The Real-Time Opportunity in Native Apps

Content Takeover Big Data & AnalyticsHere’s the marketing potential of native mobile apps:

A high-value customer of an airline – in the top rank of the loyalty program, taking more than 50 trips a year – begins researching her next trip on a desktop, but then moves on to other tasks. Later, she picks up her smartphone and opens the airline’s app, which she frequently uses, and easily completes the purchase.

Arriving for her flight, the app’s geolocation feature recognizes that she’s arrived at the airport and texts an invitation to visit the business-class lounge, mapping its location from her current position. The lounge’s host greets her by name and hands her a preferred newspaper. Later, after she’s boarded the flight, the plane’s onboard entertainment system greets her by name and displays entertainment options based on her interests and selections from previous flights. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the airline’s analytics platform is taking note of her latest behavior so that it can deliver an even more personalized experience next time.

So where did apps drive this positive experience? In this example, apps influenced every step that occurred after the desktop. With the ability to leverage native data and a 360-degree view of the customer, apps are the emerging force behind connected, personal and effective interactions. Many brands are already leading the way.

The native app advantage

When designing customer experiences, native apps have several advantages over mobile websites, even those using responsive design. First, they can take advantage of native smartphone and tablet features such as contextual awareness provided by geolocation and accelerometers to gain more contextualized data that creates a more meaningful, real-time experience, as we see in the example above.

Native applications are also the driving force making the new generation of smart devices possible, such as home automation and connected-car services. In our example, as our high-value traveler got into her car to head to the airport, the airline’s app might have connected to her car’s smart navigation system to direct her to the correct airport terminal for the flight. Being able to stay connected to the consumer across devices and circumstances is a huge competitive advantage—and will soon become a competitive necessity.

Momentum for mobile

Mobile usage continues to grow and expand. On June 8th Apple announced that 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies have an iOS App, and its App Store had reached 100 billion downloads, while the latest Internet trends report from Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers states that mobile now accounts for more than half of all digital media usage in the United States.

The fact that Google is now indexing Android app pages and including them in relevant search results is another illustration of how important native app experiences, as opposed to mobile web experiences, are to consumers. Google mobile web search had been available for years, but it is now imperative for Google to help people find information within apps.

There are two takeaways for marketers:

  • Your customers are now always accessible.
  • Enterprises that are not hyper-focused on creating, delivering, improving and optimizing across all channels, including native apps, will lose customers.

Apps vs. mobile marketing agility

As the customer journey is now omnichannel and competition for consumer attention continues to increase in native app channels, marketers are demanding a way to rapidly adapt and evolve app marketing.

While web applications are easy to change on the fly, the way native apps are designed and built limits agility because app development and changes are completely reliant on non-marketing resources. When app developers are engaged in building an app, they do not always have a clear understanding of the business case for the app, nor do they necessarily understand how to translate business goals into app development.

Once the app is published and live in the app store, marketers must again enlist developer resources to make changes. Because code must be recompiled each time a change is made, it is very difficult and slow, using common development methods, to perform standard digital marketing practices such as A/B testing or personalization within app content.

It is even difficult to deploy analytics in these environments (according to Forrester, fewer than half of all native apps use analytics at all). Moreover, any time a change is made, the app must be resubmitted to app stores, which can take weeks or longer. Also, apps rely on users downloading updates, which they often delay or don’t do at all.

Where we need to be

As marketers, we need to have the same agile practices we’re accustomed to in web development integrated into app development environments. It should not be acceptable for marketers to wait months to make app updates, run A/B tests or publish effective new content. Marketers must demand agility in all environments and seek solutions that give them the ability to interact in a real-time, meaningful way with consumers across all channels and devices. Marketers should look for elements that give them agility everywhere, such as:

  • Ability to test and target content within native apps and web environments alike, in the same real-time fashion
  • Interoperability with third party technologies for analytics, conversion tracking and in-app ad displays
  • Unified data from all channels and touchpoints
  • In-app personalization based on data-rich profiles
  • Real-time optimization to boost conversion, engagement, loyalty, retention
  • Delivery of contextualized one-to-one experience across all channels with 100 percent visitor privacy

As customers continue their move to mobile, marketers should take advantage of the potential of native apps to deliver rich, personalized experiences and learn from app analytics to drive more effective marketing everywhere. In order to get there, we need to find more agile ways to develop and optimize native apps.

When done right, omnichannel marketing has the potential to not only increase brand loyalty and customer lifecycle value, but also to build trust. If the personalized experience consumers receive outweighs privacy concerns they may have, they will become more willing to share their data with you. And the rewards for the brands will be big. According to Forrester, 60 percent of consumers interact with brands they like across multiple channels. Forrester also forecasts that cross-channel sales will account for 50 percent of all U.S. retail by 2018.

Interested? Here are the four things marketers need in order to use omnichannel data to connect one-to-one with customers:

1. Individual, non-PII customer profiles

The ability to define and identify custom audiences was a huge step forward for marketers, but it falls short of true one-to-one marketing. Two consumers might both be avid purchasers of pet products, but one may search for mobile coupons while he’s in a store, while the other may love to watch cat videos on your website. In order to deliver the best experience to each of them, we need to be able to create richer anonymous profiles in accordance with government and corporate data privacy policies that combine data from all customer touchpoints.

2. Data ownership at the user level

Valuable, non-personally identifiable data at the individual level may come from multiple sources, including owned digital properties, campaigns on third-party properties, third-party data providers and owned offline systems. This requires a new approach to data ownership, because third-party audience data and closed marketing suites hinder a marketer’s ability to understand an individual’s intent, as well as to choose the best channel for action. When a brand is able to collect first-party, cross-channel data for itself, this owned data can still be sent to third-party audience data networks, including DMPs, data aggregators and demand side platforms. Data ownership also lets marketers use data from all channels to optimize the customer experience on the company’s website.

3. Integration of mobile data

With mobile usage already surpassing desktop for many retailers, and mobile marketing expenditures to account for $31.1 billion by 2017 according to eMarketer, it’s crucial that data from mobile interactions be included in personalization efforts. But it’s not as simple as optimizing the mobile channel, because that’s only part of the omnichannel customer journey. While 65 percent of multi-screen consumers begin their shopping process from a smartphone, and 68 percent use their phones in stores, they often complete the purchase at a POS, according to Forrester. Only by integrating data from mobile interactions with that from other channels can marketers get an accurate view of the journey to conversion and then optimize it.

4. Integrated analytics

Analytics enabling continual refinement of content personalization let marketers get closer and closer to that one-to-one connection. But most optimization platforms and ad retargeting solutions lack access to customer behavior on different devices. When a brand owns its first-party data and has created individual, non-PIII customer profiles that include data from all channels, it can then provide effective, one-to-one marketing across all touchpoints, online and offline. Being able to share this data with third-party marketing tools and platforms is equally important in order to interact with consumers in close to real time – and to feed data from third-party systems back into the master data layer.

These four concepts are core to the relevance and effectiveness of every retargeting, optimization, personalization, acquisition and retention program. And they are not only about meeting short-term revenue goals. They will help drive brand loyalty and customer lifetime value, the nirvana for all marketers.

Ensighten*Sponsored content in collaboration with Ensighten. Views expressed in this article are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect ClickZ’s opinions.

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