Customer Experience: Mobile Experience - Did We Forget the Customer
Something is a bit off. At several recent conferences it was hard to walk a few steps without having a conversation around some aspect of mobile. And they often came down to the same three issues: change, channels and approach. While these are important, it's strange we rarely touched on what I believe is the most important component of the mobile experience: the customer.

Let’s take a step back and consider how the collective customer experiences we deliver are being perceived across all channels. Since a real customer journey is not linear, but instead involves many touch points, thinking about mobile as a single effort or experience is very misleading. Yet often this happens when we find ourselves driving a specific campaign, product launch or become bogged down with the details and methods behind our mobile projects.

The reality is that within the mobile channel alone, there are multiple touches for any customer journey that can occur across a vast array of devices. Today, pushing something out to mobile is no longer the challenge -- doing it well within a proper mobile context while aligning all the touches into a cohesive set of brand experiences is the broader challenge.

Pace of change and complexity is overwhelming, but creates opportunity

More than 1 billion mobile phone users are leveraging the mobile internet globally -- across hundreds of smartphones and tablets. In addition, the current explosion of different devices, browsers and operating systems show no sign of slowing down. Google Glass, Apple’s rumored iWatch, internet-enabled shoes and appliances are here to stay. Our current tools and approaches cannot keep up with the tsunami of new devices, screen sizes and standards. Keeping pace with all this change and complexity is a key obstacle standing in the way of optimizing mobile experiences.

But where some see major challenges, others see opportunity. "Change -- and enabling the ability to change -- is the new differentiator for marketing technology,” says Robert Rose, author and senior analyst at Digital Clarity Group. Organizations with the ability to orchestrate and deliver valuable customer experiences in the midst of all of this change gain a significant competitive advantage.

Is it Multi-Channel or is it Omni-Channel?

The 24/7 “always-on” customer has high expectations for their mobile interactions. Ignoring the importance of a cohesive set of experiences across all channels can be disastrous. Everything from multiple silos of creative efforts to misconceptions on what customer journeys actually look like fragment how the customer interacts with a brand's digital persona.

By leveraging Forrester's Customer Experience Index, Jon Picoult of Watermark Consulting has demonstrated that customer experience correlates with stock performance success -- an indirect measure of a brand’s well being. And, if Forrester's recent Customer Experience forum is an indicator of mobile's impact on that experience, almost every session included mobile as part of its discussion.

So can we focus strictly on mobile? No, not quite. There are almost 2 billion desktops in the world -- and growing. Clearly the desktop computer does not seem to be dropping out of the experience equation anytime soon. When you factor in a huge selection of mobile devices while overlaying customer behavior a more complex multi-channel, multi-touch journey begins to emerge.

According to Google, “more than 77% of mobile searches are in a location where people are likely to have a PC available to them," while "90% leverage more than one screen to complete tasks." In the end, customer conversion happens everywhere. According to Monetate, conversion rates between PC browser and tablet-based mobile are almost equal.

Essentially, behavior is based on whatever is comfortable and convenient at a given moment. Whether it be a smartphone, tablet or computer, data shows that all of these are used at different points during a customer's journey. Each experience does not stand alone, but instead is connected and assimilated with the other touches, regardless of device. As a result, Omni-channel, the ability to deliver a consistent unified set of experiences, becomes crucial.

Realign our thinking, approach and tools because context matters

It seems that for the past several years, as organizations increase utilization of mobile, a series of perceived silver bullet solutions have surfaced. To date, none have fully delivered on the promise. Two years ago the buzz was that HTML5 may eliminate the need for apps. Today we hear a lot about Responsive Design. So what is next?

Organizations are still trying to find effective ways to squeeze their desktop experiences into a mobile format, while others are beginning to think about taking a mobile-first approach. In actuality, no one size or approach fits all. Organizations need to intelligently tailor the correct contextual experiences to suit its audience.

Current methods often leverage a more shoe-horn approach that damages the experience at the very endpoint. For example, techniques such as Responsive Design focus mainly on screen attributes, and render a PC web page to mobile by stacking the content to fit the device screen. As a result, you end-up with a very long scroll, often burying key product offers and content.

In addition, a common, yet bad practice is to deliver all the content (data) and let the device sort out what it needs. From an experience standpoint, poor navigation and slow speeds equate to lost opportunities and revenue.

By embedding mobile expertise and best practices into a mobile platform, organizations become empowered to address the challenge head on. Cable & Wireless Worldwide, Macmillan Cancer Support, Make-A-Wish foundation and others have expanded their approach in this way and are reaping the benefits of delivering a more contextually-correct mobile experience. Macmillan is able to deliver personalized, contextually correct mobile experiences that are based on the features, functionality and specifications of the device they were delivering to. The result is one of the best mobile sites around. Why? -- because it was designed for mobile.

In addition, customer and market responsiveness require the next level of analytics that enable us to quickly take action. For example, by combining content type with related access rates and response times, as well as visitor journey tracking, you can recognize poor experiences that are causing customers to bounce. By quickly acting on this insight with technology and methods that take a more modular approach, you are able to swiftly address the problem without digging through hardwired code and performing time-consuming regression tests. Now this is agility!

Moving forward

According to Thomas Husson and Julie Ask of Forrester, the age of “Mobile on the cheap is over ... implementing the complex technology required to deliver rich mobile engagement requires not just a new vision of how to interact with consumers but also significant cultural changes and investment in infrastructure, staffing, and skills.”

What seems apparent is that there are a number of opportunities organizations that plan and act strategically towards their mobile experiences. A single technique or tool will not address the challenges. Only by integrating mobile intelligence, embedded mobile expertise and the right orchestration of technologies will enable organizations to empower their teams to deliver cohesive, contextually correct experiences. And in the end, create customers for life.

Title image courtesy of Peshkova (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: You can find more from our month long focus on the mobile digital experience here.