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Consumers First, Technology Second

Breaking news -- mobile is the present, not the future of marketing.

Sounds obvious to some and absurd to others, but the reality is that mobile is changing -- and will continue to change -- the way business is done worldwide. Consider the facts: In the U.S. alone, people now spend more time on their mobile devices (142 minutes a day), than on TV (135 minutes), or PCs (96 minutes).  For Americans who use Facebook mobile and Web site interfaces, the time spent on Facebook's mobile site per month (441 minutes) has surpassed usage of its classic Web site (391 minutes). And 45% of Millennials ages 18-34 use a mobile device to do research before buying a big-ticket item. In fact, mobile apps are expected to grow from a $6 billion industry today to $56 billion by 2015. It's time to rethink the approach to mobile.

To do so, let's look at the recent evolution of the innovation at Nike. Historically, innovation had been driven and defined by the R&D function and taken the shape of new athletic footwear and apparel. That was important -- and it worked, for a while. But today, conditions have changed and innovation has been redefined. Successful innovation is now based on placing the consumer at the center and developing integrated solutions that provide value often beyond the product itself.

For example, take the Nike+ initiative and how it has enabled innovations in very distinct directions from the company's origins (footwear) and that are the core of its target consumer (gear that not only measures activity -- FuelBand) -- but also offers personalized training programs (Nike Training Club app).

These innovations can only take place by placing the right emphasis on product R&D (important, but is only one of many inputs) and understanding the broader context of consumer needs. Applying a similar strategic approach to mobile is the logical next step. From our perspective, there are three essential requirements to becoming more strategic -- and thus driving profitable growth -- through mobile: 

1.  Consumer at the center.  While it sounds obvious, putting the consumer first is the fundamental requirement to rethinking mobile.  But mobile is incredibly personal, as it is the one technology that is always with us. It is critical to understand the 1,440 minutes of consumers’ daily lives (both offline and online) to uncover opportunities that mobile can unlock for your business. There is a place for IT infrastructure and mobile technologies, but those take a secondary place to strategy. Technology should enable, but not drive, mobile strategy.

2. Link it back to business. Mobile is not about mobile per se. Mobile must be approached from the broader context of the broader business and its strategy. Nike's investments in mobile technologies are not singular marketing initiatives, but are part of a broader corporate strategy that has the potential to turn Nike into the next big health care company in the world. Only when mobile is discussed in the context of the broader business will marketers be able to have strategic conversations about mobile and the role it will play in the success of their companies.

3. Develop an ecosystem of opportunity.  One-off, uncoordinated efforts are not strategy. What is required is developing a prioritized portfolio of mobile opportunities (or drilling sites) that can be pursued and integrated over time.  Developing a “strategy” for every single app is not as effective as developing an overarching strategy that guides all investments and trade-off decisions.

Without priorities or opportunity areas, it will remain difficult to make decisions across business units and brands. With prioritized opportunity areas, marketers will be able to make informed decisions about where to place efforts and investments. Depending on the industry and country, mobile might play a more or less important role today. However, the fact is that mobile is here to stay -- and it will continue to rapidly reshape the way we do business.

Businesses and brands that make mobile a central part of their strategy will win by being constantly connected and engaged to their consumers. The time is now to define a strategy-driven approach to mobile by putting consumers first and technology second. 

Tags: mobile
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1 comment about "Consumers First, Technology Second".
  1. Maryanne Conlin from RedRopes Digital/4GreenPs , January 4, 2013 at 9 a.m.
    Nice post, Jorge! I think you touched on a key theme for 2013 - "One-off, uncoordinated efforts are not strategy" - never more true than for mobile!