2009.16 | Mobile Life

Everyone knows that mobile is exploding as a touchpoint for consumers. NCR is banking on it as are many others. I was amazed on a recent trip to Walt Disney World in Florida at the explosion of mobile device usage everywhere I went. I saw hundreds of teens texting on their holiday. I saw their parents using their mobiles to keep track of the rest of the family on vacation, as well as keep tabs on work via email. Disney even has a handheld based adventure for kids to experience at Epcot, indicating they understand the importance of this channel.

While usage numbers on mobile continue to grow, there are also some tremendous opportunities to improve on our mobile world and interactions with customers. Most of the interactions I observed were SMS and email based, and I don’t think that has even begun to leverage the technology to its fullest. This weekend, I used my mobile to:

:: look up new releases on dvd for friday night rental,

:: look up directions in real time from a concert hall to a restaurant,

:: look up the restaurant’s phone number from the maps application to call ahead for a table,

:: view the restaurant menu ahead of time to look for options to suit my wife’s special dietary needs

:: transfer money directly to a friend’s account from my phone to pay him for the show tickets, as I don’t carry cash or cheques,

:: look up the score for Saturday night’s Leafs vs Canadiens hockey game (lost again),

:: read through 3 newspapers (NYT, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail) while waiting to pick up my children at a party,

:: look up an author online while I listened to a radio broadcast about her and bookmarked it,

:: record a voice memo to pick up some things while running errands for my wife,

:: look up Easter themed books while shopping at Chapters,

:: take a picture of a book I thought my wife would enjoy while at the store,

:: look up my bookmark for the author from the radio and look for her books,

:: show an image of my iRewards card to the cashier in my photos on my phone instead of carrying all my loyalty cards.

Most of these items are an opportunity for consumers to leverage a tool they already have in a new way, increasing convenience at little or no cost. On the business side, they are also an opportunity for consumer facing organizations to learn about their customers habits, and increase their wallet share via coupons, services, or leveraging a recommendation engine. This is a true win for both parties – more convenience for more information, allowing better service.

My iPhone makes it easier to do the things on this list, but not so easy that everyone is willing and/or able to do them just yet. Many people don’t even know that they can do these things. Apple and RIM have an opportunity to assist via their interfaces, and organizations have a tremendous opportunity to build or be a part of the applications of the future that blur the line between mobile and self service. Applications like:

Electronic Wallet – Pay with your mobile using credit cards via NFC, or pay with retailer specific declining balance cards tied to an account number via 2D barcode. Carry all of your Loyalty cards without straining your purse or your wallet. Benefit for the consumer; less of a physical burden and less organization. Benefit for the retailer; more in depth understanding of consumer activity as loyalty cards are at hand for every transaction.

Electronic Receipts – You can already get a receipt emailed to you at the Apple Store. Why not have it transferred to your phone in a receipt folder in electronic format? If there is a return or a warranty issue, you always have all of your receipts, and you can transfer them back to the retailer when for validation you complete a return. No more paper cost or paper waste. Never lose the receipt. No more George Costanza wallet.

AutoFill Applications – I saw a terrific example of this at the NCR Executive Briefing Centre. Your phone has all of your vital statistics on it in an encrypted folder. You pull up an application on a kiosk, or Microsoft Surface, and you can use your phone to automatically fill out the application with all of your personal details, much as you can with the Google Toolbar Autofill on your web browser. No more filling out your name and address for the millionth time on an application for a Loyalty card, a car lease, or even a raffle ticket.

Mobile Plan Adjustments – Go directly online and change your phone plan. Traveling to Europe? Go online on your mobile, select the checkboxes to add a la carte options like bulk SMS messages or air time to your plan, and your account is updated. No more IVR or talking to the call centre, no more confusing options, just a quick bullet list of what you have and what you pay, right on your phone.

Hotel and Car Keys – Another great demo at the NCR Executive Briefing Centre. Instead of obtaining a plastic card for your room key, use an NFC chip in your phone to register and open your door during your stay. They could do this with rental cars as well. They use similar technology for car sharing services like Zipcars. No more lost keys.

Mobile Image Recognition – Take a picture of a restaurant, a menu comes up on your phone. Take a picture of a product, and a datasheet or informational video plays on your phone. It’s coming.

Store in the Pocket – As a retailer, what better way to tighten your relationship with your customer by putting a virtual store on their mobile device. Your store is always on and always with them. Amazon has a store that’s optimized for the iPhone, and you can buy books on iPhone kindle app. Watch for ways to connect these stores to the real world, like scanning a barcode or taking a picture of a product. Starbucks has started it by allowing customers to find and purchase the song they hear on the radio at the store from Itunes on their iPhone with no charge for wifi. Expect to this to expand and get smarter. No more wandering the book store trying to remember that music or book your friend suggested.

Order Streamlining – I’ve been waiting for someone to perfect (or even attempt this) for a couple of years now after seeing this great mockup that I carry around on my phone. The real opportunity here is to connect the mobile experience to the self service or assisted service situation. Customers have a menu application on their device, and select their order. The selections are saved, and then the screen shows a 2D barcode on demand, which can be read by a customer facing scanner at the end of the line. That 2D barcode can also encode a retailer specific declining balance card so that payment can also be initiated at the same time as the order is placed. QSR organizations have the opportunity to lock in customers; providing them faster service, and complete tendering – the slowest part of the transaction – while the customer is waiting for their order. No more repeating your order or having it misheard.

These solutions may seem a little like a scene from the film Minority Report, but if you don’t use this technology, you know someone who will. These solutions exist today, they will become increasingly easier to use, more mainstream, and their usage will grow.

I placed my first ecommerce order in 1995, when I purchased a Wired Magazine subscription via email with my credit card number because that was the only way it could be done. If you consider the leaps and bounds the Internet has taken since that time, imagine how mobile will influence our lives in the coming years.

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