It wasn't all that long ago when owning a Nokia cell phone carried with it a certain cache of being forward thinking, stylish and "cool." The light shined bright on Nokia at a time when cell phones weren't 'smart' at all, were often chunky in design, felt awkward in the hands of consumers and, much to our dismay, did very little in the form of functionality and features to simplify, personalize and innovate the customer experience. That is until Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Amazon entered the scene and began displaying their mobile prowess in a very loud way.
As news hit of Microsoft's buyout of the once great Finnish phone manufacturer (Nokia), many analysts rushed to predict how the deal would impact revenue and stock prices for Microsoft down the road. What interests me more, however, is how and why the buyout will level the mobile experience playing field.
Think about how much clout, respect, trust, loyalty and revenue Apple and Google have earned from consumers - all because they deliver time and time again on the promise of a seamless, personalized, engaging, authentic, relevant and 'smart' experience across all devices and all channels. Considering mobile commerce sales topped $10 billion in the first half of 2013, the mobile market is bigger than ever. A recent study on "Mobilizing the Retail Shopping Experience" found that for consumers faced with near-infinite choices when it comes to mobile experiences, ease of use is critical to attracting - and keeping - customers. More importantly, the study reinforced just how dangerous an unsatisfactory mobile customer experience can be to a brand's bottom line - 39 percent indicated they would leave and visit a competitor's mobile retail site, or never return, and 23 percent would return less often. To set itself apart, Microsoft will need to leverage Nokia's former appeal along with the usability of the Windows OS to deliver a mobile experience like no other.
In a recent Life at Microsoft blog post, Catherine Butler, an Ireland-based Senior Operations Program Manager for Regional Windows Launch, wrote: "A company is truly global when it provides an experience as rich and relevant around the world as it does for customers in the company's native market. The products need to respect the laws and language of each country. But the customer experience should be so seamless and intuitive, it feels as if the company is native to each market."
If Microsoft can successfully deliver a seamless and intuitive experience with Nokia's hardware promise and its own in-house OS, they may very well be able to finally make Windows mobile devices a strong contender against iOS and Android devices.
What's even more interesting is that data from The Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Report shows that the iOS and Android platforms aren't as invincible as some may think. While Android came out on top as the top US smartphone platform with 52 percent of sales during the three-month period ending in July 2013, Windows Phone saw the largest increase in the US over the past 12 months. This data is very telling - it means Microsoft stands a fighting chance at gaining market share.
Every experience customers have with brands - be it on a desktop/laptop computer, smartphone, tablet or social media - must be informative, useful, personal, reliable and even entertaining. Nokia did it once before in the mobile space and Microsoft has made good on that promise in the software space. Perhaps the saying of "two heads are better than one" will prove true in this case and finally give Microsoft the leg up it needs to gain a formidable presence in the mobile market.