Mobile-First Isn't Enough -- It's Time for A Mobile-Only Digital Strategy

Posted: Jan 30, 2015

By Brian Solis


January 30, 2015

Over the last few years, "mobile-first" has become the mantra among savvy digital marketers. But a mobile-first approach seems to be more of an ideology than it is a standard in digital design. Recent research shows that marketers still invest in mobile as an afterthought or as a bolt-on to more mainstream digital programs. For some reason, executives still need more convincing to properly fund and support mobile initiatives that span the entire customer journey, not just pieces of it.

While mobile is often referred to as the second screen, the reality is that smartphones are really the first screen among connected consumers. They are always within reach. They are the first place consumers go to communicate, research and share. As of last year, mobile platforms accounted for 60% of total time spent on digital media, according to ComScore.

The truth is that "mobile-first" should be the standard for all things digital. According to a recent study conducted by Nielsen, roughly half of consumers believe mobile is the "most important resource" in their purchase decision-making. And more than a third said they used mobile exclusively. At this point, mobile-first may not be enough. To be successful, brands and agencies must think beyond mobile campaigns and start to think about mobile-only as a complete foundation for the next generation customer journey.

Right now, mobile tends to exist without an owner to take accountability in the customer experience. As a result, mobile strategies for the most part are focused on an isolated aspect of customer engagement, whether it's marketing, commerce, loyalty, etc., and very specific instances within each. This is because all of these solitary programs are owned by different stakeholder groups that are strewn across the organization and not necessarily in tune or in alignment with one another. It's not uncommon for these departments to not collaborate with one another, and thus, the mobile experience is discombobulated by design and impossible to deliver an integrated customer journey.

This is a problem and it needs someone to solve it now.

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It is practically impossible for mobile-first consumers to undergo a digital experience on one screen without being forced, by design, to multiscreen or channel-hopping to accomplish a desired task or goal. Some

Over the last year, my Altimeter Group colleague and I studied how brands were approaching mobile customer experience to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing digital strategists. Starbucks, Zappos, Sephora, Intuit and other brands are beginning to explore a mobile-only approach, in addition to integrating cross-channel strategies with omnichannel experiences. They're looking at mobile as a marketing channel to not only deliver native experiences to the mobile screen, but also cater to users along the entire journey and relationship -- specific to mobile.

Mobile is not only reshaping the customer journey, it is rebooting the entire experience in the process. How and when customers transact with brands throughout the lifecycle is also moving to the small screen -- from research to purchase, to service and support, through loyalty and advocacy. Mobile is now part of the customer experience and is also emerging as a self-contained experiential platform.

Someone has to take the lead in bringing mobile to the forefront of digital design. Investing in a mobile program just to check the box is no longer good enough. The reality is that mobile is now the first screen. Brands and agencies must start taking the initiative to rethink the mobile customer journey. Doing so ensures maintaining relevance among discerning customers who are already becoming mobile-first and mobile-only.

It's a mobile world -- design accordingly.

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