The Great O2 Outage of 2012

Starting Wednesday lunchtime, customers of the network-formerly-known-as-BT-Cellnet began noticing they had no signal and couldn’t make calls, text or, most importantly, upload arty pictures of their Boots meal deal (other meal deals are available) to Instagram. The Great O2 Outage of 2012, as history will come to know it, had begun. The world, as we know it, had changed irrevocably.

In scenes reminiscent of one of my favourite episodes of South Park, a significant chunk of O2’s 23 million-strong customer base were forced to contemplate a world without the internet…on their phones at least. Not just O2 customers in fact; as with any world-changing event, the consequences were further-spread than we could have imagined as customers of the seemingly-omnipresent GiffGaff and the definitely-omnipresent Tesco Mobile were also slapped straight out of communication land.

In a slice of irony almost as delicious as the cake I just had with my lunch courtesy of our new Junior Web Developer William (thanks William!), those affected took to social media (obviously not on their phones!) to register their anger at not being able to communicate with the outside world. People bemoaned O2 and some even threatened to terminate their contract completely. Some wondered what effect this would have on the Olympics, as Great Britain desperately tries to tidy its messy bedroom and keep up appearances in anticipation of our more sophisticated foreign cousins coming to stay over and do a bit of running or something.

Meanwhile, as with just about any event that’s ever happened since the advent of Twitter, arch purveyors of hate/distracting celebrity sidebars The Daily Mail astounded us all with the revelation that celebrities were in the same boat as us normal folk too. Well not quite the same boat but one quite close anyway, albeit made of gold and Faberge eggs.

Angry celebrities included Joleon Lescott, Kym Marsh, Chris Fountain (nope, me neither) and light entertainment titan Bobby Ball. Yes, the Daily Mail genuinely deemed the opinion of a man whose entire career was built on the fact he had a friend named Cannon more newsworthy than the thousands of well-established tech bloggers also giving their informed verdict on the situation. The media, ladies and gentlemen.

But what’s the slightly tenuous lesson we can learn from this debacle, I hear you ask? Ask and you shall receive, dear hypothetical reader; I think it shows just how important having a mobile presence for your business is. How so? People were pretty upset about not being able to make calls and send texts, which is understandable. Then they got 2G back, but still had no 3G. And people were still angry. People want internet, and they want it right now. On their phone. And they’ll post nasty messages on Twitter if they don’t get it.

So why are so many sites neglecting to take the plunge and offer their visitors a decent mobile experience?  The outage coincided with this article from The Drum, which states that 32% of firms have no mobile or social commerce solutions whatsoever, and even worse, 13% don’t have any plans to implement any in the near future. These are pretty incredible stats. Surely those 13% of firms realise that they’re missing out on a huge amount of potential custom? Obviously not. Hopefully the Great O2 Outage of 2012 will help them to.

By not having any mobile web presence, either through a dedicated mobile site, app or responsive web design, you run the risk of losing out on valuable visitors and customers. How many exactly? Well, according to an Office of National Statistics report released in August 2011, 45% of UK internet users are accessing the internet through their mobile phones. We can only presume that this year’s report will show this figure even higher.

It’s not exactly hard either; yes, creating a mobile web presence does mean investing a bit of time and money but the benefits make it worth the while. The app we recently developed for American Soda shows this, reaching nearly 7000 downloads to date and proving there is real demand for mobile commerce. And, even though I bemoaned it slightly at the time, there are even one click mobile web solutions available! There’s no real excuse in the current landscape for not offering visitors to your site an enjoyable mobile browsing experience.

And who’s to say that now light entertainment titan and social media monolith Bobby Ball has got his O2 coverage back, he won’t try and visit your site on his hilariously-sized comedy smartphone (this is just hopeful speculation)? You don’t want to leave Bobby Ball furiously trying to read content whilst scrolling and zooming in vain. He’s been through enough already.

(Full disclosure: Chris is a Vodafone customer, hence the slightly unsympathetic tone of this post. He would apologise, but then again he doesn’t get priority queuing at gigs. The O2 customers on the Fluid Creativity team feel your pain).

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  • Written by on 13th July 2012 at 11:48
  • “Fluid Creativity is an award-winning, multi-service digital agency based in Manchester.”
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