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Omni-channel strategies get you digital ubiquity but not digital relevance

Brian Solis
Businessman in network

This article was originally published in Forbes on Jan 28, 2015.

CMOs are prioritizing mobile customer experiences because they have to. Mobile is after all only becoming more pervasive in the digital customer journey. Accordingly, CMOs have widely accepted a “mobile first”-design mindset when approaching campaigns and other important digital initiatives. But what does mobile first mean? New research suggests that mobile first design might be just the beginning of a complete mobile renaissance.

As of last year, mobile platforms accounted for 60% of total time spent on digital media, according to ComScore. A recent study conducted by Nielsen reported that roughly half of consumers believe mobile is the “most important resource” in their purchase decision-making. More so, over one-third said they used mobile exclusively. And, as Google found, some 90% of consumers multiscreen between devices to accomplish a goal, using an average of three different screen combinations each day.

While mobile first is already a well-accepted mindset, it is open to interpretation and as such, it represents many things to many different people. For example, a mobile CX strategy could be a single purpose app. It could also be part of an omni-channel marketing campaign. Some strategies apply a mobile-first strategy by making a website responsive or adaptive to smaller screens.

Mobile-first is of course all of these things and more. The answer isn’t limited to any one thing, nor it is achieved through omni-present, be everywhere, digital ubiquity. The challenge that CMOs face is that each approach in its own way represents a finite or fractured view into the evolving customer journey.

The truth is that “mobile-first” should be the standard for all things digital, but it may not be enough. At the same time, digital ubiquity doesn’t necessarily address the needs or expectations of customers in real-time, specific to each channel, based on the native behaviors in each channel.

Digital is only becoming more complex with every new network, app, and underlying technology that gains momentum. At the same time, devices too are multiplying. For example, in mobile, smartphones and tablets are indeed the most popular small screens today. But in a post-PC era, smart watches, augmented reality, payments, beacons, et al will populate the customer journey as well. CMOs must plan ahead for how these technologies impact touchpoints, tasks, and outcomes. Even with just phones, the experience today is fragmented.

Digital customers are well on their way to expecting entire journeys to transpire on the small screen. But as consumers become increasingly mobile only, brands too need to think about designing mobile only customer journeys that complement other digital and omni-channel experiences. Innovation in brand marketing and customer engagement indeed starts with mobile first and a new focus on mobile-only design. That takes much more than disparate mobile initiatives run by disparate groups. It takes new vision and models to support omni-channel and mobile only experiences.

For example, companies such as Starbucks, Zappos and Sephora are uniting formerly disparate marketing and digital teams to come together in one group to create an integrated customer experience regardless of channel. They’re looking at mobile as a complementary and complete channel to not only deliver native experiences to the mobile screen, but also cater to users along the entire journey and relationship – as a part of, and independent of ubiquitous digital strategies.

It’s just a matter of time until all brands approach mobile in this fashion and stop forcing consumers to multiscreen or channel hop.

To win among mobile- and digital-first customers, organizations must focus on learning more about customer frustrations, expectations, and behaviors specific to mobile. When done in parallel to other digital investments, mobile (in each of its forms) becomes an experience unto itself. Accordingly, strategists must apply those insights to architecting an ideal mobile state.

Marketing innovation begins with recognizing that mobile and the ecosystem of devices that define it is both a means and an end to incredibly improved customer experiences. Consumers will reward your work accordingly.