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Living in the Mobile Moment

Gleaning insight from contextual data in a mobile world offers rich, engaging user experiences

Insights derived from data are the key to creating successful mobile business solutions. The proper use and delivery of the data enhances each mobile moment, improves the user experience, and drives high engagement. What is a mobile moment?

Consider the following scenario. A family takes a trip to Chicago. As they drive out of Midway airport in a rental car—with one child screaming from the backseat and the navigation system speaking—they arrive unexpectedly at a tollbooth that doesn’t take bills. The driver doesn’t have change, and the car rental agency hadn’t provided an I-PASS device. In the midst of all the craziness—being from out of town, a kid screaming over the car’s navigation voice, an unexpected toll and no means to pay it—how could using data have provided a better mobile experience for this driver?

This scenario represents a mobile moment. A mobile moment is a specific situation that mobile computing can uniquely address. Mobile users typically pick up a device for a short amount of time to do one very specific task. In such mobile moments, a mobile solution must quickly engage and keep end users’ flow of thought seamless.

Engaging end users with contextual data

Findings from a recent Nielsen study show the challenge of keeping someone in the moment.* A wait time of a tenth of a second gives the feeling of instantaneous response—that is, outcomes feel as though they were caused by the device users, not their devices. A one-second response helps them maintain a seamless train of thought. They can sense a delay, but they still feel in control of the overall experience. By three seconds, device users begin to feel frustrated, and at five seconds, they are unhappy.

People want to engage more when they can focus on the content instead of on their endless wait for it. Getting data to them quickly is not a nice-to-have feature; it’s required.

Beyond speed, the way to further engage people requires contextual data. Understanding what device users are trying to do based on location, time of day, and buying preferences allows developers to make applications increasingly efficient and easy to use. Half of the people who expect a company to have a mobile app also expect the experience to change based on their context, such as location.

Contextual engagement means capturing the device user in the moment that matters. To understand the moment, developers may need more data than they have. In the previously described tollbooth example, the navigation application really needed data about where tollbooths were located and the payment options available to drivers.

Favorable mobile strategies leverage several data sources to close these kinds of gaps—but taking data from multiple sources can pose challenges. Structured and unstructured data needs to be stored in a way that enables fast access and filters only the data that is essential to device users. Too much data exposed to them creates information pollution.

In the tollbooth dilemma, the driver wanted the phone to clearly provide what needed to be known about the tollbooth. In those mobile moments, many people are task oriented instead of being prepared to gather information. Developers must create apps that engage device users by distilling the signal from the noise and avoid contributing to information pollution. Determine what they need to know in specific situations and provide that data in a simplified, elegant manner. After quickly using context, closing the data gaps, and canceling the noise to give end users timely, relevant information, developers can use that clarity to make the device user experience personal.

Enhancing mobility with personalization

Data-driven mobile value is about personalization. Success is recognizing the boundary between customizing experiences and violating privacy. During the previously described trip to Chicago, the driver would have loved having the navigation application know she was from out of state and provide the information that a non-local end user wouldn’t have known. This scenario shows how data insights in the mobile world influence tailored experiences that engage and excite people. With the proper use of data, developers can create intelligent and effective business solutions that enhance each mobile moment.

Please share any thoughts or questions in the comments.

*Website Response Times,” by Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group, June 2010.