Technology conference keynotes are often brought to you these days by a word from their sponsors. In Amazon’s case, a portion of the Wednesday AWS re:Invent 2015 keynote came to you courtesy of banking provider Capital One.
“Digital is truly the new bank branch,” said Capital One CIO Rob Alexander during his moment in the spotlight. “What’s especially striking is the degree to which mobile has become the preferred channel for our customers.”
Judging from the angles of the cameras and microphones on the audience in Las Vegas — which admittedly was limited — it did look as though Alexander could have told the crowd aliens had landed and were cloning the Kardashian sisters for mass production, and they wouldn’t have woken up then, either.
Software developers hear these things a lot — mobile is the preferred channel, mobile is the height of digital. They laugh and then return to their mid-conference naps, because they’re the ones who shouted the rest of the world the very same thing a decade ago, back when the whole world was asleep at the wheel.
“Mobile usage is now twice that of web, and mobile is moving away fast,” said Alexander, to a room full of people who know it’s more than that.
The first rule of speaking at a conference is to know one’s audience. I rather think Alexander actually did know to whom he was speaking, and it wasn’t anyone within fifty feet of him.
He knew the camera was on. And there were CIOs on the other end of that camera, many of whom would have this response: “What? I thought mobile was the web.”
World-Wide Wake-Up Call
“Web” means perhaps too many things today.
It’s the “W” in Amazon Web Services, a company whose newest and perhaps most lucrative programming model, called Lambda, is based on a concept of “serverless architecture” — a wider world without the Web.
It isn’t that servers cease to exist in serverless architecture, but rather that the software developer doesn’t have to pay any mind to them. The services provided to a program are done so opaquely that it’s as if Amazon were all one single microcomputer — a great, big Apple II or TRS-80, with all the possibilities in the world stretched out behind it.
No, this is not a digression.
The web still exists, and the CIOs are not wrong: Mobile online communication is brought to you by the web. (Consult your doctor as side-effects may occur.)
But the world thinks of the web as an entity brought to life by the web browser. And that’s not how Capital One’s customers perceive it. So that’s not how Capital One perceives it.
So what are we doing still messing about with the web?
The mobile customer interaction model makes better sense. Customers prefer apps that represent the functions they want to perform, and the brands they want to do business with.
The icon on the Apps list or the home screen is the best way to provide both.
Okay, so no one in the PC realm has solved the problem yet of making the mobile interaction model work well on a traditional desktop. But no one in the PC business has solved any customer-related problem yet in about seven years, other than the ones that business made for itself.
HTML5 still makes sense as a mechanism for producing the layouts that can scale across multiple devices, and that can communicate with customers. HTML5 is not the outmoded part of the Web.
It’s the browser, which at this very moment on my PC’s desktop (yes, I’m one of the dozen or so you read about who still use those clunkers) is reminding me that my Adobe Flash plug-in is over one week old and my personal security is at risk, at risk!
I look forward to using a browser every day as much as I would anticipate a nice, hot, unfrozen TV dinner. Which is weird, because I used to be this guy: the fellow who produced an astoundingly popular series of web articles scientifically testing the performance of Web browsers.
If our business is supposed to be about customer-centricity and technology disruption, then why in the name of Tim Berners-Lee are we still mucking about with this relic from the 1990s?
I ask that, pretending that I don’t know the answer.
“With the web, there has been a bursting of the dam,” writes Gerry McGovern in CMSWire. And that’s sad, because I was led to believe there would be water.
The customer is stuck with the web browser because the business with which the customer interacts is not yet capable of reaching the PC with its publishing server software in the same way it reaches its mobile device.
We talk about the need to reach the customer on multiple touchpoints, through omnichannel marketing that’s multi-faceted, adaptive, scalable. We talk about the need for a mobile customer outreach strategy.
But then we make it a separate strategy, and tell ourselves, that’s fine because we’re being all omnichannel and appropriately hyphenated about these things.
Customers spend a pitifully small amount (pitiful for us more than for them) of their overall time spent on mobile devices, using the web browsers on those devices. They’re on the devices they prefer, and they’re using apps.
It’s because apps are better. They’re programmed using the software development strategies we should have had in place from the beginning.
Apps are more efficient on the server side, and they’re more adaptive, reactive and personable on the client side, and they’re more secure. They can be delivered through the Web, when the Web is more efficient, in a way that doesn’t make any difference to the customer.
So it’s time that we revisit this question from a new perspective: If we employ an omnichannel customer strategy, and one of those channels atrophies, shouldn’t we dispose of it?
Scott M. Fulton, III is the author of this document, and is solely responsible for his content.
Title image by Gabriel Santiago.