And this is the big concern every time we answer this most commonly asked question – that it slows down the positive momentum created from the excitement and energy of a great project. And, depending upon the industry, the answers can really be hard to come by, as I found out in a recent animal health project as I searched for digital behavioural data for vets in Western Europe.
Reviewing the latest trends and developments in Digital however has led me to the conclusion that for almost any brand, in any category, a simple answer to my most commonly asked question has emerged – Mobile. The most succinct articulation of the need for a mobile strategy I have heard comes from Gartner who states: 'by 2015, more words will be typed on glass than on keyboard'.
What surprises me as both someone actively involved in digital marketing as well as a consumer is how few companies have planned for mobile or consider the development of an application as the answer to their mobile future.
With the latest developments in tech, the increasing size and range of available devices and the changing behaviours of our customer, now is the time for Marketers to answer a few key questions;
Q1 Do we have a mobile website and if not, why not?
In the face of such compelling trend data it takes a very brave Marketer to choose not to develop a mobile version of their site. Don't make the mistake of saying, 'well I have a mobile App'. A mobile App is something very different from a mobile website – it serves a different purpose, has a different functionality and is an answer to different customer behaviour entirely. My Starbucks app for example is great when I find myself in a new city and need to work remotely between meetings. I can quickly find a Starbucks based on my location, buy my coffee directly through the phone and it syncs my purchase with my reward card. On the other hand, its mobile optimised website serves much richer information about the brand, its latest products and activities – encouraging me to broaden my choices from my usual flat white when it comes to my next order.
If the answer is that your brand hasn't got a mobile website, strongly consider making this a strategic imperative for the coming year's investment. Whether 'Mobile optimised' which is effectively a version of your desktop website rendered for the small screen or a 'Mobile site' – a site which is built with your mobile consumer front and centre is entirely down to budgets, complexity but most importantly the needs of your customer.
Q2 Does our current mobile strategy reflect an outdated mobile landscape?
Many brands early to the Mobile marketplace focussed on Apple products - iPad and iPhone – often driven by a personal affection and admiration for the product that was shared by the agency teams. In the past 18 months the landscape has changed considerably, with Android becoming dominant in the majority of markets and new programming languages such as HTML 5 allowing for responsive design across the myriad of different screens. There has never been a better time to re-evaluate your approach to mobile.
Q3 Have our Apps become victims of the 'Launch and Leave' mentality within Digital Marketing?
You might have forgotten about your launch of an undifferentiated App that struggled to add value and therefore receive investment - but your customers haven't. They may still be downloading it from the relevant app store and having a miserable experience with your brand as you read this. Rather than ignore the problem and hope it will go away (it won't) explore the options of evolving the functionality, using available data to iterate and optimise the experience with your agency or internal tech team. It's important to remember that blockbuster applications such as Nike+ who now have over 10 million active users are a product of constant iteration and improvement to remain relevant and value adding to their customers.
Q4 Is our future in Native Apps or Web Apps?
There was a time when native apps were the only option. Built specifically for the operating system and downloadable through the relevant app store, native apps are optimised for the specific device and therefore have great integration with the hardware and should display perfectly. Web Apps allow you to build once and deliver across multiple mobile platforms, e.g. IOS, Android and Windows. The cost savings and simplicity is offset by hardware integration and the need for mobile connectivity although this is improving. Companies such as the Financial Times have found that a well-designed web app can simplify the mobile user experience for both themselves and their customers.
As you can from the options above, adopting a mobile approach can be a staged approach with hybrid options allowing you to test and learning before a full rollout. What is key however is to start making your mark in mobile as your customers are already there?
Inevitably, the questions that are most frequently asked become the easiest to answer, so I will leave you with a new query asked by a self-confessed technophobe member of a client team Brand Learning has recently been working with. Turning her head to one side she quizzically wondered 'Where do Apps go to die?' What a great question. As is so often the case in digital, the technical answer was immediately apparent – it's the behavioural impact of killing off a favoured brand app with your customer that's far more uncertain.
What tough questions are you going to ask yourself today?
This post is by Stephen Ingram, Digital Development Director at Brand Learning