Brian SolisBrian Solis

Chris Silva, my colleague at Altimeter Group, released a useful report today that I wanted to share with you here. Mobile is important and I believe you know this. However, when we consider mobile, we often think about the experience when and where it begins. But, we often miss the opportunity to lead a more meaningful journey as it may travel from small screen to larger screens across laptops, desktops and beyond. And along the way, we must now determine our role in this journey to provide information, shape decisions, and influence behavior.

In Chris’ report, he reminds us that 2011 was the year of the mobile consumer. As he notes

2011 saw a surge in mobile users, but 2012 is the year when smartphone owners become the majority of users, currently hovering just below 50% of U.S. mobile phone users. Tablets, too, take center stage with a near 24% CAGR in adoption.

Indeed. Think about all of the events leading up to this moment today and the role your smartphone or tablet played in helping your discover, share, communicate and learn. You might in fact, be reading this on your mobile device now. The reality is that growth in mobile is blinding as consumers break the shackles of their PCs and expand beyond the reach of wifi to keep them connected to information and people anywhere and everywhere. This is an important moment in the evolution of mobile as it no longer simply about communication or smart communication. Mobile is causing a fundamental shift in society where consumers are evolving into connected consumers. This connected mindset is empowering as people take advantage of on-demand access to not just information, but other people, opinions, shared experiences, and a bevy of apps and resources to help make more informed and efficient decisions than ever before.

In Chris’ graphic, we can see just how pervasive mobile is within our increasingly connected society.

- Tablets comprise 7% of population of all mobile devices owners

- Android users spend on average 1.24 hours daily engaging with the device

- 77% of smartphone users put their phone to work while shopping

58% of adults are somewhat or very likely to make a purchase on their smartphone (this will only become standard one day)

One of the biggest areas impacted by this constant change in market dynamics is of course retail. This past holiday season only proved the point. Consumers scanned barcodes or QR codes to check prices nearby and online. And, before they would consider finalizing the purchase, they would ask for a little help from their friends by taking to social networks or review sites to validate decisions.

In his report, Chris observes…

Retailers, to date, have had mixed success targeting these users. While many have achieved success with mobile, a maturity level Altimeter defines as “flying high” with their mobile strategy, many are in a middle ground of maturity, called “hitting turbulence” and many more are still not yet started and highly immature, or still “on the ground.”

Hitting turbulence is indeed the right metaphor. Some of the biggest retailers were caught surprisingly off guard or rigid in their ability to adapt when consumers would ask customer service managers to match prices displayed on the mobile phone. Small screens caused big ramifications as those consumers would instead leave rather than succumb to aging in store policies that, nowadays, work against the retailer. Think about it for a moment. Consumers willingly abandoned what could be a point of purchase because of a policy that doesn’t apply to today’s standards that are driving connected consumerism. Many times, they would spend their savings in gas to purchase elsewhere or online. If this continues, local retailers will simply become the showrooms of the more adaptive and competitive online retailers. And just wait until mobile commerce becomes disruptive.

Avoiding Mistakes and How to Win

But this is not just about matching prices. This is about shaping and steering experiences. From apps, to in store guides and reward systems, to check-ins to payments and beyond. And as we think through how to engage customers on the small screen, especially within the store environment, walking in the shoes of our connected consumers is now part of the job. We are in fact, the consumers we are trying to reach and as such, we must not introduce strategies that are disconnected from the start.

Here, Chris provides a list of common mistakes to avoid.

1. Mobile for Mobile’s Sake. Major retail brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) and Longhorn Steakhouse are prime examples of brands rushing to mobile with a focus on the medium and not the end goal of impacting the business (see Figure 2 in the report).

2. Missing the Chance to Target Mobile Users. Another common mistake is not targeting mobile users. For example, Amazon launched a campaign on December 10, 2011, to have users scan products in-store using its Price Check app (see Figure 3 in the report).

Instead Chris shares tips and best practices to help brands and retailers better connect with the connected consumer…

1. Align mobile with other key teams. Winning mobile teams are tightly aligned with marketing loyalty programs (if applicable) and e-commerce teams. For example, Starbucks built its wildly successful application not around revenue or loyalty card adhesion, but instead around ease of purchase.

2. Focus on what the user needs. Mobile strategies should be holistic and remain focused on what users are seeking. Informational apps may seem simple in design, but a solid strategy seeks to solve the “information” problem, not just the “mobile” problem.

3. Allocate the resources necessary to make mobile successful. Allocation of the necessary resources at U.S. pharmacy and convenience retailer Walgreens is at the forefront of everything the company does in mobile. The Walgreens app used the mobile device’s camera to scan a prescription barcode to initiate a refill, is an example of “multichannel lite” activity.

4. Mobile means multiple platforms. One of the few retailers profiled that has built a tablet and smartphone version of its app along with a fully featured mobile website, Zappos, worked many processes in parallel to get its application off the ground.

Everything begins with understanding the maturity of your mobile strategy so that you pinpoint areas where to improve in capabilities and ultimately more engaging and productive experiences…with desired outcomes.

On the Ground. Retailers in this phase of maturity are just beginning their journey into mobile. They’re on the runway, ready for takeoff, but still laying out the groundwork for their mobile strategy in its first iteration. There is much ground to cover, and the potential to fall behind or lose ground to competitors is high.

Hitting Turbulence. Retailers at this maturity phase have jumped into mobile with some of the best intentions but have not realized the revenue or customer interaction gains they hoped to achieve. What is most likely holding them back are that the efforts in these organizations are not clearly focused on serving business needs or actual customer pains.

Flying High. The news is not all bad; we interviewed many successful mobile teams that have attained success with their mobile strategy. Their apps currently provide a positive impact to the business and make interaction and purchasing easier for customers, addressing an actual customer pain.

If 2011 was the year of the mobile consumer, 2012 is the year of the mobile marketer. You are now an architect of experiences that helps the customer journey end in your favor. Use this report to help build a bridge not only between screens, but also to weave engaging, useful and efficient experiences that help customers make decisions in your favor now and over time. Innovation is now an ongoing investment as expectations and device capabilities will continue to evolve in parallel.

Think about the experience and the desired outcome…not just mobile for mobile’s sake. The small screen is a window to decisions, sentiment, and loyalty.

Download it or read it below to learn more about how to deliver remarkable mobile experiences…

Make An App For That: Mobile Strategies For Retailers