This blog is the first part of a three-part series. Click to read Part 2 and Part 3.

Companies currently focused only on mobile first are at risk of falling behind the customer experience curve. The next wave of customer experience design, ‘context first’, holds the potential to create a far more seamless and effective customer experience and will soon replace mobile first as the leading approach to customer experience design.

Mobile first: the once upon a time

Without question, the ubiquity of smartphones is driving many companies to adopt a mobile first design strategy. Indeed, numerous Fortune 500 companies, including United Airlines, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and Starbucks, have recently transitioned to mobile first design.

This design strategy helps designers break free of the ‘design-by-removal’ trap: having to design a mobile app by removing functions designed for a 12”-14” computer screen.

Mobile first has been a clarion call to design every experience for smaller form factors (i.e. smartphones and tablets) and then derive the website experience by creating a larger, enhanced version of the mobile experience. According to John Devanney, Managing Director at Moment, “Web experiences had become really bloated and unfocused. The value of mobile first has been to help companies simplify, clarify, and focus.”

However, a pure mobile first strategy is not enough. Moment’s Devanney concludes:

“These (leading edge) companies don’t think of themselves as mobile first anymore, but it was a strategy for them once upon a time.”

This is because, at its core, mobile first is primarily a design strategy, not a holistic approach to customer experience. It assumes the mobile experience is the end goal and therefore solves for a relatively limited scope of the overall customer experience.

Context first design

Of course, customers nowadays – both B2C and B2B – interact with a brand’s products or services through myriad touchpoints and a variety of contexts, not just on mobile devices. As Mike Roberts, Principal at Capgemini Consulting, puts it: “The customer journey is now much more complex and much more synchronized with daily life.”

Mobile first design has limited ability to account for customer context given the level of complexity in the customer journey seen today. As a result, companies following a pure mobile first strategy will miss emerging opportunities for customer engagement. A recent poll conducted by Rosetta explains the potential consequences: engaged customers buy 90% more frequently and spend 60% more per transaction.

Context first is capable of doing what mobile first cannot because it focuses first on understanding why a customer is engaging with a particular company to begin with. By applying the broader lens of customer context, experience designers can take advantage of the valuable customer data already captured by devices available today, as well as the additional data that will become available in the future.

This leaves companies much better equipped to drive customer engagement and deliver a customer experience that is both highly personalized, more ubiquitous, and responsive to each phase in a customer’s decision journey and the customer’s interaction with device technologies outside of mobile devices.

In Part 2 and Part 3 of this series, we will explore how companies can move towards context first, and take a look at several companies leading the way.

This blog was co-authored by:

Tony Fross

Tony is a Vice President and NA Lead for Digital Customer Experience. He helps clients advance their business through the application of digital strategies and technologies, creating entirely new go-to-market strategies and even businesses which were not possible before the advent of Digital.

Emily Gonthier

Emily is a Senior Consultant based in New York City. She is experienced across industries including consumer packaged goods, retail apparel and electronics manufacturing, and specializes in product launch strategy, process design and customer experience.

Rohit Mahajan

Rohit is a Senior Consultant in the New York City office. He has experience across a broad array of industries, including retail, consumer packaged goods, financial services, and life sciences. He is passionate about long-term strategy and digital innovation.