The convenience of mobile devices cannot be denied. People shop, work, and interact with friends through iPhones, BlackBerrys, or Androids, anywhere, at any time – hence the name of the company I’ll be discussing in this interview. Mobiquity has taken that idea of using mobile for business and run with it. The company, which has offices in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania, helps Fortune 1000 companies devise and implement mobile strategies to help them increase business and do business more effectively.
Sramana Mitra: Hi, Bill. Why don’t you give us some context on Mobiquity, and we’ll dive into the conversation accordingly.
Bill Seibel: We’re a new company. We’re 10 months old. Our focus is helping the Fortune 1000 design, build, and deploy enterprise-class mobile solutions. That’s our difference; it’s around what we mean by enterprise class. The need we saw in the market was that mobile wasn’t just about a thin layer of code that resided on the device. That’s where many people were starting, but that’s not where anyone can really get any kind of significant business benefit. What enterprise-class really meant was to be able to connect, integrate in with the customer’s business process or IT architecture.
SM: Let’s peel that onion a bit so that our readers get a sense of what we are talking about here. I think you said you have about 70 enterprise customers?
BS: We have 70 enterprise customers, yes.
SM: Would you take some examples from your customer base and walk us through the types of applications and point out what you mean by enterprise-class mobile application?
BS: Let me start by keeping them generic customers, because what we do is really strategic to them. For a large, casual, well-known restaurant chain across the U.S., we’re redoing their entire ordering system. If anyone comes into the restaurant – actually, in two weeks – he can sign in with an iPad that’s really a kiosk that’s tied into the restaurant’s customer loyalty, redemption systems and e-commerce systems. I’m able to create my own meal through a kiosk and get the incentives that customer loyalty would provide. I can have the restaurant remember my favorite sandwich with what I like on it and be able to do that by not just having the code running on the device. In that case, a lot of work was required to implement the e-commerce system, the menu management system, and the pricing systems that lie underneath all of that.
We’re also expanding that idea to be able to support catering and the unification of all of the websites under a new brand so that the restaurant can take the brand it is creating around this mobile engagement and use that as the brand for the entire company. For them, it’s transforming the company. For us, probably 20% of the effort had to do with coding on a mobile device. Probably another 30% had to do with experienced design and analytics and some of the other services that make the application effective. The other 50% was the heavy-duty technical lifting to build the e-commerce platform and build the APIs on top of that so that the device could interact with it. That’s enterprise class in our minds because it’s using the innovation and new capabilities of mobile and connecting to the IT architecture and business infrastructure to be able to use the capability to do business differently.
SM: So, the company is going through a significant business process re-engineering. It’s not only introducing an e-commerce part of the business, but is also trying to do mobile e-commerce so people can order through their mobile devices. And you are involved in that entire user experience – the mobile experience design as well as integration with the rest of the IT infrastructure and the business infrastructure.
BS: You got it. That’s how people get the real benefit out of mobile. Being a bit of a technology historian, I would point you back to the early days of the Web. The first investment companies were building standalone websites. People were arguing about whether their own internal Web masters were as good as one of the 12,900 Web development firms out there that just built static websites that would bring out static marketing content and call them brochureware. Then the change went from that to Web-enabled business processes. You started to see many companies leveraging that technology, integrating it in with their business architecture and IT infrastructure. That’s exactly the bet we made with Mobiquity, that there’s a change from people looking at mobile as just a standalone application on a device that doesn’t bring much in the way of business information to mobile-enabled business processes.
Another example is a financial services firm. This is one I can name: Putnam. Putnam has a retirement fund. Their challenge is, how do you get people to pay attention to what their retirement is and understand it? It was a few-step process with them. The first step was how to get people to understand what retirement savings really is. If you get a statement at the end of the month that says you have $20,000 in there, is that good or bad? What they’ve done with the device is connected to all of the analytics and simulations they have back on their servers so that you can reset a set of assumptions about yourself, when you’re going to retire; where you’re going to live when you do; how much you’ll be making during that period. On your iPhone, it gives you a picture of what your retirement check – your monthly take-home check – would be when you retire at whatever age you’ve put in, by tying back to Putnam’s servers and doing thousands and thousands of simulations to predict that.
The second phase is, now that people understand, how can you get them to put more into their retirement accounts? That was leveraging the scanning capabilities of mobile devices. If I’m interested in buying a large-screen TV, for example, and I’m in BestBuy I scan the bar code through the device. Now I’m able to see alternatives where I can buy that same TV for less. If I [make a mock purchase] through, let’s say, Amazon, and save $300, the Putnam app will come back and prompt me and say, look we just saved you $300. If you put that $300 into your retirement account, here’s how much your paycheck goes up based on the assumptions that you’ve made. So, there again, it’s one that’s tied into the infrastructure and the architecture to try to inform the way people think about managing their retirement accounts.