February 06, 2011

Mobile Analysis Week

By now, it's likely that a tech writer, consultant, blogger, lead analyst at Woodside Research, or a member of the Twitterati mentioned to you that you will be out of business by May if you don't have have an industry-leading mobile app or mobile website.  These individuals seldom work at the kind of companies that you work for, and they don't have actual customer data to analyze adoption rates across various mobile initiatives.  They simply have strongly worded opinions.

We have a long history of strongly worded opinions during times of technological change.  We cheered Pets.com as they "monetized eyeballs".  We asked "... do you Yahoo!"?  We demanded that individuals get Hotmail accounts or risk being left behind.  We couldn't believe that Apple would charge people $300 for a portable music player, or that they would merge communication with music.  We decided that citizen journalists would replace real journalists by hosting blogs, we theorized how people using Typepad would suffer while those using Wordpress would thrive.  We worried that Microsoft had too much control over the internet.  We worried that AOL had too much control over the internet.  We worried that Google had too much control over the internet.  We worried that MySpace had too much control over the internet.  We worried that Facebook had too much control over the internet.  We theorized that we'd all interact in virtual worlds like "Second Life", buying virtual products at real companies like Sears.  We lamented the death of blogging (after celebrating the fact that blogging would take over the world three years earlier) with the advent of Twitter.  We demanded that retailers give out 20% discounts to any individual using Foresquare.  We cheered the advent of social commerce.  We valued Groupon at something like two trillion dollars because they created an e-mail marketing list.  We proclaimed the death of catalog marketing.  We proclaimed the death of e-mail marketing.  We proclaimed the death of the newspaper industry.  We proclaimed the death of the thirty-second television ad.  Now some are proclaiming the death of e-commerce and the internet.

In other words, we're always wrong.  We utter strongly worded opinions, and we're usually wrong.

So instead of managing a fear-based life where we react to every strongly worded opinion, why don't we investigate a rational approach to technological change?

Why don't we analyze customers as they manage the transition from one form of technology to another?

This week, we're going to review the Multichannel Forensics framework that helped us understand customers as they transitioned from catalogs to e-commerce, and from e-commerce to retail.  This week, we'll apply the framework to customers as they migrate from e-commerce to social/mobile.

And a word of caution.  Let's not start nibbling around the edges of the cookie by getting into long-winded discussion about how to classify a mobile website vs. a mobile app, or an Android app vs. one from Apple, or 3G vs. 4G vs. psuedo-4G speeds, or the importance of integrating channels and offering the right message at the right time to the right customer.  We always do this, and by doing it, we avoid the real issue.

There are at least three real issues that we'll address.
  1. Will our customers embrace new technology? (hint, many customers don't, ask catalogers targeting customers who live in rural New England).
  2. If our customers embrace new technology, how fast will the transition happen?
  3. If the transition happens quickly, what happens to existing marketing channels?
Tomorrow, we begin with a simple analysis, then we increase the complexity during the remainder of the week.

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