Mobile is a tale of two worlds

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In developed markets, there is a strong emphasis on the technology aspect of future solutions. It seems that often times technology dictates the problem to solve, and not vice versa. The Internet of Things is certainly coming, and there is no stopping it. But in some of these instances, it’s worth wondering if any of the high-profile propositions are even trying to solve any human problems. In the developing world, however, this is often a role the mobile world is taking on. In many emerging markets, issues with education, health, struggling with payments remain real, and mobile technology has been able to help solve some of these real-world problems. The key difference is that technology isn’t at the forefront, it’s not being used for experimentation. Instead, it acts as part of a clever solution to a problem. One could propose to take a look at ideas and approaches from these emerging markets in order to create value-adding platforms in the developed markets.

Core aspects to consider when embarking on a mobile exploratory:

Back in the developed world, brands would be keen to recognize some of the successes that mobile has had in problem solving in emerging markets. Here are some key factors for brands to consider when trying to create meaningful, impactful mobile platforms.

  1. Let behaviors inspire insights and execution—Marketers and brands should focus on the needs and behaviors they are addressing. A great example of this came out of Belgium. The country’s organ donor foundation wanted to get more people to sign up to become donors. So they partnered with companies who had built smartphone apps around big events; when the event was over, the app became out of date, but many people keep the app on their phone anyway. Through an update, these apps became “reborn”, and a tag on the app’s icon urged people to open. When they did, they were taught about the importance of organ donation and how to sign up. The foundation took a tenet of mobile behavior and turned it into action.

  2. Design with mobile in mind—Perhaps it goes without saying, but it’s worth reinforcing. Poor mobile design will lead to that ever-avoidable bad first impression with users, and studies show that consumers might abandon brands altogether if this first impression is dissatisfying.

  3. The elephant in the room: location relevance—The technology is now there to create location-relevant experiences. Walmart’s app changes its entire UI and content if the user is in close proximity to a store. Furthermore, when a user walks into a store, the app automatically becomes specific to that location with special offers, aisle views, etc. Further proximity awareness is on the horizon through beacon technology, which will have a huge impact in retail, as well as hospitality environments like stadiums and arenas. Of course, this is certain to spark heated debates about privacy. More than ever, the industry is tasked to create value and explain it in simple terms to the consumers, if they are looking for broad adoption despite privacy concerns.

  4. Push doesn’t have to be so pushy—Push notification is becoming a cornerstone for customer engagement programs. But for many folks, push can be viewed as spam. The line between effective notification and spam is very slim, so brands have to be careful with how they ask for permission, and the cadence in which notifications are sent. Allowing people to customize which notifications they receive—ESPN allows users to choose how often during a game to get score updates, and which leagues and teams to receive alerts for—can be helpful. Also, integrating Passbook with push notifications can result in customer action. If someone has a coupon on their phone, sending a push notification when they’re in close proximity to where they can use it can be effective. There’s a chance they may use it, whereas otherwise they may have forgotten about the offer altogether.

There will always be advancements in mobile for the sake of technology itself. And that’s not to say that none of these innovations can be successful, or will end up forever changing the way people do certain things, and for the better. But often that end result is what comes naturally when brands think about solving a real world problem with a mobile solution. The key to successful platforms is simplicity and focus. Two clicks to solve a problem is one click too many. And overburdening a consumer with choice or incoherent privacy statements certainly won’t lead to broad scale adoption. Simplest question to ask before embarking on a mobile exploratory: would you use it?

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