Nothing appears more certain nor more elusive to marketers than how to fully leverage the biggest behavior change since the mass adoption of automobiles. Yes, I am talking mobile access to communications, data and our social graph.
The explosion of mobile phone, smart phone and, now, tablet use has led to some interesting innovations. MPesa mobile currency, Flipboard content display, Instagram photography communities and personal GPS are just a few examples of how mobile changes how we do things. Just look at Mary Meekers Internet Trends 2012 presentation and many of the "reimagined" business examples include mobile as a key part.
Still, it seems as marketers we are still struggling to “go full mobile.” I would guess that some of that is due to the “Curse of the Channel Mindset” where, too often, we look at mobile as just another marcom channel to deliver messages through. I blame this ‘curse” on the advertising planning community and the powerful economic strength of media buying companies.
Meanwhile entrepreneurs unconstrained by that channel mentality and empowered with the innovators sideways manner of looking at things are making new interesting business or applications of mobile.
Two innovations should make us think differently.
Mobile Grilled Cheese
The Melt is a grilled cheese restaurant designed around mobile payment. Founded by Jonathan Kaplan who brought us the Flip Video Camera (now a collectors item), the Melt is getting ready to deliver a restaurant experience where users can order via device and use simple QR codes to jump through the fast lane and pick up their warm, melted goodness of a gourmand grilled cheese.
Instead of just adding mobile payments as a cash register alternate on top of cash, credit, debit, chip-card or whatever, they are designing the transaction experience around the mobile user. How you pick up a food is as much a part of the experience as the food, itself. Now, I don't know if their innovation will add up to a smash success. So far, they only have stores in the SF and Silicon Valley areas. But when you consider that service is the number one reason for return visits to restaurants and that service innovations that cut down on process (make things simpler) tend to be the drivers of loyalty, I give these guys a better than even chance of getting somewhere. (Thanks to Social Commerce Today for the heads up on The melt)
I love grilled cheese. I love great service. If it were in DC, I would buy.
Mobile Close-Ties Network
We practice “mobile first” design within our team (actually “SoMo First” – but that’s a different post). That means that we design a user experience first for the mobile display (often the smartphone and tablet, simultaneously). Once that is great, we design the desktop experience.
Path is a recent entrant into the social network space and is only available as a mobile experience. (see a good explanation from Satish Dharmaraj, managing director at Redpoint Ventures LLC (investors))The service is designed to connect each of us with only our closest ties. Not thousands of friends. It tops out at 150 friends. Think you and your wife (or whomever), your closest friends and some family.
Whether or not this dedicated channel of intimacy works for you, pay attention that it was designed as mobile –only. The founders felt that the close-ties relationships it is trying to support favors the intimate, always-connected utility of mobile. More businesses will be doing this going into the future. They will consider how their business can serve new behaviors and needs developing out of our mobile and connected lives.
Two very different examples how mobile is interpreted as a core part of the experience not an additional channel or touchpoint. Two good examples of disruptive design that could easily lead to big, long lasting innovations.