Why you need to stop thinking about mobile, and embrace true mobility

Mobile World Congress, held in Barcelona, 22nd-25th February hosted more than 100,000 mobile professionals from 204 countries. Dominic Mills, CTO at Premium Partner Zone, shares his thoughts on the talks and topics covered at the event and why the limelight should have been on the Brands and not the Manufacturers.

As usual, the highlights in the digital press around this week’s Mobile World Congress have been about the devices themselves. Yes, the new Samsung S7 looks sleek (with or without the edge) and the focus on connected cars added an interesting twist.

However, it’s not always down to manufacturers to take the lead when it comes to getting the actual utility out of mobility. They provide the platform, but when it’s about getting me somewhere faster, keeping connected with my friends or getting me the best value based on my immediate circumstances, it’s the brands that are responsible for innovation and delivery. So why weren’t they taking much of the limelight in Barcelona? 

Everyone in this industry knows how important mobile is – as testified by the MWC presence of Coca-Cola and Unicef – but many of the CMOs I talk to still think mainly in terms of the hardware and how to get existing aspects of their business on to it. We’re asked: “How do I get my website to display better on this?” or “How do I take the tickets I sell and put them on that?”

Yes, those questions are essential, but they’re not addressing a more ambitious view of mobility: asking how it can be utilised to help deliver on strategic business goals or create new efficiencies. It is a failure to grasp what I call inherent mobility. OK, the technologies are there, but it’s down to brands – not the manufacturers – to leverage that and capitalise on it.

Take, for instance, property conveyancing. Why couldn’t a combination of geo-location, iBeacon and augmented reality technology – all on show at the MWC for years and easily deployable to a standard smartphone – get prospective buyers to a location, give them site access and then guide them round the property? They get to browse on their own, allowing your most valuable marketing assets – the human sales team – to eliminate time wasted on travel and concentrate on the added-value follow-up: closing the sale.

Generally, established brands are too far behind the curve to exploit what mobile technologies can now offer – hence the rise of the disrupters. The likes of Uber aren’t wedded to existing delivery models and have instead created their business around embracing mobility, the convenience it offers trumping power of perceived brand expertise every time.

To me, the concept of actually dropping my shirts off for cleaning at the start of the week and picking them up on the way home on Friday is almost sweetly archaic – why do that when I can get them picked up and dropped off at home with just two taps of my phone? Yet, had Johnsons offered a similar level of convenience sooner, it would never have lost my custom. By adding mobility to the brand equity it had built up with me, it would have been in an unbeatable position.

BMW got that. The rise of mobility enabled car sharing, embodied by the likes of ZipCar (ironically now under threat from Uber), prompted it to look at how it could embrace mobility and leverage the power of its brand at the same time. The result was DriveNow, an app-driven car share service that is already expanding in terms of both digital scope and location. This has not only created a new mobility-inspired business model, it has also strengthened the company’s core proposition by opening up the BMW experience to a new segment of the market.

Established brands must embrace this new way of thinking about mobility, rather than seeing it merely as a device through which customers interact with the existing business offering. If they don’t, then at best they’ll be missing out on the benefits on offer in terms of efficiencies, market expansion and brand perception. At worst, they’ll find themselves stuck in one place while the mobility-inspired disrupters run rings around them.

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Dominic Mills

Guest blogger: Dominic Mills

Chief Technology Officer @ Zone