A Summit of Data: Test, Measure, Repeat

There are many themes and individual insights that occurred to me as I red-eyed it back home from this week's Mobile Insider Summit. Don't let the perfect get in the way of the test, was one mantra I kept hearing explicitly and implicitly in many presentations and discussions. It was remarkable that Michael Callahan of Century21, Beth Murphy of Travelocity, Jeff Haddon of OfficeMax, BJ Emerson of Tasti D-Lite and Jeff Cloud of mall owners GGP all discussed their brand's mobile approaches in historical terms, as iterative journeys. No one was trying to convey the impression that they really "get mobile" in any comprehensive final sense. Instead, they explored the ways in which they are learning.

In the case of Century21 and OfficeMax especially, their mobile evolution is very much tied to a brand evolution and new image they want to project to customers. Mike Callahan started his presentation with the iconic Century21 agent in the garish yellow jacket of years ago. Jeff Haddon showed how mobile was taking the lead in enhancing the OfficeMax brand with a sense of fun. The new apps use the rubber band ball as their interface, complete with "elastic" navigation buttons you can tug or press.



But in all cases, the test, rinse, repeat model was paramount. When it comes to understanding mobile as it impacts your brand, there is no substitute for direct experience with customers, who will show you how they want to be served. But you need something to learn from. To generalize and paraphrase many of these brands who spoke to us over those three days, no one was suggesting marketers disregard quality when putting something into the mobile ecosystem. But I heard most of them say not to look for perfection first time out or over-test and over-research in the belief you will nail it right away. Get something credible, if necessarily incomplete, in the market so you can learn from customers was my takeaway.

And so some of the stray data points that poured from the stage over the last few days were to me impressive. Everyone was trying to understand use and habit. And even those of us used to stats demonstrating the shift to mobile were struck by the numbers. Travelocity has seen growth of 400% to 500% annually in customers accessing via mobile devices. About 10% of bookings are coming from mobile, largely because a fairly high percentage of people book hotels at the last minute.

Beth Murphy explained how these last-minute behaviors are only made more viable and frequent by the availability of mobile ordering options. In other words, mobile is reshaping the buy cycle once again. To me, this is the leading indicator of where ad money has to start moving. Even though there are many other usage stats that justify increases in mobile marketing spend, when marketers realize there is only one place to capture the mobilized consumer in the last steps of their purchase process -- mobile -- then the big shift occurs.

Almost everyone who referenced their audiences underscored how Web habits are porting faithfully to mobile. Demographics appear to be a differentiator, however. The under-30 crowd is, as one speaker said, fully "device-agnostic." They are ready to access your brand from any platform or device, but they also expect the same functionality everywhere. Shehryar Khan, CEO of Ubermind, which designs mobile shopping experiences for Apple and Target, says that the unevenness of integration with e-commerce (the checkout) is where you see the weakest link now in the m-commerce experience for many sites.

And just when you were getting used to the impressive numbers in smartphone use, just wait for the tablet statistics to come in. Pandora's Kim Luegers told us about half of all iPad users have her brand installed on their device, and 52% of them access it at least once a month. SapientNitro's global mobile lead David Hewitt said that when he peered at Omniture logs on a number of sites viewed across devices, the page views and revenue per user on the iPad were more than all the others combined.

And just to keep everyone on their toes, there is another screen on the horizon that will become important to many of you in the mobile world. This is the oldest screen of them all, which may well start to close the loop on mobile in coming years. Kim also told us that Pandora is already seeing something in the neighborhood of 2 million unique users each month from connected TV apps via things like the Samsung TV app hub and Sony blu-ray players. Yeah, 2 million already.

Most of the presentations from our speakers and videos of all the panels at the Mobile Insider Summit are available here; scroll down the agenda for each individual video.

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