Digital Conference

Making Mobile Work for Your Brand: Five Expert Tips

Gilt, Foursquare and Bump Execs Share Advice on Connecting With Consumers and What's Ahead for Mobile Technology

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Mobile technology has, without a doubt, helped create deeper interactions between people and brands. It's not always easy to get it right, but with mobile internet usage expected to outnumber desktop connections in the next few years, marketers can't wait to craft mobile strategies. At today's mobile discussion at the Ad Age Digital Conference, three mobile-technology innovators spoke about the lessons they've learned -- and what that knowledge predicts for future mobile trends.

Here, five tips on how mobile can work for your brand:

1) Get data
"You can deepen relationships with data," said Gilt Groupe's CEO Kevin Ryan, who has seen the proportion of total sales revenue attributable to mobile exchanges rise to 25% since developing a platform for portable devices. For example, every Gilt Groupe email is uniquely tailored for each user based on data delineating past behavior, purchases and preferences.

The wide world of mobile: Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley.
The wide world of mobile: Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley. Credit: Rob Tannenbaum

Dennis Crowley, CEO and co-founder of Foursquare, also took a forward-looking approach by revealing that the two-year-old company is currently concerned "with what happens after check-in."

By gathering and reviewing data, the company can chart user activity by criteria such as time of day and category. For example, it's been found that dinner-time and food-related updates are most common. Using this information, marketers "can start to predict behaviors" and "use data to figure out where people are and will be at different times," Mr. Crowley said.

In this regard, he admitted that Foursquare is watching Twitter, whose president of revenue Adam Bain announced earlier today the launch of a Follower Dashboard. The platform is geared for marketers seeking detailed demographic user data for account followers.

2) Know what your consumer wants
Jake Mintz, co-founder of Bump Technologies, the seventh most-downloaded iOS application, is focused on connecting the digital realm with consumer's physical experiences.

Bump aims to "deliver better experiences based on what you know about a person or interaction," explained Mr. Mintz. He asked, "Why should I stand in line in Starbucks, when I order the same thing every time?" Instead, Bump is experimenting with curating purchasing experiences for customers based on history and preferences. Imagine entering a grocery store: Once the customer "bumps," thereby identifying himself, the retailer becomes aware of key facts about him. Perhaps he is a vegetarian, and always likes to buy organic products. He can make an order from a menu of regular options and pay right away, without standing in line.

3) Gratify. Instantly
"The hardest challenge," admitted Mr. Mintz, is bringing "instant gratification, instant value, to the user." Bump's technology enables two mobile-phone users to exchange information simply by touching their handhelds, and the company is building upon this information to enhance consumer experience.

Social sharing enters real time; so if people traveling together want to share photos, or a new song, they can do so without connecting over another platform such as email or Skype. When building a band's fan list, for example, organizers could take advantage of concerts to ask the audience to join just by "bumping."

Keep in mind, warned Gilt's Mr. Ryan, that it's important to design for each specific device, whether it be an iPad, iPhone, iTouch orAndroid. His company is continually developing to make each app faster and easier, even if that means foregoing certain strengths, such as Gilt's large number of images.

4) Go global
Get rid of U.S.-based mentalities. During today's mobile discussion, we learned that more than half of people using Bump reside outside the U.S., with the fastest-growing user bases residing in Hong Kong and South Korea. Similarly, Foursquare's usage map was notably global, with a strong footprint not just in the developed world (U.S., Europe, Japan) but also in Southeast Asia, the Middle East (Israel, most prominently) and pockets of South America.

5) Move first
A lot of these lessons came by way of experimentation, but that's not an excuse to sit back and watch the market perfect itself. As Mr. Ryan pointed out, "getting customers a few years from now will be more difficult," so there's a real need "to be creative and more aggressive."

Though the technology is not perfect, it works well enough and it's important to learn as it evolves. For Mr. Mintz, the issue is straightforward: "What you think you know about your users is wrong, and you won't know until they tell you. So why waste time?"

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