Mobile’s Revolution

It took some ten to 15 years for the Web to upend the way we communicate, socialise and do commerce. But it has taken only a few years for Mobile technology to radically disrupt the Web business in return.

The very tech titans that have risen out of the web and have disrupted the traditional business are now having to retool and rethink how to tackle Mobile. (See footnotes below)

But why is that? Isn’t Mobile just the Web on a small screen? What makes it so special? Well the small footprint certainly has shown that it’s a bigger challenge than at first imagined. It transpires that you can’t just transpose web sites and applications from desktop to mobile and hope everything will work as before. But I believe it goes beyond that. Here are 4 characteristics in Mobile that I believe make it unique:

  • It’s personal and intimate
    • your smartphone is always with you; it’s part of you and you don’t share it
  • It knows where you are and where you’ve been
    • both in the online world and the physical one
  • It’s always connected, always on. And so are you.
    • There’s no downtime any more. The idle time you used to spend, for example, waiting in the queue where your mind simply meandered, is now spent actively on the smartphone, searching, playing, listening…
  • It bridges the Physical and the Virtual (Online) worlds
    • It merges the physical and the virtual into one. You now use your smartphone to ”check-in” into physical venues, to scan barcodes of products and find their prices online. Augmented Reality applications superpose text, images and animations on your camera’s viewfinder.  Sensors on devices (“smart devices”) communicate to your smartphone. Not to forget electronic payments, navigation, etc. The list goes on…

These characteristics, combined, make mobile a game-changer. It’s not longer business-as-usual, as technology is now all ubiquitous and personal, rather reserved to the technorati.

At the same time, mobile presents huge opportunities for business — if tackled holistically. To develop a successful mobile strategy, we need to address the whole ecosystem in which mobile resides, end-to-end. It is really about much more than just developing an Application in the App Store.

The ecosystem is made up of

  • touch points (smartphones, tablets, notebooks…)
  • smart devices (devices with sensors that communicate to your phone or other devices, sometimes called M2M, or Machine to Machine)
  • technologies (Augmented Reality, NFC, location-based services,…)
  • marketing & marketing platforms
  • m-commerce  m-commerce platforms
  • content
  • applications (whether “native” or “in the cloud”)
  • and last but not least what I call the “Back-office” (which could be in the form of “Cloud Services” or enterprises’ ERP systems…). These are important repository of “digital intelligence”, that can be tapped to build whole new experiences

At the heart of this ecosystem lies the user and the user’s needs, whether customers, partners or employees. Considering the ecosystem as a whole helps us develop a better mobile engagement with the user that actually anticipates the user’s needs, allowing us to preemptively serve the right information or functionality at the right time and the right place. It does so by taking into account the context (the user journey, location…), the activity (sales call, browsing a product…), back-office data (customer data, order status…), user preferences (historical activity, social media insights…), to deliver what Forrester calls “Context-Rich Experiences”, with “in-the-moment special offers”.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • On the day of the flight, a traveller is notified of any changes in the flight, before leaving home. He checks-in for his flight on his mobile phone and receives an electronic boarding pass. Before taking his car, his phone displays the available parking spaces at the airport and so he can decide whether it’s better to take a taxi. As he arrives at the airport, his boarding pass is automatically displayed on his phone, in the form of a QR-code (preferably on the lock screen, to make it easy). He is always updated with the latest news of his flight. If there are any delays, his phone will automatically propose alternative routes/flights. On arrival, his phone will display the carousel number, and direct him to the rental car offices.  
  • a customer walks into a Starbucks coffee shop, and checks-in with Foursquare. As she gets to order, the cashier already knows she is there and has prepared her regular drink. She pays by swiping her phone on the cash machine, using NFC.
  • As Tesco Clubcard (Tesco’s loyalty program) customers walk into a Tesco supermarket, their smartphone will tell them where the goods on their shopping lists are in the store. And as they wak around the store, their smartphone will use their Clubcard data to make other suggestions about what they might want to buy and point out offers of the day.

These examples are not science fiction and are feasible today. They show, I hope, that Mobile has become an integral part of our experiences. And this is only the beginning, as we move into wearable (not to mention implanted) technology…



  • Mobile now accounts for 15% of global internet traffic and is expected to reach 25% by 2013, whereas internet through Desktop is declining.
  • Mobile payments are growing exponentially, from nearly nothing in 2009 to about $14M in 2012
  • Mobile data traffic will reach the following milestones within the next five years.
    • Monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 10 exabytes in 2017.
    • The number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population in 2013.
    • The average mobile connection speed will surpass 1 Mbps in 2014.
    • Due to increased usage on smartphones, handsets will exceed 50 percent of mobile data traffic in 2013.
    • Monthly mobile tablet traffic will surpass 1 exabyte per month in 2017.
    • Tablets will exceed 10 percent of global mobile data traffic in 2015.
  • Although Google appears to have a strong mobile business (it dominates mobile search), Goldman believes Google is “challenged” in mobile. It might have 70% of smartphone shipments, but Apple had 60% of mobile traffic. Smartphone cost per click is about 30-60% of those on desktops. As mobile search rises, Google’s revenues decrease.

Further reading

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