile site. You can also use push notifications to send out blog posts, where you showcase your service-specific knowledge and expertise.

Five years ago, when I was working with The Marksmen and we were introducing DOT.TUNES, the first iPhone app which allowed users to remote access their entire iTunes library from any device capable of an internet connections, we realized that we had an uphill battle, as smart phones (and the concept of ‘apps’) were still very niche.

I acknowledge that we were ahead of our time (DT was released prior to the availability of Apple’s software developer’s kit) and were definitely on the leading edge of the entire app movement, but even then we realized that apps were how mobile users would access and consume content.

Mobile phones, including smart phones, would invariably have memory and processing constraints, and apps offered a simple way of providing one-click access to great utility, without compromising memory or processing speeds.

Fast forward five years, and Google, Nokia, Samsung, Blackberry, Palm, Windows all have their own apps, and are all seeking to replicate Apple’s success.

Big brands like Hyundai, Pepsi, Old Navy, Walmart, all have apps. And smaller brands are starting to embrace apps as well. WeHarlem’s app, provides a social media app developed specifically for Harlemites. There’s even a Dutch municipality which allows users to file complaints via an iPhone app.

IMO, if you’re a brand looking to forge deeper connections with your core audience, penetrate the market, provide greater utility to your current customers, or simply take advantage of the numerous opportunities that mobile applications provide, developing an app for your brand is a wise investment.

If you’re interested in learning more about mobile applications, and how they can help your brand, feel free to shoot me an email or give me a call.

I’d love to hear from you!

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