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Mobile is “tail wagging the dog” of business transformation: Forrester

NEW YORK – Although $100 billion was purchased last year using mobile devices, brands are still facing a number of challenges that inhibit meeting consumers’ needs, according to a Forrester researcher at Mobile Marketer’s Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2015 conference.

During the “Forrester Research: The Mobile Mind Shift: Closing the Capability Gap” session, the most daunting challenge presented was that many marketers have approached mobile in the same fashion as they would a PC, by shrinking Web experiences onto a smaller screen. Although this tactic is not necessarily wrong, mobile strategies need to be retooled because there is a fundamental difference between the way consumers interact with smartphones and tablets compared to their PCs.

“Mobile is not a PC, okay, they’re not a PC. With that said, 62 percent of companies still treat mobile as a slimmed down version of what they design for a PC,” said Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

“They’re taking those experiences they’ve created for the PC and they’re squeezing them and they’re shrinking them and using tactics like responsive design to get those onto a small screen,” she said. “You may say what’s wrong with that? We sold $100 billion worth of stuff to consumers on these devices last year, we’re advertising, everything is going really well.

“But, the challenge is that fundamentally when I’m out and about and I’m here and I’ve got my mobile phone, the needs and motivations I have as a consumer are very different, and can be very different from those that I have at home when I’m sitting in front of my PC.”

Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2015 Jan. 14-15 was organized by Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily.

Capability context
As consumer mindset has shifted more and more toward mobile, brands have been slow to fully meet consumer expectations. Consumers hope for engaging experiences on mobile, but instead, brands tend to focus on channels rather than the immediate context consumers are increasingly coming to expect.

To highlight this point, Ms. Ask shared an anecdote of the failed Atlantic City, NJ casino, Revel, which opened and closed only two years later, after being unable to keep up interest as a “destination,” a hard feat to achieve. Marketers have approached applications in a similar way and have struggled expanding their strategy to ensure return uses.

With that in mind, Ms. Ask explained that even though consumers interact with applications on a daily basis marketers must offer something unique and differentiating to ensure return visits. But, marketers have to remember that “if you build [an app], they will come” is not always effective and that today’s mobile consumer is not going to just show up, let alone continue to do so.

Jean Paul Gaultier app Barbican promo
Jean Paul Gaultier app

Forrester’s research shows that 40 percent of consumers are tired of constantly checking their mobile devices for app notifications and to complete tasks. Essentially, apps are becoming too complex for on-the-go mobile users and simplistic tactics will help marketers engage with consumers in a context, in their “mobile moment” of need.

Simple approaches to many means a standard SMS text message, but Ms. Ask urges marketers to think more creatively such as audio and haptic notifications. These notifications achieve the marketer’s goal while engaging the consumer during a mobile moment by giving just enough information for piece of mind, mitigate anxiety while still creating a branded interaction.

Twenty-one of United States consumers have now come to expect this degree of immediacy, simplicity and relevancy. With 29 percent of consumers transitioning to these expectations, Forrester projects that by next year the percentage will nearly double to 50 percent, and this number is even higher in Asia.

To mitigate the challenge of being relevant in real time brands must:

1. Drive spontaneous purchases
2. Influence sales during mobile moments
3. Turbo-charge employees using mobile devices in-store
4. Price match supply with demand
5. Offer new revenue opportunities in service moments
6. Bridge the physical with digital
7. Enable usage-based pricing to reimburse consumers based on compliance

Winning formula 
Countless brands have mobile apps, but there is a formula that ensures making the most of consumers’ mobile moments.

Ms. Ask suggests that marketers strive to do something new and to design for tasks, not just browsing. Retailers have worked to achieve this by integrating ecommerce and content into apps to anticipate mobile moments on the consumer side while also creating a task-oriented project that creates new business opportunities.

For example, department store chain Neiman Marcus has released an iOS mobile app that blends content and commerce to promote interaction with consumers on-the-go.

In addition to shopping features, Neiman Marcus’ NM app houses the retailer’s blog and Instagram feed. This separates the retailer from many of its competitors whose mobile apps serve only as commerce platforms (see story).

Neiman Marcus app Connect
Neiman Marcus app 

Ms. Ask urged attendees to engage consumers within the broader mobile ecosystem and to remember that these interactions do not necessarily need to be in an app.

“This is not about having a mobile strategy,” Ms. Ask said. “This is about having a strategy to use mobile to transform your business and help you meet your business objectives.

“It’s not about an app or a campaign or just content,” she said. “Mobile is a new tool, and it will change everything about the way you engage with consumers, marketing, sales, products, business models and it’s going to have a ripple down effect within your organization and change your platform, your processing, your people and how your organized.”

Final Take
Jen King, lead reporter for Luxury Daily, New York