How is Mobile Different?

Planes don’t have mechanically flapping wings, a computer isn’t a super fast abacus and television doesn’t just show a person reading a story.  New technologies bring new paradigms. So why is it that we are so persistent on using our old desktop model for mobile? All we are doing is taking our existing experience and shrinking it down onto a smaller screen.

‘Mobile web’ is very different than a ‘mobile version of the web’.

To really appreciate the power and beauty of mobile, you have to envision a world free of desktop web assumptions. You need to start from scratch. Here at Hubba, we start all design from this singular idea:

Point: People interact with the world (and the things within the world) throughout their day.

Point: An increasing number of people now carry location-aware, internet-enabled devices that are with them at most times.

Query: How can we use this device to enhance these real world interactions?

The answer to this question is information…more data about the things around you.  However, this is where mobile web differs from the desktop web. Users have a different relationship with their Smartphone than they do with their computer. This difference is more than just the hardware. Mobile device users are hyper-sensitive to three additional factors when consuming information. These factors are the key differentiators between the mobile web and the desktop web.

Timeliness of message. Although there are many statistics identifying ‘browsing’ as the leading mobile activity for consumers (in a purchasing scenario), I believe that it is incorrectly categorized.  The real activity is ‘searching’. In my mind, both of these are the wrong model. The reason for searching is because information is not readily available for the consumer when they need it. The consumer needs to actively seek it out. Then multiple searches or link hopping turns into ‘browsing’.  Mobile is not a browser culture. Mobile is about getting the information you need at the precise moment you need it. You do not need to discover new things, you are smackdab in the middle of a situation and need to know more about this specific thing.  Desktop web is the browsing culture, yet this approach still seems to be the de facto way of using the web on mobile.

How the message is delivered. In addition to getting the content in a timely fashion, it is imperative that this message is delivered the correct way. This may be the most important nuance between the mobile web and the desktop web. Whereas on the desktop web, the objective is to paint as comprehensive a picture as possible, the most effective way to deliver a message on mobile is what I refer to as a targeted ‘Information Burst’. An instore consumer is not the same as one browsing from their desktop at home. The information that you need to provide is very different. The home consumer at their computer needs a picture painted for them. They need the product to feel real.  On the other hand, an instore consumer is looking at or holding a product. They need the specific information that will tip their purchase decision and lead to a transaction. That information could be whether it comes in other colours or sizes, if the product is in stock or what other experts say about the product.

As a retailer or product manager, your responsibility is to know what these triggers are for your specific customers. The beautiful thing about mobile is that it provides the mechanism to deliver these details in a rich way at the most optimal time – when a motivated consumer is considering your product. It doesn’t end there though. The Information burst is only the first ripple. There are multiple ripples in the way mobile content is delivered. When the initial Information Burst is not enough to sway the consumer, they will look for the next level of information: Was it made in the USA? Does it have a carbon neutral footprint? Have any of my friends bought this brand? The models are different. Desktop web is about a comprehensive view while mobile web is about concentric circles of information.

The type of message. There is no doubt that the traditional marketing funnel has been vastly re-engineered over the last few years. The inclusion of social media and the impact of the online conversation have added significant complexities to what has historically been a relatively straightforward process.  I was recently in an intense discussion with a close friend who works at a social media company where we were debating the consumer purchasing process. He contested that social came before facts and related this back to the awareness and interest portion at the beginning of the marketing funnel. People want to know what their friends are buying and then after (almost) making up their mind, they would like to know the facts (like “does it fit in the trunk of my car?”). I pictured myself in the supermarket holding a can of shaving cream. What I wanted to know is this product came in a sensitive skin formula, if it has aloe in it and if it comes in a 100ml size that I can travel with. At no point, during that initial assessment did I care if my best friend bought this shaving cream.  That being said, I did imagine that when I had (almost) made up my mind, I would have liked to have checked to see if any of the people that I trust had had a terrible experience with the product that would prevent me from purchasing it.  To me, the model seemed to be about knowing the facts and then sprinkling in a little social validation at the end.

What it made me realize is that there are actually two different marketing funnels: one for social discovery and one for self discovery. When you learn about things from an online conversation, the facts are the final piece of the purchase decision. When you are standing in front of a product or holding it in your hand, validated details are the most important part of your decision with a final piece of social validation at the end.  That is why the type of message is key. Mobile users are focused on specific, detailed and verified facts. It is a very different approach to the current heavy social web experience.

The mobile web presents us with some amazing opportunities. There is a whole population walking around with tools that allow you to deliver your message to them at exactly the right moment. To be most effective though, we need to break away from the old models and embrace the new culture.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Ben Zifkin

Ben Zifkin

Ben Zifkin is the CEO of Hubba. He has spent the last 15+ years advising some of the world’s largest brands and retailers on how to enhance their business through technology. Ben is a member of the Young President’s Organization and on the boards of Ladies Learning Code, HackerYou and The Upside Foundation.
Ben Zifkin