All companies that want to sell to consumers know that they now need to have a mobile strategy.
But are these mobile strategies just coping mechanisms for a platform that has taken companies by surprise, or is the mobile platform an opportunity, something that will allow them to sell more products?
In many ways, the mobile consumer seems to be everything that a brand doesn’t want from a customer: they are lacking attention span, focus, interest, and even the ability to display ads. All of these factors could combine to produce a consumer that is fundamentally harder to sell to.
Ian Cunningham, a Managing Director at Experian, disagrees with this interpretation:
"We’ve seen lots of evidence to suggest that consumers want to engage that way. With opening a current account at a bank, it’s not rocket science, but there all of these barriers in the way.
"It means you probably have to be much more specific, targeting which kinds of customers, profiling your customers in the right way and delivering the service they expect.
"It probably makes it more challenging for organisations to figure it out, but we’re certainly seeing organisations doing that and yielding the right result from it."
It is also worth noting that the sheer proliferation of the mobile devices compared to the platforms of the past makes it a market worth tapping into, Cunningham explains.
He does not deny that this is an occasion where companies have had to respond to consumers rather than the other way around, however.
"If you look at how technology has evolved over the last twenty or thirty years: in the banking system, you moved from branches on their own, to ATMs to call centres. A lot of those initial changes were driven by the businesses, whereas what we’re seeing now from mobile is actual consumer behaviour driving the market."
In other words, the consumer has their own piece of technology that is evolving fast.
"You’ve got situations where clearly it’s also beneficial for organisations and vendors to encourage mobile usage as well. It’s a more cost-effective and efficient way of serving the consumer than a call centre or branch. People are so adept at using that technology now that it tends to be their preferred medium for engagement."
The key, then, is to use the unique features of mobile devices to solve the unique problems that the mobile platform presents.
"If we look at organisations that are doing it well, they provide a journey through various channels
They make it a frictionless journey. It is more than just communication via your mobile.
"All companies would say that they engage with their customers online and via mobile, but if the process you have for doing that is friction-heavy then you are not taking advantage of the opportunity as much as you could.
"It’s down to consumers embracing mobile, embracing the applications, expecting immediacy and wanting the organisation to offer it to them."
Cunningham uses the example of a customer that is able to complete most of a process using a mobile device, but then is required to submit documents and has to go into a branch to do so. The best solution to this issue would be to update the processes.
For example, why should the customer not simply use the camera on their smartphone to take a picture of the document and submit it electronically?
Another important point is that mobile does not need to mean app. For some companies, the mobile web may be the solution, whereas for some like Amazon the app might be the key. It is important to consider the limited real estate on the mobile device and whether a consumer really wants to clutter their device with an app for every different brand.
"If you’re talking about organisations that you are regularly engaging with, which is a much smaller number, it is more likely to be an app."
Again, it is about using the unique characteristics of the mobile device.
"You start to see the additional benefits that that app provides that maybe the web doesn’t.
"What other things do you add into that application that is useful to the consumer? Amazon is a good example, because it allows you to take a picture of a barcode and then find out where you can purchase that item."
Overall, then, the mobile device isn’t wholly a challenge or an opportunity. The key for organisations is to look for the solutions it provides as well as the problems.