Mobile Marketing Insights from SXSW Interactive

These are exciting times, with digital marketers already seeing the benefits of combining technologies to allow people greater choice and efficiency. But along with it come concerns related to privacy, the use of consumer analytics, and the relative security of mobile apps.

“CMOs I spoke to [at SXSWi] are in a unique position because they’re now armed with data to help drive decision-making and support the budgets they require,” Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, founder and CEO of AirPR, told Direct Marketing News. “Tech decisions are being shifted to the CMO. Empower marketers and arm them with analytics and everybody wins. Resources don’t get wasted on lengthy integration cycles, decisions don’t get stalled because the CIO is buried in a thousand other tasks.” 

So what’s around the corner? That was the question being asked at numerous sessions at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) conference in Austin. DMN caught up with SXSWi presenters and attendees to get their takes on these and other topics:

Location-based marketing

Yesterday, it was the major networks pushing information to us. Today we pull in content ourselves, and location-based marketing occurs when brand and consumer interact directly, based on where a mobile user happens to be. As location data proliferates, companies gain clearer ideas of ??how behaviors may be linked and experiences offered. Asif Khan (@AsifRKhan), founder and president, The Location-Based Marketing Association, shared his opinion on three issues related to location-based marketing:

What are the some of the barriers to leveraging consumer location data? 

The biggest barrier is data analysis talent. The reality is that location data is everywhere and coming at us really fast. Fully 85% of all the data collected in the world now has a location element to it. When we talk about Big Data, we can describe it in a 3V model, volume—lots of it, velocity—real-time speed of the data, and variety—data generated by multiple sensors, such as in connected cars, phones, digital screens, etc. How to act on all of this data is the biggest gap.

What opportunities does location context, and profiling, offer brands?

For the brands there are opportunities to convert mass media to a one-to-one, hyperlocal experience. Combining location with time of day, weather, and other data leads to truly personalized, contextually relevant experiences.

Are there location strategies that work better than others?

In North America geo-targeting push notifications are very successful. Also we’re seeing a re-emergence of retail loyalty programs, but in a purely digital form that’s about collecting data to affect mobile, location-based experiences.


Marketing, long an emotion-driven field, is increasingly becoming a Moneyball industry. Companies already are tapping consumers’ increasing appetite for mobile computing, using analytics such as click-through rates, social media activity, and location-based services to make educated guesses as to where we’re going to consume next. Several attendees and speakers weighed in on the topic:

How can customer analytics improve marketing efforts, but also improve meaningful interactions with people?

Motivating behavior change in people—your customers—and with empathy are largely human efforts. But when armed with “clean data,” marketers can quickly optimize to better offer customers what they want. Customers are now a bit like spoiled children; they’re armed with their own “data,” and access to massive amounts of information. If the marketer cannot satisfy the customer with…an experience that feels customized and personal, the customer will look elsewhere. Data, if seen through the human lens and applied intelligently, has the ability to solve this problem—this challenge of the informed customer.Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer

Analytics are critical for companies to create the best user experience for their consumers. These metrics offer a more complete understanding of how people behave, helping to identify areas where improvements can be made. Analytics are also essential in areas like education marketplace, where parents and teachers alike seek to measure performance and developmental pace. Critical data improves the user experience, but this aggregated data shouldn’t be confused with personal information. When we look to improve apps, we want to know how the greatest number of people are using them, not one specific individual.Jonathan Godfrey (@jonathangodfrey), director of communications, Association for Competitive Technology

It’s important to be analyzing the right metrics. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of endless data. It’s also important to make sure the data you have is statistically significant — too often, we are tempted to make decisions because of a vocal minority.Tammy Kahn Fennell (@TammyKFennell), cofounder and CEO, MarketMeSuite

Analytics driven by Big Data can be highly problematic because the volume of data is constantly increasing and the quality constantly improving — so the longer you spend in analysis, the less accurate you become. The key is to take real-time data in context with big data and derive new, contextually driven insights that are most meaningful to the customer at the time of interaction.Steve Elmore, Ph.D., (@steveelmore), global director, professional services group, TIBCO Software

Inside the store, the rise of beacons and indoor analytics around traffic flow and “dwell times” are leading to new ways to surprise consumers with unique and time-sensitive offerings.Asif Khan

What is essential to marketers’ successful use of analytics? 

Big Data tools like cluster analysis enable marketers to segment prospects and customers into distinct groups, and then target them with products and services they’re most likely to purchase. While the credit card industry has done this for several years, the “Moneyball approach” enables businesses of all sizes and types to leverage its power. Marketing data and the brainpower to mine it are both increasing at a tremendous rate, enabling marketers to build better profiles of their customers than ever possible. Social media data and sentiment analysis, which didn’t exist a decade ago, are now powerful tools.Steve Fall (@StatsMan), CEO and founder, The Sports Resource

Some of things I think are important in delivering value in the marketing analytics ecosystem: emotion, consent, consumer collaboration, business intent, and a clear call-to-action.Asif Khan

What are today’s biggest marketing analytics challenges? 

Privacy is a challenge, but to me the biggest challenge is the lack of data analysts. Simply collecting great data is useless unless you have people who can sift through it and make actionable recommendations and solutions.Asif Khan

Where the Moneyball approach falls short is with the delivery of content that builds a relationship. For example, with a captive audience and ubiquitous video boards and monitors, sports team sponsors have a great way to connect with fans. But they bombard them with advertising messages without building a relationship. By sponsoring creative content, such as branded team and player statistics, brands could engage fans—enhancing gameday experiences, and building more genuine relationships.Steve Fall


Analyst Mary Meeker’s May 2013 annual report on Internet trends put global smartphone penetration at 21%. Those numbers are bound to be far higher when Meeker issues her next assessment. And according to a December 2013 report by Enders Analysis, the number of smartphones in use on Earth will surpass that of all PCs being used in the first half of 2014. With the average smartphone user reaching for his or her device about 150 times per day, we asked:

What’s one thing companies and customers need to understand now about the safety and security of mobile?

Mobile security issue hinges on the weakest link in the chain; for example, encryption within cloud services, encryption of data storage within the device, robust encryption keys, etc. Unless you know you’re secure from end to end—and with data in motion and data at rest—you have to assume it can be compromised. –Steve Elmore

The key security concern in the app economy is consumer confidence. A number of recent events have left consumers asking questions about how safe their data is in a mobile environment. As an industry, we must answer these questions quickly and convincingly to assuage concerns. On the government side, we must address the issues with passage of [ECPA] reform legislation, which clearly outlines when law enforcement can access stored electronic communications. The support for this effort is nearly universal, with civil society organizations and industry joining together with bipartisan support in Congress.Jonathan Godfrey

In general, I would say that mobile is safe and relatively secure. But people need to realize that, short of taking the battery out of your phone, you can always be tracked. It’s about how the telecom operators choose to act on, and monetize, that data.Asif Khan

People need be aware of what data is shared, especially if a brand is going to use specific data. Brands will have to manage expectations.Tammy Kahn Fennel

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