Picture it. Would you march up to a shop assistant and berate them for poor products, bad service and terrible lighting in a store? Perhaps once in a while and on a really bad day, but on a regular basis?

Now, even as an ‘marketing industry insider’, how many times have you criticised a brand or service using your mobile device? The second scenario has become commonplace for many consumers, with the digital world bringing us closer to brands with often unpredictable outcomes.

The mobile world

Much like the way people behave in their cars, consumers feel safe to criticise companies from within the hermetically-sealed bubble of their mobile device, often taking their dissatisfaction not just with the business directly but on social media and review sites. Negative tweets, furious Facebook updates and brutal TripAdvisor reviews are an instant way to vent frustrations to a wider audience. This is damaging for any company and often difficult to navigate on a daily basis.

Mobile devices are our ‘safe place’, representing an instant connection to whichever family member, friend or colleague we want to interact with, via voice, text or online. We have chosen each app, downloaded our music and can easily access the content that we like, seducing ourselves into the worlds of YouTube, Spotify, Instagram and the like. Everything is controlled and at our fingertips, creating soothing and delightful experiences. Our phones have fuelled this narcissism, as we gaze languorously into the deep, dark pools of our devices.

Interactions with brands either enhance or disturb this personalised, dreamy micro-climate. Therefore, our reactions when we don’t enjoy the rewarding and customised experience that we expect, can often be strong. 60% of smartphone users will either leave a site or move to another that offers similar products or content if they are dissatisfied with their experience (IBM Survey ‘The digital customer experience’). So how can retailers and other companies ensure positive customer experiences in an always-connected world?

Brand relationships

Retailers, as well as companies selling or providing services online (such as banks or utility providers), must focus on delivering a superior customer experience via mobile apps and mobile-first sites. They must resist the urge to think that investment in good experiences is proportionate to the size of the screen.

The medium is the message

Marshall McLuhan, the communication theorist and philosopher, was right after all – the medium really is the message. The advertising industry has recently rallied against a misplaced focus amongst marketers in regard to distribution channels, to the detriment of creative ideas (i.e. the content).

In some ways they are right, brands need to capture the attention of consumers with big ideas and dissonant points of view, but in other ways they miss the point. The device that we hold in our hands is so much more than a distributor of content. Marshall McLuhan observed in the sixties that televisions had become a technological extension of ourselves, and were profoundly changing how we chose to interact with one another. Mobiles devices have taken that to the next level, providing us with 24/7 access to infinite resources and information.  So what does that landscape mean for brands?

‘MeCommerce’, a term that we coined, means that customers are pampered individually through bespoke and personal one-to-one relationships and experiences, making them both engage in a brand’s values, but also feel a unique part of the brand’s world. We need innovation in the design process to provide enjoyment, empathy, simplicity and beauty via apps and websites. Success is making the creative output ‘shine’ seamlessly across all digital platforms.

To thrive, brands must understand the gap between a customer’s heightened expectations of any interaction and the reality of the experience. In doing so, we must create practical applications of how the ‘MeCommerce’ concept can meet customer expectations ensuring more ahhh and less argghh.

Dominic Stinton

Dominic Stinton


Dominic Stinton is a Partner at Open Reply.