Industry leaders are transforming their businesses by making the user experience on mobile devices the center of their marketing strategies, according to this opinion piece by Gopi Kallayil, Google’s chief evangelist for brand marketing and Bhaskar Ramesh, head of industry, consumer packaged goods, India.

The automobile industry has long thrived in a world where cars were parked 95% of the time. But that’s all changing. In October of 2016, Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, tooled around Austin, Tex. in one of Google’s fleet of self-driving cars — no brake pads, no steering wheel. Just Steve. “It is like driving with a very good driver,” Mahan told The Washington Post. “This is a hope of independence.”

Not only could driverless cars help millions who cannot navigate roads on their own, but they also enable ride-sharing, where cars could shuttle people on multiple trips during the day. In the San Francisco Bay Area, we can look at Uber (while there’s currently much controversy around the company, they’re still a dominant name in the category). Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, founders of the ride-sharing company, created their app to connect drivers with dependable rides.

Their mission? To make transportation as reliable as running water, and they’ve done just that, in more than 540 cities worldwide. In Helsinki, MaaS Global’s Whim released a travel app that incorporates all means of transport — including walking, e-bikes, and ride-sharing to trams — to get people to where they want to go. Tap the screen on your smartphone, and the app shows you the best options, or combination of options, and handles planning, routing and booking.

Technology and ride-sharing services are disrupting the long-standing business model of personal car ownership like never before. Some estimates suggest that when the disruption reaches its peak, and we hit the new normal, the world might need one-sixth the number of cars currently in circulation. For this reason, every big auto manufacturer is hurriedly pivoting to some form of car-as-a-service.

“When the disruption reaches its peak … the world might need one-sixth the number of cars currently in circulation.”

This change doesn’t mean consumers will make fewer trips. It just means that in a truly digitized world, the user experience with cars will change dramatically for an average consumer. What makes this new approach to transport as a service possible? According to The Economist, it is the rise of the sharing economy, the idea of “usership” instead of ownership. And smartphones.

We all know we live in a mobile-first world, and this world is transformational, but do we really understand how mobile is changing the consumer journey? How it’s changing purchase decision-making? Do we all know how to win in mobile and use the signals as a learning machine? And how to execute on those signals? Are we taking advantage of everything mobile has to offer in creating magical experiences for our brand?

Winning brands do understand this massive shift in their consumers’ journey and internalize it when designing their products and communication. Just as we continue to use “cars” for transport, your product might remain the same, but how you talk about your product and how you sell to this mobile-first generation will need to change dramatically.

When you solve for this shift, you don’t just win awards, you truly start winning market share. This article celebrates a few companies who dared to reimagine their business for the digital world. And they did this by reimagining their user experience, a term often associated with the online world to suggest how easy or difficult it is to navigate a website or an app.

Bringing the Consumer Experience to the Shopper  

Over the decades, consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies mastered the art of telling stories through TV commercials and the barometer of great advertising was its ability to move brand metrics. However, the way millennials engage with content has changed fundamentally and the fact is they hate “interruption.” To win with this audience on consideration, brands need to grab their attention and go beyond reach.

Let’s look at the beauty industry. In an offline world, selling lipstick meant glossy TV ads, glamorous Hollywood stars, and a beauty advisor at the retail outlet who gave recommendations to customers about the right shade of red. Cut to the digital world. Millennials seldom watch TV ads. They adore YouTube stars more than Hollywood celebrities. And they love shopping online but aren’t as into visiting malls.

Clinique, the iconic beauty brand, gets this. When they launched their new line of products targeting millennials, the company decided to shake up makeup by making digital the “new beauty counter.” The campaign, Play With Pop, features Zara Larsson, a popular YouTube star from Sweden, who has more than 1 billion views and 3 million subscribers.

Clinique chose Larsson’s popular “Lush Life” video to communicate the core insight that a woman’s lipstick choices reflect her mood on a given day. The execution mirrors the new consumer journey that Clinique decoded to bring alive the insight exclusively online. Each color in the interactive video goes with a separate remix of the song in question, and each mix had a different video and look. Check out the experience designed for mobile (You can click through to purchase the makeup for each look.)

The campaign saw best-in-class results for the Play With Pop campaign. As a result of the exposure, searches for Clinique had gone up four times. A 10% lift was seen in consideration to buy beauty products among the core users in the age group 18 to 34. And Larsson, herself, has amassed nearly 500 million video views for her song “Lush Life,” keeping the campaign and Clinique super-relevant.

Be Useful in the Consumer’s Life

When it comes to sports apparel, Nike has inspired generations by communicating its philosophy that “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” The message had a higher order of appeal than just to hardcore athletes, which is working brilliantly for the company. For Under Armour, an underdog brand, getting into the sports apparel consumer’s consideration is a tough challenge. It used to be that consumers bought sports apparel twice a year. But in an era when consumers interact with their mobile phones 200 times per day, connecting with the consumer on two occasions annually is suicidal.

Sports brands need reasons to engage daily. In the old world, most sports brands would have bought sponsorships at stadiums, hoping users would see the halo effect on their TV sets and the sales were worth those millions of dollars. Under Armour decided on a different direction. They chose to own the user experience around fitness 100%.

Early in 2016, Under Armour acquired, a free calorie-counting and weight-management app and website, for $560 million. This investment means that Under Armour is now interacting with its consumers and providing utility three to four times a day. MyFitnessPal has more than 80 million registered users. That’s 80 million new registered users for Under Armour overnight. Together, MyFitnessPal and Under Armour’s existing apps serve 120 million users.

In October 2016, Under Armour combined MyFitnessPal with a new partnership: Mindbody, a cloud platform for wellness businesses. Now, users can book exercise classes through their app. Members get to the app from within the MyFitnessPal app by selecting “More” at the bottom of their home screen, then “Find a Class,” which will take them to a list of nearby fitness activities.

“Put on a CEO lens and look at the mobile opportunity to transform your business and reshape the user journey for your product.”

In pursuing his vision that the company’s Connected Fitness unit will “fundamentally affect global health,” founder and CEO Kevin Plank has adopted what Inc. refers to as the “world-changing ambitions more common to a Google or Facebook.” It’s this tech-first, user-journey-led thinking that is making the company a game changer in the tough sports apparel market.

Make It Easy to Experience the Brand

In another industry, Starbucks saw that when people were waiting in line to order, they were on their phones. And when they were waiting for their orders? Again, on their phones. They also saw that once the line reached a certain length, people would go somewhere else to get their coffee. So the company decided to create an app to streamline the coffee buying experience. Today, 20% of all Starbuck’s transactions are mobile.

Starbucks introduced Mobile Order & Pay, building a new consumer experience around mobile that benefits both the company and its customers. Pre-order/pay avoids peak-time lines so the company doesn’t lose any customers. Staff productivity is optimized. Maps show users how to get to a location, which is especially helpful when they’re travelling or aren’t near their regular Starbucks.

And because people can pre-load their rewards cards with a minimum of $25, Starbucks receives more money upfront, before the coffee is brewed. It’s interesting to note that Starbucks thought more like a tech company than a retailer in solving for the user experience. Their CEO, Kevin Johnson, didn’t come from the coffee industry or retail; he came from software, which certainly must have played a role in the way the company looks at its business. Beyond being a magical user experience, the app is a learning machine that is enriched with every user transaction, making it a significant competitive advantage for Starbucks over time.

“In a world where there are four connected mobile devices for every TV set, brands and businesses that embrace this new user journey are transforming the way they sell and the way they talk.”

Marketers who take a consumer-first approach (focusing on customers’ needs and behaviors to make their lives better) versus a medium-first approach (focusing on creating a campaign based on the platform such as YouTube or Facebook) will be able to engage with their consumers much better.

So, where do you begin?

  1. Put on a CEO lens and look at the mobile opportunity to transform your business and reshape the user journey for your product.
  2. Understand the micro-moments (those tiny moments in our lives when a particular topic, need, or interest surfaces) and define the new user journey for your category.
  3. Connect with the consumer during the moments when they’re most receptive.
  4. Engage users with impactful messaging that either entertains, educates, serves as a supreme utility app or involves them in co-creating the messaging.
  5. Stop measuring redundant digital metrics such as click-through rates, completion rates, bounce rates, and page visits. Instead, focus on measuring outcomes — sales, purchase intent — leveraging all the data available to help you, and use analytics platforms to make faster and better decisions.


User experience is often associated with the online world to suggest how easy or difficult it is to navigate a website or an app. The faster, smarter and more intuitive apps score higher with the user. Today, users “live” online — changing the user journeys for your entire business, not just digital, dramatically.

In a world where there are four connected mobile devices for every TV set, brands and businesses that embrace this new user journey are transforming the way they sell and the way they talk. This article is about celebrating thought leaders and their winning ways in reimagining the user experience for running and transforming their businesses — and leave them with a simple go-to framework that the authors advocate to global leaders on where to begin.