Rio 2016 has a lot to teach us about the future of mobile


The preparations for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games are well documented, from building infrastructure to battling corruption, pollution, and disease. But as the Games wind down, a different kind of work begins: analysis to understand what this year’s Summer Olympics can teach us about consumer engagement.

Leading up to this summer’s Olympics, Phunware conducted a survey of approximately 500 U.S. internet users about viewing the Games and their content preferences. The findings indicate that mobile is playing a bigger role than ever. No surprise there, but the findings from 2016 Rio Olympics: the Year of Mobile signal that mobile is no longer a second screen and reveal insights into how users want to engage.

Let’s examine why mobile is the new primary channel for fan engagement and what Olympic viewing habits and preferences uncovered by this survey can tell us about mobile best practices.

Why mobile is the new reality for fan engagement

Smartphones and tablets are ready-made for connecting with fans. They’re in every pocket and purse, so content consumption and sharing know no boundaries. Olympics fans both onsite and remote are watching events and continually sharing about them on social media. With over 7 million tickets sold and 37+ event venues (plus millions more fans watching around the globe), that’s a lot of social posting in a lot of places.

In fact, online conversation volume for Rio is already 7 percent higher than it was for Super Bowl 2016.

Of course, smartphones and tablets come packed with native features and functionality that encourage engagement and interaction. Alerts and notifications provide hard-to-ignore calls to action, right in the moment. Embedded location technology enables real-time mapping and wayfinding and dynamic content (when an app’s home screen changes depending on the city the user is in, for example). Most importantly, mobile devices enable users to choose when, how, and with what content they engage.

Some apps for the Rio Summer Games are already leveraging these native mobile technologies. The RIOgaleão airport introduced a mobile app with indoor turn-by-turn navigation to streamline travelers’ first experience with the city. The BBC Sport app’s “My Sport” feature allows users to customize results notifications for the events they care about. Still, there’s a lot of room for creative engagement that brands haven’t tapped into.

So what? Leveraging mobile to engage users, Olympics-style

There’s a lot that Olympics mobile engagement tells us about how to connect with users, and where we can go next using mobile’s unique features and functionality.

Design for mobile first — yes, really.

As much as “mobile-first” has been used as a sound bite, mobile has struggled to be seen as anything but a second screen, a companion to big-screen viewing. This year, however, it’s firmly cemented as a primary screen.

In “The Year of Mobile” survey, 70 percent of those using mobile devices said they planned to watch the Olympics directly on a smartphone or tablet, compared to just 23 percent who said they planned to use mobile as a second-screen experience.

Brands should get used to the idea of mobile as the first screen — not second — and design accordingly. An app that’s barely more than a mobile-optimized website leaves opportunity on the table. It’s critical to take advantage of the device’s hardware and software to provide an engaging user experience. For instance:

  • Add high-resolution video capabilities that encourage contextual, in-the-moment social sharing
  • Empower users to curate favorite athlete bios for sports or songs and artists for music festivals and so on, with in-app deep-linking to ecommerce merchandise sites
  • Ingest data from fans’ wearables to monitor their emotional state during events and provide relevant offers and content (the future!)
  • Use in-app behavioral analytics to inform content strategy (what events did they really watch versus what they said they cared about?)
  • Use app analytics such as commute time from home to event to seat, wait times for ticket purchasing, and other data to inform and optimize operations

Mobile-first design requires plenty of engaging content, beautiful and intuitive UX/UI, and super-high functionality. When mobile is the primary screen, bugs or crashes can be even more damaging — especially when they impact a user’s ability to watch a live event.

Go live

Speaking of live events, three out of four survey respondents were bothered by the lack of live event coverage during past Olympics, and 69 percent said “the ability to watch more events live” would make their Olympics experience more enjoyable. Mobile allows for unparalleled live viewing options, so save your audience the spoilers on social media.

The takeaway: if you produce live content, give your mobile audience the option to view it live.

Let them self-serve

More than half of consumers in our survey said they want more control over which countries, athletes, and events they watch during the Olympics, and mobile is uniquely suited to give them that control. When asked what would make their Olympic viewing experience more enjoyable, 51 percent of survey respondents cited “The ability to watch events on demand, when it’s convenient” and 50 percent cited “The ability to have more control over which countries, athletes and events I want to watch.”

Good content matters. It’s a big driver for app downloads: 74 percent of respondents said “Content and updates about the events I care most about” would make them more likely to download Olympics-related mobile apps.

Apps also enable brands to implement recommendation tools (if you liked A, you’ll like B) and automatic viewing (next video starting in 10 seconds…) — features that encourage content discovery and consumption while giving users what they want.

Wondering if push notifications really work? The vast majority of respondents (75 percent) said they would be willing to opt in to receiving customized notifications about scores and events, and 74 percent said the ability to receive customized, real-time notifications and reminders about the events they care most about would make them more likely to download Olympics-related mobile apps. The key here is customization: allow users to subscribe to the updates they care about.

The wonderful thing about mobile technology is that consumers provide feedback simply by using it. The content they consume should inform your content strategy; the amount of time they spend in different parts of the app should inform future development and so on. Through this year’s Summer Olympic Games, consumers told us a lot about how they prefer to engage…and it all starts with mobile.

Source: Venturebeat, Phunware

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