American Marketer


Book excerpt: The Mobile Mind Shift

June 12, 2014

"The Mobile Mind Shift," by Ted Schadler, Josh Bernoff and Julie Ask, published by Groundswell Press 2014 copyright Forrester Research Inc. "The Mobile Mind Shift," by Ted Schadler, Josh Bernoff and Julie Ask, published by Groundswell Press 2014 copyright Forrester Research Inc.


Book excerpt

Chapter 1

The Mobile Mind Shift
A World Transformed by Mobile Moments

By Ted Schadler, Josh Bernoff and Julie Ask

Michael Sohn was on his second day of waiting, in the rain, in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Michael is a German living in Berlin and a Catholic, but he was not in the Vatican as a tourist. He was there with his 16-megapixel digital camera to do his job, which was to get a photograph of the next pope for his employer, the Associated Press (AP).

Michael huddled in the rain with dozens of other photographers and thousands of people, staring out at the chimney above the Sistine Chapel, hoping to see the white smoke that would signal the election of a new pontiff. In the wake of the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI the College of Cardinals had convened, and twice each day black smoke had risen from the chimney, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. For 48 hours, nobody had seen anything but black smoke—which meant the cardinals had not yet made a decision.

But now, late on the second day, white smoke rose from the chimney. Michael and the other photographers and pilgrims buzzed excitedly. Their long, damp wait was about to pay off. People began to jostle for position. Minutes ticked by. As if by divine command, the rain ceased.

But as day darkened into evening, Michael, 200 meters from the balcony, began to wonder if he would be able to capture the shot he’d been waiting so long to get.

A man came out on the balcony. His amplified voice floated above the crowd with a single Italian word: “Buonasera.” The pilgrims prepared to experience this moment in a way that would etch it into their memories. Nearly as one, they raised their smartphones and tablets. The man looking from the balcony saw the entire crowd brightly lit with the flashes of the smartphones. And at that moment, the photographer Michael Sohn realized that the most profound transformation taking place was not on the balcony, but in the eyes and hands of the crowd. He got the shot.

His photo of the crowd brandishing their mobile devices to capture the world’s first view of Pope Francis I has become an iconic image, spreading across the planet in the blink of an eye. With a photographer’s unique perspective, Michael had noticed how visitors to Rome experienced every sight through smartphone cameras. “They leave, they never knew what they saw,” he told us.

And now they were doing the same in St. Peter’s Square. At this transcendent moment, their photos and videos of the scene in the square began spreading across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr, and WhatsApp . . . and ricocheting from person to person in endlessly forwarded emails and text messages. Their mobile devices had become such a central part of their experience that raising them at that moment was second nature—they and their phones experienced the moment together.

They had made the mobile mind shift. And now the rest of the planet is shifting as well. Are you ready to meet their demands?

What Is the Mobile Mind Shift? What’s Happening Here?
The iPhone launched in 2007. By 2013, the convenience and control afforded by the iPhone and its competitors has caused our expectations to rise. Like those pilgrims in Rome, we have learned that anything we need will be available anywhere, at any time, on our smartphones. You have a smartphone; you know this. Your ability to control your personal sphere, the things you care about both in your life and your work, has dramatically improved. Your mind has shifted to expect all that and more. And you’ve made the shift without even thinking about it. Your control over the things you care about is so ubiquitous and natural as to be invisible. You expect to have apps (and mobile sites) that empower you with information and service as a fundamental privilege of living.

Almost without realizing it, you and a billion other people worldwide have made smartphones your constant companion. Whenever we have a free moment, we pull out our smartphone and check our email or our Facebook, play a game, watch a film clip, or search the Internet. In China, we might use WeChat instead of Facebook, but the dynamic remains the same. Mobile devices have become our go-to tool for the basic things of life. But they are also much more than that. With 1 million apps in Apple’s and Google’s app stores, mobile devices have become high-value tools for getting things done. No longer do we wait to sit down to go online. We just tap the app and refill a prescription, pay a bill, check in for a flight, buy a movie ticket, browse job listings, or set the thermostat so the house is warm when we get home. Or snap a photo of a car accident and file an insurance claim. Or any of a thousand other things.

Mobile devices are not just improving our personal lives. They are also accelerating the way we work. All our files are available in Dropbox. And we can pull up a customer record on our tablet before walking into a meeting and see the latest status of an order. We can tap into the sales data right in a budget meeting. We expect to be able to get work done anywhere, on any device, at any time. And we act on our own to get things done regardless of whether our company helps us or tries to stop us.

The shift is accelerating. We can get more things done every day because entrepreneurs and innovators seize on the new opportunities created by a billion mobile devices. Using a car service website to book a ride to the airport is nice. Uber is nicer. You tap the app and see what limos are available and how far away they are right in the moment you need one. A few more taps and you set up a place to connect with your driver.

EBay is nice. You can order things when you’re in front of your computer and have them shipped to your home. EBay Now is nicer. You can order just about anything and have it delivered in an hour to the park bench at the southwest corner of Union Square where you are will be eating lunch.

Our lives have become a collection of mobile moments in which we pull out a mobile device to get something done immediately wherever we are.

The result of this accumulated experience with mobile apps is that our minds have shifted. Not only can we do new things. We now also expect new things. We expect to be able to get whatever we want whenever we want it wherever we are. We’re disappointed when it’s not there.

When we don’t immediately find what we want, we turn to the app store on our phone or tablet and look for a service that can help us directly: Twitter for news, ESPN for sports updates, Google Maps for finding the best train to Firenza, Instagram for photo bragging, LoseIt! For calorie counts before ordering lunch, Yelp for dinner recommendations, and OpenTable for booking a table at that restaurant.

Mobile moments are global. In Beijing we use Didi Dache to order a taxi or Anjuke to find an apartment or Touch China to get a recommendation for a late night bar with live music. In Paris we use Solocal to find the nearest family-owned bakery. TootPay facilitates our payments in Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Sky Go in the U.K. broadcasts the live sports matches we crave. In Korea, we play games published by Anipang on the KakaoTalk platform.

The mind shift and rise of mobile moments in our day are just getting started. By 2017, 2.5 billion people will own smartphones and 905 million people will use tablets at home and work—nearly three times as many as in 2013.3 That’s a lot more customers perpetually connected to the information and services they need. And the services they can receive on a smartphone or tablet are also still in their infancy. A million apps is a lot, but the world has over 900 million public websites and at least that many internal company sites.4 So we’re betting that those million apps will become 10 million by 2020.

All this convenience and control is creating a Pavlovian response: We feel a need, no matter how fleeting, so we pull out an app to satisfy it. We call this Pavlovian response the mobile mind shift.

The mobile mind shift is the expectation that I can get what I want in my immediate context and moments of need.

What, exactly, has shifted? Our behavior, of course. There’s no waiting to go online. We are always online. We can pull out a smartphone or tablet and immediately get the information and service we need to act. We’re never lost or without resources. But it’s not just our behavior. Our minds have shifted, too.

Our minds have shifted in two fundamental ways. There is a shift in expectations: We expect that we can get what we want on any device at any time. Already, 52 percent of highly mobile people are frustrated when something they want isn’t available on their smartphone.5 And there is a shift in control over the things we care about: our files and photos, our financial information, even our glucose meter and the smoke detector in our house. We also expect to control things at work, such as information we need in meetings or to serve our customers.

Redefining Relationships One Mobile Moment at a Time
The mobile mind shift has rewritten the rules for relationships between companies and their customers. Customers and employees who have made the mobile mind shift take out their phones or tablets and expect service in a mobile moment. What do we mean by a mobile moment? Simply:

A mobile moment is a point in time and space when someone pulls out a mobile device to get what he or she wants immediately, in context.

Mobile moments redefine every customer relationship. If a customer wants information or service in a mobile moment, that is your moment to shine. Be there, and your customers will come to depend on you, deepening their loyalty and providing valuable information that your company can use to further improve the relationship.

This truly is the age of the customer—winning, serving, and retaining customers has become the one and only way a company can profit and differentiate itself.6 But serving customers now means serving them in their mobile moments. If you are absent in those moments, that customer will turn to someone else who is providing a better mobile service. Who is ready to serve them in a mobile moment? Increasingly, it’s an entrepreneur.

How Entrepreneurial Minds Exploit and Create the Mobile Mind Shift
A handful of innovative companies and a horde of entrepreneurs have figured out how to apply technology to solve problems in a customer’s mobile moment. These digital disruptors swarm around your customers and attack your markets. They relentlessly experiment with new business models that serve people in their immediate context and moments of need. They think differently and they execute differently to serve customers and employees primed by the mobile mind shift. They don’t just build apps; they design a complete mobile engagement from the experience on the glass through to execution and fulfillment.

These entrepreneurs and innovators, unencumbered by legacy business and operating models optimized for the PC or Web era, have mastered a key concept: When someone gives you permission to be in their pocket, this creates the potential for a profitable mobile moment.

When entrepreneurs from every walk of life and business spot a mobile moment, they attack. Cody Rose, who as the son of a family of restaurateurs calls himself a “restaurantrepreneur,” says: “We look for annoying things in everyday life that can be fixed with a mobile app. Then we jump on it.” His first app, at NoshList, helped greeters in restaurants send texts to people when their tables were ready. He now leads enterprise products at mobile payment startup Square, the app that many companies use to process payments anywhere.

Entrepreneurial companies and services like Deezer, Flipboard, Hailo, HotSchedules, Intuit, MyFitnessPal, Line, M-Pesa, Nest Labs, Parrot, Proteus, Roambi, Sound World Solutions, Square, Tencent, Twitter, Uber, WhatsApp, WTSO, and many others are building substantial new businesses sometimes by disrupting an existing market. There are tens of thousands of them. Every one of these apps exploits a mobile moment to plug the gap between what people want to do and what a mobile device helps them to do. And each new app advances the mobile mind shift as people become aware of their new power. When people see that they can do a new thing—or an old thing more conveniently and immediately—they incorporate it into the way they live and work.

Intel’s former chairman Andy Grove famously wrote “Only The Paranoid Survive.” But you’re not paranoid if they’re really out to get you. And these entrepreneurs really are out to get you. Every mobile entrepreneur and every competitor is attacking your customer’s mobile moments.

Every industry and every market and every economy will shift under this onslaught of entrepreneurial energy. We’ll revisit this theme of entrepreneurial energy throughout the book because it reveals lessons on how to identify and win the mobile moments in your customers’ and employees’ days.

Ted Schadler, Josh Bernoff and Julie Ask, analysts at Forrester Research, co-authored “The Mobile Mind Shift: Engineer Your Business to Win in the Mobile Moment.” Reach them at, and, respectively. © 2014 Forrester Research Inc. Published by Groundswell Press.

This book excerpt was reprinted with permission.