Marketers Need to Stop Looking at Mobile as a Channel. It’s a Lifestyle

That means putting customer experience above all else

Making customer satisfaction a higher priority than traditional KPIs can be the secret to mobile success. Getty Images
Headshot of Will Kassoy

What do you think is the No. 1 digital priority among today’s brands? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not social marketing or Internet of things. It’s not content, video, cross-channel, data or even marketing automation. (You might be wondering, what’s left?)

It’s customer experience.

That’s right, good, old-fashioned customer experience. That’s what an Econsultancy survey of 7,000 marketing professionals turned up: The world’s top brands and agencies believe that “optimizing the customer experience” is the most exciting opportunity in marketing today.

If you think about what they’ve witnessed—the meteoric rise of companies like Uber, Airbnb and Dollar Shave Club, all of which disrupted deeply entrenched incumbents by putting customer experience as the heart of their business—it should be less of a surprise that Fortune 500 brands are making it a priority.

If you look a bit more carefully, you’ll start seeing that customer experience, or CX, is everywhere today. Companies now have chief customer officers, and marketing teams are conducting client-experience journey mapping exercises to see each and every touchpoint, each “moment” of truth” that their customers have with their brand throughout their lifecycle—with the goal of optimizing each and every one to increase revenue across the board.

But how are all these customer experience innovators and experts treating mobile?

Mobile is how we communicate, how we spend time and, more and more, how we transact.

Some see it as a medium, just another advertising and distribution channel, no different strategically than TV, print, outdoor or desktop—like a portable version of the web. Others view it as a technology, or as a self-contained experiential platform. Some brands create a mobile-first element, but then push customers to outdated or mismatched experiences, or force them to go cross-channel or multi-screen. None of these are right.

Mobile is not a channel. It is a fundamental part of our lifestyle. It’s how we communicate, how we spend time and, more and more, how we transact.

And your customer’s journey? It’s not your journey, it’s theirs. You cannot force someone to go down a path that they don’t want to go down. As much as brands want all of their customers to start at the top of the funnel and go neatly swirling down the nurture stream into a conversion (or other business outcome), that’s just not how it works.

Customer journeys are messy; they can start in unexpected places, take detours, speed up and slow down. And like a road trip, they have drivers, and the driver is in charge.

I’ll say it again so it’s 100 percent clear: The consumers are in the driver’s seat, and they are the ones making all the decisions. The days of “push” advertising are over.

Fortunately, the key to “pulling” your customer in the direction you want them to go lies in exactly that: Their empowerment, their decisions. Think about it. Choices are simply expressions of desire. And what do consumers desire? Value. As a company, your job is to provide your clients with value, right? Well, that job begins before they are officially customers.

The first opportunity is to make their lives easier. Create value by adding functionality or eliminating friction and you’ll “pull” your customer right in.

A great example of this is in retail. In June 2017, research from UserTesting showed that Best Buy, The Home Depot and Target scored the highest among all retailers for mobile experience because they outperformed everyone else on ease of use, speed and aesthetics, and these were the factors that enabled online shoppers to find what they wanted to buy.

Whole Foods, Walgreens and Starbucks take it one step further and invest heavily in the in-store mobile experience to integrate shopping behavior, loyalty programs and mobile payments. And, as more consumers adopt mobile payment systems, we’ll begin to see truly seamless, end-to-end experiences.

Smartphones are capable of hosting an entire customer journey, from discovery to purchase—and even after, as part of an ongoing loyalty program.

@WillKassoy Will Kassoy is CEO of ad-tech firm AdColony.