Good Mobile Design Is Good Business

For nearly a decade, my work has focused on ways companies can (and should) harness the unique attributes of mobile to engage and re-engage with their audience. Fast-forward, and the advance of tablets, phablets (phones plus tablets), other connected devices, and an avalanche of apps have made mobile much more than the primary way we connect with content.

Simply put, mobile is now what I call "the Great Connector," capable of bridging our digital and physical worlds to optimize our real-life experiences. A great example comes from the world of shopping, where mobile is already blurring the boundaries between the digital sphere and the physical store. The result is a seismic shift in consumer behavior, with consumers across all segments and social strata reaching to their mobile devices to research products, compare prices, scan bar codes, and even make in-store payments.

It's little wonder that xAd, a location-based mobile advertising network, now calls mobile "a driving force in search and decision." It recommends that "businesses need to understand this importance, learn how and when to reach the mobile consumer, and how to integrate mobile with more traditional media outlets."

Increasingly, companies are listening to this valuable advice, which is why the coming months will see a flurry of excitement as more companies-not just retailers-harness mobile to blend the digital and physical worlds in order to provide people with much more personal, relevant, and engaging experiences. Some approaches will tap into Big Data to deliver personal and relevant content and advertising to consumers at the "moment of inspiration." Others will rely on advanced search and augmented reality to expose people to amazing offers that pop out of the real world and onto their digital devices along their daily route.

All of these approaches will require companies to reinvent and reimagine the complete customer experience with mobile, our fiercely personal device, at the center of the (inter)­action. This is why good design and robust data are emerging as the key capabilities companies must cultivate in order to reach, engage, and re-engage their audience. And this is also why IBM has purposely brought strategy, analytics, design, and technology together in a global practice it calls IBM Interactive Experience (IBM iX).

IBM iX, a new breed of digital agency that has recently received awards for innovative campaigns and irresistible user experience, recently hosted a London seminar where I spoke. The event-which brought together the emerging business ecosystem of brands, marketers, media companies, and social networks-examined how companies can (and must) rethink their business models and customer engagement strategies to capitalize on physical/digital convergence in an omnichannel world.

Matt Candy, European leader at IBM iX, made the observation that mobile is not just blurring the boundaries, it is also removing the distinction between business strategy, the use of data, and the design of user experience. This new convergence creates new rules if companies want to excite and activate audiences.

Moving forward, he said, "differentiation can only be achieved when data and design are fused together in user-centric strategies." This, he added, "is the approach that will allow companies to architect immersive and beautiful experiences and deliver them at scale." With this in mind, IBM iX is creating new models and capabilities that help companies gain insights through analytics in order to develop and offer personalized experiences suited to people's unique situation, context, and device preferences.

Case studies that Candy shared-ranging from local brands and hospitals to the Wimbledon championships-demonstrated how visually engaging, immersive, personalized, and social experiences with mobile at the center deliver positive results for all stakeholders. They also underlined the increasing importance of approaches aimed at understanding and unleashing the insights associated with Big Data, information, and signals devices capture about customers and context that allow companies to add real (and real-time) depth to the user experience.

IBM iX has set the path by fusing strategy, design, and data together in its practice, but it will soon be best practice for all companies to adopt approaches that blend these three components (strategy, design, and data) together. It's all about cultivating the capabilities to engage and amaze people who are always-on, always-connected, and always in total control of how they access, enjoy, and interface with the world around them.