Brian Solis is the author of the new book, The End of Business as Usual. He is also a principal analyst at Altimeter Group. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.
Facebook’s IPO! Twitter is the new digital water cooler! Youtube is the future of TV! Ok, you get it right? Social media is transformative. So what? Every business that thinks about customer engagement through a technological lens will miss the very thing that will keep them in business for the long-term—the impact of technology on society and behavior and how it opens up new touch points and changes expectations as a result.
Depending on your business, you may or may not already have someone dedicated to your social media strategy. Whether it is aligning with your current business objectives and priorities is a different article. The focus for our time together right now is on how you will compete for the future of attention, wherever attention is focused. All signs at the moment point to mobile as the future of engagement and commerce as smartphones and tablets become the lens for how consumers see the digital and virtual worlds.
At the end of 2011, the U.S. alone was home to more than 100 million smart phone users. By 2014, 90 million people will use tablets in the U.S., which will represent 36% of the overall Internet population. Why is this important to your business? Regardless of size, the state of mobile now insists that you think through a dedicated experience for customer engagement and commerce alike.
For years, web designers would not only develop sites, but also test their aesthetics and functionality in multiple browsers using the most common operating systems. Additionally, user testing ensured that the desired click paths and outcomes were optimized. No site can truly launch until it performs as designed for the masses. As any designer will tell you, if the click path breaks down or introduces friction, visitor frustration and abandonment isn’t far behind.
Similar to the Web, mobile is now a dedicated channel that represents a means to an end. Or said another way, mobile has become an exclusive experience rather than a bridge between people and information on the traditional or desktop web. It is still largely assumed that people on mobile devices represent the minority of web users and thus require less focus and resources than those who use desktop or laptop PCs.
But with the proliferation of smart phones and tablets, the balance is shifting. The question is; have you revisited your web and mobile strategies to meet the needs and expectations of your connected customers?
Let’s take Facebook as an example. The company faces a serious dilemma as its mobile site m.facebook.com, and its dedicated app for iOS, Android, Microsoft, and Blackberry, rival its classic website Facebook.com. In May 2012, comScore reported that for the first time, mobile users in the U.S. spent more time in Facebook than those using desktops and laptops, 441 minutes vs. 391 per month.
While the company has designed successful mobile products to deliver optimized, on-the-go experiences for the small screens, it has not found a viable business model to monetize this profound shift. Facebook makes the lion share of its billion-dollar revenue by serving four to seven ads at a time on the desktop. On the mobile, it only presents a few per day in its micro news feed. If a tech-savvy company such as Facebook faces this quandary, chances are, you will as well.
In a mobile economy, apps become the currency of a new information exchange. One of the most fascinating and least understood aspects of apps is that they create a contained experience that essentially is its own Internet. Everything your customer needs or could possibly need should be included in the app.
Those visitors with mobile browsers that need to hit the traditional web will expect to see a page optimized for the smaller screen. Think about it for a moment. How many times have you tried to hit a site from your phone or tablet only to quit in frustration when the site would not load correctly on your screen? You may or may not choose or remember to visit that site later and that’s just one example of how designing for experiences is as much a part of form and function as it is about platform-centricity.
That‘s the point. Customer behavior is evolving. Technology is evolving. Is your digital strategy evolving? Is it considering shifts in attention, activity, and expectations and designing new experiences to react and lead accordingly?
The time is now to answer these questions and more…
Who on your team is thinking about designing mobile experiences? How is mobile tied to the overall digital strategy? How is social and mobile complementing your web strategy? More importantly, how are people connecting or attempting to connect with you and how would they define the experience?
Answering these questions will help you design for tomorrow’s digital strategy right now. The future of online experiences is distributed, but it is also integrated in its ability to tell your story while delivering exceptional experiences optimized for each channel.
Like the classic web and social media, mobile is just one of the many channels that requires a dedicated approach. And, as we’re learning, mobile will become one of the most if not the most important channel for customer engagement.