People struggle to put their smartphones down, even if just for a second. We're used to being plugged in 24/7. When we wake up, the first thing we do is check email. And when we have a spare second during the day, we immediately reach for our phones.
This constant, always plugged-in mentality is a relatively new thing. And it's completely redefined the way consumers interact with, perceive, and pay for products/services. I'll talk about these changes, and what they mean to me – as a consumer – below.
1. Apps Are An Expectation, Not A Nice-To-Have
Marc Andreessen says “software is eating the world”. I'd say that's about right – especially when it comes to services. Take taxis as an example...
...5 years ago, if you wanted a taxi, the process would go like this:
- Call the dispatch office;
- Give them your address;
- Explain that, as the taxi firm, it's their job to “know where the heck that is”;
- Be told your taxi will be 5 minutes;
Get in your taxi 30 minutes later, and pay double the amount you were quoted on the phone.
- That was, at least, until Uber came into play. Now, if I want a taxi, all I have to do is click a button. The app pinpoints my location, sends a driver my way, and even shows me where they are on a map. That means no awkward phone conversations and no wondering where your driver is.
Even payment is easier. No money changes hands between driver and passenger – the app takes it straight out of my bank account. And because the entire process is streamlined, it's actually cheaper than a normal taxi. Uber's a well-known case by now, but there are examples of software redefining the way we buy services all across the board.
The problem is, however, that this kind of service is getting so common that when I have to do something the normal way – like dealing with an awkward dispatch operator – it feels like a bit of a chore. So in a few years or so, especially for Gen Yers like myself, services like Uber won't be a nice surprise; they'll become an expectation.
2. We're All Discerning Customers
In the past, companies selling to consumers could sometimes get away with embellishing the truth. They could bump up their prices that little bit too much, or claim their product was the market-leader when, in fact, it was anything but.
But now, thanks to mobile, consumers have a world's worth of knowledge right at their fingertips. We're all discerning customers; we know your product inside out. Nothing gets past us.
Before I go ahead with any purchase worth more than $150, I do my research. I plough through any articles I can get my hands on, so I know everything I'd ever possibly need to know about the thing I'm buying.
By the time it comes to handing over my money, I know what price I should be paying, what problem signs I should be looking out for, who the main sellers are, and anything else I could possible need to know. And I find all of that information in less than 10 minutes.
All of this means that the places I do come back to time and time again have a few things in common:
- Fair prices – I shop around for every reasonably pricey purchase. By the time it comes to entering my PIN, I know how much I should be paying. That's not to say I'll chose one store over another for a $5 saving, but it does mean I can't be ripped off.
- They're open and informative – For considered purchases like, say, a wetsuit, the stores I go back to time and time again give me the right information at the right time. They have FAQs, product guides and more. They give me what I need to make a decision without pushing me towards their particular product.
- No marketing-speak – A consequence of smart phones and tablets becoming so popular is that millennials like me are plugged in 24/7. And as an extension, that means we're being marketed to all day every day. We're sophisticated, and we've heard it all before. Exaggerations will fall on deaf ears.
3. Social Currency Rules All
Mobile has had a huge impact on social media usage. Now that you have real-time, 24/7 access to it, it's your #1 destination for venting, praising and criticising. That means it's the ultimate litmus test to see whether or not something is any good.
As an example, I moved to the city at the beginning of the year. Once I'd settled in, I started shopping around for a new Muay Thai gym to train at. I was looking for somewhere with clean facilities and a good mix of people – decent skill levels, but no meatheads.
A few years ago, before mobile started adding rocket fuel to social media, I would've been left to look at each gym's biased website and maybe visit each one individually in person.
But all I had to do this time was look at each gym's Facebook profile. Any gym with decent attendance levels will have at least 200 “were here” counts, so that was my first check. Then, I had a look at each page's activity – what they were posting, how they came across, (judging from the photos) how they seemed to approach training and what their relationship was like with students.
By doing this I narrowed down my options from 5 gyms down to the one I'm currently training at. The winner, in this case, had the following things working in its favour:
- Frequent posts – they keep students updated with changes to the timetable and/or events coming up, proving they're organised and don't mess people around;
- People rated them well – the gym in question had a long list of glowing reviews on Facebook, and whenever gym members posted on their wall they seemed to have a good relationship with the instructors;
- A laid back, friendly attitude – I was looking for a gym full of people looking to get fit and improve their skills, not beat each other black and blue.
Social media really was the only thing I used to choose a gym. That's the case for a lot of people, with a lot of similar services, too. People use it to get a quick feel for a brand's real personality – warts and all. There's less room to hide on social media.
As more and more people use smart phones and turn to social media to share their opinions – good or bad – it's obvious just how important being the popular, easy-to-speak to offering on social media will become.
Learn more about how Mobility as a Service (MaaS) from Certus can help you produce mobile apps faster than ever before.
by Ben Lawton