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The 21-year-old intern didn't mean to set off an email tornado. She simply asked the executive VP at a billion-dollar-a-year company why the e-commerce site didn't work on an iPhone. The executive VP is the type of non-IT exec your staff fears: tech junkie who loves gadgets, from iPhone to Xbox to Xoom to Internet TV.
He didn't have a good answer, especially since the company had been doing some major e-commerce upgrades over the last few years. You can guess what happened next--a frenzy of emails, phone calls, and quick meetings to find out exactly where IT's head was at for not iPhone-enabling the e-commerce site. A classic firestorm.
And a great opportunity for the company.
The truth is, the company's IT leaders didn't factor mobile devices into their upgrade plan. That decision, or nondecision, wasn't based upon market research or any data analysis; it just wasn't on their radar. They had bigger fish to fry and hadn't really thought about mobility. Not good.
But rather than come up with a half-baked fix, the company's IT leaders took a serious look at the opportunity. They started by analyzing existing customer buying patterns and interactions. Less than 1% of visits came from mobile devices, they learned. But that could be a chicken-and-egg problem; the company doesn't have mobile visitors because the site isn't mobile-friendly. So the team dug deeper.
The company has an active email marketing program, so IT looked at what devices customers use to open the email it sends. Less than 1% of the emails were opened on mobile devices. Day of the week or time of day didn't matter. Customers just weren't using mobile devices as part of their relationships with the company.
This finding told IT it didn't have to go into panic mode, but it also created a benchmark data point to watch--if the company sees more people opening emails with mobile devices, a mobile site should move up the priority list. It also provided a golden opportunity for the company's IT leaders to discuss customer data analytics with the executive team. They were already talking about the need for key performance indicators beyond just sales figures. and this led them to integrate stats such as Web activity, phone calls, and email volumes into analysis of customer behavior. Executives knew there were some big gaps in the data warehouse and business intelligence tools they needed to do that analysis, and this discussion helped get that software funded.
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