The Internet of Things Starts With Agility Everywhere

The Internet of Things is all the rage with marketers today, and for good reason. Connecting to customers everywhere lets us marketers deliver more consistent and meaningful experiences. But behind the scenes, mobile apps, the lifeblood of these devices, operate at a fundamentally different pace than the traditional Web.

With the Web, tag management systems have become de-facto tools for enabling marketing agility and eliminating dependencies on IT cycles. But for many brands, marketers find themselves bound to development cycles all over again in the world of apps. By definition, apps are “compiled,” meaning they are hard-coded just like websites of the old days. When marketers want to extend technologies on mobile apps, they must typically rely on app developers to hard code each technology’s software development kit (SDK). With this very manual SDK approach, marketers have to wait for app developers to compile the app, wait for the app store to accept the new or revised app, and then wait for consumers to download an app update. Unlike today’s Web, marketing through the Internet of Things is hardly agile.

The Internet of Things represents an additional challenge as each “thing,” or device, is both a consumer of information and an originator. Our phones act more like devices and our devices act more like phones. Devices range from TV sets to mobile phone and computers; from clothing or wearables like Fitbit or Google Glass, to something movable – your car, plane, bike, tennis racket, and toothbrush that all report collected data from the device. So how can a marketer leverage this data for better marketing everywhere, and deliver more meaningful experiences on these “things” in the first place?

While I’ve noted the aggressive move to mobile in the last 12 months by many leading companies, some companies are technically making this all work, and they’ve been able to remain agile even in compiled mobile app environments. Companies with a forward-leaning omnichannel vision, such as Getty, Vivint, and United Airlines, to name a few are taking a “real-time” and a “no-SDK” approach to their apps and delivering excellent omnichannel experiences for their users. In other words, their apps are making a tangible impact on customer conversion, engagement, and loyalty — and they’re not slowed down by old-fashioned app development processes. So, in the static world of apps, how are they able to succeed where others struggle?

Ensighten chief executive (CEO) Josh Manion notes that delivering optimized omnichannel experiences is at the heart of today’s marketing. Marketers must insist on agility in any environment, including native mobile app environments. “For a marketer to settle for anything less does a disservice to both marketers and their customers. The ‘Internet of Things’ opens worlds of possibilities, and marketers should not be held back,” Manion says.

Indeed, many enterprise companies doing a killer job with their apps have adopted Ensighten’s no-SDK approach to omnichannel marketing.

Gamers Drove Mobile App Development

So how did the Internet of Things evolve, and agile app marketing become a requirement for marketers? Mobile game developers drove the development, starting with mobile analytics to drive quality gaming experience. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, Zynga really considers itself an analytics companies only “masquerading” as game company. Their key: Analytics drives game content around conversion over time. In other words, they are leveraging data to drive better in-app experiences.

The early use of these app tags was built into the game platforms along with analytic reporting tools – the platform or walled garden included content creation, data collection, analysis, and reporting in one place. It was a closed ecosystem that gave marketers what they needed to create better gaming experiences; but the ecosystem was still confined to the hard-coding process and all that waiting we talked about earlier.

Companies like Mixpannel, Segment.io, and Kissmetrics have built tools to optimize mobile apps, and are creating new metrics for mobile developers that are becoming as common as any page metric for the Web developer utilizing user location, trends, demographics, and a host of personal information as we have “opted in” to the device and it is co-located with all of us all of the time.

It is the use of this data, based on “the law of large numbers,” combined with personal information and aggregated across user cohorts – age, location, time of day – that yields powerful trending information giving developers keen insights into the use of their product in very short timeframes – hours and days instead of weeks and months. Metrics like Daily and Monthly Active Uniques (DAU and MAUs), and the tracking of user engagement within the app by cohort, now drive app developer decisions about features and the monetization of the application.

Yet, these new measures create new challenges, says Andrew Edwards, a managing director at digital analytics agency Society Consulting. “If it were hard enough to compare page views to page views across one brand and another, it’s harder still to determine rough equivalents in mobile apps. Organizations will have to pay even closer attention to their KPIs in mobile, because there are no standards.”

But again, deploying technologies with the app in an agile fashion –with no hard coding, or waiting — remains a major obstacle. Yes, deploying analytics within an app is important. With a rigid SDK approach, all that analytics data must be pre-planned so it can be hard-coded in the first place. In contrast, Ensighten’s agile approach to mobile app marketing doesn’t require pre-planning and lets marketers change their mind, test new tools, and live the agile lifestyle they are used to.

Best of Breed Mobile Innovators

In the last quarter I’ve spent time meeting with and listening to some of the largest brands in the world talk about their direction and key use of mobile as part of their omnichannel strategy. What they have in common are the following:

  • They are rapidly adding mobile applications
  • They are becoming data-driven organizations and are creating data-driven processes
  • They are transforming and re-aligning their organizations around data-driven, omnichannel demands by adding the right people and processes
  • They are staying as open and agile as possible as the rate of change is monumental and unpredictable

Two of the brands I mentioned earlier – Getty and Vivint – are leveraging a no-SDK approach to mobile app marketing, and this has helped propel them as leaders in the space of omnichannel marketing. As mobile app game developers drove games, Vivint is driving the Internet of Things, starting with the connected home, and is a great example of thought leadership and mobile app vision. Vivint is serving hundreds of thousands of customers with smart technology for home security and management by bringing together omnichannel data to drive interconnected experiences. They have a three-fold mobile app strategy that to drives their vision of a connected smart home:

  • Start slow and learn with a few basic mobile applications. Keep customer satisfaction high and measure with NPS and in-app metrics.
  • Understand, test, and optimize customer engagement metrics within the app experiences and build KPIs with users and applications using analytics
  • Broaden app offerings to other devices in the home, while keeping agile and responsive to customer needs. Let data drive their mobile app experience decisions.

Similarly, Getty is going “all in” with the agile, no SDK approach to mobile app marketing. Having moved from Web-based marketing, Getty is now creating a suite of mobile applications with a goal toward increasing customer engagement and loyalty. To do that, Getty is rapidly creating applications that engage their loyal visitors with their stunning images. More visits/time on the app means more customer loyalty for Getty. And more revenue. They are re-crafting their organization to support their mobile efforts.

In this new era of the Internet of Things, the age-old struggle for marketing agility presents fresh challenges. Understanding how to keep an agile pace, innovate on traditionally constrictive platforms, and deliver the right experience across a range of devices is key to today’s marketing mix.

Image via Shutterstock.

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