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Are brands delivering on promise of contextually relevant mobile experiences?

The ability to deliver contextually relevant experiences is one of mobile?s big promises for marketers. While many experiences have not lived up to these promises, there are signs that 2013 could see a significant jump forward.

The ability to leverage not only the time of day and a user?s location ? which marketers are getting better at all the time ? but also a user?s behavior and preferences is key to strong contextual relevancy. However, marketers face internal as well external challenges to making this a reality.

"I think most marketers are still failing to deliver strong contextual experiences on mobile devices,? said Thomas Husson, Paris-based analyst at Forrester Research.

?I am not referring here to the advanced use of geo-fencing capabilities ? there obviously have been great location-based campaigns,? he said. ?By context, I also mean making the most of preferences stated by consumers and their past behaviors.

?It implies that marketers need to better segment their customer base looking at mobile behaviors and make their apps smart by connecting them to their back-end CRM systems. I believe mobile-CRM will be a key topic for many marketers in 2013, coupled with advanced analytics.?

Context drives results
There are recent examples of marketers doing a good job delivering strong contextually relevant experiences via mobile.

For example, news aggregator app wityou from Blogwatcher is trialing an SDK from Qualcomm Labs Inc. in Japan that levers all the sensors in a mobile handset to enable marketers to deliver contextually relevant experiences.

The Gimbal technology from Qualcomm Labs promises to solve a problem typically associated with such services ? being able to have geofencing always on in the background without quickly using up a phone?s battery power. As a result, end-users are able to receive relevant content, including offers, based on location, activities and interests.

In the trials in Japan, Blogwatcher found that end-users were three times more likely to click-through and respond to wityou notifications and offers as compared with non-contextualized and non-personalized offers.

?By giving the phone the ability to have an understanding of a place that a person is at, independent of the person doing anything, and to have an understanding of the interests that someone has based on behavior on the phone, this can evaluate how a person can use the phone,? said Ian Heidt, director of product management for Qualcomm Labs. ?In the moment, the phone can know where you are and combine that with knowledge about the things that are more likely to entice you to match an offer to that user.?

Japanese agency Dentsu is also slated to leverage the Gimbal solution for its clients and The Recruit Group will offer Gimbal to its app developer client base.

An evolving area
The goHow app is another example, per Lou Casal, senior director of product marketing at SDL, New York.

The goHow app drives the right content to travelers at the Denver airport within the context of time and location. As a result, travelers who land in Denver could easily get timely updates on their connecting flight, gates, local info as well as offers from nearby retailers and restaurants residing throughout the airport.

Moving forward, this same app will be available at sporting venues, enabling marketers to create multiple interactive events within the larger sporting event that can range from shopping to sponsor brand experiences.

?I think progress is being made ? it is more of an evolution than revolution, but definitely picking up momentum,? Mr. Casal said.

?Currently a great deal of focus is on the contextual advertising side of the equation,? he said. ?But what happens after the click?

?While a specific landing page or app can keep the level of relevance high, thereby holding on to the attention of the mobile user, customer journeys are no longer clean well defined funnels. So the context of the dialog established with the initial advertising needs a way to continue and this is where we will continue to see more progress in 2013.?

Mobile-centric approach
Marketers face several challenges when it comes to delivering contextually-relevant experiences via mobile, including that information is siloed and coordinating all the different data points needed to bring together a relevant, contextual experience can be a challenge.

Additionally, marketers need to focus more on mobile experiences.

?Often there is a lot of focus on the delivery aspect or some cool new widget that influences a mobile project ? as a result the content sometimes becomes a second thought,? Mr. Casal said. ?Marketers need to ask themselves what experience are they trying to create for their audience? What are the tasks or information does the mobile user need? What are the contextual factors?

As we head into 2013, mobile contextual experiences are likely to continue to improve.

?In 2013 we will continue to see more consideration for contextual factors as planning gradually moves towards a more mobile centric approach,? Mr. Casal said.

?What will change is the level of pressure marketers will continue to bring to IT as context and relevance increasing become a must have,? he said. ?The bottom-line is context, especially critical to mobile efforts, helps drive engagement which drives business.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York