Mobile Experience Customer Experience
“Mobile is sexy, multi-channel is not,” I recently declared in a discussion with an analyst. That pretty much sums up the general relationship most brands have with the two "M’s” of marketing: mobile and multi-channel.

Mobile is the friend with whom everyone wants to have fun. It conjures up images of glimmering iPhones, iPad Minis, Galaxy S4s and HTCs with cool mobile apps. Multi-channel is the homework assignment we dread. It reminds us we need to study up on our customer journeys and connect all the ways our customers currently interact with us to the new shiny friend we just acquired -- mobile. The plight is so severe multi-channel has even been trying to rebrand itself as “omnichannel.”

There is no question mobile is on the rise. According to eMarketer’s forecast, U.S. retail m-commerce sales in 2013 will be US$ 38.84B and grow to US$ 108.56B by 2017. However, it’s not as homogenous of a channel as it was once upon a time. The explosion of smartphones, tablets and everything in between -- including crosses between laptops and tablets -- has fragmented the market. This trend will only continue with the introduction of wearable computing. Furthermore, e-commerce still only makes up 5-7% of most markets worldwide. The rest still happens offline.

Mobile’s greatest potential, in fact, is supporting the multi-channel experience. According to Deloitte, multi-channel consumers spend 71% more per transaction than single channel consumers in the past holiday season.

Brands who were the early movers in developing mobile apps and sites in silos will be left behind unless they are able to transition to a multi-channel marketing and technology approach. It’s not uncommon for me to walk into an organization these days and find it has over 10 mobile apps floating around or hasn't optimized its website for mobile devices because the thinking wasn't mobile and multi-channel first and they just haven’t gotten around to it. While such approaches were fine five years ago, today it’s a business growth killer.

With the above in mind, here are three imperatives to make sure your mobile customer experience strategy is future-proof for the multi-channel customer:

Unify your content and customer analytics across channels

To deliver customer experiences that are contextually relevant, you need to understand what your customers are responding to across all channels, online and offline. A common place for digital assets and data will ensure your marketing organization can quickly deliver the most useful content in any context. Providing a mobile-first customer experience means not only the experience you provide on the mobile device, but also if you can carry that context across the other devices they previously or subsequently visit.

Make your mobile application worth the download

There are several ways to support mobile interactions. Responsive design is an effective approach to making sure a site’s content is accessible across devices. Only go to the expense of building and promoting a mobile application if it provides capabilities beyond the ones available onsite. Even in this case, make sure your data and content sources are shared so you can track user behavior across all interactions.

Strive for one mobile application

Most of the organizations that have multiple mobile apps do so because of their internal organizational structure or because of varying product lines. If you have or are looking to develop multiple mobile apps, really challenge if it is necessary. If so, make sure it’s driven by customer need. All companies have the goal of wanting to deepen customer relationships and cross-sell to other products and services. Given this, why silo your products by having different applications?

In other cases, there are mobile apps that were created to augment a product and other ones used for marketing purposes; these should be consolidated, as well. For example, many automobile companies now have mobile apps for controlling their cars. These same companies have apps for exploring new vehicles. However, isn't an existing car owner more likely to trade up to another car by the same brand? Isn't this the desired goal of most auto companies?

Unite your content, data and mobile applications to deliver an exceptional multi-channel experience because, ultimately, that’s what your “multi-channel” customers really want.

Title image courtesy of Dirk Ercken (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more of Loni's customer experience insights, see Four Web Content Management Trends in 2013 Every Marketer Needs to Know