A ‘Mobile Saturday’ Recap: Personalizing the Mobile Experience

Written on
Mar 26, 2014 
Brent Hieggelke  |

ADOTAS – Mobile is a vital tool in today’s marketplace, and winners and losers are emerging in brands’ quest to gain a foothold on consumers’ mobile screens. To win this battle for mobile screen time, personalization is key.

Indeed, the opportunity is massive for brands that provide utility and enjoyment through app experiences and messages tailored to customers’ personal preferences. Many big brands report that their desktop traffic is at a standstill or declining, while mobile traffic doubles or triples. There’s no turning back, mobile is the new reality.

“Brands and agencies need to reevaluate their priorities and projects to view them through a mobile lens,” said Richard Ting, EVP of Mobile and Social Platforms, and Global Executive Creative Director at R/GA, as heopened up this panel discussion at Mobile Saturday. “Mobile is now the core of all digital products.”

Mobile enables brands to provide an integrated user experience

Leaders are gaining advantage by leveraging the unique capabilities of apps to better understand audience members and deliver content relevant to each individual. “We want to build an ecosystem around our customers,” said Jonathan Nielsen, EVP of Product at Mike Lowe, VP of Product Development & User Experience for the Golf Channel, agreed stating the Golf Channel’s mobile approach is to surround the user with content. Both Lowe and Nielsen, attribute the success of their apps to being tailored to the customer’s individual preferences, creating special, personally relevant experiences.

Mobile apps are an ever-present, highly contextual consumer touch point enabling streamlined 1-to-1 and bi-directional communication when paired with push messaging and in-app messaging.

R/GA helped Nike create an app to tap into the niche market of skateboarders. The NikeSB app offers tutorials on skateboarding tricks, the ability to connect with and challenge other users, as well as an opportunity to earn badges based on in-app accomplishments. This iOS app uses the iPhone’s accelerometer to control playback and enables social sharing by allowing users to upload their own trick videos and challenge other skaters.

Social is the driving component of the app; it has united Nike’s app audience while keeping users informed via the in-app message center and allowing them share their accomplishments with Twitter integration.

Think like a customer to optimize your app

Getting inside the customer’s head is key to making an app successful.’s unique approach put their executives and product and design team in the shoes of the customer.

“We took away people’s desktops and tablets for a period of days and told them to use their phones to try the products, to think about the products,” says Nielsen. “It was a very impactful … powerful moment for us to really understand what our customers are experiencing and how that could and should be better.”

By using this hands-on experience and revisiting their mobile strategy as the brand and mobile capabilities evolve,’s conversion and engagement rates continue to grow. Its Steepandcheap app offers several items on sale throughout the day, allowing the customer to see upcoming sales and then opt in to receive alerts on the specific item they are interested in so they aren’t overwhelmed by notifications for everything.

By zeroing in on user’s preferences, as well as providing product information and configuration tools, the company is able to sell items quickly and efficiently. Even big-ticket items such as bikes worth more than $10,000 are configured and purchased exclusively through its apps, speaking to the power of mobile.

Mobile is no longer reactionary, it’s strategic and content must follow suit

Creating a content strategy derived from understanding audience behavior is another way companies are finding mobile success.

“Our production team had no standard operating procedure for creating mobile content, so they created ‘small’ pieces of content that were 10-12 minutes long,” says Lowe of GolfNow’s previous content. “That wasn’t the type of content that was going to be consumed on a mobile device, so the production team started to create content specifically targeted for the mobile app. Once we did that, we started to see a huge increase in consumption.” Lowe added that their user base began reading a higher volume of shorter, more digestible stories in quicker, more frequent sessions.

What’s on the mobile horizon

When looking to the future, these leaders forecast expanded capabilities for mobile that knit together the online and offline experiences. Connected devices and wearables such as Google Glass, the Nike FuelBand, and the Mimo baby monitor, suggest what lies ahead.

Ting noted the massive opportunity for more wearable use cases, although mass adoption may be further away due to high costs. Similarly, he said that iBeacons can also extend the mobile experience.

Bluetooth low energy beacons and GPS-enabled location technologies such as geofencing are expected to be implemented more frequently by brands and leveraged within apps. Beacon technology is making its way into stadium and retail locations, including Major League Baseball’s implementation in 20 of its stadiums. These tools can target precise locations and proximities, and when paired with opted-in app users enable pushing the right offers to the right customers at just the right time and place.

“You have to know your customer first and their ability to adopt something before implementing,” Lowe said.

Nielsen echoes this statement: “Just because you build something and put it in a mobile device doesn’t mean people are going to consume it. You have to really involve that customer.”

By developing apps that enable customers’ to implement their personal preferences, brands can get ahead of an increasingly crowded field eager to capture the attention of the mobile majority. However, many brands are reluctant to give users control given a myopic focus on their business objectives, but personalization is the key to achieving lasting engagement. Users are more likely to keep an app when they can create a tailored experience that extends the value of that brand in their life.

Brent Hieggelke is the CMO of Urban Airship, which enables the world's top brands to earn and maintain a presence on their customers' mobile devices through mobile relationship management solutions. Previously, he spent a decade helping brands optimize digital marketing initiatives in executive marketing posts at WebTrends, TouchClarity and Omniture. Most recently, Brent started and ran Second Porch, the first Facebook-integrated social vacation rental site sold to HomeAway, Inc. in May 2011. Early in his career, Brent co-founded New City, a media company in Chicago. Brent has been awarded multiple marketing awards, and is a frequent speaker at both marketing and digital conferences.

Since joining Urban Airship in December 2011 as CMO, Brent has been a frequent speaker on the marketing and digital conference circuit, presenting at more than 10 events during his tenure with more secured presentations scheduled for the rest of 2013.  He is a regular at MMA Forum events, and delivered talks at top flight events such as ad:tech, MediaPost Mobile Insider Summit, and MobileBeat. He is known for dropping great quotes during his talks. Most recently, he was onstage at Mobilebeat and one of his signature phrases “Don’t advertaze me, bro” -- regarding the way some mobile marketers rely on annoying and irrelevant targeting campaigns -- became the headline of as story that was widely tweeted.

Brent has also earned recognition for his refreshing perspectives at conferences, and was told “… this event needed to take a more realistic plunge into the minds and hearts of the consumer and your session exemplified that message to perfection,” by the organizers at RAMP. Brent also has a knack for pulling the right players into a room. Earlier this year, he was instrumental in organizing the inaugural “Mobile Saturday” event at SXSW Interactive, a whole day of programming that brought together twenty execs from brands such as Starbucks, BET, Disney/ and Walgreen’s to the most creative mobile agencies designing great app experiences such as Bottle Rocket, Atimi and Xtreme Labs. In his previous executive marketing positions at Omniture and WebTrends, Brent could be found onstage at Web 2.0, eMetrics events and DMA Days.

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