Moving Forward: 6 Strategic Takeaways From MobileBeat Summit

As someone immersed in martech, I was excited to attend MobileBeat Summit, last week in San Francisco, and hear directly from industry thought leaders about the latest innovations around technology and shifts in mobile consumer behavior.

The conference, organized by VentureBeat, didn’t disappoint. The common themes throughout the sessions centered around the role of bots in our everyday lives and the maturation of artificial intelligence to help solve big problems.

But that’s just skimming the surface. Here are my top six key takeaways from MB 2017 and what we can expect to see from groundbreaking technology companies.

1. Mobile is still a huge opportunity for retailers: In 2016, retail m-commerce sales accounted for $65.99 billion in the U.S. This year, it will be closer to $100 billion and, by 2021, reach a whopping $325 billion. However, while sales are growing, consumers are still spending more time researching products on mobile devices--but not necessarily buying. To me, this points to a huge opportunity for brands and retailers to leverage content personalization and AI to persuade consumers to buy on mobile. AI can help get them beyond the discovery stage, remarked Graham Cooke, CEO of Qubit. It’s important to bridge the gap between online and offline behavior and tailor a more personalized shopping experience for your customer, he said. 

2. The mobile web remains the prominent channel for retailers and brands to sell products: It might be surprising to learn that the mobile web is still the more popular place to shop versus mobile apps. This is due to a higher percentage of traffic coming from social channels and Google search, where discovery happens. “Retailers have to provide an amazing experience on the mobile web and be relevant to shoppers on a small screen,” Cooke told event attendees. This also means building a mobile app is not necessarily going to help you increase sales unless you offer customers something different and unique from your website, he added.  

3. We have officially entered the age of artificial intelligence: AI is no longer just a 2017 buzz-acronym. The technology is here to stay and become a way of life. Combined with big data, AI will take us to an unpreceded level of deep understanding about customer behavior and how to more effectively engage them. “Your starting point for implementing AI is to understand how you can solve your customers’ problem,” said Joseph Essas (photo, right), CTO of OpenTable.

According to Safia Ali (left), director of UX at StubHub, AI is any system that knows you well enough to give you the information you need. And it’s going to change the relationship between products and users. Additionally, many speakers and panelists discussed how the future of AI is all about voice interfaces--such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa--facial and image recognition, and one-to-one personalization on the web.

4. Personalization at scale: Thomas Dimson (photo, right) and Erran Berger (left), engineers at Instagram and LinkedIn, respectively, addressed the importance of personalization. Both platforms have simplified their work by leveraging machine learning to personalize the experience for every single user in the form of relevant content in their feeds. More specifically, LinkedIn matches content to a member’s interests and profile and regularly optimizes for the best user experience. Instagram looks at different signals for feed personalization, such as the content a user is creating and consuming, connections, likes, and comments.

“At the end of the day, it’s a value exchange between the brand and user,” Dimson said. “Our goal is to provide quality content.” If the content and experience is good, he added, users will come back repeatedly and engage on your platform. 

5. Chatbots are becoming the norm: Chatbots continue to see an increase in use across many different industries, especially retail and travel. Chatbots are helping to solve basic customer problems, such as the status of a product return and refund. However, they can’t always replace human interactions. When companies leverage chatbots for marketing purposes or basic questions, they’re great. But when it comes to support issues, people are less tolerant. They want to talk to real people and solve their issues right away. I view this as an interesting challenge: how to balance use of chatbots with the need for human interaction.

6. Next wave of app monetization: The most successful apps to date always put user experience and quality of content first, speakers said. What comes next? Monetization, which, for the past several years, has been derived from app purchases and monthly recurring fees, according to Reid Genauer, CMO of Magisto. For online games company Zynga, monetization is all about the advertising, which players understand is a value exchange to play a game for free, said Phil Su, Zynga’s director of ad product.

The next wave of app monetization will have to do with rewarded video and interactive ads. Rewarded video works for both consumers and the advertisers: Consumers get free content by opting in to see the video, while advertisers are happy because it’s premium inventory with high CPMs and video-completion rates.

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