Join gaming leaders online at GamesBeat Summit Next this upcoming November 9-10. Learn more about what comes next. 

After two jam-packed days of panel sessions at the recent MobileBeat conference, featuring brand executives in the retail, CPG and travel sectors, my head (and my notebook) are flowing with mobile marketing insights and lessons.

Here are five of the most compelling insights that resonated from the event, especially because these are the exact types of problems we’re tasked with solving for our clients every day.

Step away from the app-obsession; invest in the mobile experience first

In one of the most engaging fireside chats of the MobileBeat conference, Jason Spero, Global Head of Performance Media at Google, raised the question: “Does everything need to be an app?” He then answered, “We need to invest in the experience on the mobile web, not just apps.”

I tend to agree with Spero on this point. There’s no arguing that mobile devices with their advanced features and functionalities speed up, simplify and enhance the shopping experience — before, during and after the in-store visit. But with that being said, there’s also a need for marketers to stop getting bogged down by tactics — like launching a mobile-optimized site or fancy app. What needs to take precedence over everything when devising mobile marketing strategies is the experience, from the consumers’ mindset first.

Jason Spero, Google, Ina Fried, Re/code

Above: Jason Spero, Google, Ina Fried, Re/code

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

Simplicity drives behavior

As I continued to listen to Google’s Spero share his approach to mobile, he made another statement that may be simple at its core, but can have very profound results for brands and retailers. Spero professed, “Mobile is about doing and solving a problem. We must find an efficient way to solve the problem.”

The key, in my opinion, is to make the mobile experience simpler for consumers. One example of a brand innovating in creating a seamless screen-to-in-store experience is Papa John’s. The national pizza chain uses click-to-call functionality — essentially, it takes something as simple as making it easy to order a pizza on-the-run aides in user adoption and conversions. Another example shared was online food-ordering company, GrubHub that through their app allow users to store credentials and past orders to make it easy to fulfill need — ordering food, fast.  As he said, ‘just installing the app is only the first step.”

Consumers don’t have a channel strategy; they have a shopping strategy

I can’t help but recall one of my recent shopping trips to a GAP store. After finding a shirt style that I liked, I couldn’t find my size anywhere in the store. Because I’m so accustomed to the great convenience technology brings to our lives, I naturally assumed it would be quick and effortless for the local store clerk to find a larger size and have it shipped to my home. To my surprise, it wasn’t that simple. The technology wasn’t seamlessly connected across all stores — and this added friction to my shopping process.


This brings me back to another memorable MobileBeat conference session. It was the second day and Kelly Solomon, vice president of ecommerce and multichannel at L’Oreal Paris USA, was on the main stage sharing some of the real marketing challenges she faces in creating a seamless, cross-screen experience for beauty shoppers.

And then she shared a very powerful stat: 98 percent of revenue for L’Oreal Paris USA is achieved through physical distribution with retail partners. And what exactly do these physical retailers care about? In Solomon’s own words, “Retailers want traffic in physical stores and more specifically, into the beauty aisles.”

Break free of brand silos

One of my favorite books on organizational success is from Gordon MacKenzie, author of the ‘cult classic’ ‘Orbiting the Giant Hairball.”  MacKenzie writes about his experience working at Hallmark Cards, breaking through silos to drive innovation. As I listened to Solomon articulate her keys to mobile success, it brought me back to MacKenzie’s classic book, and my own corporate ‘Hairball,’ working for Sears Holdings, where we had over 20 businesses units all with separate P&Ls — whether it be apparel, home or, worse yet, distinguishing between the ecommerce site and in-store sales.

As Solomon explained, it all starts with a focus on omnichannel solutions that make beauty shoppers’ lives easier and better. The reality is that brands still operate internally as siloed business units. “You need a point person on the brand side for multichannel alignment of goals and objectives,” said Solomon.

Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Digital and Mobile, Gibu Thomas, spoke to another challenge that retailers face, one that increasingly stands in the way of driving success for all retailers. “We think of ourselves as a technology company first. Other retailers must do the same or be left behind.”

VentureBeat's Devindra Hardawar interviews Walmart's Gibu Thomas at MobileBeat 2014.

Above: VentureBeat’s Devindra Hardawar interviews Walmart’s Gibu Thomas at MobileBeat 2014.

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell

When it comes to connecting with consumers, brands and retailers are ‘getting religion’ about driving digital engagement and digital dollars that, in turn, drives in-store sales. That is, thinking consumers-first to drive an omnichannel, local store impact.

As we found from our latest mobile marketing research, mobile acts as a conduit for saving money in-store. In fact, “search for a coupon” ranked as the number one mobile shopping activity (35.86 percent) among over 13,000 Key Ring app users, ahead of “buy an item online” (12.05 percent). Clearly, mobile is an advantage, not a crutch, to local commerce.

Otherwise, as Thomas so eloquently put it, they have to be prepared to be left behind and ultimately, lose loyal customers and sales across every channel.

Mobile is a behavior, not just a channel

To succeed in mobile, marketers must use technology and data to better understand the individual motivations, behaviors and varying paths to purchase of consumers first.  Or as I said in an earlier post mobile is a behavior, not just a channel. This will prove mission-critical in marketers’ ability to create the types of seamless, intuitive and engaging experiences that consumers want – that is, locally relevant, contextually targeted and engaging experiences and advertising that add to, not disturb, their native user experience. This requires thinking, organizing, communicating (both internally and externally) and, most importantly, executing differently.

Jeff Fagel is CMO at G/O Digital.  With more than 20 years of brand, digital and startup marketing experience, he has held multiple leadership roles at PepsiCo, Frito-Lay & and Sears Holdings. You can find Jeff on Google+ and Twitter.

Yo Founders Moshe Hogeg and Or Arbel at MobileBeat


VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact. Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:
  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
  • networking features, and more
Become a member