Right Time, Right Place, Right Now

IBM Mike_Spradbery.previewMarketers have rightly delivered mobile apps to push the boundaries of brand engagement, but many are now sizing up the next campaign, without realising the potential for exploiting data that is hidden in plain sight.

Pressured for the next mobile app design or user experience innovation, brand owners could be failing to understand the range of possibilities that arise from analysing and breaking out the mass of existing data streams received from users’ devices – among them, data that reveals time and usage patterns, and especially location and proximity to retail outlets, entertainment venues and city attractions

None of us ever let our mobile leave our side. Crammed with sensors and GPS, today’s smartphones are broadcasting location data and spatial information 24/7. Body-worn devices will only accelerate this drive towards more location-driven services, as our lives and our data are inexorably mobilised.

There’s massive, and as yet untapped, potential to develop much more targeted geolocation-based services for consumers, if brand owners can use analytics to pull together all the different digital clues that mobile users are giving us and then reassemble them to better understand and engage with those customers.

Commercial opportunity
Geolocation services are a misunderstood but huge commercial opportunity; ABI Research estimates that the mCommerce market will hit $119bn worldwide by 2015. And it’s estimated that by 2020, there will be over 10bn mobile devices in use world-wide.

There is also considerable scope for marketers to relate customer engagement more closely to the dynamics of modern urban living – by 2030, an estimated six out of every 10 people on the planet will live in a city – and its plethora of information points and possibilities.

These services could also help under-pressure high street stores to revive their fortunes, or at least find a way to deal with ‘showrooming’ mobile users who have found the store by local search, browse the store for the look and feel of different goods and then buy them online from their mobiles or at home later.

Where marketers might understandably be sceptical over the claims made for analytics and big data, exciting market dynamics are converging to give brand owners greater opportunities to better understand the customer and unlock mobile revenues.

In a data-driven, app-centric world, marketers are now more likely than the corporate IT department to drive through new types of data-driven customer profiling. At the same time, social media owners are aggressively reaching out to marketers to share customer data, opening up options for mashing-up brand and location-based information for new insights.

Realising the opportunities around big data and customer behavioural insights, digital agencies are partnering with management consultancies and technology firms to put mobile insights at the heart of their service offerings.

Most significantly of all perhaps, some of the global technology firms have transformed themselves in the last year or two to become cutting-edge providers of analytics, mobile and digital data insights, as partners to digital agencies and the big management consultancies.

Once underwhelmed by business intelligence and successor analytical products’ achievements, UK marketers can use these developments and new big data insights to fully harness their mobile data and engage more effectively with users. Recent innovations are showing the possibilities of using geolocation services. Stranded commuters can be sent individual cross-promotions with similar brands while they wait for the next train home. Studies show unheard of 75 per cent take-up levels from location-based messaging because of the precision of targeting being achieved.

Retailers have started to develop geolocation-fed mobile apps that enhance the user’s brand engagement in-store. Users can receive ratings of products and product coupons or be invited to generate social media posts, these activities instantly signposting where those items are located in the store.

Geolocation can turn transport hubs and street furniture into new retail outlets. In North America, QR codes have been used in bus stations to allow consumers to buy products and have them delivered to their homes. Working with social media owners, mobile and member data will increasingly be evaluated to identify users most receptive to mobile shopping experiences and promotions.

Information sources
Many marketers have understandably focused on the user experience or other metrics so far. But they now have the potential to re-evaluate the massive information sources from mobile use that they might have previously regarded as too complex to analyse or unworkable at scale.

Brand owners can now work with digital consultancies and analytics providers that can pull together and run the massive data sets required to look again at mobile shoppers, where customer bases may run into the millions.

Geolocation services and the big data engines behind them will enable CMOs to use mobile to interact with users on a more personal scale, and create more engaging shopping and entertainment experiences.

Marketers can achieve greater brand loyalty and unlock new mobile revenues from once unworkable levels of information. From vital data that until now has been hidden in plain sight.

Mike Spradbery is mobile lead, IBM UK & Ireland

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