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Mobile experiences are quickly falling short of consumer expectations: Forrester

Ebusiness professionals who do not take a longer-term approach to mobile will see their efforts  fall short, according to a new report from Forrester Research.

In the report, ?Why eBusiness Pros Need A Five-Year Plan,? Forrester explains that mobile will evolve over time from the simple migration of online services to more mobile-unique products, processes and services. However, today most eBusiness professionals are still focused on mobilizing existing services and content.

?For most eBusiness professionals, shrinking, squeezing, and creating a subset of PC-based experiences for the mobile device is a pragmatic starting point given their limited budgets and the lack of consumer demand for more sophisticated services,? said Julie Ask, vice president at Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA , in the report. ?That?s fine ? up to a point.

?What is worrying is that many eBusiness professionals lack a vision, a plan, or a road map for mobile services that goes beyond the next one to two years,? she said. ?They run the risk that their mobile experiences will quickly fall short of consumer expectations as leading-edge eBusiness professionals push the envelope on mobile-first experiences.

?Consumers expect robust mobile experiences that are more than a squeezed PC experience, meaning the ebusiness professionals must design for mobile to take advantage of its highly contextual and task-oriented nature.?

Making the world relevant
In the short term, mobile is being used effectively to augment physical-world experiences in stores, banks and airports by offering services and additional information. However, going forward eBusiness professionals will need to focus more on mobile's potential to enhance other touch points and become a platform for new products and services.

Forrester expects mobile digital services to make the world more relevant by becoming an overlay that augments and personalizes the physical world to allow product trials and create marketing services.

In the near future, mobile will be used to enable commerce via products and the physical world. For example, pill bottles will initiate refill requests and a purse seen in a magazine will be purchased in just a few clicks via a phone.

Mobile will also be a standalone service in purely digital scenarios such as banking or finance and will become the preferred tool for many tasks such as accessing coupons or paying bills.

There are examples of more sophisticated mobile services in the market today, such as the Nike Fuel Band and remote deposit capture.

Smartphone nation
It will be important for eBusiness professionals to understand how mobile use cases and those for PCs and tablet will diverge going forward as well as the growing number of use cases for mobile.

There are multiple reasons why mobile needs to be treated differently from tablets and PCs.

Consumers use PCs and mobile devices differently. PCs are used to browse and surf the Internet while mobile phones are used to complete short, discrete tasks such as finding a store and looking up ratings and reviews. Sessions are typically shorter on mobile devices as users complete a task and move on.

Mobile phones are viewed as a necessity, with fewer homes having landlines. And mobile phone increasingly means smartphone, with 53 percent of U.S. mobile phone subscribers expected to own a smartphone by end of this year.

Additionally, mobile phones are always with the user and increasingly used when shopping, with 31 percent of U.S. online adults with a mobile phone researching products for purchase on their phone and 18 percent purchasing products.

In the short term, HTML5, middleware platforms and responsive design are helping eBusiness professionals deal with mobile fragmentation.

However, they are not a panacea and ebusiness professionals should be funding bigger, longer-term opportunities associated with more sophisticated services and applications on mobile devices.

Laying the groundwork
It is imperative that these professionals lay the groundwork today to provide the flexibility they will need to address changing consumer expectations as mobile continues to evolve, per the report.

Forrester recommends eBusiness professional design mobile services that are rooted in serving consumer needs on the go that take into consideration what information a consumer needs or what tasks a consumer is likely to complete.

Forrester also suggests ebusiness professionals supplement a detailed mobile services road map that looks out 12 to 24 months ahead with a longer-term vision that extends out three to five years. This will help guide the mobile services development approach.

Future mobile services will depend more heavily on ebusiness professionals working closely with IT to build systems of engagement. These initiatives will have longer lead times than building an app or optimizing content.

Achieving these advanced stages of sophistication will require ebusiness professionals to do more than reconfigure existing content and Web page layouts. These professionals, instead, must plan for the fact that mobile users are more task-oriented, which means there is a need to simplify steps and rethinking navigation to accommodate a different set of needs.

EBusiness professionals should also expand their use of context, or location, to cover a consumer's situation, preferences and emotions in real-time. Context should be used to simplify experiences and create utility.

The case for apps
Because many consumers are satisfied with anywhere, anytime access to online services, ebusiness professionals today are focused on creating consistent experiences across devices. However, this strategy does not account for the different use cases, control and content needed for mobile devices.

To get to these more sophisticated mobile experiences, eBusiness professionals should take a hard look at native apps.

Strong mobile-first strategies are likely to involve native apps that can tap into a device's technologies as opposed to browser or hybrid apps, which are less able to support different capabilities of mobile phones. Native apps can also force a unique design approach.

"EBusiness professionals will need to employ native applications to differentiate their experiences ? especially those that are not media-centric ?and to evolve the sophistication of their experiences so that they lead, rather than catch up with, consumer expectations,? Ms. Ask said, in the report.

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