Mobile and Our Hyper-Curated Existence

I’m not a big plan-ahead person in my day-to-day, non-work life. I figure if I head out the door with some semblance of what I want to do, things will fall into place. This is a trait my wife finds incredibly endearing. This isn’t as much of a problem today, but rewind six years ago and picture me driving around trying to find places I had heard about, then hoping they were open.

Life then was about exploring via friends, neighborhoods, and even printed local weeklies, like the Chicago Reader or LA Weekly. And if, like me, you didn’t write things down, you could wander around town for quite a while trying to find places and things.

Now, with smartphones, all of that information exists in the palm of our hands. But, how has that convenience changed the exploring nature in all of us, and how will that continue to evolve over time?

Last year, Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff wrote a piece for Wired Magazine titled “The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.” In the article, Chris painted a picture of a day in which a user accessed the Internet only through applications and not through web browsers. This is a distinction that most people don’t even realize they are making, but they are doing it because it’s easier to have the information delivered to them rather than going out to find the content. With smartphone penetration in the U.S. now at 43 percent, per a Nielsen Q3 2011 mobile survey, these habits will only continue to increase.

So now we explore the world around us through applications on our phones, but are we really only exploring a portion of the world available to us?

Eli Pariser gave a brilliant TED talk about how web companies are only showing us what they think we want to see, through algorithmic curation sites, like Facebook and Google, that are filtering the web and serving to us what they think is important based on our behaviors. He calls these “filter bubbles” and argues that this will ultimately be bad for democracy and for us.

While I agree this is bad for browsing and consuming information on a tablet, laptop, or desktop, I would argue that this algorithmic curation in the mobile space makes our lives easier, and isn’t easier what we want out of our mobile devices?

I live three miles from my office and, if you factor every side street into a potential route, there could be 100 different ways for me to get to the office. However, my phone’s GPS gives me one, maybe two choices, and does it really matter that the other routes exist? I said I wanted to get from point A to point B, and it gave me a great way to accomplish this. If I ask Siri to find a pizza place near where I am, aren’t three choices enough?

Or, if I make dinner plans based on a Scoutmob offer near me, isn’t that OK? After all, this restaurant was digitally savvy enough to lure me and is making the effort to be digitally progressive.

But what does a curated mobile experience mean for advertisers who are trying to connect and win share-of-wallet from consumers? Because consumers are engaging across myriad of applications, it’s important that advertisers are also creating experiences across the following:

  1. Mobile search. With 84 percent of smartphone users performing mobile searches (according to a Performics and ROI Study), both paid and organic are essential. Add the fact that applications like Siri gather information from both Google and Bing organic results, and the importance is compounded.
  2. Social couponing. Couponing has moved from newspaper advertorials to digital spaces. Today, discount sites offer daily discounted deals that typically last for 24 hours. Social couponing sites have also incorporated location-based services and QR codes for easy access and redemption.
  3. Location-based loyalty programs. Local businesses incorporate check-in services via Foursquare and Gowalla into their loyalty programs by providing local promotions and rewarding customers for repeat visits.
  4. Mobile applications. With more than 500,000 apps in the App Store and 200,000 apps in the Android Market, it’s increasingly important to develop an app with utility or entertainment that will ensure users revisit the app after the initial download. The average smartphone user has 23 apps installed on their phone at one time (eMarketer Q2 2011). But, according to a study by Localytics, 60 percent of those who download an application will only use it between one to five times. To stay on someone’s phone, you have to provide value and a unique benefit.
  5. Content distribution. Content must be relevant and engaging, so that consumers will pass it along to their friends and family. The end goal here is to have your content live on multiple sites, so that as shoppers compare prices, promotions, reviews, and product availability on sites across the web, your brand will always come out on top.

It’s clear that companies who advertise across multiple mobile touch points are going to stack the odds of engaging with consumers in their favor.

Related reading