THE BLOG
09/19/2014 09:52 am ET Updated Nov 19, 2014

The Art of Borrowing a Mobile Moment

Companies began in earnest to develop apps for their customers with the launch of the iTunes app store in 2008. Today Apple boasts more than 1,300,000 apps.

Brands love it when customers take the time and make the investment to first find and then to download their app. They love it even more when that customer opts in for messaging or location sharing. Apps offer brands a phenomenal opportunity to learn about their customers along with their motivations and needs. Add in a sprinkling of context (e.g., location, time of day, preferences) and brands can anticipate the needs of their customers and then serve customers in their mobile moments of need.

Sounds great, right? So what's the catch? Most customers won't download a brand's app.

Why? Three phenomena are in play:

First, consumers love apps, but they are saturated. Consumer adoption or app download pace has slowed. Chances are if a customer is loyal and engages frequently with a brand, he or she has already downloaded the app.

Second, home screens are cluttered with apps. Consumers find themselves swiping through pages of icons to find what they want. They are fatigued. Apps simplified their lives, but now they need a solution to simplify their phones. So, they are gravitating towards a handful of platforms or system apps that make their lives easier. For example, they may open up Passbook to board a plane or pay for Starbucks. Or, they may use a map app to get restaurant reviews.

Third, apps are overkill for too much of what consumers want to do. The vast majority of mobile phone interactions are simply glances. Consumers glance at their phones to see a bank balance, who just called, or what just went on sale.

But does this mean brands, ranging from retailers to banks to airlines, are doomed? Certainly not. But, they do need a strategy for mobile engagement that goes beyond an app they own and operate.

Brands need to borrow mobile moments.

Forrester defines a mobile moment as the point in time and space when a person pulls out his or her phone to get what he or she wants immediately, in context. Today, consumers do this 150 to 200 times each day.

Borrowed mobile moments are moments that belong to someone else. What does this mean to brands? They have to go engage with their customers where they already are - on Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp, Amazon.com, etc.

Uber offers one of the best examples in the US. Consumers can download the Uber app and book cars directly within it. Or, they can book Uber within Google Maps or the United Airlines app. Uber borrows mobile moments from both United Airlines and Google.

WeChat in China offers a breadth of examples of how brands can borrow mobile moments. Consumers can do everything from ordering takeout food to buying Converse shoes, or hailing a taxi.

For firms that don't already have a relationship with their consumers on the mobile device, borrowed moment will be an important strategy to win and retain consumers' loyalty in the mobile moment.