Your Mobile Strategy Can’t Just Be About Phones

In this article, published this week in the Harvard Business Review (and reprinted here with permission) our CEO Brett Caine urges executives to stay ahead of the business opportunities mobile engagement offers by staying focused on the big picture of what mobile is — and can do. 

Ten years ago, Apple released the first iPhone. This set into motion a cycle of innovation and transformation that has touched nearly every business in the world in some way or another. The size and scope of the opportunities the mobile revolution has created for businesses is hard to overstate. Perhaps the greatest impact of all is the way mobile has created — and continues to create — new opportunities for businesses to connect with their customers.

Today, mobile is quickly becoming the remote control for our lives. For businesses, it’s the hub of interactions across digital channels and physical locations, and it paves the way for more and better customer experiences in both the real and virtual worlds. According to Mary Meeker’s latest Internet Trends Report, smartphones are now in the hands of 3.4 billion people across the globe and engagement is on the rise, with users spending three hours per day on mobile — a 4% increase over last year.

There’s great opportunity in the midst of this change, and brands that stay focused on the big picture stand to gain the most. To get there, companies should take the time to level-set their efforts with three strategic exercises:

Reexamine your goals and strategy.

As the world becomes increasingly digital and connected, the number of potential touch points companies have with their customers is expanding — fast. To thrive in this new landscape, brands must understand that “mobile” no longer means “smartphone apps.” Today, opportunities for mobile connection are everywhere: BI Intelligence predicts that 75% of all shipped cars will be connected by 2020, and IHS Markit predicts that 130 million smart home devices will be shipped worldwide in 2017.

With more and more options for mobile interactions, businesses all too often get their digital strategy wrong — or don’t reassess it often enough.

At the highest level, digital initiatives should revolve around a clear plan about what to build and why. Do not just copy competitors or blindly follow the hype cycle. Instead, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are we aiming to accomplish?

  • Have we mapped out our customers’ digital journey?

  • Will our mobile offering solve a real problem for our customers and deliver a unique, mobile experience?

  • Do we need specific mobile device capabilities — e.g., camera, contacts, sensor data or geolocation — to deliver or improve the experience?

  • What cross-channel customer behaviors can mobile help impact and influence?

Make sure to use the right metrics when measuring success and identifying areas for growth.

Remember: the promise of mobile is to make people’s lives easier, not to occupy their attention. Research shows that mobile has reduced attention spans and increased multi-tasking. With this in mind, brands should place less emphasis on downloads and time spent in their app, and instead focus on engagement, usefulness, and customer satisfaction. In other words, shift the focus from reach and frequency to the moments that matter most to your customers and your business. Repeat usage or transactions completed may be more meaningful metrics than time spent for a productivity app like Dropbox or a travel app like Alaska Airlines.

Think about Airbnb. While you might not spend a lot of time every day in the Airbnb app, it’s transforming the hotel and hospitality industry as we know it because of how useful it is. Brands also need to stop thinking about mobile as a siloed part of the business. Mobile isn’t a simple extension of desktop-based engagement models; it cuts across the entire business. This means the metrics used to assess mobile strategies should expand beyond the mobile interactions themselves. Look for evidence of mobile impacting web or in-store sales — that is a metric that counts.

And don’t underestimate mobile messaging.

Apps and mobile-optimized websites are tried-and-true ways brands connect with users on mobile, but they are no longer the only options — nor do they help proactively serve customers in their moment of need. That’s where mobile messaging comes in. For example, consider “lock-screen” messaging delivered through mobile web, mobile apps, and wallet passes that offer deals and content based on a customer’s location. Studies have shown that consumers want notifications (which are always opt-in), and that, in fact, greater notification frequency leads to greater mobile app retention rates.

According to Forrester, up to 75% of the interactions consumers have with mobile phones are micro-moments — a mobile moment that delivers information through only a glance to let the consumer either process or act on it immediately. Furthermore, Mary Meeker went on to note that “Messaging apps, with context and time, have a chance to rival the home screen as the go-to place for interaction.”

This underscores the importance of including mobile messaging in your strategy and designing interactions that take advantage of micro-moments. Interactive notifications with action buttons give users an effortless way to respond, while brands can collect rich insights for future segmentation and targeting, as well as use them to trigger follow-up messaging.

On average, we’ve seen notification opt-in rates and notification engagement rates improve every year for the past three years. What’s more, in the past three months alone, we’ve seen more notifications sent than we did in our first seven years of business combined.

Ultimately, mobile offers brands the chance to connect the dots between a variety of entry points, customer experiences, data sources, and interfaces. This opportunity is only expanding as those interactions proliferate beyond our phone screens. To take full advantage, companies must regularly assess their mobile strategies, align measurements with business goals, and focus on serving customers needs in micro-moments. For those that succeed, the future of mobile is wide open.

This article was originally published in the Harvard Business Review.