The Importance of Mobile Strategy - An Interview with Scott Snyder
Going mobile entails a lot more than building a couple of apps—if you and your company want to see real value. A comprehensive mobile strategy is of the essence, one that means rethinking your business processes. As you’ll hear in this podcast, there's no time to waste. Companies must figure out what their consumers are demanding. How mobile can improve employee efficiency. Being poised to quickly exploit new opportunities.
Dr. Snyder, who wrote the book—"The New World of Wireless: How to Compete in the 4G Revolution"—on the next generation of wireless systems and adaptive business strategy, lets you know what you should do to successfully ride the mobile wave. He also gives you a peek at what new innovations are on the horizon. This is the second in a series of interviews with thought leaders in the mobile field by Mobiquity Vice President of Marketing Lori Cohen.
ListenRuntime: 23 minutes
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Lori Cohen, vice president of marketing at Mobiquity. Questions are italicized throughout this transcript.
Dr. Scott Snyder, Mobiquity president and chief strategy officer. Responses are in roman type throughout this transcript.
Timestamps are bolded at approximately five-minute intervals.
Introduction: Mobile Strategy Defined
Lori Cohen: So, when you say mobile strategy, what do you mean?
Scott Snyder: I think about a couple of things. One is I think about understanding the clients’ business strategy and how does mobile fit into that—I think it’s really important especially what they stand for, their brand, their values, because anything you do in mobile has to be an extension of that.
The second thing I think about is innovation—that we really need to stretch these companies beyond their way of thinking because mobile is such a new and different platform that they can’t just do business as usual with the same thinking and put it onto mobile because they’re never going to get the level of engagement and experience they want. And it’s such a great opportunity to rethink their business process: the way they market, the way they deliver product.
So innovation is probably the second. And third is momentum—we want to make sure that while they have a long-term vision of where they want to go to guide the tracks, mobile is changing so fast that you also have to just start learning by doing. We want to make sure they get momentum, that’s really important.
Fail fast, cheap and often.
Right. It’s a tough thing to stomach for big enterprises, but you can do certain things in digital and mobile, and you can do them relatively cheaply if you’ve invested in the right type of flexible platforms that you can figure out whether it’s going to work or not with your customers and employees very fast— just pursue the stuff with a big impact.
The Mobile Wave: The Most Disruptive Technological Change Ever
You said a minute ago how fast mobile is moving, and you almost don’t know what the next big thing will be tomorrow. Has there ever been a time in your professional life that was as disruptive from a technology standpoint as mobile is today?
Definitely not. I think the app-store model really accelerated this. That’s probably the real catalyst, but we’ve now gone from cycles in the technology world, from two years around big IT platforms, one year change—and now we’re down to six-month changes on devices and about three-month changes on apps.
So whenever you think you have the coolest and best app, three months later, there will be some new innovation in the market that tops that, right? So you have to be ready to be very agile—you’re not going to have the killer app for very long, That’s part of the challenge.
But the cool thing is it’s an opportunity to say “let’s focus on building the foundation and the capabilities so we can innovate on very short cycles as our people see new opportunities.”
The Key Mobility Challenges Facing Enterprises
So what are some of those main challenges that enterprises are grappling with when it comes to mobility?
One is where to start because it’s so overwhelming. I think a lot of them are thinking can we wait this out? Will we overinvest by getting out of the gate too early like a lot of people did with the Internet? So they’re always asking themselves that question like “when’s the right time to move?” and the answer of course is: NOW. Yesterday. They should be doing something. That doesn’t mean they should be doing a bunch of things that are helter-skelter and disaggregated. They can do things that are logical, build on each other and learn. [5:04]
So that’s the first thing, when should I start? and the answer is: today. The second question they ask is: How do I get around all the constraints in my enterprise today? I’ve got all these legacy systems and siloed data. It’s going to be so hard for me to figure out how to build mobile applications. I always say try and get the longhaired developers engaged in building apps versus the grey-haired developers.
How do we get the longhaired developers interested in our enterprise to want to go and build really cool stuff? Doing that heavy lifting—it has to be done. And enterprises have already done some of that when they had to go to the Web, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of easy answers there, but certainly we’re big proponents of build with an eye toward reuse. Once you expose your data, the good news is you’ll be able to use it again and again. [5:00]
But then, the second part is the user experience. It’s kind of a reorientation for them. In the past, enterprises have been all about deciding what customers get and don’t get, and the world is flipped now where the user decides what they get and don’t get. That’s a new orientation for not only marketing people, but also IT people.
So they almost have to inject a whole new competency called User Experience Design across everything, including the employee, and figure out how to engage and enable that person rather than trying to control what they get. That’s a big orientation shift, and some of it is going to be bringing new blood in—but in a lot of cases, the blood already exists. They’re Gen-Y and Gen-Xers buried in the bottom of the organization who know how to do this. And they need to kind of turn those people loose through reverse mentoring and nontraditional training to get those ideas more into the business.
Then I’d say the third thing they struggle with is security and privacy. It’s the thing that, especially if you’re in a regulated industry, you’re just so worried about what data might get out, what people might say about our company, what if it doesn’t work—what’s our reputational damage? So I think that’s been one of those that been more of an excuse to not do things. But I think the good news is that a lot of innovation has happened in that space and a lot of players like Apple have improved what they’re doing. So I think that excuse is starting to get minimized. That’s not an inhibitor as much as it was.
It’s still a concern, and I think we at Mobiquity make sure we put a lot of attention into that, but I think there’s enough reason and benefit that customers can move now. They just need to give customers control of their privacy and make sure security is baked into what they design.
Privacy and the Impact on User Experience
Do you mean, so I decide what I feel comfortable with from a privacy standpoint?
Yes, and I think that’s really important because a lot of enterprise, especially in financial services, haven’t been all that transparent. And I think we’re seeing what’s happening now with this whole carrier IQ snafu and what was happening earlier this year with Apple and Google accused of tracking people and their location. If people don’t know what’s happening to their data, I think that can really poison the well for a lot of these applications.
Enterprises who do it right, I think we saw this back in the Internet era, the people that are very transparent about their privacy policies actually won in the end. Because consumers really appreciate that. I think we’re not there yet on mobile. Everything is still very veiled and hidden with what’s going on with your data.
B2C versus B2B: The Power Shift from Retailers to Consumers
Do you see that there are significant opportunities and challenges for a business-to-consumer company versus the opportunities and challenges for a B2B, business-to-business enterprise?
Well, the B2C guys, [sigh], the bell rang for them first. Right?
Because the consumer was forcing them to . . .
They had no choice. The pressure from the consumer was so large that if you’re a retailer or a consumer-products company and you’re not moving on mobile, you’re getting run over. Because what’s happening is all these things in the path to purchase that didn’t, this very traditional and controlled path to purchase, all right we have the online world, the brick-and-mortal world, and what goes onto the brick-and-mortar world is fairly controlled by the retailer. And they charge for real estate and shelf space and all that.
Now that you’ve got a whole bunch of new players coming in, like aisle411 and Pushpins and Yowza!! and all these guys that provide some value to the consumer that really don’t care about the brick-and-mortar channel. It’s giving the consumer more power in their hands no matter where they are, if they’re inside or outside a retailer, to make an educated purchase and even in some cases, purchase.
That’s dramatically changing the world of retail, and it gives product companies like a P&G and L’Oreal an opportunity to participate inside the brick-and-mortar environment more than they ever have. If I have P&G’s beauty advisor, now I can use it to check my skin tone and maybe it guides me to P&G products in Macy’s. Certainly, that’s shaping the experience not in a way that Macy’s is going to control. I think that’s a big deal, and I think retailers are just starting to grapple with it. [9:56]
Some of it’s defensive. They have to figure out how they participate in that and not try to control it. I think you’ve also got, on the B2C side, certainly payments and NFC and mCommerce, unique challenges and opportunities because they could really make your business efficient. You could get rid of things, you could change the way your business is laid out, and it could make life easier for the consumer and your customers.
You could also tie your loyalty systems in with payments. So I think there are really phenomenal opportunities on the B2C side. Those companies in the B2C space, what we see lacking right now is that they’re not enabling their employees to support that experience. Because the guys who typically own that experience are in what’s called the eCommerce group, right, and now that everything is cross-channel—and I just saw some data yesterday from PayPal that said by 2013, 50 percent of all purchases will be cross-channel. Meaning that you might have browsed something on your computer, compared prices on your mobile and checked out in the store. Or scanned an item in the store and bought it online.
So that creates some unique challenges that if the work force in the store is not prepared for, if they’re not incented on an online sale, they’re going to direct the consumer to something else in the store that may not be good for them.
Or if they’re not equipped to help the consumer with a tool on their phone, that’s not going to be a great experience. So making the employee an ambassador to that experience and supporting it is a reorientation. And some customers, very few companies get that yet or have kind of integrated that.
Aligning Organizational Focus: Centering on the Customer Experience
When you think about that and you think about who’s driving the bus—whether it is sort of a CIO, CMO, a business head—how do you align the inside of an organization so that in the end, the only thing that really matters is the customer experience, and if you don’t get that right, you lose. How do you align that?
This strikes at reorganization because the guy who owns the worker in the brick-and-mortar store is not the CMO. It’s some ops guy or a P&L. So aligning their incentives and goals to say “hey this is what we’re trying to drive in terms of experience.” It’s going to cause people to rethink how they’re organized even. So that’s where businesses need to mature.
Some companies have started CMoOs, Chief Mobility Officers. So again, is that trying to vertically integrate something that shouldn’t be? We need to go across horizontally as opposed to down?
I think that’s a stopgap. It’s a good way to raise mobility on the radar, but in the long-term, mobility has to be baked into everything that we do in our business from R&D to customer service to the on-the-floor experience. It just has to be part of our DNA and the kind of offerings put mobile and digital first. I think this whole notion of CMoO is nice to get attention, but I don’t think that’s the long-term answer.
So on the B2B side, if you kind of divide industries into two there, because there are the B2B guys who don’t touch the end consumer, but sell a product that actually gets there—like DuPont or Mohawk—they may sell something, but it goes through a Home Depot or somebody else. Their challenge is to influence that channel in a way that the channel still values their product and doesn’t feel threatened, but they also want to create a direct relationship with the customer because maybe they don’t want to depend on Home Depot to control that experience.
So how do they build more intimacy with the customer and give them the tools that they build some affinity and value add, but also enable their channels so there’s lots of different opportunities there? Do you create tools that can be branded by channels that are useful to them?
There’s that piece, and then I think there are other unique: How much do you invest in consumer-facing apps if you’re really a B2B provider? And our answer there is: You have to do both. Because you need to be skilled at understanding what the consumer wants, so you do have to play in that world, but the kind of tools you might provide to a retailer might be different.
Then there are the B2B guys that actually have sales forces that are influencing the end customer—like an insurance company. They might have third-party agents who they’re providing tools to who are trying to convince an end customer to invest or buy insurance. And there are the same issues there. Effectively they’re servicing all these little small companies, and how do I use mobile to enable them to run their business better so they can sell more of my product? [15:10]
So it might be, hey, I might give them a tablet with all my apps bundled on it and let them run with it. It creates some unique challenges around security, but I think that’s definitely an opportunity. Then there’s more the classic B2B guys who are like your General Electric, and you’re selling power plants to a utility.
In part of their businesses?
That’s right. Chances are you’re selling a lot of services around those big, you know, I’m a Halliburton and I go to an oil field. The real opportunities for those guys we’re finding is around, they tend to be very distributed globally work forces, so they have field-service people, field techs, field sales, and these people live and die by their mobile device. And yet the functionality they have is so limited and usually tied to a laptop with like a secure token to get into the network.
They’re realizing the power and the hours and the money they can save by giving a field worker the ability to report something he sees wrong right on the spot without having to go back and report it, or giving a salesperson visibility into what products are coming out of the supply chain.
So while it’s not as sexy as the B2C stuff, there’s a huge opportunity to save money and for these companies to be more efficient and agile by deploying mobility in their work force. Cool stuff.
The Power of the Tablet: A Game Changing Impact
What’s been the biggest surprise for you with the advent of the smartphone and now the tablet, and who knows what the next thing is?
I think the tablet has surprised me, in a good way, as something I didn’t see happening as fast as it did happen. We thought the tablet was kind of a niche market for gamers and really high-end, gadget-conscious consumers—and what it’s become is a mainstream collaboration tool and sharing tool. It’s got so much more potential because its ability to render and consume content is so much better than a smartphone. So we think we’re just at the foot of the hill there, which is really exciting.
The thing I thought might happen faster, though, is the change in the user interface. Apple changed the user interface fundamentally four years ago with the iPhone, but it hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. Pinch, swipe, touch and all that . . .
Now with Audio, with Siri, a little bit of voice . . .
A little bit of voice with Siri, and voice has been around a while, so I think that’s exciting to see maybe a better quality of voice. But you wonder, like will we go to gestures, will we go to other types of ways of interacting with our phone or our devices? I don’t even like calling them our phones anymore.
Well, I mean, isn’t that the thing we do least on them? Talk?
Right, we don’t talk. It’s like the lowest used app now. So probably calling it a phone is old school.
Not even a smartphone, right, new terminology . . .
User Interface and Innovative Device Applications
Right, so I think I’m still waiting for that big change, next big change in the user interface. But the thing we do see, the innovation around these devices, is people coming up with new uses to combine all the things the device can do—like an app I saw recently where you can tell if somebody fell down because they can see the accelerometer reading on your smartphone and know that “that was a fall.” Or these guys that have innovated around the use of the microphone to take an EKG reading of the heart. I think it’s just somebody taking something that already exists and figuring out new ways to use it. [19:55]
I think that’s really cool because that’s what open innovation is all about. It’s here’s a platform, turn the consumers and the ideators loose, and I think that’s going to be exciting. But it’s hard for big companies to deal with that because they’re not good at it . . .
It’s usually the small guys . . .
One of the things you’ll see is that big companies that will succeed will figure out a way to partner with small companies. Which is not what every big company is good at. They’ll figure out ways to not just go out and buy them, but partner with them, and tap all these brains that are out there both inside and outside the company. So those are some big things I see.
The Next Big Innovation: Employee-Driven Innovation
I don’t know if you feel you’ve said this already, but in your estimation what do you think is the next big thing?
The next big thing, I think, will be employee-driven innovation around mobile. I think really seeing “Living Labs” within companies where employees, because they’re such a great assets, are able to innovate around the next use cases for the business, and then business that are actually able to take those ideas and move on them. I think it’s great to do a mobile strategy once, but to sustain this pipeline of innovation, I think, there’s some really cool opportunities to tap the brains of employees.
The Internet of Things
Then the next big thing I think on the technology side is people interacting with things. More awareness of the things around you, in your home, your office, your environment and I see the day that people will become environmentally conscious of what’s around them. You’ll know the quality of air in your office. You’ll know is there bacteria in the grocery store that you’re walking through. Is there noise pollution. What’s the traffic of people around me— all those things you’ll become more aware of. But the challenge is information overload.
Because you’re going to have so much coming at you, are we going to have Siris that are going to decide what we need to know and what we don’t need to know? That’s going to be can we have the intelligence to keep up with all the stuff that’s coming at us?
But that’s the big thing I see. I think there’s going to be such rich information about our environments as people, and then using those to drive new apps and make decisions—I think that will be very cool.
Will we ever stop having conversations like this?
I hope not . . .
The Human Element
Is everything going to be digital?
I hope not. I think the human aspect still has got to be a huge part of it. Which I think goes back to this B2C experience.
A lot of people would rather stare at a phone or go to a kiosk, knowing that a human’s around and being able to interact with people. I mean, I would never want to go into a supermarket that’s empty and it’s just robotic shoppers going through. I would feel weird. The human factor is still a huge part of this.