Q&A: Geoff Galat, VP of worldwide marketing, Tealeaf

Geoff Galat, VP of worldwide marketing at online customer experience management company Tealeaf, discusses the opportunities and challenges mobile marketers face with an increasingly sophisticated consumer base. “The opportunity is to take advantage of the user migration to mobile,” said Galat. “The challenge is that the expectations are so high.”

Prior to joining Tealeaf in 2002, Galat served as VP of marketing and product management at Tumbleweed Communications.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): What trends are you seeing in mobile marketing?

Geoff Galat (Tealeaf): Tealeaf has about 420 customers, and it would surprise me if any of them don’t have a mobile strategy in place or are at least putting a mobile strategy in place. The big trend that we’re seeing, and we’re hearing from our customers, is that many of them were surprised over the last couple of years at the volume of mobile business that they were doing. They had not necessarily built an optimized mobile website or a mobile app, but they just started to measure the number of people who were going to their normal website via their mobile devices. I think they were surprised at how much traffic was coming from those devices. In the last year, that’s grown exponentially.

I think the next big trend is coming up with a strategy for what do you do then, if it is such a big percentage of your traffic, how do you accommodate it? We’re really seeing three primary modes of delivery that our customers are deploying. Many of them are just going with a straight optimized website, a mobile-specific website. The other piece is some of them are doing a hybrid model, which is they’ve got an optimized website like that, but they actually wrap it inside of an app so that they can then market it inside the Apple App Store and put it up in the Android Market and then someone will download it. The third model is people going for the pure app, where all the transactional pieces happen in the app itself.

It just depends on the business.

DMN: Is one more preferable?

Galat: Well I think the website wrapped inside an app is the simpler one, to a certain degree, for companies to deliver, because they are just taking their existing Web functionality and putting it inside the wrapper. The downside to it is they don’t get the stickiness that you would get with a straight app. The wrapped app or the optimized website don’t let you take advantage of the features of the device itself. If you go to a website on a mobile device, you’re just getting a Web experience. If you use a fully mobile app experience, you can take advantage of the device’s GPS, camera and other functionalities.

DMN: A lot of recent studies have examined the rise of smartphone adoption, yet the number of consumers with smartphones remains a minority compared to consumers with feature phones. Should companies balance out their targeting of smartphone users by remembering to target feature phone users with their mobile marketing initiatives and campaigns?

Galat: I would guess that it’s going to come down to the demographic of the brand. What is their sweet spot? While the smartphone market as a percentage is relatively small, it certainly is the fastest growing part, and it’s certainly the most visible part. Many people out there might have a feature-rich non-smartphone, but I don’t know that those people necessarily fall into the core demographic for most companies. If you’re targeting teens or people of that nature, then maybe.[Among] the most desirable demographic for most companies, the 18- to 54-year-olds, smartphone ownership is much higher than feature phone ownership.

DMN: Can you talk about the impact that the rise in smartphone ownership has had on mobile marketers?

Galat: I think it’s had a big one. Things like QR codes had no reason to exist until mobile devices came into fruition. It’s a huge opportunity that’s barely been exploited at this point for taking mobile devices out of being simply kiosks in your hand or comparative shopping sites in your hand or a way to deliver coupons to you when you’re in a store and turning them into truly transactional engines where people are doing the complete buying experience on the device.

When I would talk to our customers two years ago about mobile, they would say [that its] when someone is in one of our storefronts and they can pull up our website; they can pull up someone else’s website; they can do comparisons and determine whether this price or functionality is the best. Now when I talk to our customers, they’re talking about marketing to somebody, about driving them to the mobile device via the QR codes, and once they’re there, they want them to complete the transaction on that device.

DMN: What are the benefits of going through the entire transaction on the mobile device? Is it because you can target easily and anywhere?

Galat: I think it’s a combination of that and the immediacy of it. I was in London recently, and I looked up at one of the ads inside the Tube and it had a code on it as a promotion for an insurance company. I’m standing there with nothing else to do, and they’re giving me a way to interact with their brand. That immediacy and availability is really, really powerful.

I think users are saying with their purchases that this is the preferred mechanism for interacting with people.

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