Dan's Take

5 Mobility Trends Worth Monitoring

Mobile apps have the ability to personalize a customer's experience, but be warned: they can also have unanticipated negative effects.

Todd Chusid, practice director for mobile and modern Web solutions at Randstad Technologies, came by to discuss research his company has published on mobility trends. The funny thing is that the conversation ended up focused on other things entirely.

Here's what Randstad sees as the top five mobility trends:

  1. Ultra-personalization in mobile marketing. Businesses will capture a user's context to create better results for marketing campaigns by ensuring that every customer, worker, and supplier is hyper-productive and engaged. By putting emphasis on acquiring quality users who will use the app multiple times, businesses will ensure the mobility applications meet their marketing goals.
  2. Building mobile consortiums to put consumers first. Organizations are turning the idea of "our business app" on its head by making it instead "the consumer app." Third-party providers will offer collaboration with other businesses to ensure customers are more efficient in their day-to-day lives while incorporating mobile moments.
  3. Brick and mortar discovers the power of geography. Interior GPS tracking will gain traction and sophistication to the point that retailers will be able to help customers with information to facilitate a buying decision. This will also help retailers prioritize stocking procedures to maintain shelves in aisles most traveled by customers.
  4. Business intelligence through mobile channels. Business intelligence will soon deliver real-time information to any device and screen size, exactly when a user needs it. More social features will invade traditional business intelligence software, with collaboration occurring within the business intelligence application rather than through e-mails and meetings.
  5. Creating mobile moments. Mobile moments occur when organizations enhance interactions with customers through the use of mobile apps by leveraging a customer's immediate context. Expect companies to make shifts in processes, development and platforms in order to collaborate on creating special apps tailored to moments in time, such as major sporting events, holidays, travel and more.
Dan's Take: Help Customers, but Don't Overstep Your Bounds
We discussed how companies should focus more on helping their customers achieve their objectives than trying to push, market or sell something to them. This conversation echoed another recent conversation with Splice Software's Tara Kelly; too often companies offering mobile apps focus on collecting data about their customers and seeking ways to sell them something, rather than helping them resolve the issues that caused them to use the app in the first place.

Chusid used a rather "freaky" idea as an example. When a customer walks into a pharmacy, the pharmacy's systems should recognize the customer, watch where that customer is walking through the store, alert the store manager and make it possible for someone to say hello to the customer and ask if there's something they need or if they were looking for something.

The goal should be helping the customer find the needed product or solve the immediate problem, rather than selling something. Personally, when an employee wanders over to speak with me, I typically a) find it irritating, b) think the retailer is wasting my time, and c) think worse of the company involved. Chusid believes that using mobile solutions in a more help-oriented way would offer opportunities for a retailer to organically get to know their customers and their needs better than crunching through a bunch of Big Data analysis.

Big Brother Not Welcome
I worry, however, that this behavior crosses the line from trying to offer outstanding service to being overbearing. I bet that other customers would feel the same way and think that "Big Brother" was watching them. A company using such methods may find that it causes customers to instead shop at other stores offering similar products, without a similar intrusion into their privacy.

It seems to me that Chusid's real suggestion that companies take the time to find out who the customer is, what they're doing in the store and how to serve them better is the right focus. He suggests that the goal should be improving the brand and putting the customer first, rather than just selling something.

Chusid also believes that companies build "mobile moments" based on what they learn from the mobile apps. The goal, instead, should be making the company easier to deal with and helping the customer take fewer steps to accomplish their goals.

Splice's Kelly suggested that a company's systems should look at the customer's history, where they're calling from or who they are, determine the likely reasons for the call or visit, and try to help them accomplish their goals. The example Kelly and I discussed was Time Warner Cable, and how it should have known there was an outage in my area and routed me to technical support -- without having to joust with an unpleasant and irritating voice response system.

Chusid would take that idea into the store itself. Mobile systems should recognize the customer, quickly analyze past interactions with that customer and help them accomplish their in-store goals, rather than merely sending them a text with a coupon for something they just passed while walking through the store.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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