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A Mobile Product Strategy in 3 Easy Steps

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Mobile. It’s everywhere these days; articles, commercials, headlines, the smart device never more than one foot away from us. All signs seem to scream mobile is a must. In fact, earlier this year at CES, the giant consumer-electronics conference, one panelist went so far as to say, “You’ve got to be on the iPhone; same as you’ve got to be on the Web…If you are wondering about whether or not to get on the mobile, the answer is ‘yes.’ Get on the mobile now.” But is this statement true? Does your business really need to be mobile? Do you really need an iPhone app?

Mobile, no doubt has become a force in delivering content and services to consumers and employees. It offers a real opportunity for businesses, whether you are delivering your value to a customer at the moment of need or delivering support to an employee – no matter where they are. So, the real question should be: What is your business’s strategy for making mobile work for you?

Making a mobile strategy

Don’t let the mobile universe’s newness make you forget common sense. Defining a mobile strategy is like everything else in your business. It is simply making an investment, one you hope will pay off. So, like other business investments, it is about careful analysis, smart decision making, good design, and solid execution. Everyone’s goals should be to smartly and profitably mobile enable their business value.

To determine your mobile strategy you must identify 3 things:

1. The value intersection mobile represents to you and your customers.

2. Your business strategy (the return you can expect from the investment).

3. Your mobile approach.

Step 1 – Identify The Value Intersection.

In our last entry, we discussed how identifying the value intersection leads to smart, customer satisfying, and profitable design. Find your value intersection by:

1. Knowing what your business goals are.

2. Analyzing the value your business offers that can readily be accessed from a mobile device.

3. Identifying how your customers, partners, or employees want to use mobile to business with you.

Then, focus on the intersection between your mobile business options and your customers’ goals. That is where you find your product. No matter what your business value, figuring this out is critical to setting your strategy, so please, don’t skip this step.

Step 2 – Know Your Business Strategy

Determining your how you will make money from mobile is what allows you to determine if this is a smart decision. Unless you have reliable data, it may be hard to do this completely quantitatively, but some smart questions can help:

What specific business results can I expect from being mobile enabled?

  • More sales?
  • More customers?
  • Better brand awareness/loyalty?
  • Less overhead/improved efficiency?
  • Improved customer loyalty?
  • Higher employee productivity, efficiency?

Then try to estimate realistic dollar amounts for each. Be pragmatic. Having a mobile strategy isn’t likely to double sales or halve costs.

Finally, estimate the costs. You may need to work with a technology vendor to do this. Be aware. Mobile development is new, but there are a lot of folks doing it. Be sure you work with someone you trust.

With your estimated benefits and costs, your ROI is a simple mathematical equation. However, you may also want to consider less quantitative factors such as the buzz generated by being mobile enabled, value you can bring to your most profitable or loyal customers, or simply the perception that your company is technologically savvy. Only you can decide how much these factors weigh into your decision.

Step 3 – Your Mobile Approach

Understanding how your customers use mobile devices will answer two questions:

1. What is the likelihood you will achieve your ROI?

2. What functionality do you want to provide?

3. What tactic do you want to choose to mobile enable your site?

Cameron Moll, in his book, “Mobile Web Design,” lays out a spectrum of options starting at “Do Nothing” and ends at “Create Mobile-Optimized Content”. The good thing about that is, you have options. Cameron continues, “So which of these methods is best for your particular project?…Alas, the ‘It Depends’ maxim rears its ugly head, and your strategy will likely depend on such criteria as user goals and objectives, development resources, and the content depth and breadth of your website or application.”

Below we’ve outlined some definitions, pros & cons you should consider.


Mobile friendly website

Your website’s content or layout remains the same when viewed from a mobile device. The site maintains its form and function as designed.


  • Minimal investment.
  • Easy maintenance.

  • Can be difficult to use.
  • Requires user to zoom in and out.
  • Could encourage user to go to a competitor.

Mobile specific website

Your website detects the request is from a mobile device and displays a mobile-specific page.

Form and function are unique to the site’s mobile version.


  • Allows specific, contextual information and services delivery.
  • Potential to work across many platforms.
  • Easier navigation.

  • Can limit site’s functionality.
  • Harder to develop and test (must test for every device).

Mobile applications

An application is download and installed on the mobile device. Your services are displayed through that application

Form and function are unique to the application.


  • Designed specifically for the platform.
  • Allows use of device features (phone, audio, GPS, compass, camera).
  • Can charge fees.
  • Allows specific, contextual information and services delivery.
  • Custom navigation.

  • Harder to develop and test (must build and test for every device).
  • Can have specific distribution requirements.

Getting a mobile strategy shouldn’t be easy

Remember, you’re making an investment, so be sure it is a smart one. That said, don’t worry too much. If you find your value intersection and you’re confident you can make money, how bad can it be?

The best thing about going mobile is it is almost always a subset or something smaller than what you offer online today. So while the technology is new, the project shouldn’t overwhelm you.

Remember a few things:

  • On mobile, context is king. People want limited information based on their circumstances (where they are or what they are trying to do). Don’t try to be all things to all people.
  • Graphic design is less important. Usability rules the day on mobile due to its small screen resolution. You want to focus on making it easy to interact with your product even if the person is only using one hand or is walking.
  • You won’t get it perfect the first time. Think back to your business’ first website. Probably not as sophisticated as what you have today.
  • Finally, you can choose to do nothing right now. For some businesses this may even be a good strategy. But beware, mobile is here and at least for the foreseeable future, it’s here to stay.

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