I'm in the camp that says mobile's promise lies in our ability to deliver ultra-personalised, contextual content to a wireless user who is increasingly expecting nothing less.
I'm less sure about how patient the mobile subscriber will be as we wrap our arms around big data and all that it tells us - if we take the time, and have the right resources, to listen.
Julie Ask, one of the smartest and most respected in the industry, is one of the biggest champions of the context concept.
"What will it mean in five years? Consumer desire for convenience will trump their need for privacy," Ask, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, wrote for Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2011/05/25/the-future-of-mobile-is-context/ "They will gradually allow access to this information residing on their phones to trusted partners in exchange for convenient services not unlike the use of credit cards today. Content and services will become highly personalised. The phone will be a both a hub collecting information from machines around us and a modem relaying it to applications or services that will leverage it to offer convenient services.
"The ability to deliver highly contextual experiences will evolve in sophistication with technology in the phone. Already, phones have GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers. Going forward, they will have barometers, chemical sensors, and microbolometers. They already have two cameras enabling 3D video capture and distance measurements."
Some being punished, others rewarded
OK, that's a look five years out. But marketers interviewed for my Mobilized Marketing book said that mobile subscribers are punishing brands that fail to deliver a positive experience on mobile. Conversely, the users are rewarding companies that meet or exceed their expectations.
For years, we have heard marketers not only ask but demand data from mobile programs to make the efforts more successful and trackable. Few organisations, however, have the infrastructure, personnel, budget, or mindset to take in as much information as possible and to do something meaningful with it.
Still, the technology is advancing so rapidly that there are fewer and fewer inhibitors to getting the data.
I've heard Ask discuss the concept of presenting to the mobile user information or ads based on whether it's warm or cold in the room that they are in.
Others also believe location is only part of the story.
"I see the importance of context growing more and more and beyond just location," Michael Becker, the North American managing director for the Mobile Marketing Association, told me in Mobilized Marketing.
"Time will be the next access that will take a big role in our conversation," Becker said. "It's not just a matter that I'm in Times Square but when am I in it, because the engagement around you is different if I'm standing in Times Square at 12 in the afternoon versus 12 at night. How do we play that role and have that level of context with consumers?"
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