Five Minutes With: John Coombs, CEO of Rover

What are your biggest opportunities & challenges in marketing tech for next 12-24 months?

The next year or two are going to be monumental for location-based mobile marketing, with adoption spiking thanks to a better understanding of the technologies, methodologies and best practices involved. The other part of that is more smartphone users opting in to location-based deals and content because they’re seeing the value.

I see Google unlocking some of the biggest opportunities for our industry. At this year’s I/O conference, Google announced significant improvements that will remove many of the challenges for marketers looking to leverage beacon technology. A major one is enhancing the efficiency of scanning for beacons, a process that used to be done by individual apps and had considerable battery implications. The scanning is now being done at the operating system level, which is far more efficient. We’ll also see opportunities in this space emerge from Google’s recently launch of a beacon cloud service that gives beacon owners a cloud service to manage permissions and access for their installations. This means beacons can be shared and managed among many apps seamlessly.

While this could feasibly be done before, the solution was a bit of a patchwork and Google’s backing makes it much more scalable. We’ll now be able to move past the concept of “one beacon, one app” to “one beacon, many apps.”

When it comes to challenges, we’ll see many of the same ones persist that we’re running up against today. One is that successful location-based marketing deployments require solutions that bring together the pieces of the “beacosystem” (beacon ecosystem). Many moving parts need to coalesce to pull off an effective beacon-enabled program, and marketers need to have visibility up and down the location stack. Initially, many believed that the answer could be found in a custom-built app, but those tended to just include beacons as an afterthought, so now the industry is shifting to work on more comprehensive and vendor-agnostic solutions.

What keeps your clients up at night?

There’s no question that mobile engagement and retention are their biggest struggles and what they agonize over most. With more and more apps on users’ devices (research shows 32% have 11-20 apps downloaded), it’s hard to be relevant and top of mind. Being relevant and constantly delivering value to your users is one of the most powerful ways to drive mobile engagement, yet one of the most difficult to pull off in actuality. Also consider that mobile user preferences are quick to change, so the content that’s engaging today may be wholly uninteresting in two months. Figuring out how to leverage contextually relevant inputs such as location is something our customers really look to us to help them solve.

What’s the hardest thing to educate clients about?

It really depends on the customer, but I do find that many brands are intently driven by near-term revenue metrics and short-term payoffs. This isn’t a surprise, of course, but it’s difficult to sway them to look at the longer-term goals and payoff. While there are ways to monetize location-based data and content immediately, it’s important that this isn’t done to the detriment of user experiences. I try to persuade brands to employ strategies and tactics that build an engaged audience on mobile with a longer-term view, rather than trying to get short-term gain using ad-focused mobile content strategies that can backfire.

What are some unmet needs in marketing technology landscape?

There continues to be a good deal of fragmentation in the space. Since early pioneers like Eloqua hit the scene, we’ve seen an explosion of tools that help marketers do their jobs faster and with more efficiently. I suspect we’ve only scratched the surface of what consolidation in the space will look like. While there will continue to be new standalone solutions as unique marketing problems and opportunities open up, I foresee a sizeable shift toward martech consolidation in the next couple of years.

What social network do you anticipate accelerating growth in the next year?

I’m interested to see how the recent LinkedIn acquisition by Microsoft takes shape in the coming months. LinkedIn–despite its many detractors–continues to be the dominant social platform for business professionals, and is becoming more of an incumbent, large enterprise-type player. There is plenty of room for more innovation and disruption at the point where social networks and business audiences intersect, and I expect we’ll see some serious growth in this realm in the next year or so.

–John Coombs is CEO of Rover

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