Urban Airship Tears Down Mobile Data Walls for Redbox

Starwood, Rhapsody, Redbox and Others Test Real-time User-level Mobile Data Delivery

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More than 60% of Redbox's online traffic comes through its app and mobile site. And until now, the company had difficulty tracking and responding to that data on a user-level.

Brands such as Redbox worry that too much of their customer data is hidden behind a mobile barrier. The company is among a handful of clients using an updated system from mobile app firm Urban Airship that promises the movie rental service it can access the digital traffic it gets through mobile channels in real-time, rather than waiting for bulk updates to be sent to its marketing platform partners such as Adobe Marketing Cloud.

"What this really does is it kind of extends our suite of information we have access to -- in particular we have access to push-level data," said Kimberlie Christen, senior manager of mobile strategy and innovation at Redbox. The new Urban Airship Connect system gives the brand real-time updates on who is viewing push notifications and who is clicking through to take actions such as reserving a DVD for pickup.

Previously, data showing whether someone uninstalled an app or responded to a push notification would have been updated in batches or in aggregate, so email or ad systems would not be able to respond with follow-up messages in a timely manner. Until Urban Airship revamped its system over the past several months, the data was "locked in mobile," said Bill Schneider, director of product marketing at the Portland, Ore.-based firm.

The updated system disseminates user-level data in real-time to Urban Airship's clients' marketing partner platforms. "In the past we would have it at the aggregate level," said Ms. Christen. "It's really important that we get it at the customer level."

Along with Redbox, select clients including the National Hockey League, Starwood Resorts and Hotels Worldwide and Rhapsody have been testing the new Connect service, which will be available more widely at the end of October.

The mobile data firm is delivering the data to Redbox partners including Adobe and its email analytics firm ExactTarget. Redbox has apps for finding the locations of its movie pickup and drop-off kiosks for iOS, Android and Kindle. Those apps have been downloaded over 30 million times, said Ms. Christen.

A key use for the user-level data is to woo back customers who have uninstalled the Redbox app, she said, noting there is a lot of competition for space on mobile desktops that leads to uninstalls. "We can remarket to them once we get that app uninstall data," she said. "It's one of the key features we didn't have access to before."

Using the new system, an advertiser might create a Facebook audience segment comprised of people who responded to a push notification in a mobile app. Urban Airship provides an identifier for each of those users that can be linked to Facebook data. Because people agree to terms and conditions of data tracking and use when downloading the apps managed by Urban Airship, the information is considered first-party data gathered through opt-in consent.

In addition to Facebook, other launch partners include comScore, Krux, Google Analytics and Amazon data platforms.

Retailers increasingly are interested in using real-time mobile data to inform in-store interactions with customers, said Mr. Schneider. However, don't expect salespeople to pounce on unsuspecting customers based on their latest mobile app interaction, he said, noting it's less about creepy targeting and more about better customer service. By linking mobile interaction data to other systems, store salespeople can better prepare for things such as customer product pickups, or schedule meetings with VIP customers in certain departments when they're in the store, he said.

Considering the impact of ecommerce on bricks-and-mortar retail, added Mr. Schneider, "They realize they're not going to be able to compete on price."