It's About The Experience, Now

Coming into this week’s Mobile Insider Summit, I already knew we would have a number of brands leading off on day one that really "got" mobile. Wells Fargo, NHL, and Lowe’s had all advanced well beyond the test phase. But what really struck me about the keynotes from Mssrs. Gellman, Golier and Bartlett, of these three brands respectively, is the deeper commitment each of them had to mobile’s role in crafting a larger "experience" for consumers.

"Experience" is a word we sling about frequently nowadays, but I can’t say that many of us know entirely what it means in mobile marketing.

These guys get us closer. Wells Fargo’s Alan Gellman told us that about 8.5 million of the 70 million the brand touches are already using mobile banking in one way or another. He envisions it as “the simultaneous channel,” he says. Mobile is working in tandem, usually with something else or some other event. The simplest and most common mobile use case for his customers is an account balance lookup. “Do I have enough for that beer?” he says.

But in a bit of a mantra we have heard this first day at the Summit, Alan underscored that in order to build a compelling experience on these devices you had to "mobilize and optimize," not "miniaturize." Lowe’s Sean Bartlett reiterated that idea as well, in rejecting the notion that build-once-use-everywhere really worked. Being mobile-specific, highlighting the tasks users really craved on the device, and even building with specific devices in mind, seemed to me to be a theme among both of these brands. For Wells Fargo, they got the foundations right first -- the key banking tasks people really wanted almost intuitively on mobile.

Another piece of this is consistency. Almost everyone on Day 1 was talking about mobile fitting into a multichannel approach. But that also means ensuring consistency and interoperability across Web and mobile. I asked Cathleen Ryan of Intuit, who was on our first brand marketers’ panel, about how important synchronization is now for her customer base of tax preparers. She replied that the emergence of cloud-based services has really brought that capability forward to consumers. I would call that the Netflix effect.

Many people now have cloud-based entertainment and e-commerce providers, so now consumers can’t quite get why their mobile encounter with you isn’t smart enough to know what you were just doing with them online. That is “experience.” Not just always on, but always there -- and always in sync. 

I think both Chris Golier of NHL and Sean Bartlett of Lowe’s were cases in point about how much user experience matters in taking on two mobile disruptions: second screening and showrooming. 

Chris showed us the NHL PrePlay second-screen game app that I wrote about months ago. For the Summit he had results to report. The gaming app, which runs in sync with televised games, had an amazing retention rate of nearly 50%. In fact, once players got into it, they stuck with this experience. Chris also learned that in second-screen apps, less is more. The downloads for the game were strong when it was first introduced on the iPad. But they went massive with the iPhone release. They kept the game play simple enough across the devices to ensure one-tap involvement. You didn’t need to tend this app. You could play with and relate with a circle of friends, but the second screen kept the interactivity extremely simple and uncluttered.

Just as the second screen in the living room poses a serious distraction to TV viewers, the smartphone in the store aisle is being challenged by the infamous and debated "showrooming" effect. Sean’s brand doesn’t hide from that activity, but fully embraces it with the full confidence that Lowe’s can win in their own aisles -- 42,000 Lowes sales associates already have iPhones with which they can help customers and assist them in using the Lowe’s iPhone app. The mobile presence has had a positive effect on the MyLowe’s loyalty program because it adds a new layer of value to being a member.

Sean seemed unconvinced that "showrooming" is necessarily a major concern. Price comparisons, going to competitors and consumers leveraging the Web have all been part of the retail world for a while. What I hear Sean saying is that a retailer shouldn’t do stupid little tricks like discourage in-store app use or mangle QR codes so they can’t be used with third-party apps. Sneering at showrooming is not the answer to something consumers like to do. The retailer should be able to build an experience so compelling and with such added value that the benefits of using a third-party shopping comparison app seem puny in comparison.

These marketers’ focus on the customer-facing everyday encounter with their respective brands on mobile platforms comes through. Mobile devices give brands the opportunity to be more than resources on the Web -- to become companions in everyday tasks. That is the fundamental shift that puts so much heightened concern upon user experience. 

Alan's keynote is already available on-demand here.

And Chris's here.


1 comment about "It's About The Experience, Now ".
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  1. Kjell Kallman from Jackson Dawson Communications, August 21, 2012 at 12:35 p.m.

    Thanks for providing your thoughts and comments with links for those us who are not able to attend.

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