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Design & Technology September 12, 2018

You don’t know mobile, so start learning

Mike Vernooi Dept Talk Festival

Eleven years ago Steve Jobs revealed the first iPhone, revolutionising the way we use mobile phones. Now, quite a few iPhones later, we can’t imagine life without these tiny devices. No wonder ‘mobile first’ has been buzzing in the digital industry for a while now. But hypes come and go. Now it’s all about VR, AR, and AI. Is mobile over? Absolutely not. Mobile is key to reaching people. A lot of people. We know that. You know that. But is it really top of mind? No. It should be though. So, learn how to think and act mobile via hard, self-learned, life lessons.

The odds of you reading this article on your mobile phone are high. With the odds that you’ve used this device in the last hour even higher. Honestly, it’s the one thing most of us are addicted to. And via social sharing, searching or random boredom, our mobile phones are very often the first contact with a brand. Yet, here we are, still struggling with how to think and act mobile first.

You are not the customer

When starting my digital career at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, I was assigned to building the KLM app. The starting point was business travellers, or so-called ‘frequent flyers’ because they make up for about 70% of the revenue. Considering myself part of that target audience, I started out with my own frustrations: not having a boarding pass at hand and airport maps (I’m always lost). My colleagues complained about the same issues, so this point of reference felt good.

Only it wasn’t. Eight months later, we released the app. And in terms of conversion rate, it didn’t go well. To figure out why, we spoke to actual customers and we discovered something interesting – take a moment for this shocking reveal: they were all different. Really! These people came from different backgrounds, cultures, faced different problems and all used their phone in their own way. That was an eyeopener.

Remember: you are not the customer. The customer is someone else. Ask them questions, show them the website or app, and don’t explain the choices you made but watch them use the application. Do it on a regular basis and learn from it.

It’s not a battle: Desktop vs. Mobile

How often have you started a buying process on your phone – for example, booking a flight – and realised that it doesn’t work properly? Even if it’s not too many times, we’re all familiar with the frustration of having to switch to desktop to finish the process. Most people don’t even switch to desktop, they just tune out. And that’s when your conversion rate drops.

With low conversion rates, comes lower revenue; leading to less interest to invest in mobile, since desktop doesn’t seem to have this issue. But not investing in mobile will keep this problem alive. If we actually build mobile experiences that people can use, they will start buying your stuff on their mobile phones. They don’t do it now. Not because they’re unwilling to do so, but simply because they can’t. The rules are different for mobile. Learn these rules. It is not about desktop or mobile. It’s both.

You are not a mobile native – ask your niece for advise

Honestly, teens are the cruelest and most insightful people alive. They know why you should never wear that shirt again, or stop using certain words. They’re not afraid to tell you the harsh truth and are aware of things adults just aren’t. But, most importantly, they know mobile.

Most of us grew up using desktops and still love using big screens for work, chatting, watching videos or shop. Your niece, on the other hand, she grew up with a mobile phone. It was the first device she used and all she ever uses. She’s all about mobile. To see how she uses it is to gain insights into your apps.

What’s next?

Mastering the mobile first mindset is to deepen your knowledge of your target audience and get to know their struggles and preferences. It’s about realising that desktop and mobile are not in a battle with each other. See it as a digital eco-system that works together. Moreover, accept that there’s a generation that grew up using only mobile phones. Ask them to tell you why your mobile service still sucks. Let’s start thinking about our mobile presence as much as we think of our phone. It’s a lot.

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