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Category: Mobile Strategy

What is Mobile? A Definition for Today’s Business World

When meeting with executives in Fortune 500 companies, I’m always presented with the question “I know you’re here to talk about Mobile, but what exactly does that mean?”.

Here is the answer I most often give, to help clarify how you can define “Mobile” as well as the world it fits within.

Production – This is the ability to create new content, publish papers or Power points, and build new digital media for others to consume. Traditional production devices are screens, mice, and keyboards all working with components like hard drives and processors, assembled in both desktop & laptop form. Can you turn an iPad into a production device? Sure, add a keyboard and turn your iPad into a screen – though you have the ability to produce content on tablets, without a physical keyboard, that’s not what it’s ideally built for, which is…..

Consumption – This the ability to view content, movies, power points, etc which is what Tablets were primarily designed to do. Can you write e-mails on it? Sure you can, but it’s typically not a doctoral thesis. Tablets, and devices with just a screen are primarily geared around viewing – reading – watching. What, then, is a mobile device for?

Interaction – This is the ability to interact with content, people, data, etc and is done best on a small pocket-sized device you carry around with you. Blackberry made e-mail an interactive medium, and enhanced it with blackberry messenger, Apple followed with iMessage, and text messaging even before that – and to this day – remains the #1 way in which people worldwide interact with each other without talking. Outside of communication though, we are starting to see people interacting in new ways – mobile payments, RFID, accelerometer-enabled data transactions for information like contact information. Yet, this world is not nearly as well explored as production and consumption, so where does the future belong to? Smart homes give us a small preview into this world, where you use your phone to interact with everything around you – but where do businesses take this? We’re already seeing an example of this at Starbucks, where people are paying with their phones and interacting with the cash register using a bar code generated through Starbuck’s loyalty card program. This I think, is just the beginning, with close to 10% of the world now using smartphones (http://bit.ly/ttrJHq) we will see companies using these personality-rich devices driving more of the end user experience, and using the data to get smarter on how consumers think.

Though technology will continue to evolve, and devices continue to proliferate – we will see production, consumption, and interaction becoming more advanced (and complimentary) with new interaction methods, like Siri, driving the experience to become more seamless and mature as technology becomes less of an aid and more of a companion. What’s to come is anyone’s guess, but it’s evident that technology is going to continue to surprise – and hopefully enhance – the way we look at mobile.

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Pro’s & Con’s of Mobile Messaging – An Industry Perspective

Introduction

With multiple technologies to chose from in the Mobile applications space, it’s hard to clearly determine what tool is best for the job. One particular technology that’s growing to meet the needs of enterprise users worldwide is SMS / MMS. With the growing popularity worldwide of text messaging, many companies have begun to look at the possibilities of the use of plain & multimedia text messages for both internal and external communication purposes, as well as alternatives to mobile applications to either provide a method to interact with end users in a device-agnostic fashion or gather / provide information such as promotions, or account information. This paper helps explore some of the pro’s and con’s of this medium as well as some potential use cases for where SMS / MMS has proven to be useful

Introduction to SMS / MMS

SMS (or short message system) was developed in the mid-1980s as a method to exchange short 160 character messages between different GSM handsets worldwide. The technology used was based on a diagnostic method cell tower operators used to communicate tower status between operators and the towers themselves, but was later repurposed for commerical use, with the first text message occuring in 1992, on Vodafone’s GSM network in the United Kingdom. The message was “Merry Christmas”.

In 2008, 4.1 trillion SMS text messages were sent, making a SMS a massive global industry worth several billion dollars. It’s grown in a number of different directions, including the ability to contact emergency services via text message in some countries, such as the United Kingdom and some parts of the US. With it’s popularity, it’s also grown to include multimedia through the development of MMS. MMS was originally designed as a captive technology that would allow carriers to charge end users every time a photo was taken. However, in 2004, most carriers admitted that it wasn’t making them a tremendous amount of money. China eventually led the revolution, in part due to the fact that there weren’t many high powered computers owned, but MMS-capable phones spread rapidly. Since then, MMS has exploded, leading to 1.3 billion active users and 50 billion MMS messages being sent as of 2008.

Since then, SMS / MMS has been used in every way possible to help communicate and interact with individuals. Though messaging technology has been hugely popular, with growing numbers every day, there are certainly draw backs to the technology as well due to it’s limitations around the type of interactivity a company can get, as well as mixed responses due to the overwhelming amount of messages exchanged by individuals, along with a good number of people that continue to not want to communicate via SMS or MMS.

The Pro’s & Con’s of SMS / MMS

This is a list of Pro’s & Con’s we gathered from our own experience with companies around the topic of SMS / MMS , as well as incorporating information we’ve gathered from enterprise cus-tomers, developers, and industry experts.

PRO) SMS / MMS is device agnostic
Utilizing a simpler IDE without requiring an extensive background in a particular pro-gramming language, clients can build applications with minimal training in much less time than a native application

CON) Texting can be considered intrusive
Though texting is a very popular medium, it’s also a very personal and always present medium that some people find intrusive. Given the level of personalization that goes into texting, having a trusted relationship between you and the customer is important before going down that path, and giving clear direction to opt in & out.

PRO) It’s affordable to set up SMS / MMS campaigns
Due to the relatively simple nature of both SMS & MMS technologies, setting up campaigns are reltatively easy and affordable vs other more costly solutions, such as a MEAP solution, to provide device-agnostic mobile communications to end users. Not only that, but all carriers have very mature practices in helping companies set up campaigns

CON) Messaging campaigns traditionally have mixed results
Based on conversations Slalom has had with companies around the topic of SMS / MMS solutions, there have been very mixed results in terms of the cost / benefit, and total feedback gained from campaigns. This was largely due to the highly qualitative results (ex: boosts level of informed consumer) that companies aimed for, but had a hard time measuring after the fact.

PRO) Development is relatively simple, given limitations of medium
Due to relatively simplicity of texting, the bulk of the work is in gathering end points (i.e. customer phone numbers) and structuring the message for distribution. Given cost considerations for MMS, most companies Slalom has experience with have opted to focus on SMS, making it even simpler to launch the campaign.

CON) Interaction is limited due to limitations of medium
Though the medium is relatively simple to develop and launch, this also means it’s difficult to exchange a great deal of information over SMS / MMS, meaning the interaction you have with your end users will also be limited. This is not only due to the text limit size of an SMS message, or data limitation of an MMS message, but also the need to keep messages to as small a size as possible to not confuse or mislead the end user. To get around this, most heavy texting is done in abbreviations such as “BRB” (be right back) or “LOL” (laughing out loud) but for corporate campaigns, this is never recommended due to large numbers of end users that may not be familiar with certain abbreviations.

PRO) Both MMS & SMS are mature technologies, with many vendors to chose from

Though SMS & MMS have been established technologies for a relatively short period of time, their growth and origins have made both technologies mature, and reliable means to exchange information to end users. So much so that When voice and data aren’t operating on a device, due to coverage issues, text messages will continue to work most times.

Conclusion

Though text messaging certainly has both it’s ups and downs, there’s no denying that messaging is a very popular way to exchange information in a device-agnostic worldwide way. Companies have certainly had mixed success, but the first step is understanding how your business problem, as it relates to utilizing mobile devices, needs to be solved through better understanding the logistics and outcomes of both successful and unsuccessful SMS/MMS campaigns for previous companies.

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Mobile Usability Framework

With millions of mobile apps being built and deployed, it’s hard to get an understanding of where the usefulness of most of these apps are. Developers today are stuck building for a function or a particular type of app, but it seems as if there’s a greater context missing on both the operating system side, as well as the development methodology.

The operating systems for mobile devices, for the most part, are a blank slate with set interaction paradigms and patterns, but leave a great deal of the interactivity framework up to the developer, outside of the handful of folders and menus one interacts with to get to the program as well as interacting with the “out of the box” functions / apps / etc that come with the phone (clock, PIM manager, etc).

I propose then, the following method to consider how apps can be organized, in terms of a user interaction framework. By thinking about things in terms of roles, tasks, and situations, it’s easier to understand the exact set of circumstances in which someone might be interacting with their mobile device as well as all the considerations that would go into maximizing the level of usefulness within those circumstances.

MobileUsability

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Mobile Technology & Retail Environments

Summary

It’s long been known that the more information the customer has on your product line, the more likely they are to keep coming back. A well informed customer knows what tools can do what, what sales go on when, and who to ask what questions to, then they’ll be fully armed to take advantage of everything your store has to offer. This is why tools such as a website have revolutionized brick & mortar commerce, and helped to not only make products more available to the consumer, but also help to better educate and inform them on the full line of products available to them. Mobile technology however, has advanced to where this is now possible.

Not simply as a way to browse product information online while browsing the products themselves, but the means to better draw the customer into what products can do (ex: combining mobile grocery list app with your product line to show what tools could prepare what foods they’re making for dinner), but also better entice customers with store-only ad-hoc promotional campaigns or help to answer why someone would chose a more expensive blender over the discount store special they saw earlier that day.

Mobile technology has the power to connect the product to the customer, in a way they know and trust, and allows your product line to become a part of their life, even before they’ve made the purchase. It’s the ultimate sales and branding tool, because the relationship no longer has to be between your brand and their persona – but rather, the brand connects with their specific device, to which they’ve already customized and personalized. The relationship is almost instantaneous, from the moment they walk into the store.

Web Today, Gone Tomorrow

Mobility Shaping the Customer’s Decision Making

Today, information you place on your website is largely isolated to the desktop consumer, and hasn’t translated into significant benefit for people going into stores (except for the occasional “print, grab, and go” customer). You have a tremendous amount of information you’ve made available, and rendered in such a way to give anyone a pleasant experience while learning more about your products, and placing orders via the ecommerce portal. However, other than branding & positioning, very little of that experience translates into the B&M customer as they’re walking through your stores. Some of this is due to channel conflict, not wanting people to become solely reliant on the web or the store, so the customer ultimately uses both in conjunction with each other. However, there’s no clear way to bring both the web & the store experience into the same location at the same time – meaning the investment in one customer avenue vs. the other is largely a separate effort and expense.

Mobile technology however, is largely becoming the driving force for accessing website content. It’s reported that, by 2013, people will browse more web content on their phones than their desktops1. Not only will mobile devices continue to dominate the web, but the computing power in any given mobile device will continue to become more powerful and more capable, rivaling PC’s that were state of the art 5-8 years ago, with the gap closing day by day. With this amount of computing power entering your stores each day, it’s never been more important to develop capabilities that your customers can utilize, to connect their devices as well as themselves with your product line.

The key sales principle for years is the more a customer trusts the brand, the less resistance they’ll put up against making a purchase. If I know and trust something, I’m more likely to come back and buy more, or even pay more; because it’s something I know and trust. It costs more to make new customers largely because of the hurdle of establishing the initial relationship, and translate that trust into an ongoing relationship between your brand and their purchasing decisions. Mobile devices can help, because it’s already a device customer’s use and trust – much like the trust they have sitting in front of their computer at their home.

The difference is, you have the combined power of your B&M presence on top of utilizing the trust relationship the individual has while browsing information on their device. The typical consumer knows that a salesperson has an agenda, and is most likely dealing with a commission. Even in a store, or elsewhere, the typical persona is one of hesitance. However, when accessing mobile applications with the whole purpose to simply inform and educate, then the consumer is less likely to throw up emotional barriers and allow the information in. Furthermore, utilizing deals and incentives can help to ease the concerns of even the most frugal customer.

These are all technics that mobile devices can take full advantage of, and have largely gone unexplored.What the web was yesterday is no more – people want to interact with their environments, and use their technology to help them – web sites have to connect through social networks, through forums, and through blogs & posts. A brand that will thrive in the years to come, is a brand that knows how to engage the customer – how to draw them in and make them feel like a part of the company and the product lines. Mobile devices are shaping this new direction, and it’s in linking your stores and online content that will make or break your business going forward.

Store to Phone – Phone to Consumer – Consumer to Sale

A Hypothetical Story on utilizing Mobile Connectivity

Jan, a 28 year old house wife, is in the market for a new blender. She lives in the Shoreline neighborhood, in the greater Seattle area, where there are a number of stores and locations nearby from which she could chose to purchase her ideal blender from. Being an internet savvy consumer, she hops on the web, heads over to Google, and types in “blender reviews”. ConsumerSearch.com is the first link to pop up, so she heads over, and the website’s professional look and feel help her to gain a sense of trust right away. She clicks on the first blender she sees, the one branded “Best” and is instantly taken to a product description place, along with a number of online retailers that sell the product (Amazon, eBay, etc.)However, she knows from past purchases, that kitchen accessories need to be felt and experienced before being bought, because the process to ship back and refund is a hassle, plus she is making dinner for in-laws tomorrow night and doesn’t want to pay for overnight shipping. So she makes a list of a handful of the “top rated” blenders on her iPhone’s note pad, listed on ConsumerSearch.com, then begins a search for nearby blender retailers. Wal-Mart, and Target are the first two on her list, but figures since she’ll be in the Alderwood Mall area, will stop in there to explore some of the kitchen stores as well, because she’s always been someone more concerned with quality than cost, when push comes to shove.

She also adds the food she needs to get from the grocery store, to her iPhone’s shopping list app, to make some juices and soups to try out with her new purchase. She heads out, and hits target first, she zaps each of the barcodes for the blenders with her barcode scanning application, to quickly price compare to other nearby retailers, to make sure she’s getting the right price. She checks her list with the products at target, avoiding the frequent offers for a salesman to answer any questions, and finds a couple she likes based which were on her blender hit list.She then proceeds to head to a handful of other stores, before arriving at Alderwood Mall. Walking down the aisle, her phone begins to vibrate. She takes it out of her purse and a notification pops up that there’s a deal going on today at Williams-Sonoma, which was triggered by being in proximity to a Williams-Sonoma store, and the receipt app she’d downloaded last week having set notifications for sales when the device is within 1000 feet of the store.

The sale was for food processors, but she thought she’d stop by anyways, and see what the store had for blenders. After walking into the store, the phone once again vibrated, asking Jan if she’d like to pair the phone via Bluetooth with the store for information & sales on products. She clicks yes, and is then asked to download the Williams-Sonoma application for 10% off all products within the store. Once again, she clicks yes, and downloads the store application. After quickly downloading the application, the app launches and asks what she’s interested in – she hits blenders – and the application directs her to the blenders in the store. Once she’s standing in front of the blenders, the Bluetooth triggers product specific information to appear along with device comparisons and promotional deals in the store and on the web.

She looks around at the models in front of her, flipping the app to her list of products, but just then the phone once again vibrates and asks her if she wants to know what blenders will make what foods on her shopping list. She clicks yes, and the grocery list she prepared is displayed in a handful of receipts with the blenders & food processors on her list displayed by what device can make what foods.After looking through the application, she finds out that all the foods on her list can’t be made with a blender, in fact for soups, she’s much better off with a higher end food processor. She then clicks on the model in question, and is directed to that product in the store. She is a bit taken by the price, but looks down at her iPhone, and the actual price of the product minus the in-store sale & 10% off for the application is displayed, as well as price comparisons to local retailers as well as the online price, along with product reviews, etc.

She quickly accesses the product comparison tab on the Williams-Sonoma application, to make sure she’s getting the best food processor, and a quick matrix pops up with features and information on what the difference in models are.After looking at the product check-marks in the comparison, she’s confident that this is the best model for her. She then takes the product up to the register, where her phone once again vibrates, and asks if she’d like to securely transmit billing information for the purchase, and if she’d like to join the mailing list. She didn’t want to fumble through her purse, so clicks to accept the secure transaction, with the receipt for the food processor being e-mailed to her. Furthermore, she joins the mailing list for further deals on accessories for the food processor she just purchased. The individual behind the register bags the food processor, and asks how Jan’s experience was.

She declares “Well, I came here for a $79 blender, and left with a $200 food processor – how did that happen!” The cashier behind the register chuckles, having been told similar comments on being up-sold several times that day.Jan leaves, excited to head to the QFC grocery store near her house, and using the Williams-Sonoma iPhone application to help determine what foods she can make with her new purchase, as well as get new receipts from the product-specific lists. Later the next week, she gets notified by the iPhone app that the pasta making accessory is on sale, along with a handful of pasta-specific ideas for dinner. Once again, Jan hops in the car, and heads to Alderwood Mall….

Conclusion

Though situations like transmitting purchasing data in real time as someone approaches the register may be a bit far out there, the story highlights ways in how a retail store can help influence decisions without ever taking the person away from their mobile device. The goal is making the customer feel comfortable with their purchase, and the mobile device can help to make sure the individual thinks it was their idea to purchase more, than when they initially set up on their trip, for example.

It’ll also help to keep them well connected beyond their visit, and help provide a useful function (ex: receipts for the kitchen tools they own) making the relationship between food preparation and your product line that much more of a reality.The mobile device is a conduit to the things that the consumer knows and cares about, and the more closely aligned your products can be, with that information, the more successful you’ll be in not only selling more but selling more efficiently, helping to drive up the ROI on Bluetooth proximity systems and store-only discounts.

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