When I look at how people use their mobile phone I always end up with the very same conclusion.
We tend to look at things with our eyes and not really with the eyes of your customers. Having a quick look at who is sitting near to me I find a bunch of tech savvy, marketing minded, well educated people. This is not the typical environment we will find out there.
Going back to customers I can see that when they use their mobile phone they feel very confident about some typical usage.
They know how to make a voice call. They know how it works on their handset, they know how much it costs and they know what to expect. At little bit less degree of confidence comes the video call. The same happens with text messaging and, again, with picture messaging and e-mail.
Most of them know how to buy a ringtone.
A smaller number of them know how to browse the web using their mobile.
Operators on the other side are trying to push new and innovative services, most of them on the data side. We see Skype coming to handsets, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Go!, just to say some of the most common applications. Every operators on the other side is launching proprietary services to increase revenues.
At the end of the market chain we have the mobile phone manufacturer pre-installing applications on their devices.
I think this is the place where the industry is not doing very well.
Just a quick example.
Today I am using a phone which is still not in the market. I am diving deep in the menu structure of the device and I stop to the RSS Reader application.
The first consideration is: how many customers do really know what is an RSS feed? How many of them can tell how much they will spend using the application?
The second consideration is: how do we expect the customers to find the RSS Reader application when it’d hidden deep in the menu structure of the mobile phone?
Let’s see what Wikipedia says about RSS:
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content including, but not limited to, blog entries, news headlines, and podcast. An RSS document (which is called a “feed” or “web feed” or “channel”) contains either a summary of content from an associated web site or the full text. RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with web sites in an automated manner that can be piped into special programs or filtered displays.
RSS content can be read using software called an “RSS reader”, “feed reader” or an “aggregator“. The user subscribes to a feed by entering the feed’s link into the reader or by clicking an RSS icon in a browser that initiates the subscription process. The reader checks the user’s subscribed feeds regularly for new content, downloading any updates that it finds.
Well, it does not help to spread the word to non tech savvy customers.
Why don’t we try a different approach?
Let’s say that we want to offer a service which delivers news to our customers.
What happens in real life for the average customer? He will stop by his preferred newsstand, he will hand over a coin to the vendor and he will pick up his preferred newspaper. At a later stage he will start reading his newspaper. The day after the very same thing will happen.
If we look at this from an operator point of view we should think something like this:
- We want to deliver news to the customer on a timely basis charging him for the service just like it happens in real life.
- From a technical point of view there is no better way to implement this as a list of RSS feeds from the main newspapers and news site and install an RSS Reader on the mobile phone to let the customer access the service.
- On the mobile phone do not use the words “RSS Reader” for the application but something like “News!” and change the icon from the standard RSS icon to a more friendly newspaper icon.
- Put the application at the very first level of the User Interface or even in the idle screen.
- Ask the user how often he wants to stop at the newsstand. (Hourly, daily, etc. etc.)
- Charge the user as you prefer.
We have used the very same technology I can find in the phone I am using but we have delivered it to the customer in a way he can easily understand, and, hopefully, use.
The very same approach can be used for other informations coming from RSS Feed. For each bunch of information simply user a different metaphor. Change the icon and the wording for the title of the application. It will still be the same application but it will be much more usable from the customer and, at least, he will understand.