Building Personalized Mobile Experiences: Why Contextual Data Matters

November 10, 2014

Brian Howell


Smartphones are quickly taking center stage in your customers’ lives, generating mountains of data ripe for marketing analysis. Mobile data is a “customer data gold mine” and marketers should leverage this data to create contextual mobile moments that engage your customers, according to a new report from Forrester Research.

Forrester states in this report that there is an “untapped opportunity in mobile for marketers to get an extremely granular understanding of their customers, anticipate customers' expectations, and develop unique insights to power better marketing across all channels, not just mobile.”

So, as a marketer, how can you go about leveraging the wealth of data you have at your fingertips to create personalized and relevant experiences for your customers? We’ll run through what data is important, what contextual data is, and how you can start leveraging it in your app.

What Data Is Important?

Because users carry smartphones with them almost everywhere, marketers now have access to an unprecedented amount of data. And, while Google and Apple currently take different approaches to user permissioning, the paths to properly gather this information are clear (Be sure to have an updated privacy policy that tells users what you’re doing and what the data is going to be used for). Properly gathered mobile data is extraordinarily rich; there’s a reason Forrester calls this a “gold mine.”

In one of our latest blog posts on mobile analytics, we noted that there are four types of data that mobile marketers should be concerned about:

  • Mobile Descriptors: These are data points endemic to the channel - things like a user’s geographic location, the default language chosen on a device, device hardware used, the quality of data connection, the operating system, and the version of app.
  • Mobile Behaviors: These are uniquely measured for mobile devices and include things like number of sessions (open/close of an app), date of the first session, date of the last session, time spent in an app, and amount of money spent on virtual items (think subscriptions sold via app stores or gold coins found in games).
  • App Events: These are events, usually specific and important to your application. For a mobile game, examples could include things like tutorial started, tutorial abandoned, tutorial completed, and level completed. For a retail app, it could include things like item viewed, item saved to cart, cart abandoned, or purchase completed. The possibilities are endless and entirely custom to an individual business and app.
  • User Demographics: These are the standard like age, gender, zip code, income, etc.

This data can be further simplified into two categories:

  • Personal Data about individuals in the world they live in. The focus is the new data that the latest mobile devices collect, generally as a result of a plethora of sensors. Things like heart rates, calories burned, humidity, temperature, etc.
  • Contextual Data combining offline and online behaviors. For example, this gives context to online behaviors like purchases by taking in consideration where this behavior takes place.

3 Quick Ways to Leverage Contextual Mobile Data

You may have noticed that we described your mobile data in terms of mountains. That may sound scary - but it’s the reality. A properly instrumented mobile app will gather far more data than that typically available through other channels.

That said, a mountain of data can sound daunting to scale. Let’s look at 3 simple ways to use this data:

  1. Build a Personalized Experience: Mobile game developers have known this since they started instrumenting their apps with mobile analytics: some users are more valuable than others. Once your marketing team identifies who is most valuable to your business - i.e., high spenders, frequent visitors, or trend setters who invite their friends, it’s important to customize the user experience to tend to their differences. For example, an app developer could acknowledge a high spender at welcome - providing them a higher level of service similar to how airlines treat their most valuable customers at the airport.
  2. Create Location-Aware Offers: Businesses like hotel groups are pioneering the use of location aware data provided by mobile apps. Starwood recently launched a pilot to test using smartphones to unlock hotel rooms. Functional use of mobile data will go a long way to improving the customer experience; however, the next step for these businesses is location-aware offers. Imagine a push notification that welcomes a hotel guest to their room 10 minutes after they’ve entered. That push notification can then launch the hotel app, deep linking to an offer for a discount on room service or the hotel spa.
  3. Create Complementary Multi-Channel Experiences: Many successful retailers offer customers a web, mobile and store option for shopping. Often, these represent siloed experiences. However, sophisticated retailers are starting to experiment with shopping experiences that span channels. For example, imagine a mobile shopper who placed a pair of their shoes into a shopping cart but didn’t complete the purchase. A mobile marketer, aware of the opportunity to increase revenue by eliminating cart abandonment, could target that mobile shopper when near their store. So instead of abandoning the shoes, the shopper receives a notification alerting them that they’re in-stock and available for a time-limited discount.

Unlocking Better Customer Experiences

Marketers have never before had access to this granular level of customer data. Taken in total, these mountains of information can be overwhelming. But once categorized and applied to real world scenarios, mobile data can create contextual mobile moments that strengthen customer relationships and improve KPIs. 

winningstrat_feature_01-1To learn more best practices for using data to improve the mobile experience, download our whitepaper 7 Tips for Turning Big Data into Smart Data.


In: Marketing, Analytics, Industry News

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