They Came By Tweet, They Came By App, and They Left A Message
For marketers, the adoption of smartphones by consumers as intimately responsive personal devices has put the magic puzzle piece of capturing the consumer's attention is in reach.
But advances in communication, and the new-found convenience of smartphone immediacy, led to the introduction of apps and instant message platforms to the mix. That introduction has created a new integration challenge for analytics, one that hints at where analytics' future value to businesses is headed.
Analytics as a diagnostic solution
Over the years, analytics had gain prominence as a diagnostic and marketing solution for examining online activity on websites. In fact, even as consumers use smartphones and tablets more frequently than laptops and desktop computers, search remains central in an online analytic strategy — local search by smartphone, for example, has been the driving force behind advertisers spending on local mobile ad campaigns.
But customer experience is no longer limited to website and online search. Customer experience includes social media, instant messaging, and the whole app environment. A good customer experience can establish good will through an app that helps accomplish a task conveniently, or an instant message platform where an agent can provide great service.
Analytics must account for how well these media deliver an experience: a complex task.
More time on newer platforms
The task is made more complicated by the asymmetric time spent with the platforms. Social media, which rose to prominence in lockstep with smartphone adoption, has continued appeal among users, but apps and instant message platforms have begun to compete for audience attention. One just need to research app usage to see a skew. eMarketer estimated that 85.7 percent of non-voice time spent with smartphones went to apps, as opposed to just 14 percent spent on the mobile web.
Despite the new complexity introduced by apps, instant message platforms, and social media, marketers face the immediate future with a familiar question from analytics' past. How do marketers track users and use analytics to attribute conversions?
One part of the answer will involve the influence of software on advanced analytics. To better leverage customer experience, businesses will develop solutions, such as chatbots and plugins, that support these new channels. This will drive enterprise reliance on developer resources and developer-related management (such as DevOps) to create these solutions.
This will also drive the use of advanced analytics — from predictive analytics, to embedded analytics linked to software usage. The rise of machine learning alongside bot deployment is now introducing a variety of predictive analytics techniques.
The art of seeing beyond silos
For marketers, the future involves maintaining almost an artistic level of discernment when examining audience metrics and creating analytic models. Ultimately analytics software will refine how it can help analysts make faster connections. But current analytics examines social media, apps, and instant messages as separate silos. Analysts will have to pull data from these channels, and examine the data using self service BI tools. Doing so can establish models to help see how activities on these channels correlate, indicating relationships that guide business response to consumer activity.
Attribution will continue to be a tough challenge, at least for the foreseeable future. Marketers must take care in establishing how each platform is used to build a customer experience, since average time on platforms can vary. Studies have shown that smartphone users typically have a lot of apps installed on the devices, but use only a few on a daily basis. This creates a lack of sustainable engagement, critical if an app is a crucial part of a given customer journey.
No one magic puzzle piece exists for understanding customers across channels. But tools are becoming more sophisticated, requiring marketers to up their game as well. Ultimately marketers will piece together the right analytical information from social media, apps, and instant messages to forge a comprehensive customer picture, making confident tracking and attribution possible. There's just some way to go.