Connecting the offline and online worlds

Updated: Dec 29 2011, 09:21am hrs
Compact enough to slip into a pocket, while powerful enough to surf the internet, send email, be our social media handle, and even make video callsthe mobile device has transformed into a multi-purpose consumption device, which can be used to play online games, watch movies, peruse a digital magazine, chat with our friends and stay connected all the time.

The mobile internet is driving another wave of transformation for the mobile phone, which enables it to play an even greater role in our everyday lives. As per IMRB Internationals latest estimates, the number of claimed mobile internet users has risen to nearly 35 million, and the number of active mobile internet users has also increased to 26.3 million. The adoption of mobile for accessing internet is expected to grow in the immediate future.

As it evolves into our 24x7 companion, the mobile phone will actually become less defined solely by the concept of mobility, rather it will become the first gateway to a consumers anywhere experiences. Today, we want to access whatever we needanytime, anywhere; and this is changing our expectations from the mobile experience completely. The cellphone is no longer just a companion device, it is an extension of our livesenabling continuous connection to our interests, priorities and people.

To say that mobile devices have become ubiquitous is simply an understatement. Today, the mobile phone is so ingrained in our lifestyle that it has practically become inseparable and a convenient extension of our lives. Few years ago we were an evolving world of mobile adoption, the mobile handset was a utility. Now the mobile device is an extension of our desktop. Search and social have migrated to the mobile device. SMS drives conversation and just as search has become a utility for the desktop, the smartphone is now the defacto device for driving purchases, for buying tickets, for research, email and making phone calls.

As an always on companion, mobile phones have opened the realm of interactive experiences for users. It allows multiple interactions over tasks that fit within our everyday activities. For instance, many people do not simply sit down in front of the TV anymore. Instead, they tend to interact with their mobile phones simultaneously, browsing the Web or checking email while also watching movies or news. Dont we often text a friend while watching an exciting game of cricket, track stats and see cricketers profile through the mobile internet and comment or tweet about the same on our social networks It enhances our TV viewing experience in different locations.

This trend has not gone unnoticed by software developers and television programmers. While engineers are busy designing mobile and tablet applications to enhance the TV-viewing experience, the biggest broadcast and cable-television channels are racing to launch mobile and tablet apps linked to their broadcast networks and use it simultaneously with the TV shows. The hope is that viewers will tune in live and interact.

The real power of our converged online/offline interactions in mobile phones now come from real-time contextual offers, and advertisements which can change our behaviour long before any transaction occurs. Information is automatically updated and personalised on our mobile phones to match our past behaviours.

In my view, mobile, rather than distancing people from the real world, has made them more effective in dealing with it. It has become the utility that drives our online and offline interactions. It has brought the online world to the physical location in which its consumption is most effective. As the remote control of our daily personal lives, the mobile phone has become both an enabler and recipient of merged physical and digital experiences.

A context on its own

The first thing to say is that the users experience on the mobile Web is often completely different from his or her experience of the Web on their laptop or desktop computer. Mobile phones are personal devicesunlike PCs, which can be shared. Context involves the use of information about the consumer, such as location, to personalise or tailor experiences to minimise manual entries. This is where the mobile phone becomes a vital tool in helping to gather, and process contextual information.

Local content now dominates the mobile internet, with users increasingly seeking information on maps, weather, traffic, retail and other local content. They look at the task at hand, and find an app that fits that need. It has become more vertical as people use it for shopping, local services, restaurants, travel, music and so forth, which are quite different from web search. It is much more contextual and location.

Its mobile first

Companies, today, are aligning their marketing strategies to evolving user behaviour and hence mobile features bang at the centre of their focus. Internet companies are developing innovative mobile-first experiences and provide consumers with simple, open, compelling and feature-rich applications that increase audience and engagement for mobile services. Businesses are going beyond print and TV to include mobile solutions to gain access to a whole new world of consumer marketing that

includes potential buyers of all ages and varying interests.

Publishers, media companies and application developers are eager to know how they should optimise their content for particular devices that makes for a compelling user experience. Advertisers want to leverage the power of the medium to reach an audience of millions.

From a portable calling device, the mobile phone is today increasingly becoming a consumption device, with enormous possibilities. It is an integral and rather indispensable feature of our life, driving our lifestyle, connections and our social network Its one device that seems to have it all.

The writer is CEO, Yahoo! India R&D