Winning With Customer-First and Mobile-First Strategy

Article ImageAt Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016, GSMA revealed that there are now more mobile connections than people on the planet. Looking at the Goliath that is Apple, there are now 2 million apps in the Apple App Store. There have been 130 billion apps downloaded, and developers have earned $50 billion in revenues. Apple will likely sell 200 million iPhones this year--which are more powerful than the computer used to put a man on the moon. We replace our phones every 2 years for another one that is more powerful and has more sensors. Mobile now accounts for more than 50% of traffic for the majority of brands. 

Are these numbers frightening or humbling? Or, as marketers, are we over all the hyperbole and now want to make sure we do the right things to deliver against customer's heightened expectations? Before I talk about how to win with customer-first and mobile-first strategy, let's define some of the key words: strategy, customer-first, and mobile-first.

Defining Our Terms

First, strategy is "a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim." The key is to think long-term, not just short-term and tactical. Strategy is a well-thought-out plan that takes into account potential changes and fluctuations likely to happen in the future and plans around them. As we all know, the only constant these days is change.

Second, let's talk about the term "customer-first." This is really important, since going after just one device or channel can be a myopic approach. Focusing on your customer, gathering data on him or her, asking what he or she wants, and taking that with a pinch of salt is key. Customer-centricity means that when you are planning content, marketing, or creating digital products via service design, you have to ask the following questions:

  • Why will your customers care?
  • Will they use it?
  • Is it saving them time or money?
  • Is it educating them or helping them to have fun or look good in front of their friends?

A customer-first focus can guard against misguided organizational changes that make mobile a kingdom in isolation of marketing, digital, brand, or other departments. Basically, mobile isn't an island-it's a river: Consider its role in the wider mix by being customer-centric.

What about mobile-first? Well, this is both easy and quite hard to explain. Do you think about mobile, first and foremost, when coming up with customer solutions? That's easy. More complicated is understanding the problem and what kind of mobile-first solution you should offer to customers. Doing mobile-first right involves being tactical and deeply understanding your customer. Knowing how the user is going to employ your product is important. Is she at home on Wi-Fi or out and about? If she is out and about, then you should consider limiting the amount of rich imagery the user may have to download over a 3G or 4G signal.

Part of having a full understanding of your customer comes from knowing how people are using your product or brand. A holistic understanding is exceptionally important because more and more data is showing that people are researching on mobile and completing the transaction on desktop and vice versa. A complete, single customer view is really important.

The Mobile-First Mindset

The term "mobile-first" has been tossed around a lot in recent years. IBM has a product called MobileFirst. Yahoo called itself a mobile-first company in 2015. Certainly, new powerhouses such as Uber and Tinder are dedicating significant resources to their mobile applications.

A mobile-first strategy refers to companies' increasing tendency to design their products for mobile devices before traditional desktop and laptop computers. As a philosophy or ideology, it's a great thing to adopt; however, there are a lot of companies using the phrase "mobile-first" as more of a badge of honor and not really following through to action. Mobile first might be written on the wall, or in a set of objectives, but it's not become ingrained in company philosophy. You see this all over the place. For instance, how creative is presented--?projecting mobile designs onto 8'-wide displays, rather than showing it on a small device, so you can preview the hit zones and sizing in context to CMSs that don't let you preview the mobile view.

Being mobile-first doesn't mean having a separate site for both mobile and desktop. It means having a responsive or adaptive site that understands what device you are on and changes accordingly-whether that's a smartphone, tablet, desktop, wearable, or smart glasses.

Getting this right will massively change your business, especially if you have an app. Data from Kantar shows that you have to make a good impression in the first 10 minutes on Android or your app could be uninstalled. Users are ruthless. In the end, they don't really care about you, so you really need to make sure that you are solving their problems or making their life easier. Your revenue is the least of their worries; they want things easy and immediate.

Take, for example, Amazon's one-click payment, which is so simple that I am sure most users find themselves thinking, "Is that it? Have I just paid for that?" Amazon looked at the data and found that people were buying lots of singular items, so why take them to the basket when they don't need to see it? The company simplified the process for the customer, but also made it easier for them to spend money-and boost the bottom line.

In the end, there are simple steps (see the checklist in the sidebar) you can take to become more mobile-first and customer-first. You must always keep in mind the main reason mobile has become so big for marketers and other content providers is because your customers are already there. You just have to meet them where they are.  

A Simple Mobile-First Checklist

  • Start with the customer, and understand his or her needs as well as yours.
  • Make minimum viable products (MVPs) do at least one thing well and test it.
  • Enhance your customer understanding-always use some form of tracking/analytics software so you can learn and iterate.
  • Mobile isn't an island-it's a river; consider its role in the wider mix.
  • Always think about mobile integration-don't make it an afterthought.
  • Don't just review your designs on a monitor; that's not how the majority of your customers are going to see it.
  • Make mobile-first a philosophy through action; don't let is just be a badge of honor-make it more than something you say, make it a behavior.

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