Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dawn of the age of mobile browsing - context and all...

Sunset in NC
I know I committed to writing the next installment on certainty, but things change as I was recently reminded by someone, so in this post I'm going to stray into one of my favorite spaces - digital. I'll get back to the certainty and decision making series soon. Things change but it doesn't mean they completely go away.

Sunset on the Web?
Well, maybe not quite yet, but if you blink, you might miss the metamorphosis happening in digital world because of the speed at which it's occurring. Here are a few mind blowing stats courtesy of the ieee Spectrum magazine feature about the competition for the social space in the Web:

  • Global shipments of smartphones recently exceeded PCs for the first time.
  • Carriers activate 350,000 phones daily that run Google's Android Operating System.
  • Around 15 percent of Google's search volume is estimated to come from mobile devices.
  • 10 billion apps have been downloaded from Apple's App Store.
  • 250 million users access Facebook on their mobile devices.
  • 40 percent of all tweets come from mobile platform.
With staggering numbers like this, we've wandered into a game changer. And the game just got more interesting not because of the ongoing battles for dominance in the digital space by giants like Google and Facebook, but rather because mobile use is giving us what Web only wishes it could: context, as the ieee Spectrum article noted.

During my tenure with Tokii, we defined the analytics requirements and report types, built it, and then watched the numbers like a hawk. I admit that I still take a peek from time-to-time with the disheartening understanding that a lot of what we're looking at is a bunch of guesswork because, let's face it, Web browsing on PCs gives limited user data because it's stationary. We can infer info on user behavior, but at the end of the day, we really don't know.

Mobile goes, well, mobile
The uptick in browsing on mobile phones has marketers around the globe salivating and clamoring for algorithms that can deliver the golden egg-like data needed to target you more efficiently. Mobile browsing has Web browsing in spades because it gives us more info we can use to make better decisions about how to get products to the right people - the people who actually WANT them. 

Haight St, San Francisco
Think about it. You're walking down one of your favorite streets in a not often visited city. You start thinking about that AMAZING pastry and espresso you had a cafe in that area, but you can't recall the name of it. You whip out your mobile phone, do a quick search, and in no time you've got the name, address, directions, and even some additional options in case you change your mind. Yay! 

Guess what the browser got? Your location, the date and time, the product in which you are interested, and if you're potentially a repeat customer because you perhaps browsed for the same cafe a while back OR you tend to search for cafes in every city you visit. Now the marketers are lining up to hurl targeted ads, coupons, and recommendations at you for the same thing for weeks to come.

Race is on
Yep, the race is on, and it's you that's being chased. Some people feel a little unsure about that, but to be fair I think a little quid pro quo is in order. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. We get tons of great information for free and in return the companies that provide those services get info about us. What I like about the age of mobile browsing is that now maybe I'll FINALLY stop getting ads for weight loss, smoking cessation, and mortgage refinancing and get content and ads I can actually use.

Those of you who know me have heard me say this before. I have a prediction. I can see a time in our computing history where websites are nothing more that servers and mobile is where the meaningful user interface will occur. 

The only thing that could save the Web experience, in my opinion, is if the user is the website. In other words, I am, so to speak, the online destination. You can check out my favorite sites/content, networks, writing, interests, etc in a way that's kinda like going over to a friend's house and hanging out, using their stuff, experiencing their vibe, exchanging ideas, whatever. 

Instead of you "traveling" to different sites to cruise content, you come to my site because you know I have an intense interest in something you want more info on, click on one of my many favorite sites on the subject, and the content is delivered to you at my site so you don't actually have to leave my "house," so to speak. This isn't the same as opening a site in a new browser. I've got more thoughts about this, but I think I'll save it for another post. 

How do you use your mobile phones? What don't have have on your phone that you wish you did? Look forward to your thoughts. 


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