US adults now spend more time with digital media—primarily mobile—than with their televisions. Recent Nielsen data shows that consumers prefer mobile apps, spending “89 percent of media time in mobile” using social networking, email, and content apps. That’s why the greatest investment a company can make to future-proof its brand is in mobile customer experiences.

Companies that want to claim some valuable mobile space for themselves will need to determine the best approaches and technology investments for their brands. Despite mobile being a relatively new frontier, there are already an overwhelming number of options. Responsive design, or adaptive mobile Web? Native apps or hybrid apps? Dynamic media, or minimal content? And what about integrations? The powers of geolocation, social media platforms, email, QR codes, connected appliances, and data transfer offer a multitude of possibilities for your mobile presence.

Not only that, but there is an overabundance of mobile apps in the app store. It’s no longer enough to simply make an app; yours might never be noticed if it’s not highly useful and thoughtfully designed to drive engagement. Mobile apps are critical for building customer relationships and loyalty, and personalizing your mobile experience for existing customers is key.

Don’t start off trying to sift through all the possibilities. That’s a backward approach that will either paralyze you with indecision or lead to an incoherent and irrelevant mobile strategy. To develop a focused, user-centric game plan that yields measurable results, you must start with a single customer.

Build from the Customer in

Just like an architect will first meet with clients to understand how they want to work, play, eat, and relax in their space, and then draft the plans, studying your customers is fundamental to your job. The architect applies knowledge of the users to not only determine the dimensions and flow of a space, but the materials and methods used for construction. Do they need it built fast? Do they want only sustainably harvested wood? The beauty of marble, or the practicality of vinyl siding?

Why would Facebook, a company dominating mobile social space, acquire a fitness tracking app? Because even though people use the Facebook app, they are increasingly looking for apps that are useful rather than purely social. You have to make similar decisions about the design and function or your mobile properties, as well as the technologies you’ll use to build them. Here is a two-part approach to drafting a successful mobile strategy blueprint.

1. Lay a Foundation of Customer Data and Insights

Your ultimate goal is to deepen customer relationships with contextually relevant and engaging mobile experiences, and you won’t get there by simply mimicking the latest flashy mobile campaign. Learn everything you can about your end users, talk to them if possible, and take a walk in their shoes. Don’t make assumptions about preferences and habits that aren’t based on surveys, usability studies, customer stories and reviews, or other forms of personal insight into customers’ actual lives and motivations. Observe and measure behavior, purchase path, and engagement trends, leaving no stone unturned.

From this information you will begin to form nuanced user personas, which you can then connect to core motivations and aspirations. If you discover from the start that your audience is largely motivated by both status and connectedness, you can build your entire mobile strategy around sharing your brand influence through a social experience.

2. Frame Your Strategy with Aligned Technologies

Aligning your data, content, and technology will empower you to deliver targeted and effective campaigns for the long term. Mobile marketing can be complex, requiring coordination across multiple channels and touch points, and integrations with outside services, platforms, and media. To ensure a seamless mobile customer experience, you’ll want flexible and robust technology that a whole team can utilize.

Developers are “realizing that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for their mobile development process.” Some services may perform better as native apps, whereas others need to be cross-platform. Having the ability to choose based on the specific goals and functional requirements of each property, along with the business needs and skill sets of your team, is key.

As mobile experiences become a primary way for customers to engage with brands, it’s not only developers who have an interest, but also marketers who need the ability to update content and personalize experiences. Many companies struggle with updates that take weeks to implement. Developers and marketers need to look beyond a fast initial build, and design for consistent, rapid updates to keep the mobile experience fresh and relevant.

The latest version of Adobe Experience Manager contains unique mobile offerings supporting the range of mobile Web and app needs. It lets users leverage hybrid app development, build apps for iPhone and Android, test it all in simulators, and update from a single comprehensive interface.

Take Your Mobile Strategy to the Next Level

Optimizing the mobile customer experience starts with a deep understanding of your audience aligned with the right technologies for you: the foundation and framing of your new mobile strategy. To maintain a competitive and sustainable strategy, you will need to begin nurturing multiple points of contact and conversion. Mobile touch points are essential to your brand’s digital customer experience, unlocking both one-to-one engagement and social communities, as well as connecting people to your other digital channels.

Consider the whole customer lifecycle. What do you want your customers to do today and in the future? Can you make the experience relevant again and again as the customer relationship evolves? Follow along for my next post, where I’ll discuss wiring and finishing your mobile methods with personalized content and engaging apps.