4 min read

Marketers Flooded With Big Data From Mobile

A gargantuan amount of customer data now flows from mobile devices and social media. But along with challenge comes opportunity for marketers.
As mobile devices like smartphones and tablets become primary, companies are struggling to recast their marketing and messaging strategies--ones built around desktop email--for these "always-addressable" customers and prospects.

That was one of two main themes at Connections2012, email provider ExactTarget's annual user conference last week in Indianapolis. The three-day event attracted some 4,000 attendees.

A related topic was the gargantuan amounts of data flowing from the mobile and social media, and how well marketers are handling these big data sets, which increasingly demand real-time processing.

[ The mobility push is fueling opportunities for app developers. Read more at Enterprise Hunger For Custom Apps Equals Developer Jobs. ]

Conference speaker Angie Hicks Bowman, founder and CMO of local-services review site Angie's List, said massive amounts of data from social media and mobile devices was both a challenge and an opportunity. She said 20% of her marketing department's personnel are data analysts.

While these data feeds "can't completely drive development," Bowman said, they do provide "tremendous insights and information."

Much of that new data is coming across the mobile channel.

By 2016, one-third of U.S. adults will own and use a tablet computer, said Robert Brosnan, a senior analyst serving customer intelligence professionals at Forrester Research. But most enterprise systems today aren't prepared for what he called "always-addressable" customers, whose mobile devices "spit out enormous amounts of data." Indeed, lack of data integration prevents companies from achieving one of their top goals: a uniform view of each customer.

Forrester believes the apps market, now a $4 billion industry, will be worth $100 billion in the next three or four years.

"We're seeing signs that the app will be the focal point of the brand's entire marketing strategy," said Brent Hieggelke, CMO of Urban Airship, a three-year-old company that provides mobile push notifications and in-app messages.

Hieggelke and others at the conference noted the intimacy of mobile devices. Companies that manage to get their app on a user's home screen or a dock have achieved a vital branding advantage, they said.

A Priority, but...

During a panel discussion, Greg Stewart, global CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association, asked the audience how many had put "mobile" as one of their top five strategic priorities. The majority of hands in the general session went up. But when Stewart asked how many were executing against this priority, only a smattering of hands went up.

"Marketers are overwhelmed with all the new stuff that is coming to them," Stewart wrote in an email when asked about the seeming disconnect in the audience. "However, that in no way negates the missed opportunity, or even lessens the competitive threat, by not jumping on mobile quickly," he wrote, adding, "Consumers have changed--marketers must, too.”

Separately, a just-released CMO Council survey found just 14% of brand CMOs said they were satisfied with their marketing programs.

How to handle mobile customers is an issue at 60-year-old furniture retailer Raymour & Flanigan. "Thirty percent of our website access is coming from phones and tablets," said Jeffrey Couto, the company's digital marketing and CRM manager. He said it was important for the company to find a way into mobile. "But," he added, "people aren't going to buy a sofa that way."

"Delivery is the last step...and we're agnostic about the [messaging] protocol," said Scott McCorkle, ExactTarget's president, technology and strategy. More important, he said, was helping customers get a handle on their data, much of it coming from multiple channels and systems (mobile, Web, social media, CRM), and then creating business rules for deciding what messages to send. "This is increasingly demanding real-time, big-data analysis," he said.

Email Adapts

In its latest Channel Preferences Survey, conducted in January and February, ExactTarget found that while email was thriving--preferred as a promotional channel by 77% of the nearly 1500 online respondents--email declined as a preferred personal communications channel, dropping 21% from 2008. Meanwhile, the preference for text messaging and social media had grown 20% and 10%, respectively, the survey found.

ExactTarget used its conference to make product announcements that touched on mobility and data analytics topics. For instance, it announced an expanded suite of digital marketing applications, including new features for its Interactive Marketing Hub product that integrate with mobile push messaging.

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