Every July, mobile’s biggest movers and shakers converge on the city of Seattle for TUNE’s marketing summit, Postback. Billed as the hottest mobile media event of the summer, Postback goes far beyond your everyday business conference. Complete with an open bar that kicks off at 11am, a surprise DJ set from Odesza, and a boat cruise through Seattle’s scenic waterways, Postback is a full-fledged mobile extravaganza. But looking past the bells and whistles, Postback serves as a platform for marketers to come together and discuss some of the biggest challenges they face in a more casual setting.
In an industry as young as mobile, marketers have made huge advances in a relatively short period of time. Despite this rapid ascension, there remains a number of concerns in mobile that marketers are working diligently to resolve. At Postback, these problem-solvers converge on one place and present their progress in the form of panels, conversations and workshops.
What Data Can’t Tell Us
This year’s Postback keynote was led by best-selling author and economist Malcolm Gladwell. Doing what he does best, he challenged the audience of data-driven mobile marketers to think twice about how they approach their areas of expertise. Despite his lack of an Android or iOS device (instead wielding a Blackberry), Gladwell brought about several interesting points that sparked further conversation throughout the weekend.
Gladwell’s first lesson, which fueled the rest of his talk, came with the presentation of a 1960’s study performed by a psychiatrist named Stuart Oskamp involving fellow practitioners. Over time, the psychiatrist presented his peers with additional information. What he found was that more data didn’t necessarily help or hurt in more accurately diagnosing an issue. What it did show, however, was that the confidence the psychiatrists had in their diagnosis greatly increased, despite the fact that they weren’t any more or less likely to accurately diagnose the situation.
What does this mean for mobile marketers? Well, perhaps the data that is surrounding decision makers does not necessarily hold all the answers. Instead, Gladwell attempted to “puncture” the audience’s confidence by bringing about different real world case studies that exemplified how data wasn’t the be-all and end-all in consumer development. The most interesting example was what Gladwell coined as the “Snapchat problem.”
The Snapchat problem was based off a simple question: Is Snapchat a reflection of a generational or developmental change in consumers? A generational change being a fundamental shift in a specific generation’s behavior (ex. hip-hop becoming ingrained in fashion, pop culture, etc.), and developmental change being one that reflects society’s advancement as a whole (ex. the fear of horror films being a natural part of growing up). Despite what one might be led to believe through data analysis and even personal intuition, the fact of the matter is that there isn’t an answer readily available to this question. No matter how much data is collected, only time will tell if Snapchat fits the mold of either a generational or developmental change in user behavior.
Gladwell went into a few other examples, but the point he was trying to make was that one can’t just look at “behavioral patterns or the data” to fully understand the health of their product. It goes far beyond that, and all the moving parts need to be considered when drawing hypothesis and testing them out.
Challenges in Finding the Correct Data
Great — Gladwell is smarter than us. Now what? On a more tactical level, with what Gladwell brought to our attention, the conversation shifts to finding out what data is the “right” data and how that data can be properly collected and applied. And when marketers begin to answer that question, there are a few issues that challenge digital marketing at large. The biggest of which being the ability to weave together a cohesive narrative with both qualitative and quantitative data that encompasses all of the consumer touch points.
In many panels, a common theme was that there were gaps in various forms as far as capturing data and painting a holistic picture. For RetailMeNot, for example, the conversion funnel ends for them at the entering or presentation of the coupon code. Beyond that point, it is up to a retailer to seal the deal. This leaves several questions unanswered when trying to optimize and validate hypothesis, and leaves much of the decision making to intuition.
Going one step further, an age-old issue that faces marketers is cross-channel tracking. Nearly every marketer on Postback’s stage mentioned some sort of struggle with tracking across platforms – such as users who use both a mobile app and a website, or browse an app before browsing in-store. These questions are being answered in a number of ways, but very few solutions are as bulletproof as stakeholders might hope.
These discussions have become increasingly important, as more and more users increase their usage of mobile devices. Marketers are beginning to build very complex stacks of tools to help understand users’ lifecycles in unique ways, starting from attribution all the way down to re-engagement.
Collecting the Right Data and Putting It to Work
With an understanding of what data is valuable and what gaps remain to be filled, it is important to put a plan in place to take advantage of strengths and improve upon weaknesses. With so many folks trying new and exciting things in the mobile space, this is where it gets interesting. The first step is user acquisition. Using attribution tools and techniques from the likes of TUNE, AppsFlyer, Kochava, Apsalar and Adjust, marketers can begin to understand where users are coming from and how they are engaging with an app. There are still some major gaps in this model , as users often run into multiple touch points before downloading an app, but the basic groundwork has been solidified.
By setting up the proper analytics infrastructure to capture the behavior and activity of users once they are in the app, it is then time to shift from acquiring new users to engaging and retaining them. This is something that marketers are just dipping their toes in at the moment, as Adam Foroughi of AppLovin noted that most choose to spend their dollars on acquiring new users instead.
Once a product is ready for this step of re-engagement, personalization and deep linking becomes increasingly important. Based on behavioral analytics, one can target users based on in-app events and send them customized re-engagement messaging at the right time, on the right channel, that deep links them to exactly where they need to be within the app.
Gaming shops such as EA and Rovio spoke about this extensively, as they are constantly churning out new games and trying to cross-promote based on advanced segmentation. By exploiting their user’s IDFAs (Apple’s Advertising Identifier), they can reference user demographics and make sure they are hitting as many of the right users as possible when new games are ready for the market with incredibly personalized messaging that engages them like never before.
With so many opportunities still on the table, it’s an incredibly exciting time to be in mobile. Postback was a prime example of how so many different players are working to bust these opportunities wide open, and how they are coming together to figure out the best ways to do it. There are still many questions left unanswered, but it’s become a space where new products are unveiled constantly that bring mobile marketers one step closer to better understanding their user base. Progress is key, and things definitely seem to be headed in the right direction.