What questions are you asking regarding mobile engagement?

You are asking questions in this area, right?  If not, what are you waiting for?  Here are some thoughts to chew on that might help you steer your thinking toward mobile.  The recently released Morgan Stanley Mobile Internet Report suggests that web traffic will be greater on mobile browsers than desktop browsers within 5 years and that shipments of smartphones will outpace that of desktop PCs by 2012!  These are remarkable predictions that deserve some serious consideration.

Beyond the basics of having a presence on the mobile web, we must make sure that our presence there makes sense from the end user’s perspective.   The questions I believe we should ask when beginning to think about mobile strategy are ‘how can we provide value to the user’s experience while they are on the go’ and ‘can we provide this value with a unique proposition that our brand is best suited to deliver?’  These questions along with others that are customer-centric set the stage for a fruitful relationship between your brand and your customers.

Placing ourselves in the customers’ shoes

Placing ourselves in our customers’ shoes first allows us to be in a better position to meet their needs.  The needs will be different with each organization, but one thing is consistent across nearly all of them – the ability for users to access information that is readable, digestible, and actionable while on the go.  Don’t forget about that last point – if they can’t take action at the point of need, then the opportunity is missed.  The mobile web is critical territory, and if your customers are not able to get what they want from a mobile device, what does that say about the value you place on these interactions?

Have you developed a mobile site for your brand?  If so, is it just a repackaged version of your existing site or does it truly take into account the experience that a user has when consuming content on a mobile device?  What about mobile apps?  Have you developed a mobile app for Android, iPhone, Blackberry, etc.?  In either case, what needs are you satisfying for the customer?  Notice I didn’t say what needs are you satisfying for your internal marketing department.  This is the critical fork in the road.  Believe me, customers are not waiting around hoping for another way for you to market to them on their mobile phone.  However, many of them are no doubt longing for an easier way to access information, complete a task, discover new products and services that meet their needs, etc.  These are the desires that we need to pay attention to.

Focusing on the Point of Need

We should start with the customer’s point of need and work back into the tools to help from that perspective.  Peter Sells did a fantastic job of illustrating this in his recent speech at the Battle of Big Thinking.  Special thanks to Jonathan MacDonald for pointing out this video! In his talk, Peter mentions a positive experience that he had with British Airways that was facilitated by a mobile site accessed via iPhone.  Check it out if you have the time.  At the end of his presentation was a quote that I thought really nailed the idea of asking the right questions:

Instead of asking what we should be saying to the consumer, ask what we should be doing for the consumer.’  Exactly.

On the other hand, Steve Smith has recently documented countless missed opportunities from brands of all ilk that are simply not utilizing mobile to its potential or are ignoring it altogether.  Steve’s article left me scratching my head and wondering why so many brands have failed to realize the importance of providing a solid mobile experience with their brands.  There is no question where this is headed, but there is definitely a question of how well brands are going to be poised to capitalize on the opportunities to connect with millions of users who have the power of the web at their fingertips 24 hours a day, and virtually everywhere they go.

If you have physical locations that you need to drive traffic to, are you paying attention to mobile search placement?  If you sell products through mass distribution channels, is there an easy way for people to learn more about your products on a mobile device?  Better yet, does your packaging encourage this?  If a customer is browsing for more information about a specific product or service, do you provide a way for them to see who else has purchased or provided a review of that product or service on their social graph?  Could you?

Integrating Mobile and Social

It’s been said that mobile and social are close cousins, and I totally agree.  After all, being social is about connecting with others, and mobile devices are the quintessential connection points that are by our sides day and night.  Social and mobile are joined at the hip, and we should endeavor to connect the user experience in social channels to the experience on mobile platforms.  Services such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, etc. are underscoring the desire for people to connect with each other and share experiences, tips, etc. with friends on the go.  Additionally, the adoption of mobile applications such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. reminds us that people are taking their social graph with them wherever they go and sharing more aspects of their lives than ever before.

How are you leveraging this for your benefit?  Do you encourage social sharing on your mobile site and/or apps?  Does your main website have functionality that allows customers to send reminders or product info to their mobile devices or create accounts they can access via your mobile site or mobile apps so that their shopping experience is easier when they are away from their computer?

Planting the Seeds

This post is all about planting the seeds for a renewed commitment to mobile engagement.  If you are exploring mobile, hopefully this has spurred some thought.  What do you think?  Does this resonate?  What questions do you think we should ask?