Why Is Everyone Talking About Mobile?

Mobile. It’s hot. You’ve seen amazing statistics like how marketers will spend seven billion dollars this year on mobile ads, up 55 percent over last year, or how mobile Internet will take over desktop Internet usage by 2014. My favorite: 75 percent of Americans bring their phones to the bathroom. My second favorite: By the end of this year, there will be more mobile devices on Earth than people.

Yes, mobile is hot. It’s everywhere, it’s growing, and it’s evolving everyday. We’re all connected to it. We understand it. We get it. We use it… and we love it. But most importantly, we need it, especially those of us with franchised businesses that sell products or services to people just like ourselves, who, I’ll dare say, cannot live without our phones.

What would you do if you were stranded in a parking lot and didn’t know how to jump start a car? Or if you were out with your friends looking for the nearest pizza joint with the highest customer ratings? My first (and only) instinct would be to look for my iPhone. And if it wasn’t charged, I’d feel hopelessly devastated (seriously). Our phone has become a pandora’s box filled with answers and solutions to life. And if you disagree, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll become a part of this evolutionary reality.

Last year, the buzz was all about social media. Facebook went public, Instagram set records, and Pinterest became an addiction. We became obsessed with words like “engagement”, and not having a presence on Twitter became almost as embarrassing as still having one on MySpace. We loved social media so much that, according to friends of mine who are marriage counselors, over a third of their clients have come in with relationship problems triggered by social media, like flirting with an ex on Facebook.

Despite social media’s popularity, 2012 ended with even more buzz about mobile. Nobody could avoid talking about mobile because of the simple fact that everyone on this planet wanted or owned a mobile device. Or two. The debate over whether or not we need mobile device is no longer relevant. People look at you differently if you don’t have a cell phone number. We get super excited about 4G LTE. We panic when we lose cell reception. We exercise with our phones. We expect our phones to wake us up. We look forward to our next upgrade; we get devastated when our favorite apps like Google Maps gets replaced. And we visit our doctors to treat repetitive stress injuries from spending an unhealthy amount of time typing with our thumbs (or maybe that has happened only to me, on two occasions). Our need for mobile has become so strong that it has made Apple, a computer company, the most popular phone vendor in the United States. Yes, that’s how much we love mobile, and that love is only getting stronger.

Mobile has become very important because we no longer use it only for communicating with each other. Mobile technology has evolved into something significantly more important. Mobile devices have become our perfectly-compatible digital personas through which we express our feelings, find information we need, buy gifts for one another, look for people to date, spend hours attacking green-colored pigs with multiples species of birds, and shoot millions of pictures and videos to capture those moments that only the convenience of the phones in our pockets can. Some devices even have interactive personalities with names like Siri.

The explosion of social media apps have undoubtedly fueled this evolution by providing us with a growing number of reasons to stay connected to our mobile devices, at all times, even when we are in the bathroom. To see this in real life, put your phone down (if you can) the next time you’re in a bar, theater, classroom or airplane, and take slow and deliberate looks around you. If you don’t notice a legion of people with their eyes glued to a mobile device, I’ll treat you to a cup of frozen yogurt, but only if you promise to turn off your phone for a day.

Clearly, it’s obvious why mobile is hot. We spend a lot of time on it. In fact, we now spend more time with mobile apps than we do watching television. 12 percent of the media we consume is through mobile. And year after year, we spend more money buying things with our phones. But can these simple realities be the only reasons why mobile is as important as it is? As business owners, we should be interested in becoming a part of the devices or channels that consumers love and spend a lot of time on. This is why we still spend the majority of our advertising dollars on traditional media like television, radio, billboard and print. But why are companies focusing a disproportionately significant amount of time on their mobile initiatives? Why, at Red Mango, is mobile the focal center of our entire advertising strategy?

The answer to this question is the same reason why, in my opinion, mobile is more important to franchise systems than most other business enterprises. The answer to this question has to do with the simple fact that the majority of us who own and operate franchised businesses do so with a brick-and-mortar storefront. Sounds strange, right? I’ll clarify.

At a basic level, mobile is important because it helps us do a lot of important things that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do, like finding the closest gas station in a foreign country. And for many things we have been doing, mobile makes them easier, faster and more enjoyable. This is why we, as consumers, invest a lot of time on our mobile devices, and why we spend more money buying things with our phones than ever before. And this is why businesses really do need a mobile presence (an app, for example), and why they need to advertise within mobile ecosystems.

Mobile devices are even more important to franchise owners because they enable brick-and-mortar stores to connect with their customers in a highly relevant way, even after those customers exit the stores. Take a restaurant, for example. Unless an eatery is part of a ginormous brand with a lot of locations and a huge advertising budget, the most meaningful opportunity it has to make a memorable impression on its customers is when they are inside of the restaurant’s four walls. Once the customers leave, it becomes very difficult, if not nearly impossible, for the store to activate and sustain a meaningful connection with those customers. Unlike online businesses, who can use technologies like web cookies to connect with their customers after initial contact, brick-and-mortar businesses have historically been confined to tools like email lists, guest loyalty programs and traditional shotgun-style advertising methods that may or may not work.

Fortunately for many small business owners, the rise of social media has helped evolve this inflexible brick-and-mortar customer relationship management paradigm by creating dynamic and engaging environments, like Facebook and Twitter, which allow brands to connect and communicate with their fans beyond those opportunities that were previously confined to the insides of stores.

As advances in mobile technology continue to fuel the proliferation of social networks beyond the desktop computer, mobile devices will amplify the accessibility and relevance of social media in our lives, and make our phones that much more important. Essentially, mobile technology will allow us to maintain and cultivate personal and professional relationships wherever we take our mobile devices, which, if you think about it, is in essence everywhere. This simple reality is the fundamental reason why mobile is as important as it is today.

Like a lot of people, I always have my phone within arm’s reach. If I don’t, it’s because I’ve inadvertently allowed someone to confiscate it (like my wife or daughter, for different reasons), or I’m under a body of water (which I assure you will change as soon as Apple decides to waterproof iPhones). Offices, classrooms, churches, hospitals, gyms, mountains, beaches, restaurants, nightclubs, bowling alleys, dining tables, ski resorts, planes, trains, automobiles and, apparently, even the bathroom… yes, our phones are indeed everywhere. (I suspect that the 25 percent of people who don’t bring their phones into the bathroom are shy, in denial or both.) Our phones are so pervasive that we even have laws against driving with our phones in hand, and even for walking and texting.

Our phones aren’t just near us; they’re effectively attached to us. They have become a part of our very being. We slide them inside of pockets, we secure them in purses, and some still clip them on belts. We exercise with our phones, eat meals with our phones, watch television with our phones, run with our phones, drink with our phones, dance with our phones, laugh with our phones, and cry with our phones. And when the day is done, we invite our phones into the bedroom, and place them right next to where we sleep, but not without reminding them to wake us up in the morning to your favorite song, or the least annoying alarm. Yes, phones are this close to us, and we have no problem with that.

Consumers are spending an exponentially growing amount of time on mobile devices. And as mobile technology continues to permeate our lives, our phones will become even more important to everything we do, especially as mobile devices make it easier for us to stay digitally connected to each other.

But the sheer amount of time we spend on our mobile devices, and the amount of money we spend shopping with them, aren’t the only reasons why mobile is as hot as it is today, especially for many franchised businesses. Mobile has become one of the most interesting technologies of our time simply because we take our phones everywhere we go, and invite the brands we love to connect with through a device that never leaves our sides. Mobile devices present unprecedented, highly-relevant opportunities for companies to maintain close relationships with their customers, a relationship that is one of the most intimate and ubiquitous possible between a brand and a consumer.

Dan Kim is the Founder and Chief Concept Officer of Red Mango, a leading national frozen yogurt and smoothie franchise with over 200 units. He regularly engages with his 1.7+ million followers with his Twitter accounts @dankimredmango and @redmango, and has a combined Facebook fan base of nearly one million fans for /redmango and /dankimredmango. He is also active on his personal Facebook account, fb.com/frozenyogurt.

Dan Kim is the Founder and Chief Concept Officer of Red Mango, a leading national frozen yogurt and smoothie franchise with over 200 units. He regularly engages with his 1.7+ million followers with his Twitter accounts @dankimredmango and @redmango, and has a combined Facebook fan base of nearly one million fans for /redmango and /dankimredmango. He is also active on his personal Facebook account, fb.com/frozenyogurt.

For more information:

Web: www.redmangousa.com

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