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Best Buy, Facebook focus on next generation of mobile experiences

Best Buy and Facebook are readying the next generation of mobile experiences and crafting more contextual and useful capabilities designed to drive loyalty.

While savvy marketers have already invested in developing consumer-facing mobile offerings, the most astute recognize that this is a quickly changing space with significant potential, and therefore are focused on continually upgrading their customer experience as a result. Marketers realize that the stakes are higher than ever in mobile.

?Even just a few months into 2013, brands are already paying more attention to mobile than they have in the past,? said Sloane Kelley, interactive strategy director at BFG, Hilton Head, SC.

?This is being driven in a large part by consumer demand and growing pressure from competitors already active or dabbling in the space,? she said.

?As smartphone and tablet adoption continue to rise, brands will do more in the space or risk lack of relevance.?

Mobile evolution
Mobile is still a relatively young and quickly evolving industry, meaning that the best-in-class mobile app or site a brand came out with 12 months ago is unlikely to be taking advantage of the latest developments.

Last year, trends such as responsive design, consistent experiences across platforms, the growth of in-store features, augmented reality and second-screen experiences have been highly implemented in marketer's mobile efforts.

During a recent conference call with analysts to discuss its fiscal fourth-quarter financial results, a Best Buy executive said that investing in the mobile customer experience will be one of the key focuses for the brand.

Furthermore, Best Buy said that it would lay out between $700 and $800 million of capital spend during the current fiscal year.

Facebook, which has focused heavily on improving its mobile experience in the past 12 months, is holding a press conference on Thursday, when it will unveil a new look for its newsfeed.

Given that the social network?s mobile users are quickly growing and that the newsfeed is the only way to deliver mobile advertising on Facebook, the expectation is that this news will have a strong focus on mobile.

?[Marketers are] focused now on mobile, where they were not two years ago,? Steve Cole, chief marketing officer at Gladson, Lisle, IL. ?They recognize that shoppers are using mobile tech before and during their shopping trips.

?The retailer?s challenge now is to create a compelling and differentiated experience ? they need to make sure their site stands out from their competitors,? he said. ?We see retailers we work with providing easier navigation and more and unique information about products ? like how-to videos and special offers ? to stand out from the competition.

?The biggest challenge for brand owners ? consistency. It?s a struggle to make sure the brand is properly and consistently represented everywhere it appears.?

The next generation
Per industry sources, the next generation of mobile experiences are likely to feature experiences that function across all devices.

Additionally, marketers are likely to do more to incorporate relevant content, offers and programs for users based on location and whether they are on-the-go or stationary.

Another area of focus will be on creating greater contextual relevance beyond just location that will lead to richer user experiences and strengthen customer relationships.

From a retail perspective, the future of mobile experiences will be tailored to provide a mix of online and in-store experiences that are more streamlined and enable users to build lists online ahead of time, search in-store and locate items.

?I think brands will start to think from more of an integrated mindset in the next year or two, and give more respect to how the mobile experience will be built when they are in planning, and not as an afterthought,? said Warren Zenna, managing director of digital/mobile at Woods Witt Dealy & Sons, New York.

?I also think that the tablet market is going to drive a lot more of this as brands and retailers are seeing the increased shopping and engagement activity on iPads,? he said.

Responsive design
While creating strong apps is key for loyal customers, marketers increasingly recognize that they also need a compelling experience for occasional customers and potential new customers, who are more likely to access a brand?s Web site from a mobile device than download an app.

One area of focus for improving the Web customer experience this year is responsive design.

Responsive design can be a key way for marketers to create a Web strategy that can be deployed across multiple devices and still provide a compelling experience.

The brands that are getting mobile right are thinking about consumers first and recognize that increasingly the way their customers are engaging digitally is via some type of mobile device.

While the design and development implications of this can be challenging, no one disputes that communicating with consumers in the way they wish is critically important.

?It?s important to anticipate how your customers typically use mobile devices when planning a mobile engagement strategy,? said Jonathan Greene, managing director of mobile and social platforms at R/GA, New York. ?Putting too much attention on apps while letting the Web lag remains an issue.

?We are seeing much more attention to mobile experiences through the use of responsive designs, which enable us to deliver a single-site experience regardless of how a consumer chooses to engage,? he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York