Goin' Mobile!

You need a mobility strategy. Like yesterday.

June, 2011

Who's Next Out in the woods
Or in the city
It's all the same to me
When I'm drivin' free, the world's my home
When I'm mobile


- Townshend, Pete. "Going Mobile." Who's Next. Decca Records, 1971

Got an iPhone? Guess what? Everybody does. Recent research by Berg Insight reports that global shipments of smartphones increased 74% in 2010. Carriers are aggressively promoting these devices because of the tremendous revenue their manadatory data plans bring in, and consumers are gobbling them up like Pac Man eats dots. According to Olswang, 31% of 24-35 year-olds have a smartphone. I'm no marketing expert, but I'm pretty sure that's an important demographic. My daughter (a member of that group) took a part-time job to pay for her new iPhone, and hasn't bothered to fix her malware infected computer because she "can just use my iPhone." I'm not sure why they even call them "phones" anymore. These devices are actually handheld computers complete with bleeding edge hardware, fast and powerful processors, beautiful displays, ever slicker operating systems, tens of thousands of "apps", and most importantly, a platform for commerce that we are only beginning to realize. Two years ago my cousin joked, "Computers are so yesterday, we use cell phones." Hmpf. If all this isn't compelling enough, we still have tablets like iPad storming the marketplace. This is very exciting stuff.

What's your strategy? If you stammer when answering that question, you've got work to do. I'm going to spare you any more scary statistics trying to convince you. Let's move directly into what you need to do now. The first thing you need to do is get leadership signed up. Nothing will happen unless you champion the effort and get the entire leadership team to support you. Send them articles like this one. Get in front of them one-on-one and as a group, and sell them on mobility. Trust me, unless they're complete dolts, they'll get it. Either that, or your competition will.

Next, you need to make sure you can answer questions about your user base (current as well as potential users that these new technologies will enable you to reach), their requirements, the content you offer them now, and how all of that is affected by the technologies and patterns of use offered by mobile devices. When you developed your company's website you probably didn't consider the implications of location-based services, SMS, or other technologies common to the mobile ecosystem. Lock your creative marketing people in the same room with your technical team and don't let them out until they're so excited they offer to work for free. Their deliverable should be a mobility strategy the scope of which includes not just mobile ecommerce, but also a tactical plan for how your operation will leverage these technologies to power business processes like sales, production, and service, etc. Make sure you've poured mobility innovation into every corner of your business. Is there a way mobility can get the Customers closer to your C-suite? A podcast? How about a monthly chat-powered focus group? Can your sales team configure and fill an order from their phone? Can your field engineers order parts and access technical service bulletins? There are plenty of great firms out there that can help you with both strategy and execution. Make sure their past works have produced return for their clients; ask to interview them. All of this needs to fit nicely with your social media and greater marketing campaign. Think of everything; if you leave something to chance, the afformentioned 24-35 year-olds will show little mercy.

Have some useful content you can give away for free? Consider writing your own "app". Be sure it's useful. Sell motorcycles? Write an app that maps out the best rides based on the user's location, complete with points of interest and the ability for users to share their experiences. I haven't looked, but I'll bet "there's an app for that." Bring the Customers in by promoting rides that just happen to originate from your dealership. Make it simple, and make it beautiful. Your Customers won't use it if it's complex or ugly. Build security into the product; don't let it be an afterthougt. Depending on your business, you may be introducing new areas for compliance (PCI, for example) as you become a trusted steward of your customers' precious data.

Executing the plan takes time, patience, and of course, money. Turn the strategy into a budget first, prioritizing those areas that promise the fastest return and risk reduction. Take the budget back to the folks to whom you sold all of this two paragraphs ago, and pry open their wallets. Open-source is a viable tactic that can save you serious coin; consider it. Use your app and/or site(s), and make your employees use it (not just the developers). Take their feedback seriously, and resolve the stuff they complain about. Remember, simplicity and beauty. Don't release it to your Customers until your focus groups (and you) absolutely love it.

Collaborate with your social media strategy on the release of your product. Accompany it with tremendous fanfare. Don't hold back features for later releases; ship all the goodies in the first revision and then challenge your team to innovate with even better features for the next release. This is not a one-time effort, but an ongoing effort that will become part of your core marketing program. New features should be released frequently so as to keep continuous attention on you and your business.

So this is your call to action. This mobility thing is no fad, and those who choose to ignore it and hope it passes will leave a lot of money on the table. You have to get in the game right now, and no one is exempt. The technology landscape changes much too quickly and I'm confident that in less than five years the majority of web transactions will originate from mobile devices.

Keep me movin', groovin', groovin', yeah
Movin', yeah
Mobile, mobile, mobile, mobile...