Your smart presence looks pretty dumb.
Welcome to the “smart” era – smart phones, smart cars, and smart homes are finally here! You can officially go to display rooms in your local appliance store instead of booking a trip to Orlando to see the home of “the future”. In our smart era, a fair percentage of the population now carries supercomputers in our pockets with computing power that would have filled a warehouse even in science fiction during the baby boom.
Unfortunately, as “smart” as all this technology should be in your business, I’ve noticed your company looks pretty “dumb” because things are getting done exactly the way they were before, but now on a smaller screen! As much as technophiles may blame late-adopters for not buying in to new devices and new apps, wake up – if you’re asking people to do the same old story, same old song and dance, but you’ve given them a more difficult form factor to do it on, they have no reason to adopt!
In that light, here are the 6 mobility mistakes you might be making RIGHT NOW that keep your mobile presence looking dumb where it ought to be smart:
#1 – You Encourage Channel Hopping
If your mobile marketing strategy has shifted consumers from one conversion funnel (web or brick) to another (apps) but hasn’t resulted in increased revenue, you’ve encouraged channel hopping. This is a nightmare scenario that often pits employees of each channel against each other internally, fighting for additional budget, unable to fully justify forecasted ROI. What happened? When you built your native app, the value created by your investment was captured 100% by your consumers!
This looks dumb to the smart consumer, because it is painfully obvious when the only difference between the native app and the responsive site is Touch ID. The choice between a link on the home screen versus a downloaded app comes down to space on the phone and speed of content loading.
The math for the mobile marketing individual is so simple that this mistake looks extra “dumb” to your boss. When traffic stays constant, but an additional channel is added, aggregate conversion across the channels must increase or else your funnels are just cannibalizing each other. That’s the ROI problem every mobile marketing initiative must overcome: when you invest $200k in mobile eCommerce and revenue stays constant, your consumers have captured all the value created. Sure, they may be happier. They might say “how convenient to have a desktop site AND an app for researching and executing my purchases!” Unfortunately, the return on your investment they capture doesn’t inherently result in more traffic, conversion, sales, or loyalty.
Admittedly, companies don’t make this mistake in a vacuum. They see traffic and sales moving from their desktop site to a new competitor’s mobile app – panic ensues – and they build an app of their own to stop the bleeding.
Remember, a bad bandage can be more dangerous than no treatment at all. The smart mobile marketing plan requires one of two approaches to respond to the threat of new entrants:
- Double-down on web. Yes, I make mobile apps and I’m saying its okay not to have a (native-coded) mobile app. If your plan for mobile is to reproduce a brochure, a paper form, or a website, don’t do it. Seriously, just throw your money in a pile and set it on fire like the Joker in Dark Knight. If your site is working great but it isn’t a responsive site – start there. If it is outdated and anything is unintuitive, fix it. If you can’t create a unique relationship with consumers through your native mobile presence or capture the channel-specific value created, double-down on making your web presence best-in-class. This is Game Theory 101 – If you can’t win at both web and mobile, win big at one and forget the other.
- Create a unique market via app(s). If your audience is shrinking or your relationship with your consumers is suffering due to the mobile presence of a competitor and a truly unique relationship can be built through a mobile app – do it. This means your mobile presence needs to accomplish at least one of two things: augment the physical experience in ways a website can’t (to increase conversion) or create a completely new experience for a totally new audience (to increase aggregate traffic). Which path is right for you will depend on your market, products, and competitive landscape – so do your homework (and get a “tutor” as needed).
#2 – No Context Awareness
This is at the heart of what is so dumb about the way many companies establish a market presence on smart devices. If you have the opportunity to look “behind the curtain” you will notice this problem is not isolated, but occur on two fronts for that firm – externally in their consumer native apps and internally in their custom enterprise solutions. I’ve touched on specifics of Context Awareness several times. The differentiating power of a native app is in its intimate knowledge of where a user is, where they are going, and how they think. Segmented push messaging, one-tap deep-linking, and social API integration make the native app capable of a completely new relationship with your consumer. They are using a supercomputer that aggregates an unprecedented amount of personal information – all you have to do is offer a reward that justifies opting in.
Don’t fall prey to the opposite though – opting out should be easy, transparency on the use of private data is key, and you typically have one “strike” per consumer when it comes to keeping an app on their device. Whether it is download size, loading time, or privacy betrayal, as W.B. Yeats wrote, “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
Talk to technology professionals so you don’t plan your mobile presence in a vacuum. Geofences, iBeacons, IoT hardware, Photos integration, BLE, IoT, QR, wearables, and triggered messaging are all tools of the trade for ensuring you are able to create a unique proposition in a native app. Find the biggest impediment to solving your consumer’s pain in a way they will pay money for you to solve. Do NOT invest in native mobile unless the pocket supercomputer is going to augment physical realities with digital awesomeness.
#3 – No Business Intelligence
Ignorance is bliss. Unless you are driving a drastic paradigmatic shift in how you engage fresh generations of consumers through a new and constantly-evolving medium. In that scenario, ignorance is death – the death of any success you could have achieved.
“No Business Intelligence” is the bad-joke-telling best friend of “No Context Awareness” who crashes the wedding reception of your otherwise-integrated-marketing strategy. Where context awareness can drive new forms of engagement by proactively anticipating needs and supplying easy answers, business intelligence is a trailing ROI that takes effort to reap. Business Intelligence is like planting a vegetable garden, as much as the visual presence of a lovely variety of plants may have delighted you on its own, you are leaving ROI out in the field until you harvest it. The same is true in mobile marketing. Until the big data you have created is collected, curated, and learned from in order to provide better plans, more focused campaigns, and the tightest possible updates to forecasts, you are creating white noise that should have been a joyful symphony.
At a minimum, it is essential you collect enough meaningful data to justify that you have accomplished your goals. The less you can prove directly that you have created new traffic, new converted sales, or new revenue sufficient to justify your investment in mobility, the more you need business intelligence to prove the indirect benefit provided to other channels. Better yet, even when new revenue is both directly and indirectly attributable to your mobile presence, you should drive BI insights like you are starting a company that will sell its knowledge. You may start by “selling” it internally to help justify you P&L, but don’t rule out the possibility external buyers may exist.
#4 – No Game Plan for IoT
If you don’t have concrete plans for drone technology or self-driven cars, I forgive you. Not every industry will need direct adoption for these new technologies. However, if you haven’t given serious thought to what your products and services can be in a connected world – called the “Internet of Things” – you are going to find yourself left behind over the next five years.
IoT is already within reach and less cost prohibitive than you may think. Connected power indicators, pipe flow sensors, BLE chipsets for detecting and communicating almost anything – they are all out there. Today what is being “tacked on” to products by R&D will tomorrow be a seamless experience seen as the baseline for market entry. You can afford not to be the first mover to the extent Silicon Valley startups are learning the hard lessons for us all today. That said, don’t get out of touch and don’t get left behind.
The Internet of most connected Things means at least one of two potential realities your business:
- Some products you currently market “dumb” will be expected to connect soon – a significant event in your product strategy because the value proposition of your physical Thing will not matter as much as how it connects to the app you provide with it. Think today what that app must be in order to compete. In fact, you should probably be building that app instead of reproducing your already-responsive web site. Then, more dauntingly, think about that product and app and their ability to connect with other Things that are connected in a way that creates a meaningful brand relationship.
- Widespread IoT products will further segment your target market and the position of players across your competitive landscape. If your product’s three year plan does not clearly indicate whether you will focus on selling non-connected versus connected variations or both, including the business case for how each will be priced and marketed, schedule meetings right now to drive those discussions. The threat of new entrants on both sides will be higher as major players struggle to straddle the fence strategically.
#5 – You’re Stuck in Analysis Paralysis
Speaking of sitting permanently on the strategic fence, one of the dumbest responses to the introduction of smart technology is analysis paralysis. As my strategy professor emphasized while introducing Michael Porter, refusing to make a decision is your decision. That favorite Porter quote – “Strategy is the art of making choices”. In a Zero Sum game with multiple players and finite economic resources, strategy is the art of committing not only specific resources, but also commitments as a competitive position to the long-term continued investment of resources. By holding resources – even in the most uncertain times – you’ve made a decision to wait. The key to the good life, as Aristotle would say, is that the decision to wait, if virtuous, must intrinsically be deliberately decided.
If your organization is stuck in analysis paralysis, overwhelmed by the amount of aging IT investments behind you and the mountain of new (and sometimes unproven) technology ahead of you, a lack of action may preserve some capital in the short-term, but you are racking up immense opportunity cost and learning curve disadvantage. If your company has too many ideas and no commitment to a roadmap, here is how to get smart:
- LESS IS MORE – Don’t try to reinvent your entire IT and Marketing infrastructure in one big push. Define Lean Startup-style MVPs that give you a “quick win” (or a few) while getting you past the rookie mistakes, first-time jitters, and growing pains that are inevitable out of the gate.
- SOLVE REAL PAINS – Mobile for the sake of mobile fails the stakeholder, the end user, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth of executives and investors. Look for the biggest complaint of your customers or the biggest inefficiency in your operations workflow. If the solution is mobile, do the smallest possible iteration of that solution. If it isn’t mobile, fix the pain without mobile. Rinse and repeat as needed.
- OFF-THE-SHELF is an OKAY START– On that note, with the thousands of tech companies out there, don’t go custom on everything. Open or paid APIs, packaged solutions, and white-label solutions, and SDKs are all alternatives to re-inventing the wheel in a vacuum. Review your options carefully (but keep the scope of your goals tight enough your review doesn’t paralyze you).