Mobile & CRM: Customers are on mobile (too), is CRM data informing the cross-platform experience?

Your app is optimized, and push notifications are getting delivered as users get close to your store: why do you still feel you are missing that real 1:1 customer engagement?

As consumers move more and more of their media consumption to mobile it’s not surprising that brands have been following, both in their advertising (slowly but surely– mobile advertising is still lagging PC, but US spending increased 76% between 2013 and 2014) and also in having their own content, in particular mobile apps. Until recently these mobile apps have tended to exist in vacuums, often managed quite separately from other digital marketing efforts. Mobile has been thought of as a different, purpose-driven activity, and in that context it is understandable that marketers have treated optimizing the mobile experience as a goal in and of itself. Indeed, when marketers started with mobile apps this made complete sense, since mobile was a new interaction mode for most consumers, and even getting people to download an app was an effort. Now marketers are realizing they need to deliver a consistent experience across platforms.
What’s working today in the mobile space? Best practice involves at minimum two things: effectively instrumented app analytics and some degree of contextual content. In terms of driving the best experience a number of app optimization tools have emerged, and mobile aspects of Google Analytics remains a default offering for many. A/B testing, and heat maps, seeing where users interact with an app, are increasingly well understood and can deliver measurable results (a nice example of both was recently posted by Lonely Planet).
Making apps more contextually relevant can drive consumer engagement, and some level of apparent personalization. Ensuring that geography and time of day are accounted for in the experience is often seen as best practice. Companies like Starbucks and Starwood are making sure their users are soft notified on the iOS lock screen based on geography (near a hotel, near a coffee shop). iBeacons, QR codes, NFC tags and the like promise even more contextually relevant content, with more or less consumer interaction– these tend to be more specific, often down to the product level. A FollowAnalytics survey indicated at least 60% of large company marketers confirmed that they were already at least trying to deliver contextual and individual messages to customers. In-app notifications and mobile push customer messaging (which have replaced, for many marketers, the earlier direct mobile communication capability promised by SMS, and have good customer acceptance) are usually well integrated with app experiences, but still remain in the mobile silo.
What’s missing is the customer context of previous journeys. Was a consumer researching products or offerings last night on the PC? Are they in this location having received a promotional offer in the past few days? Customers are increasingly cross-platform, often most engaged on mobile, but coming back to the PC for more complicated interactions (I’m going to communicate with my Airbnb host via my Apple Watch, but I’m not going to spend 45 minutes with my wife working out where to stay in New York on anything but a PC screen).
By treating mobile as a silo, to be individually optimized, companies have not yet maximized the potential for the data within their CRM and other customer systems to inform what is increasingly the most common interaction mode. It’s ironic, for example, as more and more email is opened on mobile devices, that the personalization of those emails is not carried over into the same brands’ apps (indeed often the emails are barely mobile optimized). Marketers are clearly aware of the possibilities of this level of communication and interactivity, but are not yet satisfied with what they can get done here. In the same survey by FollowAnalytics, 91% of marketers (see graph above) they felt their app efforts would be more successful if they could better incorporate data from CRM or other customer systems. A true cross-platform experience will apply that customer data to as many touch points as possible. Even the most engaging mobile app exists in part to complement the overall brand experience.
That experience needs to be a two way street. For many consumers mobile is increasingly the most engaging interaction point with a brand. Being able to tie back a app interaction to a quote request or a phone call ought to deliver better experiences across all interaction channels.  What consumers does on mobile needs to be fed back into the broader CRM systems to inform the next cycle of the relationship.

Pulling consumer data into your app experiences — Is it time to stop worrying about presence and downloads and start asking whether your apps are delivering ROI?
Your app is in your customer’s hand- how do you maximize that touch point? — Bridging the chasm between the app experiences you deliver and the customer data that is informing your sales and marketing.

This is the first of a short series of sponsored posts on integrating traditional CRM data into mobile app marketing strategies. It was brought to you by FollowAnalytics and opinions are my own.

Is mobile the new normal in digital media consumption, and will advertising catch up?

As more and more digital properties report more than 50% of readers to be on mobile devices, is it time to shift how we think about both the PC web and mobile, from the point of view of both media consumption and monetization? An article in this week’s Wall Street Journal focused on mobile monetization for mainstream traditional and web-origin properties and it is clear that this is a challenge. What went unstated was that we are in a world where everyone, not just Netflix and mobile-only sites, has to think about mobile as the dominant consumer experience.
Traditionally the PC web has been seen as the mainstream media consumption model, and the mobile (web or app) has been the specific “intent” mode. If we talked about mobile games it was mobile filling the 5 minutes waiting for the bus, in “time killer mode.” Is it more realistic to talk about the PC as the more specific “using it for a reason” platform and mobile as the base? Comscore’s data for Q4 last year had 60% of digital media consumption being on mobile. This is clearly impacted by home use of Netflix on tablets (which is barely mobile), but the the comments from WSJ, Forbes, and NYT indicate that this is now the norm.
Perhaps because it is so new, and yet very rapidly so mainstream, that monetization is indeed behind. Thinking about mobile as a “for purpose” media consumption model has created some blind alleys. As an example we have seen the failure (to date) of the promise of delivering contextual mobile experiences as advertising. We haven’t seen widespread acceptance of the “50¢ off a coffee at the shop you are about to walk past,” that has been promised for so long. Perhaps it is not so surprising that this has not yet become normal. Contextual was never really part of the mainstream advertising mix (except perhaps as “cold beer inside” store signage), and now mobile **is** the mainstream digital consumption mode.
It’s instructive to see the NY Times adopt a time-sliced approach. Any advertiser can use and understand a time-focused ad, perhaps without worrying too much about the context of the ad display. We know everyone will be having lunch between noon and two, but often not in or even near the location they were at at 11.50am, and certainly most people won’t be reading food-related material at exactly that point.
It’s true to say that larger social players are successful in advertising on both PC and mobile. Because Facebook and Twitter offer primarily or exclusively logged-in experiences they are in a much better position to provide the rich targeting data that advertisers crave. They don’t have to rely on cookies or other probabilistic mechanisms to target ads, they know their users. This left them with the challenge of ad formats, and they have more or less solved that through in-feed units. It might be reasonable to say they they are not exactly mobile successes, but rather they are very successfully platform-agnostic, delivering great advertising results wherever the users are, which is today on mobile.
Traditional demographic based banners and retargeting, typically using tracking cookies, have further to come on mobile. Companies like Drawbridge, AdRoll and ActionX all offer forms of mobile or cross platform retargeting, though often through user profiling rather than precise tracking. It’s simply much harder to track users on mobile, especially between apps. The other challenge many cite is real estate, these sorts of ads on the PC require a certain amount of screen space, which simply isn’t there on a mobile (today). As an aside search is clearly very important in the overall ad mix, but has less direct relationship to media consumption, so is slightly outside scope here.
Perhaps all is not lost. Mobile advertising in the US nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014 (though much through the success of social), and is continuing to increase. At the end of the day advertisers do want to be where consumers are. While mobile tracking and attribution take time to catch up will media companies to go back to their more traditional sales playbook, using the sort of techniques they did to sell print and TV ads — where you often couldn’t do more than show trends in second and third order effects — rather than directly attributed transactions?

Stellar, South African nonprofit to bring digital savings to young girls

When Stellar launched last summer, Joyce Kim like any other startup exec wasn’t getting much sleep and found herself trolling Twitter in the middle of the night, San Francisco time. In September, Kim, the co-founder and executive director of the Stellar Foundation, posted a tweet, asking if anyone wanted Stellars, a cryptocurrency, to top up their pre-paid mobile phone cards. All the way over in South Africa, Simon de Haan responded yes.

It wasn’t that de Haan was short on mobile phone minutes. Instead, as the CTO of the Praekelt Foundation, he tweeted back to Kim that he would “like to find ways of making the transfer of funds to & between people, who only have a non-data feature phone, super easy.”

Today, Stellar plans to announce its new integration into Vumi, an open-source messaging platform run by the Praekelt Foundation, a South African non-profit.

“When Joyce sent out that tweet I jumped on it because it was very clear that, if it worked, the potential for the majority world (and first & foremost Africa, being our home base) would be enormous,” de Haan said in an e-mail.

The Praekelt Foundation initially developed Vumi, a messaging platform similar to WhatsApp, for philanthropic reasons. Instead of a consumer, social application, the Foundation applied it to altruistic arms, like MomConnect, a state-endorsed maternal network supported by UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that messages registered pregnant mothers with reminders about doctor’s appointments and other important pre-natal information. Other countries have used Vumi to register voters in Libya or bring citizen journalism to South Africa during an election season. And even Facebook’s Internet.Org has noticed the South African nonprofit, bringing some of its apps for moms connecting to the internet for the first time under its free app umbrella in Tanzania.

Adding money to the mix

Stellar is a decentralized payments network, funded in part by payment processor Stripe and supported by the Stellar Foundation, that allows users to easily send money like e-mail. It’s not just limited to its native cryptocurrency, Stellars, though — it can be used to send anything from dollars to South African rands. (Its appeal to a number of people and currencies also caused a major headache when a ledger fork problem was discovered in the Stellar network in December. Kim assured me that’s being resolved and a new version of code will be released in a few months.)

By adding Stellar as a payments platform, Vumi is getting a way to process payments for the first time. It’s an attractive prospect — thinking down the road, a government could send a pregnant woman money for a bus fare to get to a clinic, theorized Kim (Full disclosure: Kim worked with Gigaom founder Om Malik in 2007 on the Gigaom Show). “Because both Stellar and Vumi are open source, it will be possible for other organizations to include and extend the Stellar Savings application to enable them to build unique financial inclusion products suited to the developing world,” said Gustav Praekelt, CEO of the foundation, in an e-mail interview.

In the coming weeks, the Praekelt Foundation plans to launch a new messaging app designed for young girls in developing countries. But as messaging apps evolve, it won’t be for trading emojis and stories back-and-forth. Instead, the Praekelt Foundation wants to offer young South African girls the chance to start a digital savings account that uses an alternate currency they’re likely to swap: airtime minutes.

“We know that girls are familiar with the concepts around buying and transferring airtime, and felt that this would be the best avenue to introduce them to the concept of savings,” said Praekelt, the CEO. “Of course, by using stellar as the underlying currency infrastructure we will be able to extend this product (and future applications), to to work across many countries, currencies, banks and other incentives.”

Adding wallet services to a messaging app may not be new to developed markets. Snapchat, which is now a hybrid publishing and messaging platform, added SnapCash to allow its users to send money back and forth. Other companies, like Microsoft, are also spotting the potential in the budding banking and e-commerce market of Africa. However, many of these require banks or credit cards — things young girls in South Africa or in any other developing country may not have. Instead, they have phones that come loaded with pre-paid mobile minutes. Using the Praekelt Foundation’s app, a young girl would be able to easily swap, and more importantly, store their Air Minutes.

When I mentioned that this integration seemed like a limited market (young South African girls who have downloaded this app), Kim was quick to correct me. “It’s actually a huge audience,” Kim said. “This can reach where traditional financial services never have.”

And she’s right. Many banks and even software developers don’t spend time developing for a populace who may have little money in their bank accounts and only swap in small transaction amounts — we’re talking minutes of phone calls here, not hundreds of dollars. More importantly, Kim says, it’s taking Silicon Valley code and applying it to a problem that can have a domino effect in a young girl’s life, teaching her financial skills and how to save money.

“It’s using these protocols to have an immediate impact on people’s lives,” Kim said. “That’s just something we need to see more of in this space. The fact that it’s in developing world is amazing.”

This story was updated at 10a.m. to add comment from de Haan.

What today’s messaging surge means for the enterprise

Last week, Mary Meeker revealed the newest in her annual Internet Trends reports, this one for 2014. The big news? Mobile and tablets.

Mobile — Mobile phones are now in the hands of 73% of the world’s population, and smartphones are now at 22%.

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Perhaps more foundational: Mobile use of the web is now 25% of total, up from 14% year over year.

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Tablets — Added together the data about mobile and smartphones represents in a startling shift. But the astonishing rise of tablets is perhaps as pivotal. Tablets increased 53% in 2013 alone: the fastest adoption of new technology, ever.


The first order effects of this tectonic shift in computing will show up in how businesses try to connect to customers, consumers, and — for media companies — the people formerly known as the audience. And internet advertising is still growing — up 16% overall year over year — but mobile advertising grew 47% to reach 11% of the total advertising market. Obviously, that is still lagging, but shows real upside.

But I am less interested in those sorts of revenue figures: advertising isn’t my beat. But the trends in messaging services are a harbinger of what is coming in the world of business.

Just six selected over-the-top messaging services (OTT means they run over web data connections or wifi, not carrier provided messaging services like SMS) have grown to tens of billions of messages per day, and over a billion active users.

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Meeker makes a really smart analysis of this trend, and contrasts it with services like Facebook: people are transitioning to messaging tools geared toward frequent communication with a small group of contacts — or what I have been calling communications with a set — and moving away from broadcasting messages to large audiences — like Twitter and Facebook — which is communication with a scene, in my terms.

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As Meeker describes it, this means the action is moving from supporting sets and away from scenes, where the value of the network is not principally about the number of nodes, but the number of sets and the amount of messaging going on. (Note that this sounds like a rediscovery of Reed’s Law, which states that the utility of a network grows exponentially over the number of nodes, based on the number of groups that form.)

In the consumer web, this shift is going to pose interesting challenges for businesses and advertisers, because users will be less willing to accept ad tracking, or ads at all, in what they generally consider a private context for communications in sets.

Implications for work technology — Meeker’s analysis lines up with trends we have been seeing in our own research regarding the increasing rates of adoption for mobile and set-based, OTT messaging. And in the context of work technology, the same drivers — the rise of mobile and tablets, the inclination away from large-scale, scene-oriented messaging — will play out in a similar manner to the challenges now confronting Facebook and Twitter. Except in the work technology market, it is the broadly horizontal enterprise social networks that are likely to see defections as people shift to more narrowly focused messaging apps.

As a result, witness the slowing growth and mounting losses for companies like Jive, and companies like Cisco drop their internal work management products (see  What does the Cisco/Jive partnership mean?). Established work management solutions that are one element of a range of work technology in larger companies — like IBM Connections, Citrix Podio, and Microsoft’s Yammer — will be shielded from this transition longer than independents, but the change is coming. Tools like Slack (see It’s getting even more real time: Slack and Skwiggle), Convo, and Glip, which are conversational in their foundation, will begin to bleed away users from the collaboration vendors, and then I think we’ll see a big swing towards conversations, away from heavy, systems-of-record feeling collaboration tools.

Focused independents, however, will likely ride this wave. Consider Atlassian, who acquired Hipchat and so now have their own set-oriented chat solution, and whose work management solution starts with a focus on supporting developers building software. That is their beachhead, and then their products spreads out past development.

For those that are watching closely, this transition is already in motion, and will lead to a dramatic recast of how work gets done in the business of 2015. More sets, and less scenes; more chat, less posting; more time spent with smaller networks, less messaging across large networks.

A faster and looser sort of business, the sort of business where change can happen faster, where ideas can spread more quickly, and where innovation is happening close to the edge, where individuals meet and mix.