The Future of Mobile and the Digital Experiences Users Are Clamoring For

Esther Shein

As recently as a year ago, enterprises had it releatively easy when it came to deciding the type of digital experiences they wanted to provide to meet customer needs: deploying a website, a mobile app, mobile-ready website, or a combination of all.

Today, digital business professionals have over three times the digital channels to deliver – and digital experiences are falling short. Those are among the provocative findings of a new Forrester Research report, entitled The Future of Digital Experiences: The Mobile eBusiness Playbook.

The central theme of the report is that the mobile channel will continue to thrive and “will become the choreographer of the next revolution in digital experience as it powers and orchestrates a multi-touchpoint, blended user ecosystem.”

In fact, Forrester finds that new channels are proliferating faster than firms can keep up. Mobile is beginning to overshadow desktop web, the report finds, with 4.9 billion unique mobile subscribers owning more than 3.7 billion smartphones in 2017.

Desktop websites, the report maintains, have become self-service “kitchen sink” browser-based experiences that "are all things for all people", and companies are advised to rethink this strategy.

“Successful mobile experiences serve customers in specific moments of need. The simplicity of mobile has fueled the mobile mind shift and altered expectations of how convenient digital experiences can be.’’

Instead of serving customers in their own apps, websites or stores with their own intelligence, Forrester advises digital business leaders to evolve toward an open ecosystem of shared customers, context and experiences.

"When mobile apps first burst onto the scene, having a mobile offering to your business was something that was optional - now it's the norm."

Mobile technology is at the point where the novelty of having or using apps has worn off, agreed Kevin McMahon, director of emerging technology at digital consultancy SPR. Instead of thinking about what specific apps people are using, the focus is now on the tasks and activities that people are accomplishing with their devices.

“Our customers who’ve found the most success with mobile solutions have been able to understand the context in which their users are going to reach for their app, and have designed solutions built to complement that context,” he said.

Playing mobile catch-up

When organizations are struggling to provide comprehensive mobile offerings to their customers, the root cause can often be traced back to not having a strategy when they first started working on mobile, observed McMahon.

“When mobile apps first burst onto the IT landscape 10 years ago, having a mobile offering or component to your business was something that was optional,’’ he said.

“Today, having a mobile solution is the norm.”

If organizations do not explore or evaluate mobility soon enough, they may find themselves playing catch up and scrambling to tack on a mobile offering, McMahon added.

Some of the pain points SPR’s customers have in deploying mobile initiatives come from not having a clear understanding of where mobile fits in with their business processes.

“Identifying, defining and executing a mobility strategy is necessary now more than ever,’’ he said. New phones are released every year, along with new platform updates.

“If you’re not clear on what your goals are and how mobility serves your business and customer needs, you could be overwhelmed by all the changes,’’ McMahon said.

“As mobile technology matures, your approach to your mobile solutions should mature with it.”

Among the other insights from the Forrester report are that consumers depend on mobile, but organizations are underspending on initiatives. Only 43 per cent of digital business executives said they view mobile as an enabler of experience transformation. Although Forrester estimates that firms should be spending $5 million to $20 million on mobile, only 43 per cent are spending in that range.

And while the firm predicted in 2011 that the future of mobile would be context, today's reality is that “most companies barely scratch the surface.”

Only 14 per cent of digital business executives surveyed in 2017 said they were using location technology to track consumers across channels.

Forrester also advises that firms move from a myopic and channel-centric approach with their mobile strategies and go beyond activities like tracking customers who download and use their brand’s app. Going forward, they should be creating “blended experiences” from an ecosystem of developers and vendors building on shared data. That may not be easy for some businesses, though.

“Today, many firms struggle to master mobile basics, and for most firms, experiments into connected devices or broader digital ecosystems are just that — experiments,’’ the report noted.

Meanwhile, customers aren’t waiting for companies to learn best practices and instead, are “orchestrating their own digital experiences by choosing apps, finding websites or opting in for messaging,"

Just as mobile disrupted laptop computing, analysts believe it is about to disrupt itself.

“Gone are the days of focusing on a single channel -- browser or mobile device -- and creating a siloed, short-term strategy for it,’’ the report warned. Ultimately, when users spend time on their mobile devices they want “a robust experience that transcends individual devices to make use of both local context and all local connected devices.”