I was recently interviewed by Ritesh Gupta over at EyeForTravel.com and wanted to share the contents of it with my readers here as well.
Q: As an expert in mobile measurement and enterprise analytics, what do you recommend when it comes to making the most of mobile strategy especially in the travel sector? How should travel companies go about making the most of their investments in this arena?
A: When thinking about mobile strategy in the travel sector, the primary place to look for direction is within your existing site analytics. Start by looking at which specific mobile devices and operating systems are visiting your site - where are they coming from, what are they doing, and what content are they consuming. By understanding the mobile usage of your current site and the areas where users are succeeding or failing, along with what devices they are using, you will be able to inform your mobile product strategy greatly. Understanding what site content or features resonate with mobile users will allow organisations to address the primary need of their site visitors and help direct the mobile strategy. Determining your overall product suitability to a mobile offering and which devices or experiences you need to support will ultimately drive mobile strategy and identify where you need to focus your mobile efforts.
Q: It is highlighted that understanding how customers behave when using mobile devices is a major challenge. What are your observations and how do you think understanding behaviour is significant in assessing the overall measurement of any mobile product strategy and related initiatives?
Understanding mobile user behaviour is critical to evaluating and optimising mobile strategy. After all, you can't improve what you don't measure.
Q: The expectations and demands of smartphone customers are significantly higher than website visitors. What sort of benchmark should travel companies set for themselves when it comes to measurement of mobile web and app-related initiatives vis-à-vis any other component of digital strategy?
A: The mobile user expects immediate satisfaction and demands simple and clean interfaces. It is the nature of the mobile user. They are not 'surfing' (generally) and are attempting to complete a specific task when engaging with a mobile website or application. This can be booking a flight, hotel room, or dinner reservations as well as researching destination highlights but all of these have a singular focus - completing a task. For all intents and purposes, mobile users should be converting on these tasks at higher rates and engaging more frequently than traditional website visitors. Often this is not the case due to complicated checkout flows and of course this varies with the utility and appropriateness of the mobile experience. Organisations should focus mobile benchmarks at or above their traditional website rates and optimise the user experience and conversion flow of their mobile initiatives accordingly.
Q: How do you assess the maturity level of mobile application measurement framework at this juncture? What should travel companies learn when it comes to measurement?
A: Historically, mobile applications were developed and released without any inherit device side measurement and the primary metric was downloads. While downloads are an important metric, we have come to realise that user engagement along with recency, frequency, intensity and duration are more actionable metrics providing a holistic view of application success. Mobile application measurement has improved greatly over the last two years and releasing a mobile application today without measurement is heresy. Niche mobile application analytics vendors held a lock on this market until recently and in some cases still provide a superior solution, however all enterprise analytics vendors currently offer robust SDKs. The SDKs allow for the ability to measure all device side interactions (even when the device is offline) and by instrumenting your application with the appropriate level of tracking to capture metrics such as install date, app launches, daily usage, and key event success organisations will gain a greater understanding of actual application usage not just application downloads.
Q: Considering the varied utility and engagement level of mobile web and mobile apps, how should one approach measurement for both? What should one avoid in order to have unjustified expectations?
A: Mobile web measurement should align with fixed web measurement wherever possible. Existing measurement frameworks and implementation methodologies translate well to the mobile web environment and should be leveraged wherever possible as to not reinvent or double efforts. Technology frameworks aside, the mobile website experience is inherently different than the fixed web experience and organisations should avoid a wholesale migration of all of their content or site functionality to their mobile web experience. Screen size and input methods weigh heavily in mobile product strategy decisions and determining which elements and in what format to display these elements is crucial to mobile website success and ultimately mobile website usability.
Conversely, mobile application measurement shares little with traditional fixed web measurement and only the high level success frameworks and key metrics will translate well to this medium. Aside from the technical differences in implementation from mobile web measurement, application measurement focuses primarily on a subset of achievable tasks. Organisations should avoid porting all website content and functionality into their mobile application and focus on the key aspect or element of their product offering that would make the user want to engage with them in a mobile environment. Simple, direct, and facile task resolution should be the primary component of a mobile application.
Q: What do you make of the “Web Versus Application” debate in the mobile product strategy at this juncture? Would it be right to say that the pros and cons settled down now?
A: Mobile websites and mobile applications both have their appropriate place within a mobile product strategy - it is not an either/or debate. Ensuring the appropriate user experience is present in each is the true debate. All too often organisations will make a technology decision rather than a strategic decision in the form of "We need an iPhone app" or "We need to run an SMS campaign" without considering the product suitability to a mobile environment or why the customer would want to engage with their brand in the first place. At this point, a mobile website is a must and should be at the top of your mobile strategy list if you don't have one. Once that is in place and you have gleaned actionable insights into how customers are interacting with your product offering then, and only then, should you craft a mobile application strategy.
Q: Where do you foresee mobile application measurement framework headed in the next 12 months?
A: Mobile application measurement needs to become much simpler to implement. A few vendors have succeeded in simplifying the development process by enabling automatic capture of device side events and variables but this needs to improve considerably for continued widespread adoption. Currently developers are expending tremendous effort to instrument measurement in their mobile applications significantly increasing time to market for new applications - this needs to change. Additionally, location based services are changing the way we visualise data once collected from mobile applications. Given the fixed nature of traditional web browsing this element has not had much attention until now. Being able to see where and when a customer is interacting with your mobile application creates a whole new dimension to the traditional marketing strategy. It is no longer about getting the right offer to the right person at the right time - but about getting it to them at the right "place".
Q: What do you make of the mobile product strategies especially the usage of mobile apps in the travel sector?
A: The hospitality and travel industries have embraced mobile fairly well and have incorporated mobile strategies into their product marketing and service offerings adequately. However, some of the most innovative mobile product strategies I have seen recently in the travel sector have originated from capitalising on the "location aware" aspect of modern smartphones.
For example, Vail Resorts, using RFID technology, is able to tell when their customers are "on" or "off" mountain and provide appropriate messaging and content to them along with social network interaction opportunities. By capturing this location based data they are able to expand and optimise the on mountain experience for their customers. The ability to track your progress, vertical ascent, capture photos, share achievements with your social network, and have all this in your pocket is truly amazing!