sxsw-mobile

Lessons from SXSW: The Omnipresence of Mobile

Dan Engel Commentary, Responsive Design

The excitement and the buzz of the most hip tech show ‒ Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) ‒ has come and gone, leaving in its trail only the electronic traces of innumerable Facebook posts, Instagram pics and, of course, unending tweets.

Amidst all the cool futuristic technologies on display ‒ augmented reality, driverless cars, hug-giving robots, next-gen IOT (not to mention the President and First Lady) ‒ attendees remained resolutely focused on the here and now. They wanted to know how exhibitors and speakers at SXSW were going to answer their most pressing questions on engaging online visitors and delivering a uniquely satisfying customer experience.

Yes, the Mobile1st team was there in force, giving demos of our online mobile testing solution. As the crowds pushed through the exhibit hall, we posed a simple question: “Would you like to see how your website looks across market-leading mobile devices?” Attendees responded with enthusiasm but also trepidation, hopeful for new insights yet dreading a less-than-stellar performance from their web pages.

And Mobile1st wasn’t alone in addressing the critical question of how to engage customers and deliver a seamless shopping experience across multiple channels. Session upon session at SXSW targeted Dev/Design and Marketing/Branding audiences and identified customer experience as a major business driver.

The Buzz about Mobile

Speakers served up data to demonstrate the undeniable centrality of mobile, not only to the omni-channel customer journey, but to all dimensions of daily life in the 21st century:

  • When news breaks, whether it’s the next tragic mass killing or the latest celebrity meltdown, 68% of smartphone owners follow the events on their phone.
  • 22 hours each day, your phone is typically no farther than an arm’s reach away.
  • Sports fans addicted to watching the madness of the March NCAA basketball tournament will likely be multitasking with mobile apps, including 37% on sports apps and 40% playing mobile games.
  • Push notifications delivered by mobile marketing agency Urban Airship reached record highs of one billion daily messages in March.

Google Beacons: Mobile’s Next Frontier

Yes, all eyes are on mobile as the critical touchpoint where companies must engage, empower and convert customers.

dog with Google BeaconMaking waves at SXSW, Google addressed critical roadblocks in the mobile web experience. Not content with speeding mobile delivery, Google is also tearing down the barriers separating mobile apps and mobile websites. Key in this area is the capacity to deliver targeted information to mobile users as they navigate the world ‒ from home and work to leisure and shopping. Soon push notifications will be able to reach consumers on their phone without the hassle of downloading an app. Google is developing the technology to enable “beacons” that emit signals to nearby phones.

The list of innovations made possible by beacons or what Google calls the “physical web” is startling (and perhaps a little scary):

  • A cat collar that lets you locate the animal’s owner and then message them
  • Buses that broadcast the next stop to your phone
  • Parking meters that let you pay with your phone
  • Any store, no matter how small, can offer an online experience when you walk in
  • A shared car service that broadcasts a signup page. With just a few clicks, you can drive the car away.

Each of these examples, by itself, Google says, “is modestly useful.” But together, “they imply a vast long tail where any and every thing can offer information and utility.”

As the buzz at SXSW demonstrated, mobile is a vibrant, potent, must-have technology at the center of consumers’ lives. And with innovations like Google’s beacon, mobile will continue to revolutionize shopping and indeed all social life for years to come. That’s why companies are exactly on target when they place mobile experience at the core of their design and marketing strategies.


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Mobile1st is the company behind Mobilizer, the mobile optimization platform. Mobilizer helps companies increase revenue and engagement by enabling them to see exactly what their mobile users see, quickly identify display issues, monitor metrics by device, and optimize the mobile customer experience.