We are excited to bring Transform 2022 back in-person July 19 and virtually July 20 - 28. Join AI and data leaders for insightful talks and exciting networking opportunities. Register today!

We live in an age where 85 percent of millennials in the U.S. have a smartphone, and they are fiddling with their apps 15 times a day. So you have to wonder: Why aren’t presidential candidates using mobile in their campaigns more effectively?

With the 2016 presidential election in full swing, it’s critical for candidates to engage with voters – especially those between 18 and 29, who make up about one-fifth of voters and who have proven to be a valuable voting demographic. While it’s clear from the Iowa caucus that some of the candidates were better than others on the ground, it will be impossible for them to repeat those same efforts across every state. So technology will be key. And yet none of the candidates has an official campaign app, except Ted Cruz. Instead, they’re relying on old-school methods to learn about and connect with their audiences.

Many are still spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct mail campaigns. And they will also spend $4.4 billion on TV ads, up from the $3.8 billion spent during the last election, according to estimates by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. Not a bad way to reach a wide audience; but if you want your efforts to be targeted, it’s far from ideal.

As a chief marketing officer, I spend the majority of my day learning about my audience and thinking about the best ways to reach them. If I were on the inside, I’d – at the very least – make sure the candidates were following some of the tried-and-true best practices for mobile: engage, personalize, and retain.

Be where your users (or, in this case, voters) are

When elected in 2008 and 2012, President Obama had 32 million Facebook fans and 21 million Twitter followers, making him the first president to have fully embraced the digital world. In the last four years, opportunities to learn about your audience and engage on mobile have only increased.

With a generation that values quick access to information, apps could be just the place to find success. It’s here that information is simplified, creating a streamlined experience that’s ripe for interaction. It’s here where your most loyal fans go. It is here where you can learn the most about those fans to deepen your relationship with them.

Access to knowledge, such as the way voters like to interact, can come from election polling — we’ve all gotten those phone calls. But an app would allow candidates to tap into a powerful source of rich user insight that can be be used across multiple channels, and it would provide an additional avenue for reaching each voter on a highly personal level. In turn, candidates will have activated their fans, who can then help advocate for the campaign’s causes.

Research shows that people want more personalized content, tailored specifically to where they are and what they’re interested in.

So, with all that said, here are three data-driven mobile technologies that candidates should take better advantage of this election:

  • Geotargeting: One way to cater to the desire for personalization is to deliver location-based campaigns, touching on issues that specifically pertain to a voter’s area. Geotargeting can be used to engage with people in a unique way during physical campaign events, or as a way for candidates to reach people in areas where voter turnout is lower than usual and encourage them to hit the polls. During the last election, Facebook successfully used geotargeting to help voters locate the closest voting station. The app also then cleverly used location data as a way to elicit an in-app conversion, allowing voters to flaunt their voting badge. Candidates can also understand the parts of their platforms that resonate the best in different states by looking at users’ in-app behaviors and then tailoring their speeches and ads to align with the points voters in that geographic area care about most.
  • Push notifications: Candidates should be sending messages based on voter preferences. What voters read on your app and where they go will tell you a lot about what they’re interested in. You can then use this information to send topic-specific messages to individual users based on what they care about. For example, you could send a push message notifying the user of breaking political news or debate times. You could also send out relevant videos and articles during a debate, as many voters tend to watch with their second screen in hand. Research shows that more than half of users who activate push tend to return to the app regularly, opening the door for additional opportunities to engage.
  • Hyper-personalized emails: These days, over 90% of smartphone users check their email on their phone at least once a day, and email has been highlighted as the most popular smartphone activity. To be successful here, we aren’t talking about your run-of-the-mill email campaign blast. Apps are leading an email renaissance, with their ability to gather mountains of behavioral data to craft hyper-personalized content. What issue is the user most passionate about? Send them an email with a deep link to the relevant video in the app. Want to entice a known fan to attend an upcoming event? Send them an email invitation based on their location and a call-to-action to RSVP via the Facebook app. These types of email campaigns feel exceptionally relevant to each particular user.

In order to win over your target audience, and thus win votes, you need to play in their space. My advice for politicians on the road to the White House: leverage mobile. For the people.

Josh Todd is CMO of Localytics.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Learn more about membership.