The IDEA Cycle -- A Better Way To Think About Mobile Development

What are the four words everyone involved in mobile strategy should fear?

"Let's build an app!"

The reason you should fear these words is that they will lead to pain. Your CEO, or your CMO, or somebody else in your company has noticed that mobile engagement exists. Great. Now they're ready to plunge right in and create something without thinking it through. And if you're involved in mobile development, this means a whole lot of pain in your future.

There is a right way to think about mobile. It's called the IDEA cycle, and it's the central idea in our new book The Mobile Mind Shift

When you're wondering how to engage with your customers on mobile, follow these four steps, which you'll remember with the acronym IDEA:

  1. Identify the mobile moments and context. Think through your customer's day and how they interact with you. What are the moments in which she might turn to mobile? Is she ready to check in for a flight? Wondering what to buy her daughter for Christmas? Realizing that her prescription needs to be refilled? For each of these moments, there is a context -- the customer's location, history, and state of mind. Taken together, these moments represent the set of possible times and places in which mobile can help.
     
  2. Design the mobile engagement. Here's where you evaluate those mobile moments to determine which ones are most beneficial to the customer, and helpful to you as well. It's also where you think about the potential ways to interact, such as sending a push notification, displaying content, enabling sharing, or presenting a possible transaction.
     
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Why You Should Read The Mobile Mind Shift

Worldwide, people use mobile devices pretty much continuously. Mobile access on smartphones and tablets creates a dramatic change in behavior as people use, then expect, and then demand service from every entity they deal with. This is the mobile mind shift:

The mobile mind shift is the expectation that I can get what I want in my immediate context and moments of need.
 
Despite this complete transformation in expectations, companies typically have no idea what to do about it. "I guess we should build an app," they tell us. Instead, this transformation demands a complete rethink of the way they do business. Business competition has now focused down to the mobile moment — the point in time and space when someone pulls out a mobile device to get what he or she wants immediately, in context. Win in that moment, and you have his or her loyalty. Fail to be there, or screw it up, and an entrepreneur will do a better job and steal your customer. 
 
Getting mobile right will require you to change how you see customers, your relationship with those customers, and (the expensive part) the platforms, people, and processes that power those systems. When mobile engagement fails, it's usually because companies didn't recognize the scope of what they need to get that mobile moment right. They need a mobile mind shift of their own.
 
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Mobile Moments Change Everything — Check Out #MyMobileMoment And Add Your Own

Stop thinking in terms of what you do, or how your technology works now. Start thinking in terms of the mobile moments of your customers.

A mobile moment is a point in time and space when someone pulls out a mobile device to get what he or she wants immediately, in context.

Thinking in terms of mobile moments is the lesson of our new book, The Mobile Mind Shift. It's a new way of thinking for many companies, but it's essential to getting mobile strategy right. Without it, you end up spending a lot of effort on features your customers won't use. Meanwhile, some entreprenuer like Lose It! or Roambi swoops in and steals your mobile moments.
 
How pervasive are mobile moments? We started a hashtag campaign on #MyMobileMoment to encourage people to share the mobile moments. Go ahead, check out the hundreds of posts so far. Or post your own.

Here are few revealing posts we've seen:

Mobile is there in a moment of crisis.

And in the second-grade spelling homework.

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The Irony Of The "Look Up" Video

Does anyone else find it ironic that a video telling you to stop using social and mobile sites got 28 million views on YOUTUBE? Go ahead, watch it on your phone, tweet it, share it on Facebook. Why not immerse yourself in the irony a bit further?

It reminds me of Paddy Chayevsky's movie Network, in which a man generates huge ratings by telling people to turn off their TVs.

The most shocking moment in this video is when the hero leaves his house and walks out without his phone. We've truly made the mobile mind shift, because this is unthinkable.

It's good advice, to leave your devices behind once in a while. I recommend it. But this video exists and is popular because every popular technology creates backlash, and that backlash has a romantic appeal. The chances of this making an impact on attitudes about mobile and social is close to zero, even if it's comforting to some to think it might.

If you think mobile and social technologies are about screens, you've missed the point. They're about generating and enriching interactions in the real world. That's the romantic appeal of "Look Up," and it's a lesson worth learning.

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