Staying ahead of the elusive Mobile user was the theme for a panel at the 5th Annual Digital Analytics Philadelphia Symposium, held on October 29, 2015 at Drexel University.
The panel discussed challenges facing companies developing mobile sites and applications to meet users’ increasingly voracious appetite for mobile content and applications. An IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark study from earlier this year tagged mobile traffic as making up 46.5 percent of all online traffic, up 26.5 percent compared to last year.
Moderated by Lee Isensee, Director of Product Strategy at Search Discovery, the panel included Brian Cosgrove, a Principal of BrainDo, Amy Sample, Sr. Director, Digital Analytics at PBS and Abhinav Sharma, a Technical Delivery Director of Barclaycard US.
The panel agreed that mobile is an evolution of development from desktop application, not a trend emerging from it. Companies are not “trying out” mobile applications and abandoning them if they don’t “work.” Mobile must be a long-term strategy and platform for any business with a digital presence.
Native vs. Responsive: Does it Matter?
It does. The panel discussed the strategy decision to develop a native application versus a responsive website. Sharma suggested that actions or functions that users engage frequently, several times a day, are likely best presented as native applications, but services that are access less frequently as maybe better presented as a mobile website. Amy Sample said that in her experience in the media industry most media consumers use a mobile browser to find content particularly out of social media, but that app users watch more video, so there’s room for both.
Key Takeaway: A strategy for developing the best digital properties for mobile interaction should start with an understanding of how – and how often – users will make contact.
The Biggest Challenges for A Company Managing Mobile Growth
Brian Cosgrove stated that the biggest challenge in moving an organization towards a mobile approach is building the applications. making sure that the business’s service layers are harmonized enough to support native application building is a common challenge. If there’s an organized backend service layer system for the mobile app to “talk” to then app development is easy. A lack of this type of uniformity is a challenge in both development and analytics.
Simple discussed the challenges of attribution in the media industry with respect to video streaming. She said that it’s difficult for a web analyst to determine how many people are viewing a video stream, particularly when that stream may be broadcast to a large screen with multiple viewers.
Sharma said that financial industry works to capture user behavior, to see what drives users into the application, and uses that data to determine the user’s objectives and personalize content.
Key Takeaway: Developing an app that harmonizes with your current backend, building a working attribution model and understanding user actions are key challenges to harnessing mobile growth.
User Engagement Challenges
The panel discussed keeping user engagement strong among mobile users. Cosgrove recommended that companies stress new features, developments, and applications to grab user’s attention. Simple said that PBS generally stays away from app notifications and relies on fresh content to maintain engagement. Sharma said that his company meets the engagement challenge by using actionable data about user behavior to provide services that users want, and make those services easy to use.
Key Takeaway: Developing a killer app isn’t the end of the story. Companies should be ready post-launch to execute an analytics plan and a continuing content strategy.
Marketing for the Mobile Future
Isensee posed the question about though which channel growing businesses can best market their mobile presence. Sharma said that the best channel depends on the type of service being marketed, what sort of functionality it has, and what kind of relationship the company has with its audience. For a financial services company, direct marketing to existing customers can be fruitful. Simple said that PBS doesn’t use a lot of paid search but does rely on sharing of content. Cosgrove said that when the app itself is the business, cross-promoting that app on other apps helps, as is getting high on lists of top apps. For the instances in which the App is an outgrowth of another service, marketing that app on the mobile web and in search results can be effective.
Key Takeaway: Companies are still finding their way in growing a mobile presence, and an understanding of the user base is a key first step.
Looking Forward: Deeplinking Apps and Cameras as Input Devices
Cosgrove discussed one technology that’s “lagging” in the mobile arena verses the desktop arena – sorting and deeplinking across apps.
He gave an example of the code of a web page: the first tag on any webpage tells the reader what “document” it is. The web is built as a series of “documents,” which can be easily searched, categorized, and organized. Apps are different because they’re individual programs. That is to say that while a web page is a digital property made for a specific searchable platform, apps are not. Therefore there is an innovative opportunity for the industry to develop ways to sort, search, and deeplink to apps.
Lastly, Cosgrove pointed out that mobile camera use for functions other than taking pictures, to integrate online and offline activity (such as cataloging receipts and depositing checks) is going to play an enhanced role in the mobile experience moving forward.
Key Takeaway: For many marketers, mobile is (and has been) the area of innovation and opportunity. Brands that can strategically invest and plan with the context of Mobile will be better poised to reap the benefits.