Mobile is about contextual customer moments, not consistency: Forrester

Speaking to CMO in advance of the Forrester Summit for Marketing and Sales professors, lead analyst Julie Ask says the mobile mindshift requires companies to think about context and immediacy

Forrester analyst, Julie Ask
Forrester analyst, Julie Ask

Responsive design is table stakes for organisations and not a long-term strategy for truly meeting the needs of customers in a mobile world, a lead Forrester analyst claims.

The analyst group’s vice-president and principal analyst for mobile strategy and execution, Julie Ask, said the fundamental problem with responsive design is that it’s aimed at providing a consistency of experience across both traditional PCs and mobile devices based on layout, functionality, navigation and design. Yet modern consumer expectations around mobile are increasingly driven by immediacy and context, she told CMO.

Ask will be speaking about the ‘mobile mindshift’ occurring across consumers today, and how organisations can engineer their businesses to be more successful in the face of these mobile moments, at Forrester’s first Summit for Marketing and Strategy Professionals in Sydney today. Her presentation comes off the back of the analyst group’s new book, The Mobile Mind Shift, which she co-authored and which argues that consumer expectations have fundamentally shifted as a result of mobile, making it imperative for organisations to meet the challenge.

While there are a few industry sectors where the needs of mobile versus static customers are similar, such as media, Ask argued any transaction-led sector – retail, automotive, banking, travel and hospitality – that is adopting the same approach to websites and mobile interaction is relying on a flawed strategy.

“You have to think about someone’s time, where I am, what time it is relative to an event and then think about streamlining those experiences based on what you anticipate consumers are going to want to do,” she said.

As an example, Ask pointed to an airline website, which is typically self-service and designed to offer users the maximum range of services and activities. Mobile offerings, in contrast, should be dynamic and respond to the immediate needs of the consumer.

“If I book a ticket on an airline and I open up my airline’s mobile app two weeks ahead of time, I probably want to change my reservation,” she pointed out. “If I open that app two days ahead of time, I may want to change my seat or confirm my time. If I open it two hours before my time, I’m probably going to be looking to see if the plane is going to leave or land on time. If I’m boarding a flight, I might be checking my luggage is on-board or if there’s free Wi-Fi.

“The idea is based on my time relative to the event of the flight, my context is changing and my needs and motivations are changing. It’s completely different thinking to what a website is.

“Responsive design is a basic strategy for companies to have. It will help them tread water, but it’s not going to help them win and truly serve their customers, or meet the expectations of those consumers today.”

Forrester: Technology and marketing disconnect hinders customer analytics success

Embracing mobile mindshifts

Forrester uses ‘mobile mindset’ to describe the phenomenon triggered by the explosion of connected devices, where consumers expect to be able to do anything immediately, and in a way that’s relevant to them at the time. According to Ask, this completely changes the way companies need to think about everything, from sales and marketing to products, their business models and customer service.

In turn, this disruption has a huge ripple effect across the organisation and requires process and organisational change, as well as new technology platform and offerings.

To measure the impact of the mobile mindshift, Forrester devised an index based on three key elements. The first is the psychological implications, and what consumers expect from their phone. The second element is how often and how many devices they’re using and where they’re using them; the third component is how they’re actually using those devices. How consumers use their phones will dictate a lot of what organisations need to do, Ask explained.

The problem is most organisations aren’t anywhere near embracing mobility as a principle and still view it as a channel, Ask said. As a way of plotting mobile maturity, she outlined four phases defined by Forrester several years ago to help organisations understand their current position.

The first step is where companies are new to mobile. Ask believed up to 70 per cent of organisations are still in this category.

“Companies start by shrinking and squeezing experiences from the PC to go on mobile,” she claimed. “Sometimes they look at what consumers are doing most often on a PC as part of this process, but for the most part they’re shrinking the experiences.”

The second step in mobile maturity is enhancing the link between the physical world and mobile interaction, and starting to think about mobile-first experience.

“About 90 or 95 per cent of all companies are in one of these first two buckets… there is a chasm between those and the next third step, which is to stop thinking about mobile and start thinking about your business,” Ask continued.

“Where do your customers have pain points? In the book, we talk about doing ethnographic research and customer journey mapping to begin to understand where mobile can play a role in improving customer experiences.”

The fourth step is how to actually transform the business through new business models, revenue opportunities and changing the cost structure as a result of mobile, Ask said. Very few companies have reached this stage, although she indicated Starbucks as an example of a company changing the way consumer pay in-store using mobile. In the US, between 20 and 30 per cent of all transactions in Starbucks stores are now through pre-paid mobile store cards.

Ask said organisations don’t necessarily have to work through each step sequentially to reach the end goal of mobile maturity, but she did encourage more companies to start thinking seriously about mobile as a whole-of-business disruptor, even more so than digital.

“Digital is broader than mobile, certainly, but mobile is the tail that wags the dog,” she added. “Even though mobile seems like this smaller piece, it’s the primary catalyst for digital business transformation.

“Many organisations are starting to react to this information but not many are across it yet.”

More from Forrester

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