Marketers must start thinking like customers - mobile first

When you hear "mobile," what comes to mind?

When you hear "mobile," what comes to mind? Your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry? Maybe those Angry Birds? Increasingly, mobile is a source of trial, transactions, and engagement, changing how we interact with customers. A recent Appsfire study finds the average iPhone user downloads 88 apps and spends 84 minutes a day using them. Marketers must build a new type of relevant relationship with customers and think "mobile first."

In the past, companies simply replicated their offline experience on a website. Today, we have an industry of strategists, e-commerce experts, and user-experience gurus to help craft best practices for engaging and monetizing online consumers. The likes of Amazon and eBay changed the rules for legacy commerce and content players.

The rapid adoption of smartphones and availability of higher connection speeds have created a constantly connected small-screen consumer. Yet many brands still shrink their website to fit the mobile platform, rather than thinking "mobile first" and offering unique features to deliver a relevant, brand-building mobile experience.  

The challenge grows when communicating with a typical mobile user who seeks instantaneous content and access. How do you talk to this audience in a way that complements your existing communication strategy, but may be a catalyst for a totally new type of engagement or audience?

When we launched our iPhone app late last year, we aimed to deliver a mobile shopping experience familiar to millions of members who already visited our site. We realized mobile is a lot more than an extension of our Web business. It's a new way to interact with our brand. Today, mobile comprises about 20% of our business.

Think of brands that offer a motivating mobile experience. Pandora, LivingSocial, and Yelp have extended their online business in a differentiated way, and there is a true "mobile first" business that exists only via apps, such as Uber or Hotel Tonight. In each case, an optimal way was found to communicate with mobile consumers.

As marketers, mobile is reshaping our jobs, from branding to content to commerce. How are brands conveyed and shared via mobile platforms? How can you create conversations within the mobile environment? These are just some of the questions keeping me up at night, but it's exciting to see more marketers thinking "mobile first." It's about time. 

Greg Bettinelli is SVP of marketing for HauteLook, a high-end online retailer with 5.5 million members in the US and Canada.

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