It’s clear that today’s company needs to be where their customers are, and a growing number of influential customers are highly mobile. Most enterprises today realize that mobile consumers are the most influential segment of their customer base, by income and by influence (through social media and their connected lifestyles).

Driven by the need to reach these highly prized customers and competitive pressures, enterprises rushed into the mobile space, rolling out mobile apps in much the same way that websites were rolled out in the 1990’s.  While mobile apps have only been available for 3 years, their influence is already widespread.  To see their impact, we only have to look at popular mobile app stores, where 81 of the Fortune 100 companies have mobile app.

However, in many cases, the rush to “get an app out there” has caused a delta between the consumer and the enterprise.  This can largely be attributed to the lack of a real mobile application strategy.

We at Nuance believe that is time for enterprises to develop a cohesive mobile strategy; one that supports smartphone users in a way that is insightful and useful.  In order to do this well, an organization needs to take a few important steps.  First, determine where your company is in the mobile applications continuum.  In talking with our customers across verticals, we’ve seen a wide range of approaches to mobile strategies.  In an effort to shine a light on some critical considerations, we’ve outlined some common characteristics of two types of companies on opposite end of the mobile application spectrum.

The first type is the “mobile is a channel” organization.  This company’s mobile strategy is:

  • Siloed from other channel strategies such as Web, IVR and Social.
  • Struggles to justify the next wave of investment in mobile vis a vis other projects.
  • Lacks full C-level buy-in on the value of mobile investments.
  • Lack cross functional teams that support mobile.
  • Takes a second mover position as it waits and plays catch up after competitors roll out innovative new features and experiences.
  • Focused on reducing OpEx by moving more self-service to the mobile device. The business case is often focused specifically on customer and employee time savings. For example, a retailer we spoke with said that if they can empower their store employees to get answers faster when helping customers, they can attribute that savings to customer time as well.

The second type is the “mobile is THE channel” organization.  These companies:

  • Have key executive stakeholder buy-in, for example a CMO partnered with CTO to push the mobile experience to a higher level.
  • Include a team leader who is responsible for overarching customer experience across channels, and invests in projects that make the enterprise the customer experience leader.
  • Focus on the larger question being asked: is mobile another channel, like the Web, IVR and social media, or does it subsume channels, and become the primary gateway to the Enterprise?
  • Have goals built around customer loyalty that demonstrate brand leadership.

These are two ends of the spectrum, but there are still open questions that cause organizational pain, and all companies fall somewhere in between.  To achieve the best possible results, we recommend that enterprises:

  • Seek clarity in your business strategy.  One of the most common debates is: is it a service app or a sales app?  If distinct teams focused on each area traditionally do not work together, bringing them all to the table to assess goals and existing functionality is a must. Some companies create separate apps for each reason, but the more successful apps deliver ways to combine the service experience with helpful, personalized upsell opportunities.
  • Define success metrics for the app.
    • Many companies simply measure the number of downloads.  But the ‘bathtub curve’ is all too common, meaning consumers download apps but quickly stop using the majority of them in less than a month.
    • Some measure active users by whether or not they have updated their app.  This is not altogether reliable as many simply ‘update all’ apps without ever using it.
    • Measuring usage by transactions is the most effective measure of consumer engagement – if people are conducting transactions, they are accomplishing their goals with your app. However, if your app is mostly informative, you have to look at other data points that align with the goals of your users.  How many people got their balance information and disengaged?

In order for companies to address the needs of the mobile consumer in the best way possible, the organizations must work to make mobile a real portal into the organization.  Forrester’s Julie Ask put in succinctly in her 2011 report: “eBusiness ownership of mobile originates in the “mobile is another prong in our multichannel strategy” approach… Strategists with broader responsibility for sales, marketing, distribution, and customer service beyond the online channel today should evaluate how mobile can help build a better business.”

The bottom line is that companies successful in the mobile application space have moved beyond “just being there” and developed clear goals for their mobile strategy and aligned them accordingly.

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About Andrea Mocherman

This was a contributed post by Andrea Mocherman. To see more content like this, visit the Customer experience section of our blog.