All too often organizations take a backwards approach to developing a mobile product offering and begin with a technology decision rather than a strategic plan. Statements like “We need an iPhone app” or “Let’s do something with SMS” lead to siloed approaches and marketing fragmentation.

Success in mobile demands a systematic approach that begins with understanding your customers mobile usage, determining your product suitability to a mobile offering, defining your business objectives, and evaluating your level of commitment. Only once all of these steps are completed should you begin to implement the necessary technologies to achieve your mobile objectives.

In response to the need for a systematic approach to mobile strategy and measurement, I have put together a framework entitled the ‘SMART Mobile Program:

Strategy – Determine your ‘Mobile Readiness’

Measurement – Define a mobile ‘Measurement Plan’

Analysis – Establish intelligent mobile ‘Correlations’

Reporting – Make strategic information ‘Obvious’

Tactics – Generate ‘Actionable Insights’

Strategy: Determine your ‘Mobile Readiness’

The starting point in the SMART Mobile Program is obviously Strategy – with a ‘big S’. By defining an overarching mobile strategy informed by primary and secondary research, competitive evaluation, and market intelligence, organizations can establish their ’Mobile Readiness’ before jumping headlong into technology and enablement decisions. 

‘Mobile Readiness’ is assessed by thoroughly and systematically evaluating the mobile opportunities across your online properties and determining the necessary steps required to establish or optimize your mobile product offering. Good measurement is the data-driven foundation of any strategy, as such, a deep audit and analysis of your existing measurement infrastructure will assist in determining overall product suitability for a mobile product offering.

Looking at existing mobile users on your site and their level of activity and engagement across site sections and experiences will provide insight as to where you should (and should not) focus your mobile attention. Analysis should be conducted across various dimensions including mobile device type, mobile visits, and mobile engagement to identify key sites or experiences that would represent significant opportunities for mobile product development.

Don’t get caught up with tactical questions like, “Which mobile platforms should we support?” or “Do we need an iPhone app and mobile web site, too?” in the beginning but instead focus on strategy first. With a well defined strategy, organizations can be better equipped to handle the myriad of challenges and avoid the tactical execution pitfalls that mobile presents.

Measurement: Define a mobile ‘Measurement Plan’

The next step in the SMART program is ‘Measurement’ – defining a mobile measurement plan. Unfortunately, gone are the days when organizations can rely on a handful of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to optimize the performance of their digital experiences. Site wide KPIs are useless unless taken in the context of who the visitor is and what they were trying to achieve. Organizations should instead focus on defining a two-tiered segmentation that identifies the Visitor Type and the overriding Visit Intent. Once these elements are in place a matrix of actionable KPIs related to each Visitor/Visit Type can be derived – ultimately leading to much more meaningful opportunities for optimization.

Mobile app metrics include: Reach (number of customers), Frequency (how often app is used), Intensity (active engagement), Duration (length of active use), and Monetization (return on investment).

A full picture should include key metrics of total downloads, app revenue (including trial to paid upgrades), number of unique app users, number of first-time users, ratio of app users to total users/active users, acquisition/retention, time spent in app or on task, and number of screens viewed.

Mobile applications should include trigger-specific events that push out time- and session-based data to the measurement infrastructure. The key events include install (on first run after installation), upgrade (on first run after upgrade), engaged user (daily/monthly), launch (any run that is not install or upgrade), background (on set and on return to focus), offline view (screen view while offline, i.e., cached), orientation (rotation of device portrait/landscape), and crash (any exit not triggered by “quit.”).

Key variables include the following:

  • date of first launch after install
  • application name and version number
  • days used in last week, month, lifetime
  • days since install, last use, upgrade
  • number of times launched, brought out of background, or since upgrade
  • complete timestamp
  • current operating system version number
  • device, country, carrier, WiFi

Once the mobile measurement plan has been defined, an implementation plan should be created defining the methods for data collection and aggregation.

Technical considerations weigh heavily in this phase of the SMART Mobile Program. All mobile platforms are not created equal and what might be a viable alternative for one platform might be completely inadequate for another.

The primary consideration here is to choose the appropriate measurement enablement methodology for the mobile platform being developed. If you are creating a mobile website that will render well across smartphones, then standard JavaScript tags may be the way to go.

On the other hand, if you are developing a mobile application to run across iOS, Android, Blackberry, or Windows Phone then specific development libraries must be evaluated to select the appropriate solution that will integrate well with your existing enterprise measurement platform.

All of the major analytics vendors have specific code libraries for each of these development environments; however, all vary in their ease of implementation and the robustness of their offering. Careful technical consideration is essential in selecting the appropriate vendor for your mobile product offering.

Analysis – Establish intelligent mobile ‘Correlations’

Analysis is the next phase of the SMART Mobile Program. Analysis is separate and distinct from the reporting phase and is a necessary precursor. All too often organization design dashboards to house the metrics defined in the measurement phase without any forethought into the types of analysis to be conducted or specific questions to be answered.

By first defining a Learning Agenda or Analysis Plan and defining the appropriate correlations to be presented within the Reporting phase, organizations will be better prepared to drive marketing and business process optimization.

Mobile optimization efforts should be informed by strategic considerations such as:

  • How does mobile app usage compare to fixed web or mobile web?
  • Which campaigns are most effective at driving app downloads and repeat usage?
  • Which types of engagement patterns maximize customer lifetime value?

Reporting – Make strategic information ‘Obvious’

The Holy Grail of enterprise reporting is to make strategic information obvious resulting in better marketing and business optimization decisions. The Reporting phase of the SMART Mobile Program seeks to leverage the two-tiered segmentation defined in the Measurement phase and present a clear picture of who the Visitor is and what they were trying to achieve.

We have taken to using a ‘bow-tie’ approach that allows for the report viewer to visualize the visitor segments and visit types based on overall traffic volume and site success (visit intent) as can be seen below. Key to the success of the visualization is the ability to allow for data exploration and user interaction. The ability to drill down into specific Visitor Types and reveal the relative success of specific Visit Types makes the visualization that much more meaningful to the report viewer.

Two-tiered Segmentation Dashboard

Tactics – Generate ‘Actionable Insights’

Inherent to the two-tiered segmentation framework is the ability to refine marketing and business process ‘tactics’. The Tactics phase of the SMART Mobile Program relies on all of the previous phases to allow for the generation of ‘Actionable Insights’. These insights are derived from a solid understanding of who the visitor is and what they were trying to achieve.

Once organizations have this understanding and how it relates to marketing and business processes, they can refine their tactics to optimize these specific user flows. By conducting Use Case Analysis combined with experimental design, organizations can identify specifically what is working and what is not.

The Conversation Continues…

The tone of the mobile conversation is changing. We have come a long way in such a short period of time and I am pleased to see the conversation shifting away from application development issues, technical considerations around what platform or mobile operating system to code for, and whether or not you need a mobile Web site (when will we stop calling these WAP sites?). The conversations are becoming richer and much more valuable and I am reminded how important Strategy, with a ‘big S’, is to the success of a mobile product offering. 

Editor’s note: Learn more about how to integrate mobile into your marketing strategy at the upcoming Mobile Marketing Metrics track moderated by Greg Dowling at the eMetrics Summit in October.