Friday, November 20, 2015

Recapping MassTLC’s Mobile Summit: Mobile Experts

By Peter Gorman, Principal, Black Rocket Consulting, @Petergorman 


Over the last 10-15 years, the ways in which we conduct our lives has changed significantly. From making purchases on our phones though Amazon and streaming the latest movies and shows on NetFlix or Hulu, to the ways we now leverage apps on our phones to find parking spaces and exercise with Fitbit, mobile technology has changed our lives and has made things more convenient to do and use. The days of thinking that “people will never want to do this on their phones” is gone, especially as newer generations of phones have almost the same capacity as our laptops. At the same time, the emergence of mobile technologies has created an industry like no other that is currently exceeding $14.4 billion and is continuing to grow.

Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC) held a forum on November 17th at Microsoft’s N.E.R.D. Center in Cambridge, Mass., to discuss the many ways in which mobile technology is affecting and improving our lives, as well as how we anticipate mobility changing our lives in the years to come.

Providing the keynote address at this forum was Philip Redman, who has been involved in the research and development of mobile technologies from its infancy, starting back in 1999 at Yankee Group, where he focused his research on wireless communications and with companies that were making the transition from analog to digital. Today, as Senior Manager of Mobility Strategy at Accenture Digital, Redman provided some interesting facts about how we have all quickly embraced mobile technology and how it has now become such an integral part of our lives.

For example, while the “old school” crowds still continue to wait in long lines to get into stores at midnight on Thanksgiving, currently between 25-30% of all Black Friday sales in the United States are now conducted through our mobile devices. And this is nothing compared to China’s Singles’ Day, where on November 11, 2015, over 70% of sales in one day was done through mobile phones on the massive Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba, totaling $14.32 billion.

According to Redman, four out of the top five global brands are all digital now. Given that analysts anticipate to see over 50 billion connected devices by 2020, the wave towards digital is clearly here, especially as enterprise businesses begin to see returns in their investments in the Cloud.

Today, some of the biggest and well-known brands are now being disrupted by new market entrants because of their foray into the market with mobile technologies. Examples here can be seen between BestBuy being disrupted by Amazon; Vodafone being disrupted by Skype, and American Express and Bank of America being disrupted by Square and Lending Club.

In order to survive in today’s market, Redman underscored the importance of businesses having a digital strategy that leverages Big Data, location capabilities and analytics to enhance the customer experience.
Redman capped his discussion by outlining “seven no regret digital characteristics required to win within the next few years.” These include being able to:
1.       Sense and interpret disruption
2.       Develop and launch new ideas faster
3.       Reorganize for speed
4.       Design a delightful user experience
5.       Understand and leverage data
6.       Partner and build “camps”
7.       Build a high digital quotient team

The Reality Panel of Mobile Experts
With Philip Redman having set the stage for MassTLC’s mobility forum, the discussion turned to a panel of mobility experts to discuss how mobility is going to change our lives and our businesses; how marketers are going to reach us in new ways; and finally, how mobile is going to change how we shop. Moderated by Nitzan Shaer of High Start Group, panelists for this part of the discussion included Geoffrey Bock of Bock & Company; Michael Davies of Endeavor Partners/MIT; and Christian Galvin of Fiksu, each of whom gave an overview of their businesses and how each integrated with the mobile sector.

Shaer kicked off the session with a simple question: If each of you were given a million dollars and had to invest it in mobile technology, what would you invest it in?

Michael Davies responded that his big investment would be in an interesting mobile app called Espresso, which based on your location can tell you how far you would need to drive to obtain everything from brown water that tastes something like coffee to the best coffee you’ve ever had. While I attempted to find this app online, I could not find it easily, so we’ll have to take Davies word for it that it exists. Christian Galvan of Fiksu, which sells mobile marketing and advertising solutions, said he’d invest in a mobile mileage app called MileIQ, which automatically tracks the miles you travel for business so that you can easily integrate this data into expense reports.

Geoffrey Bock strayed from investing all of his virtual million dollars in one particular area but instead chose to split his investment into two areas. Half would be in a mobile mapping app similar to Waze, in that it could tell him the best travel route and where accidents and police are located, but also indicate the precise time to leave based on whether patterns during travel. Bock explained that his son lives in Rochester, New York, and an app like this would help him avoid all the snow storms. The other half of the investment Bock would be into a mobile app that captured the user experience and transitioned the experience based on the context of what the user is doing (similar in nature to responsive design). “Don’t just give me the screen experience…give me the whole experience,” said Bock.

When asked what they expected from Mobility over the next few years, Davies saw more integration between mobile apps in a way that they would string together seamlessly to perform a task. For example, one could go from Yelp to OpenTable to Uber when planning a night out. In the future, one would see seamless integration between these apps to achieve a task. Galvin wants to see data being leveraged more to provide a utility. For example, people use Waze to get from point A to B, but this app now also tells drivers where the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts is located on the map. “We’ll see more identifiers integrated within apps to improve targeted advertising on smartphones,” said Galvin. Bock believes we’ll see more semantically-aware APIs, adding that Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of the semantic web is now starting to evolve in tools such as Google. He envisions a proliferation of very powerful, semantically-driven end-user apps to handle tasks within the workplace.

Davies rounded out this discussion by stating that he thought that there would be a shift in how companies promote themselves and that less emphasis would be placed on advertising and outward promotion. Instead, more focus would be placed on the user experience and how users rate a company and its products, such as in Yelp. For obvious reasons, Galvan politely disagreed with this assessment but agreed on the increasing importance of "word of mouth" marketing for increasing customer acquisition.

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