Portions of this post originally appeared on NetNewsCheck.com
It’s likely that your executive team discussed your mobile strategy in the last month, week, day or hour. Somewhere in that exchange of ideas was measuring the performance of that strategy. If you’re like me, you’re held accountable for finding the right numbers to measure and then working intelligently to hit those digits.
Crafting a mobile strategy to cope with how quickly your audience is shifting its time and attention to mobile can be overwhelming. There are numerous mobile analytics tools available. But instead offering an exhaustive list of mobile analytics providers, let’s focus on the right kind of analytics tool for the job.
Mobile Audiences and Cross-Channel Strategy
“Audience understanding” doesn’t refer to how audiences use an app, how frequently they engage, what content they consume or what stories they share. Rather, it focuses on their demographics, real-world behaviors and interests.
If publishers are nervous that they can’t sell a gender-targeted ad on your mobile properties today, they’re not alone. At Reveal Mobile, we spent the last six months conducting over 100 customer research calls as we shifted our business model from mobile app development, the StepLeader brand, to a mobile audience platform. Only those with first party data had a chance of knowing basic demographics, but even then they lacked the ability to target against those attributes effectively or at scale.
Mobile audience will be a mandatory component of any sophisticated cross-channel strategy in order to remain competitive in your markets and relevant in the eyes of your advertisers. Not only will it assist in direct sales, but will weigh heavily into upcoming political ad spend in the short-term, and help lift long-term performance in programmatic advertising.
Top Three Data Points to Measure
The first step towards better mobile data is an exercise in discipline. If you could only have one data point to measure, what would that be? All other data points are now just a function of improving that one key metric. If a data point doesn’t help improve that primary statistic, stop measuring it.
Now, expand that to three crucial data points that are the absolute most important for the growth of your business: one for your product stats, one for marketing stats and one for audience stats. The end goal is to eliminate any focus on vanity metrics or those that do nothing to drive the needed results for your key metrics.
With your key data points identified, one must find the right tools to first report on them and then make them actionable. While there are a plethora of product and marketing analytic companies to choose from, there are very few mobile audience tools available on the market today. A simple start to getting mobile audience data is enabling one’s Google Analytics account or other product analytics tool to report basic demographics. Making that data actionable is a tough nut to crack, but one that we must start cracking now.
When mobile apps launched, product analytics were the first type of mobile measurement available. Here, one looks to benchmark product performance over time. The usual suspects are page views, unique visitors, time spent, operating systems and device types. As this category matures, we see much more sophisticated product suites available to measure social interactions, real-time content consumption, code quality and crash reporting. These are product-focused metrics that formed the early foundation of a mobile strategy. This is also where most mobile teams focus their efforts today.
The second bucket of mobile measurement is marketing – the tools one uses to measure and improve app revenue and store listing optimization and to measure the lifetime value or cost-per-acquisition of a new user. These include the standard measurements of impressions, clicks and CPMs. In the last two years, we’ve seen advertisers request real-time location more frequently, which when used to improve ad performance, can count as a marketing measurement. Also included in this group are the tools used to manage the performance of remnant ad networks, which can be akin to managing a nursery school room full of four-year-olds: there is both an art and a science to getting them to behave.
The final type of mobile analytics, and the most recent entrant, is audience analytics. This data seeks to understand exactly who your audience is. Attributes that are well known in desktop advertising – including gender, age ranges, income ranges, education, interests and behaviors – are hidden or unactionable today on mobile.
Mobile historically struggles here due to the lack of first-party data and the lack of cookies. Traditional desktop advertising built massive profitability on the back of the cookie, where advertisers expect to buy their target audience.
Social Media and Mobile Advertising
The parties not struggling here are Facebook, Google and Twitter. They use their audience data to sell fewer ads at higher rates. So what about everyone else?
Most publishers can quickly rattle off their product and marketing statistics. Unfortunately, most have no idea about their male/female user ratio. If they do know their audience by gender, they can’t make that segment available for advertisers, depressing their effectiveness and therefore their revenue.
Admittedly, juxtaposing the massive scale of these Internet giants to the local media landscape is unfair. Their size plays an important role in their ability to attract the most advertising revenue. The lesson we can learn from them – what they do better than anyone else – is understanding their audience across all platforms.
Advertisers love these platforms because they have the data to know and reach their target audience on any channel. Facebook strategically sells less quantity and more quality because its audience understanding is channel-agnostic.
Audience Data and Political Ad Spend
Audience data proved incredibly valuable during the last presidential election, and 2016 is going to be even more data-driven. The price of admission to capture mobile’s growing share of political ad spend is buying the right (or left, or independent) audience. The digital media publishers that can target mobile audiences by political affiliation and voting districts will simply outperform their peers.
Product, marketing and audience analytics play critical and equally important roles in a big-picture digital strategy. They don’t function in isolation from each other, either. Some product stats, like content consumption, help one understand the audience. Conversely, audience data helps inform product decisions.
To succeed in a cross-channel environment, it’s time to know the mobile audience.
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