This is a unique and dangerous moment in the life of every company.
On the one hand, there is great opportunity. We are in the midst of a major shift in how customers relate to brands. Most of the companies I work with tell me that they now see more traffic to their sites coming from mobile devices than from PCs. Mobile holds out the promise to redefine customer relationships and gain loyalty and market share. Companies that focus on serving customers with valuable and useful apps -- companies like Delta Airlines, Starbucks, and the financial services company USAA -- are making themselves indispensable.
But even as this opportunity is becoming visible, the mobile change is happening so rapidly that it is catching most firms flatfooted. Over and over again I hear from companies that are scrambling to come to grips with mobile. They have no development expertise, and no concept of what's required. Just as a previous generation of marketers naively shoveled their brochures onto the web, this generation is shoveling their web sites onto mobile. Someone is developing for mobile in every large company I speak with, but for the most part, there is no overall mobile strategy.
This is the mobile strategy gap -- the yawning void between the boundless mobile opportunity and the lack of corporate vision.
You can solve this problem. But it will take a new way of thinking. Here are some ideas on how to get started.
First, transform your thinking about what mobile is about. Your customers have already made the mobile mind shift. They think in terms of mobile moments -- the moment when they must know what their bank balance is, whether it will rain tomorrow, who won the World Cup match, and what their friends are doing on Facebook. You must imagine their relationship with you in the same terms. If you sell power tools, can you help them in the moment when they need to figure out which screw to use, or whether a shelf is level? (Stanley does). If you sell financial services, can you help them when they need to deposit a check but don't have time to go to the bank? (Bank of America does). If you sell baby products, can you help them when the newborn won't go to sleep? (Johnson & Johnson does). The key is to stop thinking about what your site does and to start thinking about your customer's mobile moments. This mental shift is the biggest change that any marketer and her fellow executives must make to understand the mobile opportunity.
Second, take an appropriate role in mobile development. Mobile is about to become the face of your company for many customers. If your company already has intimate customer relationships, as in the travel and financial services industries, you likely already have apps under development. As a marketer, you must ensure that these apps reflect the best qualities of your brand (and keep the marketing and selling subsidiary to the service). If your company has some relationships built through loyalty or subscriptions, as with many retailers and media companies, this is your chance to create applications that shine in the customer's mobile moments. And if you have no ongoing relationship with most customers, then it is the marketing organization's responsibility to manufacture some moments and create one. For example, that's what Columbia Sportswear does with its "What Knot To Do (In The Greater Outdoors)" app for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Gaps like the mobile strategy gap lead to panic and poor, short-sighted decisions. Don't miss out on the mobile opportunity, pursue it with discipline. If you make the mobile mind shift now, you'll get a leg up on competitors who are still struggling to figure out what mobile means for them.