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Forrester says “Go beyond ‘mobile-first’ to ‘the mobile remote control’ for experiences”

For some years, marketers have chanted the mantra of “mobile-first.” That is, orient your brand’s marketing around mobile as the central channel, with desktop and other channels emerging from there.

But, says a new Forrester report, a “mobile-first design mantra blinds CMOs to the whole picture,” because mobile is much more than just another channel like web, radio, or email.

Reimagine Mobile to Activate the Total Brand Experience” (fee or subscription required) says that marketers need to think of mobile as more than a communication outlet for small screens. Instead, they need to realize it is also the controller for a variety of experiences that are created by features often not utilized in other channels, including voice interfaces, mobile payment, location-changing context, wearables and augmented reality (AR).

“Shrink-and-squeeze thinking”

In other words, says report author Thomas Husson, “close to a third of brands are still stuck in shrink-and-squeeze thinking, mostly adapting PC content to mobile’s smaller screen.” About half of marketers realize that mobile is a catalyst to “transform customers’ entire experience, not just the digital one,” although only about 10 percent of brands are personalizing experiences with the data or unique features available from mobile.

“Mobile is no longer just a vital part of an omnichannel strategy,” the report quotes Jack Philbin, CEO of Vibes. Instead, he added, “it must be viewed as the ‘omni’ in customer engagement.”

Forrester points to the ability for mobile devices to integrate the digital and the physical worlds, becoming the remote control for life that was predicted in the early 2000s. One example: phones are replacing physical wallets and plastic credit cards via Apple Pay and other digital payment systems, bringing digital payment to physical stores.

“Electricity in the second industrial revolution”

Instead of simply a channel, Husson describes mobile as the equivalent of “electricity in the second industrial revolution,” helping to usher in experiences powered by AI, voice interaction, visual search, AR, and such emerging capabilities as biometrics, 5G, foldable screens, and new kinds of wearables or connected glasses.

The report points to traditional brands that understand mobile’s unique position, brands like Audi, Disney, and The Home Depot, in addition to mobile-savvy digital era companies like Amazon, Uber, and Waze.

The key shift in design paradigm, Forrester emphasizes, is the shift from screen-based experiences to continuous experiences that can include both the real and digital worlds. Interactions with users can take place not only in response to screen-based events, but in response to real-world events, such Waze’s updates based on the traffic you’re in.

Not just traffic and clicks

As a result of this view of mobile, Forrester recommends that the impact of mobile ads be measured against the total impact on business and marketing objectives, instead of just “vanity digital metrics.”

In other words, it’s not just a channel, it’s not just traffic volume and clicks. Instead, the impact of mobile ads is about driving traffic to physical stores as well as digital ones, the effect of emotional connections to the brand through contextual mobile interactions (like Waze in-traffic updates), and the impact of mobile marketing reinforcement on other kinds of marketing, such as out-of-home advertising or TV/radio marketing.

Forrester gives the example of Indian telecom operator Reliance, which launched a massively popular app where users predicted the outcome of a cricket match in real time, thus creating an emotionally binding experience that tied together a TV-delivered sporting event with a user’s individual participation. In just this one use case, for example, the mobile device acted as much more than just a desktop web experience seen through a smaller screen.

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