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What the future of mobile-driven blended experiences will look like: Forrester

In the future, consumers will use smartphones as the choreographer of their local ecosystem, with all nearby devices expected to anticipate their needs and provide appropriate responses, according to a new report from Forrester. 

According to the report, "The Future of Mobile: From App Silos to Open Ecosystems," getting to this ecosystem of blended experiences with smartphones as the hub is going to take time, with challenges likely to arise in creating the front-end experiences and back-end support services. Instead of any individual device replacing mobile, mobile itself will become the brain behind the next revolution ? a multi-device, blended user ecosystem.

?Ebusiness leaders must evolve from serving customers in their own apps with their own intelligence to an open ecosystem of shared customers, context and experiences,? said Julie Ask, vice president at Forrester Research and co-author of the report. 

Contextual experiences lag
Forrester forecasts that mobile will evolve along three dimensions ? channel, context and constructions. This will happen in a series of four stages before blended experience ecosystems finally take hold. 

While mobile adoption is significant and more consumers expect to be able get everything they want or need immediately upon picking up a phone, so far mobile is not delivering on this promise. 

Part of the problem is that smartphones, so far, are only capable of doing one task at a time and providing a predetermined programmable response. 


Additionally, companies are struggling to provide contextual experiences on mobile. In 2011, Forrester predicted that the future of mobile would be context, but only a few companies are so far scratching the surface. 

Also, most mobile experiences are app-centric, with very few brands serving customers outside their own apps with shared data. Early examples include KLM and Uber that tap into WeChat and Facebook Messenger to deliver services to customers. 

More blended experiences will become possible as brands start to harvest future context, or data, within the consumer?s ecosystem of connected devices, services and sensors and evolve beyond discrete app-based experiences. 

Four stages of evolution
An example of what a blended experience in the kitchen might look like involves Amazon Echo adding ingredients to a shopping list as they are being used, convenience stores offering incentives to buy these products when that consumer is nearby and mobile curating a recipe based on the ingredients a consumer has at home and showing a video of the recipe. 

Getting to this stage will involve four stages of mobile evolution.

In stage one, customers choreograph their own experiences with standalone apps, Web sites or messaging experiences. 


In stage two, consumers increasingly find it cumbersome to hop in and out of individual apps to accomplish a simple task and look for quick access to services such as bank account information or fast-food ordering from mobile platform solutions such as Cortana, Google Now and Siri as well as third-party platforms such as Facebook Messenger, MapQuest and WeChat. 

In stage three, the virtual assistant grows more important, with consumers more willing to manage access to their data in exchange for these agents anticipating their needs and knowing preferences. 

In stage four, mobile devices will for the first time proactively suggest and inspire users to do things they did not specifically ask about. 

Technology innovations
Some of the technology innovations that will affect next-generation experiences include automated processes for determining who to engage with, using which content, at what time and with what technology; intelligent context platforms capable of scaling common insights; consumer-managed data to scale adoption for consumers and enterprises; artificial intelligence to scale giving users the confidence to make decisions and act in moments of need, and developers building fine-grained experience components, tagged with metadata, to enable dynamic assembly as opposed to large apps and Web sites. 

The five steps businesses should focus on to get to these blended experiences are: understanding customers? ecosystems; refining strategy to harvest, share and monetize data; building experience components, and preparing for ad-hoc partnerships. 

?Standardize everywhere possible to contain this exploding matrix of technology,? said Michael Facemire, principal analyst at Forrester Research and co-author of the report. ?Start building a well-defined, governed API ecosystem that enables third parties to access your data. 

?Work with future context brokers to sift valuable context from environmental noise,? he said.

?Finally, do not blink with looking for the future ecosystem players: Google and Apple control today?s mobile ecosystem, but the amount of low-cost hardware available has created a perfect storm that will allow unknown vendors to create wholly new centers of gravity in tomorrow?s blended ecosystems."