Mobile Is Not the Second Screen; It’s the First Screen

  • As mobile devices become more capable, the mobile screen is becoming the first choice of many users.
  • Businesses need to rethink e-commerce and social commerce strategies to deliver better experiences.

Mobile-first: That’s the mantra of many businesses today. Websites are going through incredible retrofitting programs to make traditional designs user-friendly on the small screen. Meanwhile, other efforts are aiming for consumer relevance on digital-first programs. Think mobile. Think digital. It’s all fail-proof, right?

Not necessarily.

Yes, screens are getting smaller while mobile devices are becoming more capable. At the same time, strategists wrestle over prioritizing new technologies and customer expectations while grappling with legacy systems and websites that limit evolution. Investing in mobile strategies is important, but those investments are flawed if made simply to “be mobile” or to become “customer-centric.” It’s a matter of assumption vs. reality.

Which screen matters more?

Assumption: Executives see mobile as the second screen, and therefore not as the priority screen.

Reality: Mobile is the first screen.

When Facebook announced that it was piloting social commerce programs, allowing consumers to purchase a product without leaving Facebook, experts took notice. Some wondered if these programs would gain traction and contribute to the overall revenue share of e-commerce. Others felt that Facebook’s foray into e-business was overdue.

But when Facebook recently forced all mobile users to install its Messenger app, many cried foul. Decoupling the main app and pushing people to use multiple interfaces to engage in Facebook’s platform carried the threat of overburden. Experts predicted, “People will abandon Facebook because they don’t want to have too many unnecessary apps.” Yet the proliferation of apps is happening anyway, and with it, a rise of single functionality apps that help people execute focused tasks quickly, without friction.

Let’s take “Yo” for example. Yo is a new app that caused a media stir when it debuted simply because it let people send “Yo” to friends. The key was its elegance, straightforwardness, and concentration on the notification window of the receiving phone. The app was not like we know it, but a direct line to the home screen of phones, reducing clicks and taps in the process.

Beyond the screen

Mobile trends are far greater than making your website work on a small screen. This is a time when businesses have to rethink information architecture, customer context and aspirations, as well as the role devices play in each moment of truth … before, during and after transactions.

Here are some key questions to consider:

  • What is the role of a website and landing page in this new mobile world?
  • How can I make attention more engaged and efficient once I have it?
  • What could my e-commerce and social commerce strategies look like if we were to design them from scratch for new expectations?
  • Can we simplify and optimize the customer journey to play out on one screen without forcing people to “multi-screen” to complete desired transactions?
  • How can these lessons enable traditional channels to thrive and deliver a remarkable customer experience?

The greatest challenge facing our work isn’t that technology is becoming stranger than fiction; it’s our inability to accept it as reality. Legacy rules. This is a time to rethink the journey to introduce greater and more natural experiences that inspire desired outcomes and to design experiences where technology disappears.


Brian Solis is the author of the book, What’s The Future of Business. He is also a principal analyst at Altimeter Group. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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