Friday 29 October 2010

It's just the internet.

I'll be honest with you, I'm caught in a bit of a quandary.

On the one hand I'm a firm believer that, because of the ubiquity and democratising power of mobile, there should be no discrimination.  Mobile activity should support all users irrespective of their device, carrier, location or whatever.  However on the other hand, there have been massive strides over the last 18-24 months in the capabilities of top-end devices; the underlying and supporting technology (be that apps, messaging or the mobile internet); and the understanding of the medium (although, to be frank, the progress here is less impressive).  With that in mind and the desire for continued innovation in the market, we should ensure that we are always pushing boundaries in the work that we, in the digital and mobile industry, are delivering.

So there's the quandary, because whilst these two positions are not necessarily mutually exclusive, it can often be different to reconcile them - particularly when there is a demanding client, limited time and resource, and finite budget.

But to address this (near) dichotomy is to miss the point.

We know, for example, that between June 2009 and August 2010, the percentage of users accessing the mobile internet increased from 26% to 38%*.  So whilst we sit and argue the toss one way or the other, consumers are just getting on with it.  And that is the point.  Because as far as consumers are concerned there is no such thing as the "Mobile Internet" - they just want to access the "internet" using their mobile device.

The "mobile internet" is a fallacy.

And this gives us all (I mean "us" in its broadest possible term to include brands, agencies and technology providers) a real challenge because it has implications across the board.  For starters, let's look at discovery.  The idea of a brand's mobile internet site residing behind an or domain has long held sway.  Why?  So consumers know how to find it.

Bollocks.  Only (some of) the mobile industry gets mobile specific domains.  Consumers access a brand's site via either search, typing (or com) into their browser or clicking a banner/email link.  The direct implication of this is that, for a brand to ensure that they are delivering the inclusive experience that means whatever device a consumer is using they receive an appropriate experience, they need to manage this across all of their properties.

Now this is by no means easy, but it is possible and I hold up the BBC as a great example of this.  Try it now - go to on your PC/Mac browser and on your phone.  You'll see similar content, but delivered in a way appropriate for the device you're using.  The BBC are by no means providing a bleeding-edge experience for top-end smartphones, but they are providing a good one.  The BBC by its very nature will always be behind the curve in that regard, but if you are detecting the device from the outset you can deliver something special for those that support it (using HTML5 for example).

And so once you get into the mindset that it's about the consumers, and what they're using to consume content - be it a smartphone, PC, laptop, tablet or featurephone - then you do need to start ensuring that you are providing both innovation and inclusivity...

So far I've only really addressed pull media, and only a small fraction of it at that.  But what about direct communications?  How many brands send out regular comms via email, or SMS, or both?  I get quite a few, be they newsletters, offers competitions or whatever.  And how often have I clicked on a link from within an email on my phone and gone to a microsite that is optimised for my mobile device?  Embarrassingly few.

My colleagues at Movement will tell you that I have longed banged-on about dCRM (d for digital) as the necessary evolution or eCRM and mCRM.  For some reason, email comms and mobile comms still operate as parallel and exclusive channels, with the comms often consistent but the inherent expectation that consumers only use a computer for email.  Again, we know that this is quite simply not the case - over a quarter of 18+ mobile owners use their phone to access email and this increases beyond 60% for smartphone users (who are of course on the rise)*.  So if you are delivering emails that cannot be read on a mobile device you are missing out.  And if you have that covered but any click-thru goes to a website you are, again, unlikely to hit the mark.  Why not identify the device used to click through and deliver the right content, appropriately rendered.  To be honest, I get more confused the more that I think about it - surely it's just common sense...?

But if most of those consumers who read emails on their mobile device are using smartphones, why do we need to worry about it - they can access websites can't they?  Well, yes, they can.  But is this optimised?  And is it appropriate.  We know that navigating "standard" internet sites with a smartphone, particularly one with a touchscreen, is possible and in many cases satisfactory.  But again, is it the best you can do?  I fear that in the coming years the medical profession will need to coin a new term to sit alongside nomophobia and vibranxiety that addresses the strain caused to a thumb and forefinger caused by too much pinching-to-zoom.

At its heart it is all about simplifying things for the consumer.  Again, and I can't say this enough, they don't want to worry about what they're using to access content.  They just want to access to it, using whatever device they want, as simply and effectively as possible.  There's nothing wrong with that is there?

And that level of inclusivity, well, that's pretty innovative in its own right isn't it...?

* comScore MobiLens Aug 2010