Suck it, innovator’s dilemma. Mobile engagement grandpa Urban Airship just launched an impressive new data integration platform that promises to help you easily integrate your customers’ mobile experience into its complete omnichannel experience.

Old dog, new tricks.

What is mobile marketing automation? This is what app developers say it does for them.

Above: What is mobile marketing automation? This is what app developers say it does for them.

Image Credit: VB Insight

Urban Airship pioneered app engagement in the dim mists of mobile antiquity — 2009. And while the company built an impressive list of partners and customers on the back of push messaging, in the past two years investors have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into deeper and richer mobile marketing automation solutions such as Swrve, Leanplum, FollowAnalytics, and over a dozen others we’ve profiled in our mobile marketing automation report.

At the same time, mobile players in the advertising and marketing spaces have joined the flood: Tune bought Artisan, Localytics built mobile engagement into its analytics product, and Tapjoy added engagement to its advertising and user acquisition services.

But few in the mobile engagement space can match Urban Airship’s client list — its SDK is in about 30,000 apps, and it has been the engagement solution for Olympic and FIFA World Cup events — and the company launched a full-on mobile marketing automation product back in early 2014.

The problem?

For the kinds of customers Urban Airship has and most other mobile marketing automation players covet — big brands — it’s not just about mobile. It’s also about in-store, web, maybe phone, possibly CRM, and a long list of other channels, advertising avenues, and engagement media. In other words, these are not mobile-first or mobile-only companies, and they have significant IRL operations.

So while mobile apps are critical to get close to customers, it’s also important for these types of clients that customer knowledge doesn’t remain locked in mobile or in a dashboard. It needs to percolate through the entire enterprise, enabling intelligent, contextual customer service on the phone, personal recognition and white-glove service in-store, smarter emails that don’t contradict customers’ previous mobile actions and decisions, better retargeting ads for lapsed clients, relevant social messaging, and the list goes on.

urban airship connect

To meet that need, the top mobile marketing automation (MMA) solutions have real-time APIs to share data with the entire enterprise, and advanced tools such as FollowAnalytics have prebuilt connectors for key third-party software. Urban Airship has an API too, but what the company has done in addition is launch a full-fledged data integration platform, Connect, that promises to centralize the process of connecting mobile app engagement data to all your customer data-using business applications. And, of course, make it quick and painless.

“You’ll be able to connect in just a few clicks,” Urban Airship director of communications Corey Gault told me yesterday.

That’s impressive.

There is still a lot of work to do, of course.

Currently, there are only 11 launch partners, but one of them is mParticle, the Segment.io of mobile, which adds another 50 or so. That said, what Urban Airship needs is connectors to Marketo, Salesforce, Adobe, HootSuite, IBM, Oracle, and other big business systems for marketing, customer service, data warehousing, and customer experience. Current partners include SendGrid, the email vendor; Kochava for attribution; SDL for customer experience and web content management; Amazon’s AWS, AgilOne for marketing cloud capability and others.

Some of the larger mobile marketing automation vendors

Above: Some of the larger mobile marketing automation vendors.

Image Credit: VB

Once Urban Airship has built more of those prebuilt connections, it will also enable better engagement with your customers across advertising channels, as the company will allow you to pull together all the identifiers you have (email addresses, Apple advertising identifiers, and whatever other data you have) and associate them all together, enabling very smart, contextual, and personalized advertising — even if, as a company spokesperson told me, your web and email systems are not integrated.

Integration and omnichannel is one of marketing’s greatest challenges.

Some standalone MMA vendors have prebuilt connectors, and most of the big marketing clouds (certainly Adobe and Salesforce) have app markets that, if you’re using their solutions for mobile engagement, you can connect to everything else you might want to integrate. But I haven’t seen anything quite like the Connect platform from any other independent player.

At the very least, it’s a big step in the right direction. And if it fulfills its vision, Urban Airship has a good shot at defining the agenda for mobile engagement and omnichannel success.