Every year we host the Naspers Mobile Summit, an invitation-only event for around 120 team leaders from across the globe. We bring together colleagues in areas like mobile engineering, UX/design, product management and marketing/growth from companies like OLX, Flipkart,PayU, ShowMax and redBus.
One of the best things about working for an international organisation like Naspers is that we invest significant time and money in physically bringing people from across our companies together in the same room to share ideas, build relationships and learn from each other.
Looking back, what did I learn from this year’s Mobile Summit?
1. Continuous innovation must be woven into the fabric of a business
Alec Oxenford and Guido Van Oorschot of mobile classifieds business, letgo discussed how they drive constant product innovation by relentlessly monitoring customer feedback, competitive benchmarks and internal metrics. They emphasised that letgo has been able to disrupt the legacy online classifieds market by embracing constant change and taking advantage of mobile’s immediate and locally-aware user experience.
2. Mobile can be the connector, not always the disruptor
In his wide-ranging presentation, Scott Galloway, Clinical Professor of Marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business, shared countless examples of mobile entrants who have disrupted established incumbents and industries. Large tech players like Apple are increasingly taking a bite out of entire segments, with even the lacklustre reception of the Apple Watch contributing revenue growth last year that dwarfed total revenues for many old-line luxury goods companies.
However, Scott also stressed that retailers should view the mobile device as the connecting tissue between in-store and online experiences. This was a powerful idea: mobile is increasingly not just another channel but the very heart of the relationship between brand and customer.
3. Everybody is a 2G user sometimes
Google’s web performance evangelist Ilya Grigorik talked about the need to build resilient applications that can overcome the challenges of unreliable networks, low-cost handsets and near-depleted battery usage.
Ilya argued that it’s not enough simply to build for the 2G user (e.g., Facebook’s famous “2G Tuesdays” initiative), because even consumers in 4G markets experience 2G or offline situations many times a day. Ilya explained that successful applications can both take advantage of peak performance and adapt to degraded conditions. He recommended technical tactics including: caching application shells on the client, setting explicit timeouts and fallbacks and assessing and adapting to the user’s specific device state and settings.
4. Great teams prioritize learning over growth
Lean UX author and evangelist Jeff Gothelf believes that teams build the best mobile experiences when the design team is fully engaged throughout the process. Jeff chronicled the dangers of shipping feature after feature without instilling a process for learning from each new release. He argued that great teams are continually trying to move up the “truth curve,” from the fantasy of an early, untested idea to the truth of empirical learnings gleaned from customers using prototypes and working iterations of that idea.
5. Mobile excels at the intersection of psychology, technology and business
Author, blogger and entrepreneur Nir Eyal gave us insight into the psychology behind the best habit-forming mobile experiences. Nir revealed how addictive mobile products, like Instagram or Pokémon GO, build upon emotional triggers like boredom or curiosity to establish high-frequency loops between usage and psychologically-aligned rewards.
Importantly, Nir encouraged mobile developers to engage their users in something important and meaningful, paraphrasing Mahatma Gandhi to suggest that developers “build the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Our global events not only provide a great opportunity to hear from some of the best and brightest in the world, but they also foster knowledge sharing across our teams. This year’s Mobile Summit included hands-on case studies from many of our companies, including Dubizzle, iFood, PlayKids and SimilarWeb. Innovators from these leading non-US players detailed the what and how of timely topics like building strong partnerships with Apple and Facebook, leveraging chat to drive transactions and getting discovered in increasingly crowded app stores.
My final take away? A line from Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Events like our Mobile Summit take time away from the day-to-day work needed to build high-growth products and businesses. But, in a world that offers ideas and experiences around every corner, it’s always time well-spent.