Why you NEED a mobile strategy

By on February 22, 2013
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Why a mobile strategy

It seems pretty simple, you’ve got a thriving business, customers, revenue and you want to move it all into mobile so you build an app right? Mobile strategy. Check.

Well, unfortunately, the mobile app does not make a mobile strategy.

The shift in how we do business has been moving us gradually to this point – an inflection point on the conservative side, a complete levelling of the business playing field on the hype side. Somewhere in the middle is where we will end up but the reality is, we are going through a time that we have never seen before. A time where large and small companies alike that chose to ignore the small screen will damage their brand, fail or – even worse – become obsolete or part of the living dead.

Why the big will fail and the innovative shall inherit the earth

During the web days – somewhere near the end of the 90′s – a couple upstart companies emerged as leaders while others struggled during the transition from real-world to web. These companies are Adobe and Amazon and both embraced the seismic shift that was happening and taking many incumbents by surprise. It was not easy, it was not smooth but the two companies emerged as leaders in their categories and left their competition behind. The jury is still out on whether Adobe can truly make the transition from the web-centric world to this new mobile one but Amazon seems to be migrating and monetizing across all platforms, including mobile.

Amazon’s mobile first play

Sometimes it pays to be ahead of the curve, other times it takes a little patience to succeed and Amazon has had plenty of that. They emerged from the carnage of the dotcom bubble limping, left for dead, a relic of a bygone time but proved their skeptics and the world wrong when they actually posted a profit, and then another. Today, they are the reason large, established big box retailers are failing – the showrooming effect brought on by mobile and endless supply of goods through Amazon’s retail empire. The seeds were sown years ago but mobile accelerated the consumer shift from price tag to what they are willing to pay.

While the other retailers slowly shifted their focus online or adjusted their pricing to match their virtual competitors, Amazon struck again by re-invisioning the mobile storefront through the Kindle. It started as an ebook reader – with skeptics once again in tow – and turned into what Amazon thought of as the future of the store window, the tablet. Low and behold, when the dust settled, the Kindle Fire, although not the leading tablet in terms of sales, was there when the rest of the world woke up to the power of the tablet as a sales enabler.

While the company was implementing their consumer-facing strategy they were also quietly developing the back-end services for some of the leading cloud companies on the planet. Today, Amazon powers a new generation of company – enabling what could be a product or service that will in itself disrupt a mobile incumbent. All thanks to how Amazon has contributed to the democratization of technology – once a huge up-front cost, now a low monthly fee.

Your mobile strategy – breaking it down

There is no simple mobile plan. There just isn’t. Like Amazon’s long road, mobile requires deep rooted, focused effort with an incredible amount of conviction to see it through. It is a central part of your business strategy or it won’t work. Why is this? That answer is simple: Your audience, your customers, your employees, your suppliers and your future business are using mobile right now. 1 billion smartphones around the world, 300 million in North America, 100 million tablets in North America by 2014, mobile web access trumping desktop web access this year and most of the large social companies seeing over 50% of their activity coming from a mobile device. All this and we are just at the start. Connected, always on devices in cars, street lights, toasters, glasses, watches and, eventually, in humans mean the number of connected nodes will trump the 50 billion predicted in the coming years. We are the matrix. We are the data. You need to tap into it or be left behind.

So where do you start? This is all so overwhelming for so many businesses – for many of you this is not your core business…yet. That’s what I hope to bring out through this series of posts starting now.

Mobile is not the device

Let’s take a look at what exactly I mean by a mobile strategy. There are so many questions that need to be answered while just deciphering the root reason for mobile inside of an organization. Often this leads to fundamental shifts in core business lines just because the questions asked that are cloaked in mobile strategy really strike at the core of the business. That’s how you know how important a shift is happening today.

Having a mobile strategy is about gathering the right business requirements. The goal is to understand what you want mobile to achieve for your business. Start with this question, don’t end with it and certainly don’t find a technology to implement a “best practice” before you decide what you want it to do.

Mobile strategy is about leading with the business objectives not with the technology. Where is there a natural extension to your business or a friction-free revenue opportunity that suits your audience and makes sense for your future. Find that and then go find or build the technology that makes it real. Don’t do it the other way around. Don’t let your unique business become homogenized by a technology “solution” – that is NOT a strategy, it is a cop out.

Mobile strategy is deciding where to focus – internally on becoming more effective and efficient for your employees and partners or externally focused on servicing existing customers or finding new ones. You will quickly find you can’t do it all at the same time. Pick your battles.

Mobile strategy is defining what you won’t do as much as it is what you will. Clearly articulating the things you won’t touch is often harder than deciding what to do. It is so overwhelming the things that could be mobilized that companies often spread themselves thin and fail or only partially realize their goals. This leads to concern, a lack of conviction and no more investment in mobile because “it didn’t work.” We are seeing that now with companies that built apps as a strategy a year ago. It hasn’t moved the needle, hasn’t moved their business so mobile is a failure or not for them. If your competition is talking like that, jump in and crush them.

Mobile strategy is finding ways to leverage your audience. Don’t sell them on things that don’t make sense, that is too transparent. Focus on the ones that are already paying you for something and increase ARPU. The hard part is picking where to focus.

There is light

The core of mobile rests at the heart of your business but the best part of looking at this, doing a deep dive, is the opportunity this levelling is bringing. We used to be constrained by what we do – Microsoft built Office software – but mobile opens up potential to modify what we provide to our customers – Microsoft sells document storage in the cloud accessible on all devices for rent. This kind of thinking has been brought on by the green fields of mobile and the smart companies – I mean the really smart companies – are out there planting. That’s what a good mobile strategy does.

About Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of UNTETHER.tv and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to schedule a 30-minute chat.