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A New Destination for Mobile Users
New online community offers mobile computer users the chance to help reinvent product development.
Posted Jan 7, 2009
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It's a new year -- the perfect opportunity to focus on goals you've been meaning to tackle but simply haven't had the time for: joining a gym, helping out at a soup kitchen, quitting smoking, and -- oh, yes -- listening to your consumers.

To help in that effort, the CMO Council's Forum to Advance the Mobile Experience (FAME) has launched Reinvent Mobile, an online community dedicated to fostering a collaborative environment between mobile-device users and manufacturers. The community recently released the results of its "Track the Yack" survey, which used an "eavesdropping" technology to collects the voice of the consumer across online discussion boards, blogs, and reviews, rather than directly surveying individuals. The goal, according to Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, is to help companies understand where consumers have trouble and what improvements they hope to see in an overall effort to promote "co-innovation."

The community, Neale-May says, currently consists of approximately 250 companies from different aspects of the mobile ecosystem -- devices, firmware, middleware, system operators, applications, content, channel carriers. While the community comprises multiple sectors of the mobile industry, Neale-May emphasizes that the effort is led by marketers -- the people, he says, who should be at the forefront of ensuring that the mobile experience is constantly attended to, cultivated, and improved.

Reinvent Mobile encourages consumer input by enabling them to:

  • share their personal insight and experiences;
  • submit ideas;
  • evaluate and examine projects in the works; and
  • receive exclusive deals, discounts, and benefits.

"Customers don't feel like they're getting embraced into the co-development of products," Neale-May says. "They feel like products are being forced upon them without them having a voice, and [that] manufacturers don't listen -- they overengineer their products." With Reinvent Mobile, FAME attempts to facilitate co-innovation by giving consumers access to preview prototypes and an opportunity to express their reactions, Neale-May says. Manufacturers can showcase new technology and get user feedback before diving headfirst into production, he says -- but the biggest benefit is that Reinvent Mobile will provide manufacturers with an ongoing source of consumer insight.

Ultimately, the Reinvent Mobile community aims to improve the products and services available to the consumer, based on feedback from and demands by the consumer. Neale-May, for one, is open to opinions far and wide. "Anyone that has a mobile computer should join our community."

The "Track the Yack" survey, powered by predictive analytics provider Fractal Analysis, was based on data from more than 4,000 conversations and 10,000 unique sentiments. Fractal Analysis' spidering technology goes out into the Web and aggregates all mentions of particular companies and predefined keywords. The study revealed consumer sentiment toward leading mobile computer brands, and more important, consumers' utmost concerns and pain points regarding their mobile computers.

The spidering technology produced a much more authentic voice of the customer, as opposed to soliciting survey participants, Neale-May says. Freed from the constraints of a survey's strict parameters, "people are uninhibited and willing to be forthright about how they feel," he says. "They're doing it in an environment where they have peers and [those peers] are sympathetic to them." Moreover, the method is significantly more cost-effective. On the other hand, Neale-May does acknowledge that, just as the customers most willing to participate in a survey tend to fit a certain profile, those who participate in a community discussion tend to fit a profile of their own.

According to the survey, consumers' top concerns in the mobile space include:

  • greater reliability and accessibility of connectivity (especially Wi-Fi & Bluetooth);
  • operating systems that are more efficient and less RAM-hungry;
  • reduction in device weight, along with a rise in comfort factors and a more-stylish array of designs and colors;
  • quality and clarity of screen displays; and
  • instant-on power-up and application access.

Not surprisingly, smartphones have raised the bar for mobile computers. "Consumers are thinking, ‘If I can get it on my smartphone, why can't I get it on my laptop?' " Neale-May says. Even so, he doesn't anticipate that smartphones will be replacing mobile computers any time soon. (Laptops, on the other hand, are steadily replacing desktop computers.) "There are certain things I can't do, or can't do conveniently, [on my smartphone]," he says.

What was most bothersome to Neale-May was consumer discontent about prohibitive repair costs and the severe environmental challenge posed by e-waste. In some cases, the cost to repair a mobile device can match or even exceed the purchase price -- providing no disincentive to scrap the device for the new flavor of the month. And worst of all, Neale-May says, the repair process is a hassle. "Most people can't do without their system for the six weeks it takes to get it fixed."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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