I’m in the camp that says mobile’s promise lies in our ability to deliver ultra-personalized, contextual content to a wireless user who is increasingly expecting nothing less.
I’m less sure about how patient the mobile subscriber will be as we wrap our arms around the Big Data and all that it tells us – if we take the time, and have the right resources, to listen.
Julie Ask, one of the smartest and most respected in the industry, is one of the biggest champions of the context concept.
"What will it mean in five years? Consumer desire for convenience will trump their need for privacy," Ask, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, wrote for Forbes.
"They will gradually allow access to this information residing on their phones to trusted partners in exchange for convenient services, not unlike the use of credit cards today. Content and services will become highly personalized. The phone will be a both a hub collecting information from machines around us and a modem relaying it to applications or services that will leverage it to offer convenient services.
"The ability to deliver highly contextual experiences will evolve in sophistication with technology in the phone. Already, phones have GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers. Going forward, they will have barometers, chemical sensors and microbolometers. They already have two cameras enabling 3D video capture and distance measurements."
OK, that’s a look five years out. But marketers interviewed for my Mobilized Marketing book said that mobile subscribers are punishing brands that fail to deliver a positive experience on mobile. Conversely, the users are rewarding companies that meet or exceed their expectations.
For years, we have heard marketers not only ask but demand data from mobile programs to make the efforts more successful and trackable. Few organizations, however, have the infrastructure, personnel, budget or mindset to take in as much information as possible and to do something meaningful with it.
Still, the technology is advancing so rapidly that there are fewer and fewer inhibitors to getting the data.
I’ve heard Ask discuss the concept of presenting to the mobile user information or ads based on whether it’s warm or cold in the room that they are in.
Others also believe location is only part of the story.
"I see the importance of context growing more and more and beyond just location," Michael Becker, the North American Managing Director for the Mobile Marketing Association, told me in Mobilized Marketing.
"Time will be the next access that will take a big role in our conversation," Becker said. "It’s not just a matter that I’m in Times Square but when am I in it, because the engagement around you is different if I’m standing in Times Square at 12 in the afternoon versus 12 at night. How do we play that role and have that level of context with consumers?"
There is plenty of data to be gathered and analyzed there, even before confirming that the mobile user is okay with being reached in such a personal way.
"We’re going to see the idea of permission marketing go beyond I got your opt in or opt it.," Becker says. "There are going to be layers of permission. When can you talk to me? On what subjects? And on what devices and mediums?"
There is also a layering in of other factors, according to Hipcricket CTO Nathanial Bradley.
"If you look at the progression of that ambient targeting, it has to know whether the sun was shining when you invoked a mobile marketing campaign, if the last time you bought donuts it was raining, whether the stock market was up or down or whether your sales were up or down during a particular marketing campaign or mobile delivery," Bradley told me.
"All those ambient conditions contribute to a targeting that will become more and more enhanced. You can see in the future that if I picked up your cell phone by accident, it would be absolutely worthless to me because of the amount of targeting and the amount of customization of content that goes from device to device."
Of course, the challenge will be taking in the data, analyzing it and responding appropriately. The mobile user is already expecting nothing less.