#HighOnData Series Mobile economy: Tap-ping into the future

Blog 02

In this issue of our #highondata series, Professor Anindya Ghose, academic and author of the recently released TAP: Unlocking the Mobile Economy, talks to us about how consumers are creating a data trail by tapping their phones and businesses can tap into this trail to harness the power of the more than three trillion dollar mobile economy. 

Tell us about the dynamic shifts in the consumer and purchase behavior resulting from use of mobile devices.
When it comes to the shift, one of the biggest changes I have seen on a global scale has been the use of location data and how consumers are responding to the increasing use of the same by brands and marketers.

What I have seen is that there is a fundamental shift in the consumer acceptance of sharing their data in order to get some type of economic benefit; this could be in the form of a curated price, product or a personalized service.

Has data analytics become mission critical to gain competitive advantage in the mobile economy?
Yes absolutely, but that being said, there is a difference in the level of realization across the world. For example, North America (NA), especially the US, has been the most advanced in this space and in realizing this. Companies in the US are very aware and have been quick to adopt these changes to gain a competitive advantage vis-à-vis the rest of the world.

When it comes to Western Europe though, they are aware, but haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet. Firms in the Far East in contrast are ahead of their counterparts in Europe, but a tad behind their peers in NA when it comes to adopting analytics. There are always bastions of excellence – Singapore for example is ahead as compared to other Asian countries in adopting analytics. South America and Africa though are years behind.

Why do you think there is this resistance to adopt analytics? Is it because firms haven’t yet discovered the true potential of analytics and how it can add value?
In this case, I truly think it is a chicken and egg situation. Companies haven’t realized the value because there is resistance, and there is resistance because they haven’t seen the value. If you are in an organization that hasn’t adopted it yet, then you have to bite the bullet and adopt it and then you will see the value.

How can firms use the data generated by people over mobile devices to enhance customer experience?
Actually, in my book I talk at length about this. One of the main insights in the book is that I have identified these nine forces that are shaping this 3-trillion dollar mobile economy. Each of these forces in isolation can have a huge impact on how an organization is able to respond to customers, but more often than not, there are striking synergies between these forces so that the sum of the individual parts becomes greater than the whole.

For example, other than location, I have talked about crowdedness of consumer’s immediate proximity, weather, consumer’s actual walking patterns or trajectory. Other factors include omni-channel synergies, cross-device targeting as well as offline and online synergies.

With the current volume of apps in the mobile space, how difficult is it to even get it to the consumer’s purview?
Unfortunately, I don’t have any great news for app developers as the market is very competitive unless you are an internet giant like Facebook or Google. What the app developers are hoping for is another breakthrough or another blockbuster app, but the probability of that happening is decreasing.

So, if you are a standalone app developer, there is probably not much of a future. If you are a well-known brand say a Shoppers Stop or Flipkart, there is some potential to engage the customers, but you have got to do it in a way that you can harness those omni-channel energies.

A great example is that of Warby Parker, the sunglasses brand. 75% of their offline, brick and mortar customers actually visit their online store through their app. That’s the kind of omni-channel synergies you want. If you are a brand that has a physical presence, what you want is a significant traction in your physical customers visiting you online.  You need to drive traffic from offline to online and vice versa. It would help to incentivize the same though.

In the mobile economy, how are the parameters to measure metrics different vis-à-vis traditional economies?
There is definitely a wide array of metrics that are specific to mobile simply based on the nature of data generated. The mobile phone tends to be a personal device unlike a laptop or desktop which we might share with others. On an average, the data generated on mobiles are far more customer specific.

The other important point is the whole “path-to-purchase” – when a customer starts searching for a product till when they finally make the purchase which can enable us to analyse the customer journey using data. It’s still not the case that smartphones lead to the final conversion, that’s only about 4-5% of all transactions, but the smartphone actually influences about 35% of all transactions, including offline transactions.

So as a marketer, don’t just look at the final conversion metric; make note of the entire path-to-purchase, the level of influence mobile phones have on your customers, how many people are searching for you, getting exposed to your app; this is basically what you refer to as attribution analysis and it is really key.

Finally, can you tell us a little bit about your book – TAP: Unlocking the Mobile Economy?
I’ve written the book in a way that it should appeal to consumers and managers and executives alike. From a consumer perspective, it’s about enlightening people on how their data is being used by brands and marketers. My goal is to alleviate the fear that borders around privacy. In fact I urge consumers to share more data, the reason being – more information, better kind of products, services and prices.

When it comes to organizations, it is a two-way street. If you want to win the consumers trust, you have to act as a butler, a concierge of sorts and not like a stalker. There is a very thin line between creepy and cool. I have also highlighted case studies that I have worked on, across the world and provided specific takeaways on how to win consumers and be the cool concierge and not the creepy stalker.

You can buy a copy of Tap – Unlocking the Mobile Economy here.

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