Context: The Driving Force of Mobile

Over the past year, we’re finally seeing an upswing in the talk of truly designing for mobile first in overall user and marketing experiences. As mobile grows into the main digital engagement channel, it’s important to remind ourselves in the near future of the importance of “context.” The classic mistake we continue to see are brands applying the same model for the web to the mobile screen – resizing the experience for the small screen, and in a lot of cases, a similar banner tossed on the top or bottom of the screen.

As marketers, we need to continue to remind ourselves that a mobile experience is much more than just a mobile website. Mobile experiences continue to evolve from limited, urgent, on-the-go interactions to highly engaged and convenient experiences. Many technological forces continue to drive this – advanced devices, robust browsers, LBS, 4G networks, and app and mobile dev frameworks. Convenience is now a main driver of mobile interactions (being able to get things done while waiting in line for coffee or at the airport), but beyond pure convenience, mobile devices offer context; and that very important feature will continue to allow marketers to refine user experiences.

When context is folded into the mobile experience, we can not only anticipate consumer behavior, but use it to personalize the experience. Context includes data that can help drive personalization such as location coordinates, weather information, environmental conditions, sound, speed, altitude, and the list goes on. It’s provided by the combination of all the attributes of advanced devices and combinations of their features: GPS, camera, light sensors, compass, gyroscope, microphone, etc.

Context-related capabilities will only grow in the future. Technology innovation will add more sensors, multiple cameras for depth and 3D capabilities, more processing power, and faster data access. We’re already seeing improved mass market voice-controlled experiences over the previous generation with the launch of Siri. All these elements provide an arsenal of data points, and marketers as well as technology companies are beginning to find unique ways of combining these elements with CRM data. Customer preferences, interests, and attitudes merged with specific individual mobile data provides the environment to create powerful marketing tools and experiences.

Context presents an opportunity but also a challenge. How do we appropriately use this context to drive both value and differentiation in our marketing experiences? A simple approach can include the following steps:

  1. Get Started! Do something now and don’t wait for the perfect situation. While planning is always required, go ahead and evaluate the existing IT capabilities and gaps, and match them to projects or campaigns in the pipeline. Pick projects that are feasible with existing capabilities or consider bringing a partner that can augment them. Your full mobile strategy will certainly require real planning and consumer understanding, but at this point, it’s important to get moving with mobile quickly to take advantage of basic customer context.
  2. Develop core capabilities. Once you get moving, rapidly solidify your core capabilities. If you’re just starting, quickly establish how your core business and marketing functions should be applied via mobile. If your mobile capabilities are not yet matured, build on those, including factoring in mobile with any IT-related effort for future planning. If a service is not mobile-enabled, prioritize revamping it. Enhance your operational and support systems to allow access via mobile front ends if not already architected as such, always thinking about making data available multichannel and considering multiple context parameters.
  3. Add sophistication. As soon as you have those core capabilities established, build on that foundation to provide better intelligence and accuracy to it. This becomes the point where CRM and analytics can get applied to drive a unique experience. Enhance the output with customer insights, behaviors, and history. Analyze all existing data to look for predictive patterns. Learn from the way the different touch points have been activated and continue to feed data into those metrics.

As we continue to see the progression of marketing campaigns designed first for mobile, let’s continue to challenge ourselves to drive real value through the entire context of the user.

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