About half the population of the world has a smartphone and, by 2020, this number will rise to 80%, which is more than have ever owned a computer at home. More than half of all time spent online in the US is spent in mobile apps. Whatsapp has outgrown global SMS message traffic. The dominant platform is not the PC, it is mobile.
These, and other statistics from the always-impressive Benedict Evans, were the highlight of this week’s FT Digital Media conference. Showing the power of the mobile device and the importance to consumers and to brands.
In a world where mobile is the dominant platform, many of the conventions we are used to are broken:
- Screens are smaller: We should be designing experiences for smaller screens, not making smaller-screen versions of large screen experiences.
- The smartphone contains sensors: It knows where we are (and where we have been), which direction we are facing and what you are doing (walking, standing still, sitting down). These inputs can and should be used to tailor experiences – showing us work-related things when we are at work, for example, or simplifying an experience when we are walking and just want directions.
- We consume through apps, not websites: If half of all US time online is spent in mobile apps, then the role of the website itself needs to be questioned – what role does it play alongside the app?
- We are not necessarily ‘mobile’: Most mobile use is actually at home or in the workplace – a mobile device is not just something we use when we are out and about.
- We share and consume brand experiences outside of the area they control: We share an Uber voucher code in Facebook Messenger for example – how do organisations ensure their brand is strong in these atomised experiences.
In short, thinking mobile is very different to thinking mobile-first (and even more different from thinking mobile-second). The way we all find, consume and engage with content can be very different, and the role of the brand in this will be atomised and spread across different apps (ones the brand owns and conversations in other apps). The new data available can be used to truly personalise and tailor experiences to get the right information to the right person at the right time.
Mobile is changing the adoption of technology and will change the way brands and consumers engage – much more than just having a responsive website or a mobile app.