Mobile First: There's A Consumer Behind That Phrase

Our industry loves a good catch all term. After all, they are useful, catchy and sometimes, even funny (you are asking me about my bandwidth? c’mon). But they are also notoriously broad and open to misinterpretation. The phrase   ‘mobile first’, is heard with increasing frequency. It’s a term whose meaning remains widely misunderstood, and misused.

Many interpret itto mean mobile only but this oversimplifies a complex concept. A more precise definition is ‘placing initial strategic focus on the most popular screen, i.e. smartphones, then layering in additional content and functionality for all the other screens that populate the modern customer journey’. This is arguably only part of the bigger picture.

Progressive marketers understand that mobile-first isn’t about smartphones, it’s about human mobility – after all, it’s the person that is in motion, not the device. Today’s consumers have information at their fingertips literally 24/7 (most sleep with their phones within reach), and this new normal is triggering rapid changes in behavior and radical shifts in expectations. It’s simply a given that all experiences, branded or otherwise, should work seamlessly on and across any device.



A responsive website isn’t a differentiator anymore, it’s the status quo. The demands of a digital world continually activated, amplified and augmented by handheld devices are far more bespoke. The content delivered must be more engaging, the information more contextually relevant and all of the aforementioned more personally meaningful to the individual.

As a result, planning doesn’t start with the device but with consumer behavior in a multiscreen, mobile-first world. Why, when and how are people using one device versus another? What activities prevail on each? How are they using them to shop? To self-educate? To entertain themselves? And, perhaps most important, what problems are they trying to solve? The great paradox of digital is that the overwhelming information at our disposal makes life simultaneously easier and more complex. Paralysis by analysis looms large, the more choice you have, the harder it is to make a choice at all, and helping consumers make the right decisions, from getting directions to making a purchase, may be where brands can add the most value of all.

A consumer shopping for batteries might consider a variety of questions, the answers to which will dictate the final purchase. Which will last longest? Which is the greener choice? Which is the best investment? A website can provide the answers, but mobile enables a brand to offer information more proactively to customers in proximity to the product. Case in point, in a recent MEC marketing initiative for Energizer Eco-Advanced in-store beacons triggered informative messaging directly at point of sale through popular third party shopping apps. The marketing was rooted in an understanding of the need states of battery shoppers, the questions they have and the challenges they face in the path to purchase. As a result, the customer experience designed and partnerships established empowered Energizer to give consumers the confidence to make a smart, informed purchase decision.

For brands that wish to adopt the mobile first label a remapping of the customer journey is in order.  It’s no longer a linear path (and maybe it never was) but an ongoing process, and it’s imperative to let go of our outdated notions and strive to understand our customers’ unique need states in a mobile-first world. Then a brand can design the right experiences, e.g. mobile applications, HTML websites, in-store touchpoints, that will drive consideration and purchase and, most desirable of all, positive long-term sentiment and brand advocacy. The brands that understand how to use mobility to be present in these micro moments – via utility, entertainment, and the many other levers of engagement – are the brands the will truly thrive.

Mobile first is all about consumers, not devices. Using your data to analyze consumer behavior and map the consumer purchase journey (i.e. What are your customer’s needs? How can your brand help them?) is critical for planning the right experiences for the right devices.  


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