You've probably seen the stats: Mobile devices now trump desktop computers on Wi-Fi networks; web-based email is on the decline, and mobile email browsing is on the rise; and 77 percent of the world's population are mobile subscribers.
In fact, experts predict that smartphones will be universal by 2015.
The case has already been made -- mobile is here to stay. So, you're onboard and ready to join the app internet. Now what?
Well hold on, it's going to be a wild ride.
Anyone call tell you that a sound mobile strategy involves more than just having an iPhone or Android app. This checklist for mobile preparedness offers a taste of something different. We opted against the same old lists of vague suggestions to offer something you can really sink your teeth into -- a practical list of five readiness considerations before going mobile.
1. Can you afford to let your competition beat you in mobile?
Fear is a surprisingly effective motivator. What would happen to your business if a competitor released a killer suite of mobile tools? Would it jeopardize your bottom line? Chances are the answer is yes.
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Thinking about a competitor's mobile initiatives as an existential threat offers a new take on the potential return on investment (ROI) of mobile. There needs to be a sense of urgency at the very highest levels of your organization. Your leadership must possess the desire to be innovators and a sense that now is the time to act -- or else.
In the very near future, customers will choose brick-and-mortar stores that offer a compelling mobile experience. These mobile-savvy customers will enter stores with a completely different set of expectations. If you're not one step ahead of their demands, your competitor will be.
2. What does your budget say?
Budgets convey commitment (or lack thereof), and until you're ready to double down on mobile, you're not ready.
Having a mobile budget equal to or greater than the size to your website budget may sound daunting, but let's get past the initial sticker shock. Yes -- big, expansive mobile initiatives are pricier and more complicated than one-off website ventures. But, when done correctly, the business value of mobile's "always-with-you-ness" is unmatched.
Adjust your mindset, and think of an investment in mobile as an investment in the future of your organization. Wrap your head around the idea of going big on mobile, and find a partner that's qualified to strategize, envision, and deliver a mobile initiative that's tailor-made for your organization's goals and objectives.
If your budget doesn't reflect a serious commitment to mobile, consider easing into the game with a mobile-optimized web strategy.
3. Does your mobile team exist outside your marketing organization?
The usual approach looks a little something like this: marketing owns dot.com, which in turn, owns mobile. Sound familiar?
If you really want mobile to be a heavy hitter for your organization's bottom line (we'd argue that you do), structure your organization accordingly.
Say, for example, that dot.com sales account for 3 percent of your revenue. If your dot.com division owns mobile, you're already limited. This small-scale strategy can do little more than double your dot.com sales. Not exactly the return you were hoping for, is it?
Let's approach our example differently. In our ideal world, operations collaborate with your mobile and dot.com teams to develop an integrated, multi-channel strategy that drills down to all levels of the business. Suddenly, your mobile initiatives have the potential to gain organizational traction and visibility in order to do something truly meaningful for the bottom line.
4. Are all levels of your organization incentivized to embrace mobile?
No matter the cool factor of your mobile offerings, long-term success hinges on business-wide integration. Establish a strategy that includes incentives at all levels of your organization to help create a nurturing acceptance, and ultimately, advocacy for mobile.
For example, having a feature-rich mobile app that allows users to easily shop from the convenience of their mobile device is good. Having a multi-channel strategy that isolates mobile rather than packaging it into the traditional in-store experience is not so good.
Now we are back to integration. Develop a mobile strategy that incorporates mobile at all levels and in all facets of your organization. Mobile isn't just for users on the go; mobile is everywhere -- at home, at work, in the store, and everywhere in between.
After all, why limit the potential ROI of mobile before you've even begun?
5. Are your data and business rules available to multiple platforms via web services?
As you build your mobile strategy, keep in mind that the access patterns of mobile devices are unique and develop your services accordingly.
Ask your IT department whether your organization's e-commerce services can be exposed outside the firewall. If the answer is no, it's a red flag for a host of potential issues.
The question of firewall exposure is far from the only relevant consideration. Other readiness factors include whether you have a stable test environment that's distinct from production. If your security measures rely on client validation and session management practices, something's wrong.
A conclusive list is lengthy, but it all boils down to this: Make your business decisions on your servers, not the mobile device. By putting the onus on services that are suitable for mobile, you'll greatly minimize the future work that's required on different mobile platforms. This gives you the flexibility to make changes down the road that don't require a rewrite of individual mobile apps.
Go forth and mobilize
The success of your mobile initiatives can only be as good as your mobile strategy. Before diving headfirst into the mobile realm, take care to develop a forward-thinking strategy that draws insight and strength from all facets of your organization. And remember to double down on mobile. You'll thank yourself later.
Shehryar Khan is the founder and CEO of Übermind.
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