A couple years ago, I stumbled upon what I considered a pretty solid life hack: when searching for a business’s phone number on my iPhone, it was far, far easier to use Google Maps than Google’s search engine.
Seems counterintuitive, I know, but the app would find the business, map the location and give me everything I needed, all on the same screen—no clicks required. Search, although faster to return results, meant sorting through results, finding the right site and then searching that site for a phone number.
Because of that utility, Google Maps quickly became my default resource for public transportation schedules and traffic notices. Of the apps on my phone, I probably use it more than any other—at least on the weekends.
And that had me thinking: the most useful items in my life are products that are built around my needs. I think that’s worth noting, because, as the world of mobile commerce evolves, retailers who mimic these types of developments will fare far better than those who don’t.
The key to a solid mobile commerce strategy, then, is creating utility and value. Here are three tips to get there.
A One-Two Punch is Key
Of course, Apple did this for all of us 10 years ago when it created the iTunes store (and iPod and iPhone). And Amazon did this, too, when the Kindle wasn’t just a piece of hardware, but part of an ecosystem that made it easier to read books.
Both are historical examples of what good hardware-software combinations can do.
Though retailers aren’t going to go down that route, there’s nothing that says they can’t combine existing hardware with new software to create useful, dynamic experiences for the customer.
Macy’s is doing this with an image search app that allows a user to take a picture and easily search for that item—or a similar item—on Macys.com. Think about it like Shazam for clothing (or home appliances).
“What’s in it for me?”
Though Amazon hit a home run with the Kindle and Amazon Prime, it recently struck out with its Fire Phone and seems destined to do the same with Echo, if early reviews and reactions are any indication.
That’s because both products make it easier for Amazon to take a customer’s money, not for a customer to develop more of a relationship with the brand.
Why does that matter?
Good products are based on utility and value for the customer, not the brand. If your product makes life easier for you, but ignores the reality of what a customer needs, you’ve missed the mark.
The Ecosystem Doesn’t Need to be Proprietary
In August, ComScore reported that Google Maps has 64.5 million monthly smartphone users, making it the sixth-most used app in the world. If that’s not an argument for providing value and utility, I don’t know what is.
But, you know, what? Google has kept on making its maps app better.
Late last week, in addition to revamping the look and feel of the app, Google further integrated OpenTable (owned by Priceline) and integrated Uber (backed by Google Ventures, among others), so that app users could book reservations and get a time estimate on how long it would take them to get somewhere using the private transportation company.
The takeaway here? Google forged relationships with companies outside of it’s ecosystem to create these new features. Now, its product is even more useful.
As Jay Henderson from IBM ExperienceOne wrote in commentary for our EQ2, the first step to take when assessing your mobile commerce strategy is to assess your customer and your customer’s context.
That’s smart advice. Just remember to deliver the best value and utility you can based on that assessment.