Mobile and ‘human first’ for success

MobNo longer is the battle for business confined to the high street or even the internet. Increasingly, it is being fought in the mobile space, with brands looking to attract, engage and reward customers over mobile phones and tablets.

Key to success is ultimately ease of use – making it as painless as possible for customers to find information, browse and discover products, and make purchases. Those who are able to deliver this can expect to see higher sales, a more loyal and engaged customer base, and greater levels of repeat purchases.

One organisation that has already embraced this is the hotel chain Premier Inn. The business approached mobile innovation and design agency Monitise Create (a division of Monetise) in 2011, looking to design and develop a mobile application. In a short time, this had been downloaded more than two million times and over 150,000 stays were booked through this channel during 2012 alone.

Earlier this year, an enhanced version of the app for iPhone and iPad was launched, with an improved, more intuitive booking flow, making it even easier for customers to book hotel rooms, and giving them the opportunity to book extras, such as breakfasts, to increase basket size and encourage repeat stays.

As a result of the redesign, conversion rates – the number of bookings made for each download – have nearly doubled, from 3 to 5.9 per cent, and today more than 30 per cent of Premier Inn’s sales come through the mobile channel. The business is not resting there, either; in 2014 it will launch “hub by Premier Inn”, a new, compact city-centre brand where customers can control their entire hotel experience, including the temperature and lighting of the room, using a smartphone.

Other businesses have followed. As a purely online – and now mobile – retailer, faces even more pressure to interact and engage with customers, and has developed into one of the leading internet merchants of the past decade. With mobile traffic already accounting for 30 per cent of its web traffic, the business turned to Monitise Create to develop a unique shopping experience for Christmas 2012, the year when 41 per cent of the UK population was expected to buy gifts online.

The result was The Thoughtful Gift Finder, which drew on the power of social media to allow customers to select personality traits for their Facebook friends, and would then suggest intelligent and relevant gift ideas for buyers. The application also allowed customers to create a calendar of their friends’ and family members’ birthdays, ensuring they received reminders of important dates and tailored gift suggestions, helping to drive sales and repeat business. The app was downloaded more than 200,000 times in the first few weeks and to date has been downloaded almost 400,000 times, becoming the second largest revenue channel for the business and hitting return-on-investment targets six months ahead of schedule.

Highly customer-focused initiatives are essential for brands to attract new and repeat business in a competitive landscape

Such highly customer-focused initiatives are essential for brands wanting to attract new and repeat business in such a competitive landscape, says Adam Levene, senior vice president of strategy at Monitise Create. “In the connected age, first impressions count more than ever,” he says. “The ‘connected consumer’ has greater expectations, so it’s so important to create rich and easy-to-use mobile experiences that remove the friction of transacting.”

The trend towards developing specific mobile platforms has been growing over the past two or three years, but many organisations have still to embrace the shift that has taken place in the marketplace. Some have been happy to offer mobile versions of existing websites, but these are not user-friendly and do not encourage customer interaction. Putting a 16-digit card number into a website viewed on a smartphone is a cumbersome process and not one customers will want to undertake when there are other options available, including being able to store their card details in a secure fashion, as practised by companies such as Amazon and Apple.

Those businesses with a strong in-house team may look to develop a mobile platform themselves, but others may find it more beneficial to partner with a third party with a proven track record in delivering secure and easy-to-use mobile products. Monitise Create, for instance, has worked with major clients including Samsung, RBS and B&Q.

Success in mobile comes from a philosophy which they call “Human First”, says Mr Levene. “The first principle of Human First is how useful the product or service is that we’re creating. Mobile is about making life easier; our approach means we always start by understanding the needs of the consumer and how to solve their pain points,” he says.

“The second is how contextual you can make the product. By understanding the consumer’s time of day, location and how they use those services, we can create meaningful propositions that complement their lives. If it’s late in the evening and you’re in need of a room for the night, you will turn to the Premier Inn application in your pocket that makes it easier to find and book the nearest hotel.

“The third principle is how visual we make the proposition. That’s not creativity for creativity’s sake; it’s about intuitive design driving performance and impact.”

An important and often overlooked stage of launching a mobile proposition is making customers aware of the app. Through App Store optimisation and promotion through existing channels, such as social media or e-mail campaigns, a business can significantly increase downloads. Turning downloads into customers, however, requires a particular focus on what the company calls “mobile CRM” [customer relationship management]. This is an ongoing communication strategy that keeps engaging the customer through initiatives like tailored push notifications. Ultimately getting the right proposition can drive loyalty and repeat business, says Mr Levene, putting businesses at a competitive advantage.

The dangers of ignoring this powerful new channel for businesses are all too real, as can be seen in the difficulties established names have experienced after failing to embrace the web early enough. “The rapid rise of mobile is probably the most disruptive shift in business ever seen – and it’s happening a lot faster than with the web,” says Mr Levene. “The businesses that embrace not just ‘mobile first’, but ‘human first’, will have the greatest long-term success.”