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Zero One: Making Good on Mobile First

Only a couple years ago, marketers trumpeted “mobile first.” But before they completed the mission, their attention shifted toward other shiny objects.

In the Pixar animated movie “Up” (2009), we meet a friendly talking dog named Dug who has a problem staying focused. “My master made me this collar,” Dug says. “He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may talk – squirrel!”

At times, digital marketers sound a lot like Dug. Too often they get distracted by the latest shiny object. Only a couple years ago, marketers trumpeted “mobile first.” But before they completed the mission, their attention shifted toward emerging marketing tech, such as chatbots and the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Marketers think that because they have launched apps and responsive mobile websites, they have checked the box on mobile and can move on to piloting virtual reality, augmented reality, or bots. They’re wrong. Marketers’ current mobile-first strategies are inadequate,” said Forrester analysts Thomas Husson and Jennifer Wise in a research note.

One out of three marketers admitted that their mobile services were merely scaled-down versions of their PC services, a Forrester survey found. This is a big problem when it comes to the all-important customer experience. More than half of U.S. online adults say they feel frustrated and annoyed when they visit a website that isn’t mobile-friendly, while 59 percent say the are more likely to return if it is.

On the flip side, there are some really good examples of mobile websites. Among them are Flipkart, United and the Washington Post, Forrester says.

Related: 2017 Salary Guide: 16 Hottest Digital Transformation Skills

To be fair, mobile marketers got sidetracked with mobile apps. Many invested heavily in mobile app development only to end up with lots of apps and little engagement – as in, few daily active users. Forrester, for instance, recently interviewed a pharmaceutical company that launched an app for every product, resulting in more than 800 apps. Worse, the company was so busy building mobile apps that it neglected to fix its mobile web.

Rather than test, iterate and improve the mobile web, marketers jumped on the next new thing. The “squirrels” of the new-fangled tech world run the gamut: virtual reality, augmented reality, bots and the IoT.

Nearly all have weak user adoption today, yet marketers have been drawn to them. Forrester says 28 percent of B2C marketers plan to implement or expand virtual assistants, despite two-thirds of U.S. online adults saying they don’t use assistants today. Compare this with more than 5 billion smartphones expected to be in use worldwide by 2020. There is no question the smartphone has become the primary touch point for the customer experience and that the “mobile-first” mantra was the right call.

Even among emerging technologies, mobile will play a leading role. Consider this simple scenario: You’re listening to music in the car via your smartphone. The home audio system detects the media playing in the car, and the music continues to play based on your proximity to various speakers inside the house. Mobile is the “brain” that ensures the continuity of the music.

“Stop considering mobile a standalone marketing and advertising channel,” Forrester’s Husson and Wise said. “Think of it as an opportunity to create new offline experiences and as the gateway to the connected world.”

Based in Silicon Valley, Tom Kaneshige writes the Zero One blog covering digital transformation, AI, marketing tech and the Internet of Things for line-of-business executives. He is eager to hear how mobile is impacting your business. You can reach him at [email protected]  

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