How to Master the Mobile Mind Shift

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Mobile devices have transformed the way consumers engage with the world around them, altering not only the way people communicate or shop, but also how they think. Still, some companies remain oblivious, says Josh Bernoff, Forrester analyst and coauthor of The Mobile Mind Shift, which he wrote with fellow analysts Ted Schadler and Julie Ask. Though customers' habits and expectations have evolved, some companies and organizations have not been able to leverage the transition in thinking that the mobile evolution has set forth, and haven't capitalized on the opportunities that mobile technology presents. The key, Bernoff tells Associate Editor Maria Minsker, is to stop selling and start being helpful.

CRM: Your book suggests that consumers are in different phases of the "mobile mind shift." How can companies determine where their customers are?

Josh Bernoff: When it comes to mobile devices, people usually start using them for little things like checking the weather, but, eventually, they start to think of their phone as their go-to tool for almost everything. To measure this shift, we created the mobile mind shift index, which looks at three components—the mobile intensity score, which measures the extent to which mobile is part of a consumer's lifestyle; the mobile expectation score, which determines what customers expect from mobile services; and the mobile behavior score, which pinpoints whether users are more likely to use the device for communication, consuming content, or performing transactions. When the score comes together, it provides a good indication of whether the customer has transitioned from just thinking of his device as a phone to thinking of it as something he can't live without.

CRM: Many brands have mobile apps or sites but struggle to create a good mobile-specific strategy. What's standing in their way?

Bernoff: They're dealing with a lot of mobile misconceptions. Mobile commerce is not just an extension of e-commerce, for example, but it's also not just another separate channel. The natural tendency is to simply take an e-commerce site and make it accessible on a mobile device, but that's not effective. That approach doesn't acknowledge the real-world interactions that people have or the fact that mobile is most powerful when it connects the digital world with the actual world. Mobile apps that supplement the in-store experience, for example, are much more powerful than ones that are basically smaller versions of an e-commerce site.

CRM: So how can companies start to incorporate that "real-world" relevance?

Bernoff: It's important to stop thinking in terms of traditional forms of Web interactions but rather in terms of quick moments in which the customer wants to accomplish something—get information, make a reservation, find a product. Redesigning that interaction around the mobile moment is not an intuitive change for companies, but this isn't the first time we're seeing a similar trend. I remember the challenge that companies faced when they realized that they [couldn't] just shovel their brochures onto the Web, and now they need to learn that they can't just shovel their Web sites onto mobile sites or apps. They've got to offer something better, something that's useful in a particular moment. Think about it—would you rather browse Home Depot's entire inventory on your iPhone app, or use the app to help you find an item in an aisle at your local store?

CRM: How does this more utilitarian approach to building mobile content speak to larger trends?

Bernoff: There's a huge movement toward content marketing or utility marketing. In this context, you can be successful with campaigns like the Johnson & Johnson bedtime app, which has tips for helping you get the baby to sleep. It's not just the trying to sell you baby powder—it's helping customers deal with a common issue. Sure, it reminds you that there are Johnson baby products that can be helpful, but it's not just pushing an ad. Advertising is becoming less and less powerful because it's being overtaken by what we call manufactured moments—resources that didn't exist elsewhere until you saw a need and created them for customers.

CRM: As companies rethink their mobile strategies, what are some of the biggest obstacles you foresee and how can brands overcome them?

Bernoff: Focusing on the moment is a whole new way of thinking, and it's very frustrating for marketers that still want to build long-term relationships. In this world, people want what they want in three seconds. Throughout our research, we interviewed over 200 companies worldwide and found that there's a process to follow—identify mobile moments, design mobile engagements, engineer the system, analyze the data that comes back, and then repeat continuously to make improvements. It's a very basic formula for mobile strategy success.

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