Why Your Mobile Strategy Doesn’t Start With the Phone

October 23rd, 2014

It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that a mobile strategy isn’t about the phone, but at the very least, it shouldn’t start with the phone.

After all, if you were to read this post five years ago, chances are you wouldn’t have been reading it on the same device (or even brand of device) that you are using now.

Mobility can involve technology, but at the heart of a mobile strategy lies the mobile human.

In our recent book, The Mobile Commerce Revolution, my co-author Tim Hayden and I looked at a number of mobile strategies that didn’t even involve a smartphone. The mobile human (or, as we refer to them in my business, the “out-of-home” human) has context- and location-dependent needs, challenges, desires, and pain points that provide the starting point for any winning mobile strategy.

They key to being successful with mobile is not to start with technology, but to start by looking at why the humans are mobile, and what you can do to make their lives a little bit richer.

In the recent Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, organizers instituted an RFID-equipped wristband, so that festival-goers not only didn’t need cash, but also didn’t need to take their phones out on a soggy day to pay for things.

There’s no smartphone app here – just a true mobile strategy to facilitate purchasing by mobile humans.

In that sense, the way to “think mobile” is first to start with the actual journey that the humans are taking (not the purchase funnel, but their physical journey) and how it relates to your product. (tweet this)

One of my favorite out-of-home strategies is the one employed by the Texas-based convenience store chain Buc-ee’s. What Buc’ees understands about their mobile humans: Maslow’s heirarchy of needs. Before you can tend to the desire for gas, or a Gatorade, you need to address your physical needs – and when you pull over to a Buc’ees after driving for hours on Texas highways, you gotta do one thing first: pee.

Buc’ees addresses the needs of their mobile humans by maintaining what many refer to as the cleanest rest rooms in America. Buc’ees literally wants you to “hold it,” passing up the other travel plazas along the highway, so that you can “treat” yourself to the rest room experience at Buc’ees.

In fact, even though there isn’t even a mention of a smartphone, or an app, this short video about Buc’ees is about the best place you could ever start while you are planning your own mobile strategy.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your brand is: if the organizing principle of your mobile strategy is differentiating by how you treat people, you are on the right footing.

Put the humans first, understand why they are mobile, what they are doing, and where they are, and your mobile strategy will reveal itself, app or no app.

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