Mobile is hot, but then again, so was “e-business” in 2000. At the height of the first Internet expansion in 2000, when every division, department and product manager finally realized they needed the Internet, corporate CIOs saw website proliferation run rampant across their organizations. The average Fortune 500 company had at least 22 different websites.
The result: no consistent look and feel for the brand, ridiculously redundant IT costs, zero economies of scale in Web delivery, and worse yet, a confusing customer experience. Users had their personal data sprinkled across many of the same company’s websites, with multiple login credentials. This decentralized large company land rush to Web properties was as predictable as it was utterly stupid.
Now welcome to what mobile looks like today for most big businesses. Confused by both the number and purpose of most apps being thrown at you? You should be. Corporate mobile strategies risk repeating the mistakes of website proliferation that cost corporations billions in worthless websites.
The biggest mistake corporations are making stems from their deep trust in their ad agencies to “make us an app” for a very specific product or a very specific event without thinking about scaled personalization or reusable innovation. Sound familiar? This approach results in a typical $500,000 mobile project that has a very finite life. And almost nothing from that project becomes reusable technology for the next “custom” app. This custom-addictive (if not highly expensive) pattern is a result of both technical and cultural blind spots within corporations, which resides in the CMO and ad agency belief that the user experience is a one-time emotion, a moment that needs to be captured in the app. So far in Mobile 1.0 (yes, we are still very much here), design dominates the project at the expense of real data efficiencies, centralized personalization and technical iteration for scaling reusable assets. This leads directly to the second blind spot.
Most mobile websites that I see are being developed with an increasingly archaic approach known as “screen scrapes,” which is akin to the dysfunctional and unsustainable approach of Web 1.0 — where every department made its own website based on an overlay of their processes and products. Screen scrapes take what doesn’t work on the browser experience and passes it directly over to the mobile experience; it’s just done in a smaller, less interactive and more annoying way for the user.
Lesson for CMOs: Do not recreate the mobile experience with the design architecture and data approach of the explorer experience. You will disappoint in the long run.
Lesson for CIOs: Scale your organization’s innovation potential for the long-run in mobile by moving to APIs as the means to future-proof against the ever-changing presentation layers of iPhones, Androids, mobile apps, and whatever else comes along. Real mobile apps, ones that please both the CMO and the CIO, are being developed at significantly less cost and complexity with the emerging technology enabler of APIs (application programming interface). Consider them as the different building blocks of a company’s digital assets (like product info, videos, customer data, etc). Each asset area can be made accessible uniquely through the API. These building blocks can now be dynamically arranged, scaled, and tracked through unique presentation layer combinations that can achieve the most logical goals of the business: Know your customer, while saving them time and pleasing them.
Drew Bartkiewicz is the API strategist at Apinomic, a New York-based agency that specializes in expanding data platforms and digital channels. Follow him @apinomic.
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