Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Billy Yuan, Consultant, IBM Global Business Services

Billy Yuan, Consultant, IBM Global Business Services

By Billy Yuan

As smart phones become an indispensable part of our daily lives, companies in every industry are trying to develop ways to make this “second screen” enhance their marketing efforts, extend their reach, and most importantly, better serve their customers.

The purpose of the second screen is to augment the primary experience, whether that’s watching the game, grocery shopping, or buying a cup of coffee, and help connect the user to the brand.

A growing number of leading brands understand this and have embraced the second screen into their marketing strategies. ESPN has done a stellar job of serving its customers through multiple channels with their “Sportscenter” and “Watch ESPN” apps. No matter where the ESPN viewer is, he or she can follow the game by either streaming it or following the scores. If the user is watching the game on TV, the smart phone becomes a social tool and an encyclopedia all in one – tweet about a game-winning basket and look up that player’s stats in a matter of swipes and taps.

Outside of sports, companies are using the second screen to add to their in-store experience. Retailers like Walmart and Carrefour are improving the in-store checkout experience by implementing mobile scan-and-checkout capabilities. Starbucks customers can purchase coffee using their phones and build points through the company’s loyalty program. Having strong multi-channel capabilities across all platforms and devices to serve customers anytime and anywhere is what retailers must strive to achieve.

Although the mobile market is more mature now, there are still questions about what the best practices are with regards to how mobile experiences should be designed. As consumers spend more time on their second screens viewing content and shopping online, how a mobile experience is designed is becoming even more critical and the demand for “UX (user-experience) professionals” is growing.

For example, should a mobile website feature a responsive design – that is, a design that automatically recognizes the type of device being used to view the content and changes to the most effective layout? Does a company with a limited mobile presence first invest in revamping its website or create a cutting-edge app? How should all the links be organized? These questions can have a significant impact on a company’s business.

Mobile technology – devices, data speed, location tracking, phone performance, etc. – continues to improve, and smart phones will only continue to be better equipped to deliver the perfect content to users, whenever and wherever they are. But for that content to be perfect it will have to be able to constantly adapt to what the user is doing and context will be key.

To be sure, existing apps have done a tremendous job, but there’s still progress to be made. The needs and concerns of a television viewer are different than those viewing the game on a smart phone, or at the stadium itself. In this new mobile world, when I look up and save all of my shopping list items on my phone via a retailer’s app, I should be able to pick those items up. If not, I should be able to quickly locate the items at the store, scan them, and then pay for them using my phone.

While the mobile industry is no longer in its infancy, its potential has yet to be fully realized. Still, the continued and creative development in this industry is nothing but positive for all involved, producers and consumers.

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Thanks Billy for sharing your thoughts. There is a lot of talk around mobile right now and it can be a daunting topic to discuss. I appreciate you pulling some disparate thoughts together into a coherent blogpost there are a few clarifications that I think is needed to not confuse readers and to also promote additional dialogue.

- Second screen – This refers specifically to the use of a mobile or other device while watching TV. The main intent is, as you outlined, to augment and enhance the viewing experience. This is strategically different than Watch ESPN which, like HBO GO, is actually used to extend a viewer’s core watching habits. Similar tools and perhaps some interaction overlaps – social, information assets, etc. – but completely different use cases. Where it becomes a bit more complex to segregate use is when a company enhances a show with additional video content, such as webisodes only available through their mobile app.
- In this light, retailers using mobile in store is also a different use case than the sand boxed second screen definition. Depending on how the mobile app works you may be referring to online-offline augmentation, mobile payments (Carrefour), or mobile loyalty and rewards (Starbucks). The best of them combine all three elements in addition to mobile commerce to make using the app a regular experience for interacting w/ the retail brand. This is of course in addition to mobile based offers and coupons (Amex). I don’t know anyone who has combined all of these elements particularly well – due to not looking hard enough, not that it doesn’t exist. If you’ve know of some great implementations that combine multiple mobile elements I’d love to hear about it.
- Lastly, while we may be coming to a maturation point with mobile phone/tablet – to be honest, I’m not sure if this is really accurate either – mobile itself is probably still in its infancy. Apple has done an amazing job of opening the eyes of the world to the possibilities of mobile but innovations such as Google Glasses, Ubuntu Edge, and all the wearables coming out shows, mobile is still to be conquered.

My goal of replying to you is to continue to dialogue and build on what you have already outlined. The above are my interpretations of how I see the mobile universe. I think it’s important to distinguish the use cases as best as possible in the early stage to ensure that audiences know the specificity of each topic.

What are your thoughts?


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Interesting insights, Billy. I love hearing about how mobile – some times thought of as its own channel – can actually help activate omnichannel. Keep up the great work!


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