Insight/ Analysis & Measurement

Is Your Big Data Strategy Mobile-First?

by Giselle Abramovich
Senior & Strategic Editor

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Article Highlights:

  • We are entering a world where marketers can identify individuals using multiple tracking technologies, not just cookies.
  • “If you are bridging mobile to desktop, you are going the wrong way.”
  • “Mobile marks the confluence of influencer marketing and real-time marketing.”

Digital marketers are big believers in the use of big data to improve their brands' marketing. They’ve turned to desktop data in droves to improve efficiency and ROI. But many are overlooking an even bigger source of intelligence: mobile. 

“A lot of the signals on mobile, you can’t get on desktop,” said Anne Frisbie, vice president and general manager, global supply, at mobile marketing company InMobi, in an interview with “The obvious one is the precise latitude/longitude, but there’s also user activity levels--are they walking, on the subway, lying down--and we can get way more in terms of context.

“People are already thinking about registering moods with facial recognition software. The reality is the touch-screen form factor and the fact that consumer have their phones with them 24/7, you have more signals, you have a bigger sense of the moment in the consumer’s life. The data signals are more substantial.”

The Cookie Has Crumbled
On desktop everything relies on the cookie. And the digital industry is always talking about the “cookie problem,” according to Frisbie. Media headlines have hinted about a world without cookies, and Google reportedly is doing away with the cookie altogether.

We are entering a world where marketers can identify individuals using multiple tracking technologies, not just cookies, Frisbie added. Next year, desktop is forecasted to comprise just 20 percent of all Internet traffic--that means marketers need to start identifying people based on their mobile data and forget the cookie, Frisbie said.

According to Jerry Jao, CEO of Retention Science, marketers should not be thinking about bridging the mobile-to-desktop gap. Rather, marketers need to be thinking mobile-first: bridging the desktop-to-mobile gap. Among the many mobile signals, such as mobile usage and context, location is the most important, Jao said.

“Mobile has transformed geotargeting,” he told “The amount of location data available based on users’ mobile check-in, Wi-Fi,  and mobile usage enables marketers to target audiences based on locations. Marketers can push out mobile notifications when a user is in a store. This is a huge deal, and sites like Groupon built their business on this.”

InMobi’s Frisbie warned that marketers who don’t start thinking about data from a mobile-first perspective will soon find they have a very small view of their customers. Brands such as Sephora, Fandango, and others are already boasting mobile traffic higher than 50 percent. Companies including Google say search traffic on mobile is outpacing desktop in some countries as well.

“If you are bridging mobile to desktop, you are going the wrong way,” Frisbie said.

The problem with cookies is they don’t know the person holding the mobile device very well, said Jon Elvekrog, CEO of 140 Proof, a social advertising platform. What’s more, he’s not convinced the data behind cookies is accurate.

“Identifying your audience through mobile social data is not only a replacement for cookies, it's a massive improvement,” Elvekrog said. “Social data available through mobile is as strong as the intent signal from search and more versatile by far.”

Mobile Data Signals
Janet Roberts, CMO of mobile technology company Syniverse, believes that desktop data does provide useful information, but it isn’t comparable to mobile’s immediacy, superior reach, and real-time engagement capabilities. Besides, everything you can track on a desktop can be tracked on mobile, in addition to a slew of new data signals unique to the mobile device. Location is a powerful data signal, Roberts said, but so are usage trends and end-user preferences.

“Ultimately, mobile provides a more contextually relevant and timely glimpse into consumer behavior,” Roberts told “As an example, consider the travel and hospitality industry. A hotel could use location-based services and knowledge of end-user preferences to provide guests with real-time, tailored concierge amenities, messages regarding restaurants and attractions, important local alerts, directions, and even advanced check-in en route from the airport.

“Brands and agencies that focus on a mobile-first data strategy will be better positioned to meet and exceed customer expectations in real time,” she said.

Another important mobile signal is context, InMobi’s Frisbie added. Is the person traveling? Are they stationary or walking? Are they on a train? What type of activity they are doing? Those data points are unique to mobile.

Much mobile data comes from social platforms, since consumers use their devices to access their networks. This allows marketers to measure and track not what consumers do, but who they influence and the precise impact of that influence, said Vijay Sundaram, CMO and head of sales at SocialTwist.

“Social marketing programs can track today that John reached out to 15 people on behalf of a brand who, in turn, reached out to a total of 300--of this total, 23 came back to engage in a conversion-action with the brand like a coupon printout or e-commerce sale,” Sundaram told “The Holy Grail of consumer marketing is to understand the biggest brand influencers. The ability for consumers to impact other consumers from an in-store experience is only through mobile. Mobile marks the confluence of influencer marketing and real-time marketing.”

Mike Wehrs, CEO of QR code technology company ScanBuy, said that valuable data is being created by mashing multiple mobile data sources together for a much deeper analysis.  For example, he said, a marketer may know that a female consumer has scanned a QR code off of a print advertisement about shoes for a specific clothing retailer in the past three months. Now she is engaging again at the retailer’s store, which is in the Northeast in the middle of winter. This type of intelligent data mining provides companies with actionable business intelligence that can be used to deliver higher levels of conversion, Wehrs said.

“Study after study has determined that consumers are spending more time on mobile devices over the desktop,” Wehrs told “By focusing on a mobile-first data strategy, companies are better positioned to take advantage of the vast opportunity that the mobile environment offers. We advise our clients to create mobile experiences that are personalized and relevant to best create a path to purchase, and use the device as the glue between multiple mediums.”

Steve Shivers, co-founder and chief executive officer of doxo, agreed that businesses should be moving to mobile-first because customers already are.

"Mobile-first means changing the metrics," Shivers told "In many cases it means prioritizing spontaneous interaction, with less forethought required. It means cutting the effort of interaction so your audience will engage more. Brevity of engagement is now a positive--it demonstrates that you’ve cut your cost of engagement. And it means creating new interactions, leveraging the fact that your customers use their smartphone instantly, in any context, to find info, resolve problems, make decisions or act on impulses." 

To learn more about big data, attend the Adobe Summit, March 24-28. Click here to view the agenda.

About Giselle Abramovich

Giselle Abramovich is senior & strategic editor at Previously she wrote for outlets including Direct Marketing News, Mobile Marketer, Mobile Commerce Daily, Luxury Daily, and Digiday. Reach her at, or follow her on Twitter @GAbramovich.