The impressive ubiquity of the smartphone is driven by how utterly indispensable the device is to modern life. Which is not to say that there aren’t negative aspects in our modern relationships with smart phones. (“Doom-scrolling” is a phenomenon that is a truly smartphone-based addition to our lexicon. )
Yet, aside from the occasional story about celebrities who don’t use smartphones, the rest of us know how much we use these devices know we’d just as soon forget our wallet at home than to forget to take the smartphone when we leave the house. It comes down to one word: they give us a sense of agency.
Transformation Didn’t Come by Focusing on Technology and Complexity
While the media often focus on the distractive influence of the devices, their value to us isn’t really the ability to soak up our attention. What matters is that they can provide a deep sense of agency — in the psychological context meaning a sense of control over our actions and the consequences of those actions. Instead of having to call our bank and go through a time-consuming process of checking balances, or having to write a check for God’s sake, to pay a bill. Now, both can be done in seconds via mobile app or a mobile website. Book a hotel and round-trip airline ticket? It’s a few minutes on a an app or a mobile website.
Brands that have succeeded in their mobile strategies are able to do it because whether it’s their app or their mobile website, they focus on delivering agency (not that they say that out loud). Everything from the page-load speed of their mobile website is optimized to how they apply skeuomorphic design principles to improve the user experience.
But Mike, Who is Nailing Mobile?
Glad you asked. Starbucks and Sephora deservedly get a lot of attention for their mobile strategies (and not just their individual mobile apps). However, when it comes to understanding category leaders, you start to see a significantly more varied set of brand names. McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Michael’s (the arts and crafts retailer) all take slightly different approaches to driving their mobile marketing strategies forward. But while they each try to drive revenue, their mobile experiences — delivered by their mobile web and app touchpoints — all honor the need to provide the user with that sense of agency.
My Gartner colleagues Kyle Rees and Ryan Brady have applied the Digital IQ benchmarking toolset to the mobile strategies and tactics of more than a thousand brands. All of the examples are instructive for anybody developing or refining their mobile strategies. (You can check out their webinar here.)
When you check out this research, keep that notion of agency top of mind. You’ll see how success is based on attention to details like page-load speed, simplified, white-space heavy graphic design. But all in service of delivering agency.
Because in the end, Gartner’s consumers surveys have shown that a sense of agency is what keeps consumers attached to brands and retailers (physical stores or online) — not a high frequency of “engagements.” Without agency, engagements are what a marketing leader I know refers to as “orchestrated pestering.”
And that isn’t agency.
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