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Goodbye Mobile Apps, Hello Multi-Device Experiences

customer experience, mobile phonesYour app runs in a little square.

All the money you spend on developers, design teams, content production and infrastructure for your app essentially boils down to a little square. Sometimes it’s a bigger square. Sometimes it’s more of a rectangle. And sometimes your app is responsive and tries to adjust itself as the square changes shape.

But in the end, your brand's communications still come down to that little square.

We're fortunate that this is still considered cutting edge. This keeps us employed. After all, there was a time when consumers lavished praise on black-and-white television and 16-color EGA video — and people were employed then, too.

We live at a time when people are somehow content to bow their heads and squint at these little squares. Whether they’re sitting on a train or walking through an airport, people appear to be more interested in what’s happening in that tiny square than what’s happening around them.

The next time you go to a concert, take a look around at all of the people who paid for tickets to “see” their favorite band. And now take notice of how people behave. In many cases, people are “seeing” their favorite bands through the viewports of their iPhones or Androids. They constrain their experience to 640 pixels by willingly inserting that little square between themselves and the experience.

Capturing the moment … at the expense of being in the moment?

Mobile is Meaningless

This isn’t going to last. In the same way that 256-color VGA was mind-blowing upon first viewing or the introduction of CD-ROM meant you could actually have an entire multimedia encyclopedia on your computer (thus was it claimed), consumers will not be content with tiny little squares for very long.

In the months and years to come, the mobile and web applications industry is going to see a dramatic shift in how things are designed and built. Instead of building applications that are assumed to run on a mobile surface, a new generation of tools and infrastructure will arise that allows for applications to be built that run across a wide array of devices, mediums and form factors — all at the same time.

Gone will be the assumption that devices and screens are one and the same. A device may no longer have a screen. It might be auditory, holographic or perceptive. The device might serve only as a source of information rather than a target for publication.

A new generation of applications will speak and listen to multiple devices at the same time, no matter whether those mediums of communication are conventional touch, auditory, visual, holographic, wearable, textual or derived automatically from implicit and correlated context around user behavior.

Next-generation applications won’t be “mobile.” Mobile is meaningless. Every device is mobile and everyone is always on the move. No single surface is ever always on or always in front of your audience.

The customer’s natural interaction with the world is now one where no single mobile device sits between the customer and the experience. The interaction is spread out over lots of devices and lots of mediums.

Your App is a Cartridge

Remember the Atari 2600? An app is like a cartridge.

Imagine if your company’s app shipped like a cartridge. To interact with your company, they first have to go to the store to buy the cartridge for your company. Even if you gave it away for free, it’s still inconvenient. It doesn’t map to natural behavior. It doesn’t make sense today.

When everything is connected and information moves seamlessly between devices, the burden is on your company to provide value. The burden isn’t on the customer to change the way they behave to satisfy your app.

The customer interacts where the customer interacts. Not with your app.

There is no more app.

The effectiveness of your company’s customer reach is measured by its ability to deliver value to the customer with less friction than the competition. The emphasis is on minimal changes to natural behavior. Your brand, content and value-add must happen on the multitude of devices that they interact with. And certainly without requiring people to squint and struggle with little plastic squares of light.

It’s already begun. The arrival of HUD devices like Google Glass, wearable products like Jawbone, in-home cloud-connected appliances and floor and wall-panel interactive displays already signal that we’re in an age where the customer experience is being distributed across many different surfaces and devices.

Decoupling Content from Presentation

A similar shift happened to the newspaper and magazine industry around 1994. Many didn’t notice it and those that did were largely helpless to do much about it. By 1999, many of these companies were going out of business. Their customers had moved on to the Internet. It simply wasn’t a natural fit to have to go to the store to buy a paper magazine to be a customer.

 

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