Have you ever been at a party when the person you’re talking to took their phone out and proceeded to check their feed? It happened to me recently and I was stunned by the obvious lack of manners. I stopped to think what could cause this person to prefer virtual contact than an actual conversation (or maybe I was just a really boring conversation partner).

It’s common today to discuss phone addiction as an accepted problem (thank you dopamine). What’s exciting (and a little terrifying) for me is that we’re only just getting started when it comes to what’s possible with this platform.

It was pretty clear by 2008 that this smartphone craze was not going to slow down and that its implications were huge. Today, the implications for mobility and smartphones go far beyond what which was originally imagined.

Mobile has become the internet

We spend more time on our phones than we do any other type of digital media. Soon, it will lead all media consumption. 

Ben Evans from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has stated that mobile is the biggest sector of technology today. It’s hard to argue with his data.

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The impact crater widens

Mobile is not just a new way to access the internet, but the cause of a significant shift in running a business. The foundational element for many tech leaders today is the smartphone. As an example, Apple’s iPhone as a standalone business generates more revenue than other any tech company. Uber — currently valued at $50 billion — would not exist if it weren’t for the smartphone. Mobile’s widening impact crater is being felt in many areas.

Advertising

The smartphone wars might create a new victim: advertising. To begin with, the very notion of advertising on a mobile platform is being challenged. The space for good, old-fashioned banner ads is much more limited. To further deepen the problem, Apple recently announced ad blocking by default on the iPhone. What happens to publishers in a world where they can’t monetize their sites?

Journalism

Following the logic above, what will happen to traditional journalism as their revenue model dries up? Does long-form journalism become less prevalent as a result?  What happens when anyone can film news video and upload it to apps like CNN? What it means to be a journalist and a reporter is changing.

Payments

You know that someone will eventually solve this equation. For the time being, mobile payments does not remove enough friction in the process. A new experience powered by mobile will surely emerge and that will have huge implications on physical monies, tax evasion, etc.

Politics

Political participation might radically change once the issue of identity is completely solved on mobile. Both the US and Canada have low voter turnout at every election. Will that percentage change if we can safely vote from the comfort of our home?

Transportation

Uber generates 2 million rides every single day. What happens when ridesharing becomes even more mainstream? The notion of car ownership is starting to get challenged. Some 15 per cent of our city’s space is dedicated to parking. What can we do with that extra space to benefit the city’s environment?

Love and friendship

I missed the Tinder craze but have seen many friends find and lose love on this app. What happens to long-term relationships when a new fling is just a swipe away?

Design

As advanced primates, our attention spans are incredibly short. The impact on design is being altered with a focus on shortness and minimalism. Although I’m not an expert on this subject, the evidence is clear. Spending time on mobile is fragmenting our attention, and designers are changing to meet this trend.

Social status

It’s not hard to imagine a future where someone that is not on the grid is a social pariah. It’s conceivable that not being connected will be illegal. Your very identity will be irrevocably tied to a device or to the cloud. Historians will look back at the smartphone as the starting point of this future.

While there may be benefits, there will be a lot of work necessary to secure privacy and individual freedom. A 1984 future is not one I’m interested in living.

What are the implications for managers?

The complete dominance of mobile raises a spectre of issues for managers from security, IT and employee communication. For this post, I will focus on marketing.

App vs. Responsive Web

When looking to build your presence on mobile, always start with a responsive website. You need to ensure that your current users have a positive experience. Only build a mobile app if your product / service can be ameliorated via a native app. Consumers don’t use many apps. If you want yours to show up on the home screen, you will need to ensure that you have a killer use case for your customers. Otherwise, start with a mobile responsive site.

Banners vs. Native ads

When it comes to advertising, the most effective ads on mobile are native. Banner ads don’t have enough real estate and are harder to monetize for publishers. Focus on native ads first (Facebook, Google paid search, Twitter sponsored stories). These formats will provide the highest ROI.

 Budget decisions

A significant portion of your budget will need to be carved out for mobile. Look at your current web traffic to understand what percentage of your customers are using mobile. That should be a good starting point to pour more resources on the platform.

While the future is disputed, the present is not

As it stands today, the picture is pretty clear; the utility of the smartphone will continue to expand. For any customer-facing strategy, it means starting with the platform where customers spend most of their time. Having a digital strategy sounds just as antiquated as having a mobile strategy. It’s no longer a simple line item in a budget sheet; mobile has become a central determinant of success.

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