Monday, June 2, 2008

What Do Consumers Want from Mobile?

A few weeks ago I made a post on a mobile service that caught the attention of Sachendra Yadav, a product manager in the Indian telecommunications industry. He posted a reply on his very interesting technology blog, “What I Want from My Mobile Social Network.” If you missed his comment and the link, it’s a formidable list that is well worth considering.

We all know that the US is well behind on the mobile curve and can look to mobile services in other countries for insight. Two recent studies are helpful.

Accenture uses Forrester data to point out that “there is currently a huge gap between what users would like to do on the mobile Internet and what they actually can do” (page 4; download the full study here). Sachendra is apparently not alone! Most respondents in the Forrester survey don’t find the mobile Internet very useful or easy to use.

Another 2008 study, this from the IBM Institute for Business Value, concentrates on strategy for MDMs (mobile device makers; download the full study here). In the process it gives some interesting data from a survey of about 700 consumers in the US, Japan, India, China and Germany. They didn’t include South Korea, another advanced mobile economy which should be watched. These consumers want many services from maps to games. The chart divides the services up between Utilities and Entertainment—interesting. Note that browsing the Internet sits squarely on IBM’s dividing line between the two. Note also that if you combine “very interested” and “somewhat interested” a majority of their respondents are interested in the services from maps, most desired, to mobile TV, desired by just over half the respondents. That represents a large opportunity for providers of both services and content.

It provides a widespread opportunity because these respondents are more interested in services than brand. They prefer a mobile device that “Lets me choose andconfigure which mobile Internet services I want to use” and continue to “be able to install additional applications and services as desired” (page 9). Lack of brand loyalty is also displayed. When asked about brand preference for the same set of services, a substantial majority chose “Would take up ANY brand as long as I find service valuable” for all the services listed in the second chart (page 11). However, these respondents also find the mobile Internet expensive, slow and generally inconvenient.

How to improve? Accenture recommends:

1.Innovate from the customer’s perspective
2.Own the customer experience
3.Serve the social needs of customers
4.Develop the ability to cater to individual needs
5.Look for value in aggregation

Both these studies stress the need for personalization and usability in the mobile experience. They also suggest that the mobile Internet has a long way to go before it provides these desirable features and becomes a staple in the lives of most of us. That’s even more true of the US, which is already behind but can use the experience of others to quickly move up the learning curve.

The importance of the customer perspective and customer experience also indicates that marketers need to take an active interest in mobile applications. A number of target audiences are already aware of what should be possible and eager to have those services. Others will join their ranks. It’s the job of marketers, whether they are services providers or users of mobile applications, to keep developments customer-focused, not technology-focused.

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