"The mobile phone is the most personal device you’ve got, aside from your keys and your wallet," observed Bob Schukai during his X Change session on mobile technology a few weeks ago.
By way of illustration he had each discussion participant tell a story about our own favorite mobile feature or technology. The stories were as unique as the individuals in the room, but they all fit into the idea that mobile is "personal." I can't resist; here's my story:
I live in a dense, urban neighborhood in San Francisco. Like a fair number of this city's residents, I don't own a car. I love the fact that I can get around locally and do most of my daily business by taking the subway, riding my bicycle, and walking.
When I do need a motor vehicle I use a car-sharing service called Zipcar. They've got cars all over San Francisco - all over North America, actually - that I can rent on the spot for an hourly fee. The closest Zipcars live 3 blocks from my house, which isn't bad considering how impossible it is to find parking here. Once I've made a reservation all I have to do is wave my magnetic membership card in front of the car; the doors unlock and the keys are inside. Gas and insurance are included. I get in and drive away.
Here's where mobile technology enters the story: Zipcar has a great mobile web site. Once I log in on my phone's browser I'm able to make, extend or cancel car reservations. This is incredibly convenient because I might not know I want to extend a reservation until I'm actually out running errands, without access to a desktop computer. If my car is available I can extend my reservation and pay my fee with a few clicks on the mobile web site. Every time I do this I think, "Zipcar just made money, AND they made me a happy customer."
Their mobile technology even amazes me when things go wrong. I recently reserved a pickup truck so I could move some furniture. When I went down to get it, though, the truck was missing - the guy who reserved it before me had failed to return it.
Right there in the parking lot I launched Zipcar's mobile site, found their customer service information, and clicked on the phone number. It auto-dialed on my phone (wow!), and when I got connected the system was smart enough to link my phone number with my Zipcar account number (wow!). I was so amazed that I almost forgot how mad I was. The customer service rep quickly found another truck for me in a nearby lot and I was on my way. I remain a happy customer.
Since I measure online behavior for a living I can't help but wonder if, how, and to what end Zipcar is tracking their mobile site usage. Are they optimizing mobile sales conversion rate? Are they watching satisfaction ratings for customers who use mobile features? Perhaps. If they're not now they will be in the future.
That's my story. Half the people in the world now have mobile phones, says Bob Schukai, and each one of us has a story. We are beginning to use the mobile web to purchase things, to locate things, to get customer support, to get entertained, you name it. As web analysts we must take note; mobile analytics is poised to play an important role in this revolution.
[See also my post on real-world challenges of mobile analytics.]