Feature Story

What's Next In Mobile Innovation?

by Melissa Jun Rowley

A look at how new ideas in marketing, customer experience, and gamification will affect the future of mobile.

The imperative "innovate or die" has been loosely thrown around tech and media landscapes for the last two years. Fast-growth companies are all racing to be dubbed the most creative, and the most disruptive in their sectors, to avoid being left behind as dust in the land of the obsolete.

In order to keep up with the Joneses, a number of companies have immersed themselves in the trends. First came social. Then came mobile and real-time marketing. Then gamification and loyalty programs entered the picture. In 2011, Gartner predicted that by 2015 more than 50 percent of organizations that generate new ideas and methods for products and services will gamify their innovation processes, and that by 2014 the gamification of consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as social media and e-commerce.

How will innovation in marketing, customer experience, and gamification affect the future of mobile?

In an industry where all the players are aiming to sell more by adding new features to a product, or creating a new service that's a combination of two similar services or a scaled down version of one, what does the term innovation even mean more anymore, and how is innovation graded? Considering wireless has been the fastest adopted technology in history, it's safe to say that a company's ability to innovate in the mobile market is a key factor.

One facet of mobile that's seeing a few companies wear innovation on their sleeves is the mobile payment process. PayPal's Wearable Wallet, which is currently being tested at a coffee shop on the company's corporate campus, uses beacons and smartwatches to facilitate transactions. When a customer enters the store, a beacon sends push notifications to the user's device, which then checks-in the customer, who can tap on his/her smartwatch to buy coffee or get a reward. If it makes it into the mainstream market, the Wearable Wallet could prove to be a timely creation. According to an IDC Financial Insights survey, after years of growth, the use of mobile payments has declined a small percentage.

As for the intersection of gamification and mobile, it's all about making the smartphone smarter through gamifying its UI.

"The most disruptive development that I have seen most recently in the gamification space is Sony's EvolutionUI," shares Mario Herger, founder of Enterprise Gamification Consultancy. "It's a gamified onboarding experience on their Android phones. Instead of reading a manual you start of as a beginner with only few functionality turned on. The more you use the phone, the more features are unlocked, and you level up from rookie to intermediate to master.

Herger explains that the system works like a game (think Candy Crush or Angry Birds), where the system slowly brings the user, who never needs to read a manual, up to more and more complex game play.

"That basically will replace many areas of training and you are productive right from the beginning," says Herger.

How do companies win a customer's loyalty?

Bringing customers back for more through giving them easy-to-access rewards never fails. But how do companies build and maintain loyalty through mobility when the space is so crowded?

"I think you need to get away from the notion of just giving people points or miles, or creating instances so they can redeem them," says Herger. "That's not creating real loyalty or fans. You need to engage them [people] in a way that they become advocates for your brand. Whenever I have a taxi driver that uses Square for taking my credit card, they immediately tell me about it and explain it. That is great!"

Herger adds that the importance of mobile emphasizing social strategies (online and offline), isn't going anywhere.

"A brand should become an excuse to socialize," shares Herger. "As a friend said of his finger shoes: ‘I did not buy because of the claim that they are more natural or healthier for your feet. I bought them to have an excuse to talk to people.' He uses them as an icebreaker. In that sense, my taxi drivers did the same with Square."

Humans love to play together and they love to share. They don't want to be marketed to; they want to be a part of the story. Continued innovation in these areas mixed with emerging mobile technology is what will keep marketers ahead of the curve—until the next trend breaks.


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