There seems to be a mobile app for just about every activity these days. However, despite their proliferation, the statistics for the number of apps actually used remain relatively flat. According to recent research by Nielsen, users in the U.S. access an average of only 27 apps per month. Of great significance for businesses that invest in mobile technology, a huge 70 percent of total usage comes from the top 200 apps.
What this highlights is that while every business considers it essential to have a mobile app, few seem to realise that – unless they’re in the top tier – they’re probably not getting the return on the investment they’re expecting. In their rush to be digitally up-to-date, many marketers fall short when it comes to understanding their customers’ mobile habits and needs.
Sometimes it pays to step back, watch what’s happening, learn from competitors’ mistakes and then launch a technology solution that leapfrogs what’s currently in the market. This is otherwise known as ‘second-mover status’, or ‘leading edge, not bleeding edge’.
According to Anne Marie Knott, an associate professor of strategy at Washington University, those who follow a market leader can actually be more successful. “I don't think I can name a first-mover who is a market leader,” she says. “Southwest, for instance, wasn't the first airline; Google wasn't the first search engine; and Starbucks wasn't the first coffee shop by a long shot.”
Mark Henriks,writing in Entrepreneur magazine, adds “In industry after industry, entrepreneur after entrepreneur is saying the same thing: Being first can surely be an advantage, but so can being second.” There is much technological development still left and it’s certain that the future will look markedly different from today.
One of the biggest pluses of being second-to-market is the avoidance of mistakes that others make. Cornell University's professor of entrepreneurship David BenDaniel says letting someone else go first gives the marketing entrepreneur an invaluable opportunity to see where the mines really lie. His message is clear: Let others fail first, use ideas and technology from non-competing industries and be prepared to move quickly.
Another great quote that supports this philosophy comes from Franklin D. Roosevelt: “I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.” A good approach to take when considering technological developments is to ask if an app, or other technology, meets a particular customer need and is profitable at the same time.
Leverage the mobile shift
There is no doubt, however, that mobile is a platform with significant potential for the savvy marketer. Mobile marketing commentator Alan Knitowski says smartphones are more like an extra limb than a device for most people. Consumers take their phones with them everywhere they go, and each time they unlock their home screens is a chance for brands to become a part of their digital lives.
With 86 percent of smartphone internet time spent in apps versus mobile web, more consumers are opting for the seamless experiences that apps offer. By setting goals, offering value, understanding their audience and leveraging mobile thoughtfully, brands can make the most of this mobile shift.
The key is to capitalise on learnings from first movers’ mistakes and use apps to drive awareness, engagement and conversions to give consumers the optimised, personalised and engaging experience that they have come to expect in the digital world.
Augmented Reality ready and waiting
One technology ripe for second movers to take advantage of is Augmented Reality (AR). AR has been piquing marketers’ interest in recent years, as it has the potential to change a range of consumer experiences, from how people find new products to how they decide which ones to buy.
Ana Javornik, from Newcastle University Business School, describes AR technology as enhancing the physical environment you see by overlaying virtual elements, such as information or images over it, either through displays such as HoloLens and Google Glass or through the camera view on your smartphone.
She says that in order for the potential of AR to be realized, companies have to re sist the urge to hastily create AR apps (that risk appearing gimmicky), and instead focus on better understanding how consumers will interact with the technology.
Marketers should remember that AR is not about creating a completely new reality, it’s about enhancing what already exists. “When the virtual is well fitted with the physical and interacts with it, that’s when AR magic happens,” she explains. The crucial part of any technology experience is whether it adds real value and whether it makes life easier, more fun and more convenient.
Due to its ubiquity, mobile is enhancing users’ engagement with out-of-home (OOH) technology. Overlaid on traditional outdoor media like billboards, OOH advertising targets consumers when they are ‘on the go’ in public places.
A growing experience is connecting OOH exposure to store visits, where consumers opt in to share their location via their smartphone in exchange for incentives. They are then marketed to in a relevant and highly personal way – combining media exposures to real-world actions like store visits and sales.
The future is a complex web of mobile technology, OOH and Augmented Reality. To make sure you don’t pre-empt or miss the wave, there are some key lessons for a modern marketer: Wait for the first movers and learn from their mistakes. Understand your customer behaviour and tie this in to clear goals. Look at different industries and consider the benefits of second mover advantage in the race to be more mobile in the customer journey.