March 23, 2012

Connected Consumers

Recently I attended Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. I know, tough life! One of the sessions I attended was on the connected consumer with panelists:
  • Brian Dunn, CEO of Best Buy
  • John Donahoe, CEO of eBay
  • Michael Roth, CEO of IPG
Their perspective of a connected consumer was nothing really new, but the implications of mobility were interesting. Mainly the connected consumer these days as seen through the lens of a mobile device is:
  • always on
  • portable
  • multi-device equipped (i.e. camera)
  • locally aware
From Michael Roth, the ad-man, this speaks to a new type of advertising. Advertisers are confused about mobile because it’s still very small compared to TV, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Roth’s perspective is that mobile technology is a way to engage an advertising audience in ways not possible with other mediums. So connectedness through mobile devices is a nice fit and supports well integrated marketing campaigns. It’s advertising to engage the audience right now. For this reason alone, I think there’s HUGE potential even if the numbers aren’t yet adding up relative to TV advertising.

John Donahoe, the web commerce and payment guy, was pretty adamant that we haven’t seen anything yet. He believes the landscape will change over the next 3-5 years even more than it has in the last 5. While he shared few details on his thinking, John did reveal some pretty impressive numbers about the eBay mobile app, downloaded 70 million times already. Last year alone this app helped move $5B in merchandise and the forecast is $8B this year. That’s still small compared to the trillions of dollars in regular offline commerce, yet it’s a fraction of what it will certainly be in just a few years.

From Brian Dunn, the bricks and mortar guy, the physical retail competitiveness bar has been raised significantly by mobile technology. What it takes for traditional retailers to compete with online alternatives is very different from what it takes to compete with other traditional retailers. Best Buy is at huge risk these days, with Amazon using their stores as a showroom for its products, and Apple being the single most successful retailer these days. So Best Buy, in the context of the mobile business, wants to help the consumer:
  • manage the complexity of all the competing platforms and services
  • enjoy freedom of choice with fewer locked devices so they get the best solutions possible
  • sort out mobile plans so they get what will benefit them, as opposed to the carriers
Best Buy is hinging a lot of its success on providing an experience that helps and advises its customers in their shopping decisions. Starbucks made a whack of money by creating the ‘other place’ away from home and work. Could Best Buy become the technology place that makes it all work for consumers digitally-speaking with their retail locations and Geek Squad services?

Mobility is Continuity in the Connected Consumer Paradigm

The one common theme among the three speakers is that mobile technology brings greater continuity. Every step of the way the mobile device is now part of the customer experience for companies. It's the way to engage the target market, it’s the way customers choose products among many alternatives, and it’s the way they ultimately buy. Mobile technology has raised the bar in so many ways – and now it makes me the connected customer!

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