Brands, If You Want To Be Mobile, Know Me First

Brands aren't ready for mobile. That was the hard news delivered by Google UK's Sales Director earlier this week at the IAB Engage Mobile conference in London, For brands that may still may be smarting from "mobilegeddon" last month that would have seen their SEO rankings drop because they have not embraced mobile fully, it might have been hard to swallow. However, it is very much the truth. There are some honourable exceptions -- easyJet take a bow -- but in the main, the nail was most definitely struck on the proverbial head.

If you don't agree, and you believe that brands have grasped mobile, then answer me this. We'll start off on a really easy one. How many times have you been told by a brand that you should really download their app, a message delivered on the very same device where their app is indeed installed. How many times have you clicked to engage with a brand only to find they have no idea you're on a mobile device as you squint at tiny text which may or may not be expandable?

Okay, so those are the really easy starting points. Now, how about the typical LinkedIn scenario where you're constantly told to install the app, which you already have? Now, if you went straight to the app, you'll likely already be signed in and be offered a seamless experience. Click on an email alert that someone's having a work anniversary or posted something interesting and you'll be whisked off to a separate signing-in page, to sign in for a second time.

So, now to the stuff wthat really gets my goat, and so it's bound to get yours too. Ryan Air, cover you ears -- they're about to burn -- but I can't think of a brand that thinks it is mobile-friendly yet simply isn't. 

Download their app to check on a flight, and I kid you not, you are asked, after signing in -- hint, they now know who I am -- to give your email address, starting airport, terminating airport and the booking reference number to get any information back. Most people would probably know three of these things, but a reference number? That can only be discovered by searching through old emails in another app and cutting and pasting it. How mobile-friendly is that? And here's the thing -- they know who I am, I've just signed in first of all to my iPhone and then opened their app and signed in to that too. Why not give me a link to my saved flights? If there's more than one, I'll select the one I want. Funnily enough, that would just be a pipe dream. because in my experience, even when you put in everything they want, the app doesn't work. It complains of no data connection despite having already offered a page to sign in at and then a confirmatory page that you're signed in. 

Sorry to rub salt into the wound, Ryan Air, but when I open up the easyJet app it immediately recognises me and brings up the flights I have booked that it's most likely I want to interact with them about. It even has a car hire form with the fields already filled in based on that flight so I don't have to bother. Great stuff and totally seamless.

So brands -- if you're going to do mobile, please do it well. Mobile is about convenience and speed. It's not about grappling with technology that's been launched when it doesn't work, but you're going to put it right at some stage -- you've probably even got the word "iteration" to hand as a "get out of jail" card when the board asks why the apps isn't working. And finally, and most importantly, it certainly isn't about pretending to know someone when you clearly don't.

Car parking apps are another case in hand here. Just like a train journey app, they're great if you're only ever parking the same car in the same spot for the same amount of time or, for trains, if you only do the one journey. Try to change a previous routine and you can almost certainly end up having to phone up to make a telephone booking rather than fight the technology.

So here's the thing. If you want me to be mobile with you, you have to  know me. That goes way beyond pretending you know me by replacing the words "log in" with 'Welcome Sean'. If your computer systems will only work with reference numbers and come with a pile of legacy issues, then honestly, you're best not bothering. I'll just get wound up and drop you. In short, if you're just putting your desktop experience on to mobile. Just stop, pull the plug on the project and think again. Work it backwards from the customer. Don't think about what your IT systems will let you get away with. Reimagine them so they serve through knowing a person on the most intimate device they can allow you to be a part of.

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