AI Best Practices in the Real World – Dr. Merlin Stone discusses Artificial Intelligence in the Near Future, Part II

We continue our conversation with Dr. Merlin Stone about the proliferation of artificial intelligence in the real world. Does AI’s use of algorithms always leads to smarter decisions? The answer may surprise you!

We continue our conversation with Dr. Merlin Stone about the proliferation of artificial intelligence in the real world. Does AI’s use of algorithms always lead to smarter decisions? The answer may surprise you!

Why More Mobility Is Not Always Better

Peter: We’re back again to discuss how AI can use algorithms to make smarter decisions starting with transport investment. Surely AI can be applied to help political decisions around HS2 (a high speed rail link between London and Manchester now estimated to be needing a budget of $100B+), or the third runway for Heathrow. How many times do these ideas need Parliamentary approval? These cost huge sums of money that could be better spent elsewhere such as National Health Service (NHS).

Dr. Stone: Indeed!  Don’t give the NHS any more money. It needs less money and better governing. HS2, you’re right. Did you know that HS2 doesn’t even go to Heathrow?

Peter: Last time we talked about the use of big data for people living in large cities and staying at home to be more efficient by taking a later train. That’s just time shifting isn’t it?

Dr. Stone: Yes! Time shifting is important, but there is an argument to reduce travel time to improve efficiency overall.

Peter: But if you take 20 minutes off the journey time from Manchester to London, will it really achieve anything?

Dr. Stone: Timesaving, is a different argument. The HS2 case was partly made on travel time savings, but if you identify that business people work on the train,  it’s not worth debating.  Instead put the money saved into  housing, which is a huge issue in the UK. I suggest we cut taxes and create a more efficient travel network, not another rail service.

Let’s talk about why we assume that more mobility is a good thing. There’s  the concept of ‘mobility as a service,’ which is this latest dream the civil servants have — the idea of driverless cars.  Nothing beats a bus with 40 people in it! Do you want 40 driverless cars, even if they’re all shared, clogging up our roads?

Actually, my answer to London’s congestion is to pedestrianize more because intelligence, it’s taken us a long time to do what other cities have done — it’s been on the cards for about 30 years. I think that’s a good return. And retailers have been scared of it as they don’t understand how good it is that people who feel relaxed when they’re shopping, and not worried about the amount of traffic congestion, are going to spend more … who should be told to work late in a very congested city — that requires AI.

AI in Prospect and Customer Management  … the Next Frontier

Peter: Let’s bring this back to marketing! You and I have done a lot of work on the B2B side, and I haven’t seen companies change much in their scant regard for how they store data and keep it up to date. There isn’t any data to apply AI to!

Dr. Stone:  To me, developments like LinkedIn have been very good, because they’ve forced companies to say, “Suppose there was all this data with all my buyers there, and it’s not my database, but it’s the data that’s out in the public domain that covers all the buyers that are out there in the market – How can I use that data?” Still very basic, and there’s a lot more that Microsoft could do as the owners of LinkedIn to really turn it into a fully featured B2B database.

The work done by some of our clients in terms of response management is pretty cutting edge, but too much has been done with prospecting and not customer management. It’s always a problem. I’m optimistic about that. The issue though is that this B2B stuff is so much more complex. Whereas with consumer it’s personal, maybe one or two people at most; but in B2B, it can easily be 30 or 40 people and the budget cycle could last a year or two. You’d have thought more work would have been done in this area – because of the complexity people will organize the data more and use AI more in future for sure.

But I haven’t seen that yet. I’m sure it’s on the target list for the more aware companies like Hyster-Yale; they’ve created a leading edge approach to prospect management and customer management because often most of their sales take place to existing customers. They’re two completely different things, but prospecting is more difficult due to the length of the buying cycle.

Peter: But is this something that proves marketing can really support sales, and even be perceived by the sales teams as a good thing to have?

Dr. Stone:  Exactly; because you don’t really need so much AI for consumer — if a consumer says they’re interested, then they’re interested.  Whereas a giant corporation like Amazon building a new warehouse — the number of people involved in that to grasp all the elements surely becomes a complex diagnostic problem that’s similar to diagnosing a human to see whether they’ve got cancer. So let’s say a company looking at the pattern of browsers on their website, inbound traffic on LinkedIn and a whole variety of sources can say, I can see this coming and also things like planning permissions — someone’s building a warehouse, so we need to sell them a truck that would be the equivalent, but it’s all very manual at the moment.

Manufacturing vs. Services … AI Can’t Replicate Human Touch

Peter: So there’s no linkage between systems currently?

What Does Facial Recognition Tech Mean for Marketing?

2018 is the year innovative events are embracing Facial Recognition! A wise marketing investment, facial recognition technology delivers enhanced security and better UX, plus unmatched analytics and insights. It is already used to tag photos on social media, unlock and pay with cell phones, and go through border security.

Astra Bierre uses facial recognition technology to target women with beer ads.

Panos Moutafis, Ph.D. is Co-Founder and President of Zenus Inc., which specializes in facial recognition systems for multiple applications. A computer scientist by trade, he is well-known for his work ethic, diligence, and persistence. I caught up with him over breakfast in Houston recently, keen to discover if facial recognition technology could become mainstream, or sit on the fringes like many other great ideas such as RFID and iBeacons.

Facial Recognition:  Fact or Fad?

Peter:   Panos, first, is facial recognition technology in its heyday?

Panos: This is more than a cool technology that people will start using ‘sometime in the future’. Facial recognition adds clear value such as improved security and better user experience along with unmatched analytics and insights. It is already used to tag photos on social media, unlock and pay with cell phones, and go through border security. Since people are getting accustomed to the technology, facial recognition is becoming an expected service rather than a nice to have feature. 2018 is the year innovative events are embracing facial recognition!

Peter:   And this goes beyond what most people imagine?

Panos: Couple it with adjacent technologies such as emotion recognition or human posture recognition and the possibilities are limitless. You gain full control. Every powerful technology comes with great responsibility though. Respecting people’s privacy and handling metadata in a transparent and prudent manner is vital. Every party who has access to this type of information must be thoroughly vetted, 100% trustworthy and held accountable to the highest standards.

Event Marketing: Let’s Get Personal

Peter:   Let’s talk about events.  How does this technology work here?

Panos: The use of physical tokens and privileged information have become integral parts of an event lifetime. They are used to check in people, restrict access, personalize the experience, measure attendance, extract analytics, and perform lead retrieval.

Facial recognition belongs in the third form of authentication along with other biometric approaches. It is a software, which can identify a person from a database of faces without requiring a physical token or the user to provide any privileged information. Technological advancements have increased accuracy and drastically reduced.  Therefore, we are seeing increased adoption in other industries (e.g., airports, social media, and cell phones).

Peter:   Well, take us from the start of the process; I always chuckle to myself when I check into to a high tech event for a mega-company and I wait in line for someone to tick off a spreadsheet or hand write my badge!

Panos: The attendees are not always good at following instructions displayed on the terminal. They often cannot find their ticket; it takes them a while to retrieve the QR code on their phone, or they simply need time to type in their email address.

Facial recognition addresses the root cause of the problem by eradicating the need for user actions. Depending on your preference, you may want to implement a self-service or a hosted check-in mode. In either case, the premise is the same. When an attendee approaches the check-in station they will be instantly identified without them having to take any action. Simple.

The best part is that you do not need to purchase expensive hardware because any device with a camera works. This includes virtually all laptops, tablets, and smartphones. In addition to making the check-in process more efficient and thus reducing costs, face recognition has been proven to increase user engagement and attendee satisfaction. It is an excellent way to promote the innovative nature of your brand and impress attendees.

Peter:   And I guess ID checking is enhanced?

Panos: Even though checking the ID of the attendees entering the venue is a step in the right direction, most of the existing implementations have limitations. Attendees are asked to present their ID and an untrained host is taking a quick look before giving it back. This is not enough. Doing a proper ID check, on the other hand, is time-consuming. One would have to check the issue and expiration dates, scan the code and make sure it matches the ID unique number, check whether the picture matches the person presenting the document, and so forth.

There is a faster and more secure way to perform this task properly. In particular, attendees can be requested to take a picture of their ID along with a selfie when they register online. A facial recognition algorithm will ensure that it is a real picture (liveness/spoof detection) and that the two faces match; other computer vision algorithms will perform the rest of the checks in real-time. We see this approach being used widely in other applications such as the banking and hospitality industries (e.g., Airbnb).

Peter:   Could this be used for Session Tracking as well?

Panos: Event hosts spend a significant amount of time recruiting speakers, curating the content of their shows, and organizing sessions that cover different aspects of the event theme. In addition, conferences with a deep educational focus often assign credits and accreditation to participants who attend specific sessions.

Face recognition is a good fit for this because it requires minimal setup and extracts analytics in a non-intrusive manner. Depending on different technical factors, session tracking with face recognition can be as simple as putting a tablet or cell phone on a stand near the entrance of each room. The camera will automatically capture the video stream and send it to the cloud for processing. There is no need for special hardware and expensive installation costs.

Peter:   We’ve experimented with heatmaps for different clients using RFID technology in the past – could this be done more cost-effectively now?

Panos: Face recognition can be a great way to compute and draw heatmaps. Tracking the number of faces visible by the camera across the different event locations is straightforward. It does not require special hardware and it is easy to install and configure. Depending on the level of investment, the information can be as high level as how many people on average stood and passed by a certain point of interest or as fine-grained as extracting insights by group type and knowing each attendee’s journey.

Peter:   How about other applications out on the show floor?

Panos: One can use screens (equipped with a camera) around the venue that identifies attendees and display personalized information ranging from where food is being served to what next session they should attend. Likewise, the information desk personnel could be equipped with similar capabilities. Being able to identify a person while they are walking towards the desk allows them to personally greet them and anticipate their needs.

Along the same lines, one could combine face recognition with chatbots to offer the most efficient and personalized customer service. There is a myriad of interactive applications that could be developed. It is up to your imagination.

Calling All Marketing Qualified Leads

Peter:   And my favorite subject of course: Lead Retrieval!  How does face recognition factor here?

Panos: As you know, the current situation is that exhibitors have to manually scan each person’s badge and enter all the relevant information into a lead retrieval application to summarize the discussion. With face recognition, it is possible to automatically keep track of how many and which people visited the booth. The lead generation and conversion statistics are vital in the sales process.

In addition, this technology allows you to keep track of how long attendees stayed at the booth and how they were feeling. Analyzing their sentiments combined with the information collected before/during the show enables lead management like never before.

At the end of each day, the exhibitors will receive a full report. The leads will be automatically scored by their likelihood to make a purchase decision so that the team can focus on the best targets and following up promptly. Face recognition combined with audiovisual sentiment analysis will have a dramatic impact on leads retrieval.

Peter:   I know that some people will think that Facial Recognition is creepy and they feel uncomfortable about it?

Panos: That is true, but real-world deployments by Zenus and our partners show that the majority of attendees are willing to use facial recognition. That is, the first time an event planner introduces the option they can expect 50-60% of the people to upload their photo. We see attendees talking to their friends and colleagues about how fast and easy the check-in process was, so we expect the opt-in rate to grow for repeat events.

The great thing about facial recognition is that not everyone must opt-in. Instead, it works in conjunction with name search and barcode scanning. The same check-in station can simultaneously allow attendees to use any of these three ways to get their badge. If you have enrolled in face recognition you will simply go through faster!

It is worth noting that a participation rate of 20-40% is enough to make a difference to the on-site registration process. Speeding up the process for this portion of the registered attendees can address bottlenecks.

Peter:   What about collecting the images – is that hard?

Panos: There are plenty of online registration companies that already allow attendees to upload their headshot or take a selfie. Most devices such as laptops, tablets, and cell phones have a front-facing camera. If necessary, one could opt to use their social media profile picture. It really isn’t as hard as people might think.

Peter:   OK, let’s talk money – it still sounds expensive?

Panos: Some technologies are expensive, especially the ones that require specialized hardware, customizations, and on-site support. However, software-based applications tend to be more affordable. Luckily, face recognition falls into this category. Unless the event planner has excessive requirements, the associated investment is just a few cents per attendee expected to register.

Should You Create a Mobile App?

As a marketer, you’ve created a Web page, established a social media presence and even experimented with mobile marketing. Is it time for the next step? Should you create a mobile app so your customers can engage with you more easily?

Mobile appsAs a marketer, you’ve created a Web page, established a social media presence and even experimented with mobile marketing. Is it time for the next step? Should you create a mobile app so your customers can engage with you more easily? According to the “Synchrony Financial 2017 Digital Study,” 63 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 15 have downloaded a retail app. The average adult has two retail apps on their phone at any given time.

Why People Download Mobile Apps

What are the driving forces causing customers to download retail apps? According to our study, the top reason why people download a mobile app was because they frequently shop at the brand — 51 percent said they downloaded an app for this reason. As a marketer, your most loyal customers are the best targets for an app.

The second reason was to make a purchase, at 48 percent, followed by the desire to browse and compare prices, at 37 percent. So, if you are planning on launching a mobile app, ensure that it’s easy to buy and browse products on it. These are driving factors for your customers.

Who are most likely to download mobile apps? You guessed it, it’s the Millennials. Millennials are downloading apps in huge numbers. Eighty-one percent of those aged 26 to 35 said they have downloaded a retailer app on their phone. The top reasons are the same, to browse, buy and compare prices.

Retailer App EngagementMost Important Mobile App Features

OK, so you’ve launched your mobile app. Now, you want to get people to use it, right? Well, do you know which features are most important to your customers? Below are the top-rated app features:

  • 69 percent — access to discounts and coupons
  • 30 percent — ability to order products quickly
  • 27 percent — product search feature
  • 23 percent — ability to make payments and check balances

So, the number one feature customers want from an app is the ability to save money and access to special offers. Other features that rate highly are speed, product search and payment-related features. If you want your customer to regularly use your mobile app, keep these features in mind. A few surprise and delight perks are always great ways to get customers interested and engaged.

Why Good Mobile Apps Go Bad (or Get Deleted)

The top reason mobile apps get deleted was due to poor functionality. Thirty-five percent of people deleted apps for this reason. If your app has poor functionality, doesn’t meet your customers’ needs or customers have a bad experience, your app will most likely get deleted. There is only so much space on a smartphone and today’s digital consumer doesn’t have much patience for a dysfunctional mobile app.

Coming in as a close second reason for deletion was simply that the app didn’t provide enough value. Thirty-four percent of consumers said they deleted a mobile app because they didn’t see the value in keeping it. This is a warning sign! Even if you spend the time and effort developing an app that runs great, if you don’t provide enough perks or benefits, it just won’t matter — it will get deleted.

In our hypercompetitive world of digital engagement, it’s important to prioritize our digital programs. One of the strategies to explore is engaging with your customers through your own mobile app. If that’s the case for you, be aware of the delighters and pain points for mobile app usage. It can be a great way to engage, but it can also be a lot of work for a minimal amount of gain, if not done correctly.

Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the blogger and not necessarily of Synchrony Financial. All references to consumers and population refer to the survey respondents from the Synchrony Financial 2017 Digital Study unless otherwise noted.

Are You Meeting Your Customers’ Mobile Needs?

Most of the U.S. population — 61 percent — say they use mobile phones for shopping activities, according to the 2017 Synchrony Financial Digital Study recently completed. But, what would resonate with them in terms of digital marketing and more importantly, what would drive their behavior?

Game Changing TechAs modern marketers, we put a lot of thought and effort into our digital marketing programs. The goals are to promote engagement with our brands, drive traffic to our website or encourage customers to walk into a store. Many times, the goal is all three.

Most of the U.S. population — 61 percent — say they use mobile phones for shopping activities, according to the 2017 Synchrony Financial Digital Study recently completed. But, what would resonate with them in terms of digital marketing and more importantly, what would drive their behavior? Based on the referenced survey, there are specific elements of mobile marketing that consumers tell they are interested in.

Significantly, 50 percent of consumers said if their favorite retailer sent offers to their mobile devices, they would shop there more often. Mobile marketing can include in-app messages, push notifications, beacon / location based offers, SMS messages and voice recognition.

Given this consumer interest, how many companies are investing in mobile technology? The answer is, it depends. According to “The State Of Digital: A Mobile Commerce Perspective: Forrester’s H2 2016 Global Mobile Executive Online Survey” by Forrester, nearly 70 percent of marketers say they are regularly using responsive Web design and mobile optimized websites. It seems that most companies have the basics of mobile user experience down pat. But fewer companies are actively marketing via mobile. Only about 40 percent regularly use SMS messaging or push notifications, and only one in three use in-app messages.

Another element of mobile marketing that consumers express interest in is location-based marketing. Almost half (46 percent) of all consumers said they would like to get relevant offers based on their location. This is overwhelmingly driven by millennials. For instance, 61 percent of those ages 18 to 25 would like location-based offers, steadily declining for each age group (only about a quarter of those 66 or over said this is the case).

But only 37 percent of marketers are using push notifications and an even smaller percentage (only 12 percent) are regularly using beacon/location support on mobile phones, according to the same Forrester study referenced above. There are certainly restrictions on SMS marketing (consult your legal advisor as to the permissions required), but some companies are still planning to implement these programs — about a quarter are planning to pilot/test SMS messaging, and 35 percent are planning to pilot/test push notifications in the future.

Mobile marketing is clearly an imperative for companies with large numbers of millennials in their current or target consumer base. And remember, Gen Z’s, the true mobile natives, are fast approaching behind the millennial population. They may be even more comfortable with mobile marketing than their millennial older siblings. Investments in mobile technology will certainly be crucial for many more marketers as these populations expect more from their favorite brands.

With the constantly evolving field of smartphone technology, people become more and more enamored of using their phone for anything and everything. Digital marketers are challenged to provide “delighters” to attract and engage the population that is most interested in using this technology. Successful digital marketing programs listen to the customer and proactively engage them, whenever and wherever they happen to be.

Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the blogger and not necessarily of Synchrony Financial. All references to consumers and population refer to the survey respondents from the Synchrony Financial 2017 Digital Study unless otherwise noted.

Mobile-First? Mobile-Only? Or Simply Screen-Optimized

The latest comScore report “Cross-Platform Future in Focus 2017” continues to inform as to how we consume content via our total digital (desktop and mobile) devices. I spend much of my digital day on my laptop (all work) — with periodic smartphone interruptions for both work, information on-demand and play, with a smidgeon of tablet (also work and play). But I don’t appear to be typical …

How to Improve the Mobile Shopping Experience for CustomersThe latest comScore report “Cross-Platform Future in Focus 2017” continues to inform as to how we consume content via our total digital (desktop and mobile) devices.

I spend much of my digital day on my laptop (all work) — with periodic smartphone interruptions for both work, information on-demand and play, with a smidgeon of tablet (also work and play). But I don’t appear to be typical …

Since 2013, total digital media usage is up 40 percent — all of it driven by mobile. Smartphone usage is up 99 percent – that’s double since 2013. Tablet use is up 26 percent since 2013, while desktop has declined by 8 percent. I can match the 40 percent time growth in digital easily enough, but I’m still in love with my Lenovo ThinkPad. As a writer and communicator, I just can’t let go of my keypad and (relatively) big screen. My tablet even has a perfectly operational Bluetooth keypad.

I’m sure a generation (or two) ago, it was tough for writers to swap out their typewriters for “word processors.” But look around … times they are a-changing.

You can guess age has something to do with it.

Mobile now represents seven in 10 digital minutes. Dig deeper: 22 percent of 18 to 24 year-old women, and 16 percent of 18 to 24 year-old men are “mobile only.” (Echo Chamber: I’m guessing most mobile-only’s are not white-collar workers with computers in home and office work stations. I can’t think of any of my professional colleagues who do not interact with a PC or laptop.) On the other side, 19 percent of the U.S. market has no smartphone penetration at all — with age 55+ smartphone penetration at just 61 percent.

While mobile platforms definitely prevent a complete divide between digital have’s (those with PCs/laptops + mobile) and have-not’s (those who do not, without even a smartphone), in my mind, there is still not “information” equality between digital and mobile. Do we consume information equally in depth, in time, in audio, in video, in copy length — from one size screen to another? Can attention be held adequately? Can copy be as easily read? Content cannot and should not be packaged the same for both platforms, IMHO. (If it weren’t for mobile, I would have typed out “in my humble opinion.”)

Consider these other effects:

  • Desktop Audiences Amplified: Mobile is a desktop extender – the top 100 digital properties have increased their mobile audiences over their desktop equivalents by a factor of 2.4. This multiple is growing, and probably not coincidentally, most smartphone screens now have 4.5-inch or larger displays — which has flattened the growth of tablets.
  • Wall Strength: Huge growth is happening in time spent inside mobile applications: led by Facebook, Facebook Messenger, YouTube, Google Search, Google Maps, Instagram, Gmail and Google Play. Snapchat, Pandora and Amazon are the largest apps outside the “walled gardens.” Snapchat usage grew by 114 percent.
  • Apps are Changing Behaviors: Apps are changing consumer behavior permanently – from ordering rides, to paying friends, to making dates – by the tens of millions. And some apps are “flash” – Pokémon GO has one-fifth the active user base that it had last July.
  • Millennials are Smart … Phoned: Smartphone penetration among Millennials (ages 18 to 34) is at its saturation point — currently 94 percent. With the big rise in Snapchat, they still spend most their social app time on Facebook, with equal time in Snapchat and Instagram. Snapchat app penetration among Millennials is 60 percent, compared to 95 percent for that of Facebook.
  • Time Spent Digitally: This might also help to explain why the three top digital time uses are social media (20 percent of total digital time), multimedia (14 percent) and entertainment/music (11 percent). One has to go all the way down to 3 percent equally for news and information, email, and search. Mobile is primarily a connection and entertainment vehicle for us. Information-on-demand is hugely important. However, we get it and then get off it.
  • Video: YouTube is the big online video winner and 70 percent of watch-time is on mobile devices, versus 30 percent in desktop. While mobile minutes and monthly videos watched per viewer are dominated by mobile, desktop still gets (just) an edge in average minutes watched per video … 4.7 minutes on desktop average minutes to 3.7 minutes on mobile. Perhaps as display screens expand, and headphones abound, video is becoming just as captivating on either screen.

There’s more to report in this study, including some concerning effects regarding advertising. But like the previous blog post — the perfect mobile ad — we need to be screen-optimizing our content. We also need to plot the customer journey in mobile, and depending on the target audience, place that mobile customer journey first in mind.

It’s All About Mobile

When I look back at the past 10 years of marketing, there’s no doubt in my mind what has been the most game-changing development: Smartphones. With them in our pockets, engagement really is all about mobile.

When I look back at the past 10 years of marketing, there’s no doubt in my mind what has been the most game-changing development: Smartphones. With them in our pockets, engagement really is all about mobile.screens-memeBut there’s a lot Lego pieces in the big bucket of mobile marketing. How you put them together makes all the difference.

That’s why on December 8 we’re holding our first ever mobile-specific online event: The All About Mobile Virtual Conference.

Throughout the year, we cover a lot of marketing topics. But this show lets us get into certain areas we haven’t touched on much. like in-game advertising, mobile SEO hacks and what sets users on mobile apart from users interacting on other devices.

And the speakers at the event are a who’s who of mobile marketing! Victor Cho, CEO of Evite; Michael Becker; Jeff Hassen; Dan Burstein, and more.

The event is completely free. Just click here to register.

 

 

 

 

Smartphone Conversions: The Uncrossable Chasm

Monday we ran my video talking about how TV ads don’t matter anymore, largely because of changing viewing habits. Tuesday morning, I came in and saw a chart from eMarketer showing that 96 percent of Americans go online while watching TV, 79 percent from smartphones. Hallelujah! All of those viewers can respond to your TV ads! … If it worked that way, I certainly wouldn’t be making videos about how TV ads don’t matter.

Monday, we ran my video talking about how TV ads don’t matter anymore, largely because of changing viewing habits. Tuesday morning, I came in and saw this chart from eMarketer, showing that 96 percent (!) of Americans go online while they’re watching TV, 79 percent from their smartphones.

91.6% of U.S. Internet users go online through one or more devices while watching TV.Hallelujah! All of those viewers are just a web address and a swipe from converting off of your TV ads!

If it worked that way, I think all the old media would be in a lot better shape. I certainly wouldn’t be making videos about how TV advertising doesn’t matter anymore.

Smartphones Don’t Play Well With Others

The thing is, I watch TV every night with my smartphone and/or laptop by my side. In fact, I’m at home watching TV as I write this.

There have been a few days I’ve used that time to go to the website of a catalog I got in the mail, especially if I have a laptop out. (That’s your best case scenario if you send me a catalog, by the way: I go to your website on a laptop, there’s a chance I buy something, and I might sign up for your newsletter.)

I can’t remember ever doing that for a TV ad.

The problem is huge with smartphones, which have the lowest e-commerce conversion rates of any device. And by lowest, I mean conversion rates a fraction of what you see on tablets or traditional computers. According the “Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly Report for Q4 2015,” e-commerce conversion rates on traditional computers in the U.S. are 4.66 percent and tablets are 3.89 percent, but smartphone visitors convert at only 1.43 percent.

While more and more people watching TV are also tapping around on their phones, getting them to interact with you and actually buy something is almost a lost cause.

No Sign of the Invisible Bridge

That’s been the story since smartphones were invented, and it comes down to both the interface, and what people are doing while they’re on smartphones.

Tapping a web address into a phone is really difficult (and swiping isn’t even an option). That discourages people from using their phones to go to your e-commerce site from a commercial or other ad. Inputting the address, credit card and the other information needed to complete a sale is even worse.

If you want a recipe for conversion rates that are a third of other channels, that’s it. And it’s a well-recognized issue. Over the years many technologies have tried, and are still trying, to bridge that gap.

On the interface side, several startups have tried introducing tech to make it easier, from optical techniques like QR Codes and image recognition, to audio recognition like Shazam.

Tracking Mobile Ad Effectiveness With Real-Time Data

The volume of mobile data and the speed at which it is created continues to increase as the global population increases, as mobile device penetration rates rise, and as the consumer usage rate for social media grows.

The volume of mobile data and the speed at which it is created continues to increase as the global population increases, as mobile device penetration rates rise, and as the consumer usage rate for social media grows.

When analyzed effectively, this data can provide business insight on user sentiment, behavior and even physical movement patterns. Due to the sheer number of mobile devices in use, Big Data practitioners can tap mobile Big Data analytics to better understand trends across vast populations and sub-segments of users. This understanding helps business to improve engagement tactics and to optimize the delivery of services.

Mobile device data becomes particularly useful for analytics purposes when combined with extended data from outside sources. For example, weather and economic allow practitioners to correlate macro-level trends to a targeted set of users. These consumer segments have traditionally grouped users together based upon similarities. However, industry is increasingly focusing upon targeting towards individuals based upon their interests or upon their past behaviors.

Below you will find a number of ways you can apply real-time data analytics to your mobile marketing and advertising campaigns.

  • More Personalized and Targeted Ads
    Big data allows brands to better target users with more personalized interactions that drive engagement. We increasingly see ads featuring products and services we might actually want to use to make our lives better. These more personalized, more targeted ads are all based on massive amounts of personal data we constantly provide. Everywhere we go nowadays, we leave data crumbs. Following these trails reveals information about what we we’re doing, saying, liking, or sharing. Thanks to our mobile devices, this data trail now also hints at where we’re going.
  • Hyper-Localized Advertising
    The proliferation of mobile devices, primarily smartphones, has created a major opportunity for marketers to deliver contextual advertisements. These mobile-specific ads target the right people at the right time. For instance, through the combination of social data and location data, stores that shoppers are near and might be interested in can send out ads offering percentage discounts or other incentives. Delivered by shops to their shoppers in real time, these ads get consumers to walk through their doors. Hyper-localized advertising has been shown to increase customer engagement and conversion rates.
  • Leveraging Attribution to Achieve Mobile Engagement
    Leveraging Big Data about user behavior helps brands more accurately and completely quantify the effectiveness of their mobile marketing initiatives. Big data helps marketers determine whether their campaigns are creating the desired results. The ways users respond to branding assets can be used to literally create “rules of engagement” for each user or for each type of user. Marketers optimize their results through understanding varying levels of consumer engagement and through understanding the contributions of different campaigns across the path-to-purchase.
  • Real-Time Data Analytics Across the Complete Mobile Lifecycle
    In the past, conventional database solutions could be relied upon to effectively manage and analyze massively large data sets. But they did so at a snail-like pace, taking days and even weeks to perform tasks that often yielded “stale” results. By contrast, the big data analytics platforms of today can perform sophisticated processes at lightening-fast speeds, allowing for real-time analysis and insights. Shorter time to insight allows marketers to make real-time decisions and take immediate action based on fresh, reliable and relevant information.
  • Flip Traditional Consumer Profiling Upside-Down
    In the context of ubiquitous, real-time consumer data brands can now ask the data who their customers are. Contrast this to the erudite consumer profiling where consumers are targeted towards based upon their goodness of fit into an expected consumer picture. Rather than relying upon arcane consumer characteristics, instead we can now quantitatively choose targeting characteristics based upon the congruence of these characteristics with the desired call-to-action.

Brands are in desperate need for solutions that will help them understand the impact of their mobile advertising spend in the grand scheme of their broader marketing plan. This requires brands to go well beyond the click-through to be able to attribute their spend to in-store visits and better yet, sales.

Mobile Turning the Corner

In the past few years, mobile marketing and advertising have been largely an afterthought for many brands. But this year, the hype is finally coming to fruition with the growing intersection of mobile and the retail experience. This requires brands and retailers to take a very thoughtful approach with their mobile strategy.

In the past few years, mobile marketing and advertising have been largely an afterthought for many brands. But this year, the hype is finally coming to fruition with the growing intersection of mobile and the retail experience. This requires brands and retailers to take a very thoughtful approach with their mobile strategy.

1. Strategic Focus
This increased focus has accelerated even since last fall. Brands are thinking about mobile as a strategically integrated part of their marketing, rather than just a stand-alone tactic. Many are no longer questioning the value of mobile, but rather questioning how to get the most value from it.

2. Consumer Value
Many brands are looking to achieve that value by focusing on meaningful user engagement with brand identity and utility. They have matured from simple marketing (static banner ads, coupons and QR codes that merely offer to help a shopper “learn more”). Once again, content is king.

For example, ConAgra engages consumers on contextually relevant sites and apps with recipes. Rather than just announcing that their products are available, they help shoppers save time and energy. Who doesn’t want someone telling you what’s for dinner and how to easily prepare it?

Mattel is another company that’s using its brand identity to engage with consumers in highly relevant activity. When you think Mattel, you think toys and games. So, the company is gamifying its digital efforts, giving people something to do in their downtime that’s fun and interactive. There’s a significant correlation between entertaining engagement and shopper conversions.

3. App vs. Mobile Web
While there have been great strides in mobile marketing initiatives, there is still some confusion about the strategic delivery of the content. This primarily refers to the confluence of the terms “mobile app” and “mobile Web.”

While mobile apps and websites in theory serve the same purpose, in reality they are very different beasts to create and maintain, and consumers approach each differently.

One recent example was a mobile app for a single recipe ingredient. Really? How many people are going to take the time to seek out this app, download it and see enough utility to open and use it on a regular basis?

For many brands, a better way would be to create a responsive, mobile-optimized website. This way, the content is universally and easily available on all operating systems and device sizes. It can be accessed quickly by a shopper who responds to a mobile ad or texts in a keyword with no need to download and install an app. For marketers, mobile sites are considerably less expensive to build and maintain, and faster to update.

Mobile, as a marketing channel, can no longer be ignored and must be addressed in order to succeed. There are definitely others that will help advance a brands mobile strategy such as better targeting, more relevant engagement with consumers and shoppers at the various touch points on the path to conversion and stronger collaboration with brands and retailers.

Mobile’s Impact on the Consumer Path to Purchase

One in three ad dollars will go to digital advertising next year, meaning digital media spending will be almost equal to television spending. Digital strategies will help drive the U.S. advertising market to $172 billion in 2015, according to new research from Magna Global. This—in combination with mobile and social networking—will push digital to the forefront

One in three ad dollars will go to digital advertising next year, meaning digital media spending will be almost equal to television spending. Digital strategies will help drive the U.S. advertising market to $172 billion in 2015, according to new research from Magna Global. Additional research shows that digital advertising will overtake television advertising by 2017, due in large part to the growing popularity of online video, with sites like YouTube and Netflix. This—in combination with mobile and social networking—will push digital to the forefront.

A digital strategy is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have for retailers and brands. If you don’t believe that, then you need to take a hard look at the following data points:

  • Mobile devices lead to in-store purchases. 52 percent of U.S. shoppers have used a mobile device to research products while browsing in a store.
  • Tablets are the cornerstone of online shopping. Tablets are expected to bring in $76 billion in online sales, two times that of mobile devices.
  • Digital content and mobile devices go hand in hand. According to eMarketer, U.S. adults will spend 23 percent of their time consuming media on a mobile device this year.
  • Mobile advertising is at its tipping point. Ad spend is expected to hit $31.45 billion this year. By 2018, it will top $94 billion.

How Do You Get There From Here?
Effective digital strategies take a cross-channel approach that integrates the various mobile channels, such as SMS, app, Web and social.

Value comes behind the scenes, as brands can learn useful information from mobile interactions. For example, customers reveal their operating system when they download an app or open their Web browser. Smart marketers collate such data points into one centralized customer profile—an ideal asset to maximize personalization for mobile.

Companies just getting started with cross-channel mobile marketing should focus on small wins. True cross-channel takes time and iteration, so commit to integrating what makes sense in the short, medium and long terms instead of trying to do everything simultaneously. Below you will find some key areas to consider when building out a mobile strategy:

1. Tablets, Smartphones and Watches, Oh My!
It will be vital for brands to take different form factors into account as they roll out their mobile campaigns. Mobile campaigns can quickly be compromised if brands don’t think about the impact on visuals and the call to action across various screen sizes.

2. The Mobile Marketing Tipping Point
Mobile marketing is evolving as more than just a tactic and is being embraced as a core part of the marketing strategy. With the goals being relatively the same as traditional marketing, marketers will be able to attract, engage and retain new and existing customers. Marketers will be able to target their audiences through highly relevant content based on location, interests and interactions throughout the mobile lifecycle.

3. Deliver a Seamless Experience From Discovery to Purchase
Brands have to make a conscious effort to remove the silos across organizations to be successful at mobile marketing. The goal of marketers should be to collaborate across initiatives by taking in to account different screen sizes, channels, design and messages to deliver ONE consistent experience to consumers.

4. Connecting the Dots Across all of the Consumer Lifecycle
As digital becomes a more integral part of the marketing strategy it will be vitally important to understand how mobile campaigns are performing across the entire customer lifecycle—including mobile ads and messaging, QR Codes, mobile website, branded apps and social media. With these insights, marketers will be able to optimize their campaigns to better understand the triggers that lead consumers down the path-to-purchase.

People everywhere are becoming more reliant on mobile devices and mobile websites to provide them with instant access to product information, deals and the opportunity to purchase in an easy, straightforward manner. Brands have to make it easy for their customers to navigate mobile sites and quickly decide to purchase, regardless of what device they are on.