phunware_logo_HDThis sponsored post is part of our Beyond the Smartphone series. Produced in partnership with Phunware, the series explores the many ways a multiscreen approach to mobile is changing the way we live, work and play — from apps to wearables and virtual reality to mobile data and connected devices. See the whole series here.

Without question, big data has quickly become essential to doing business, radically changing how companies interact with their customers. Forrester Research states that this landscape calls for the CMO and CIO to be closely aligned to build “customer obsession.”

“Leaders will use analytics as a competitive asset to deliver personalized services across human and digital touchpoints; laggards will drown in big data,” said Cliff Condon, Forrester’s Chief Research & Product Officer.

But Condon brings up one of the big problems with big data: it can only help you engage and grow your customer base if you understand and leverage it properly. Too many companies are relying on basic data or data that’s been tailored to pre-conceived assumptions — and subsequently are not getting the full picture of their user base.

Effective data analytics means more than monitoring in-app session times — but it shouldn’t require breaking the bank on a big data science department. Consider leveraging the following smart strategies and policies to gather and implement your data more efficiently.

1. Determine the KPIs you need to track

First, it’s important to figure out what metrics will help you achieve your business goals, then gather the data that’ll help you monitor those KPIs. Doing this prior to your app launch and data collection will help prevent any opportunities you might miss due to lack of momentum. Even if streamlining and optimizing your data gathering requires reworking or deploying a new app, it will be time well spent in the end.

Additionally, talk with your partners to see what kind of data they can share that may help you monitor these critical KPIs. There’s a good chance you’ll find some helpful tools in your partners’ toolboxes — or determine the need for different partners who will aid you with big data analytics.

2. Don’t collect data just to collect data

Just because you have the tech and equipment to warehouse terabytes of data, you shouldn’t clog up your process with data that won’t provide valuable insights.

Make sure you’re collecting what you need to measure progress towards the KPIs you established, while nixing the numbers that are superfluous. Look at the data you have available to you and make decisions based on whether each data point will help you gain actionable insights about your customers, such as where and when they engage with your app.

3. Go way beyond the install

Mobile marketing used to be all about getting users to click the Install button, but sophisticated brands are realizing user engagement is what really counts in terms of monetization. They’re using data to understand users, proactively offering relevant products and deals based on that understanding, and then optimizing future offers based on campaign analytics.

“A lot more focus is being put on, ‘Are we acquiring the right users for my application?’” said John Cathey, Director of Product, Big Data Analytics at Phunware. “Rather than optimizing against [an install campaign] conversion rate, we’re often optimizing against an actual in-app KPI,” such as longer session times, in-app purchases, deal redemption and so on.

Mobile allows the kind of closed-loop reporting marketers have been dreaming about for years — not taking advantage of it is leaving money on the table in the future. For example, if you send a customer notification that includes a barcoded coupon, you can easily track the percentage of users who took advantage of the coupon. Digging deeper into data related to those customers, you might be able to find some commonality — the neighborhood they live in, what time of day they used the coupon, how far they traveled to get to the store — that will help you with future campaigns.

And don’t ignore users who don’t respond to your campaigns: they can provide valuable insights about what not to do, who not to target, or which contexts are not conducive to success. The same goes with how users engage with your app: the features they don’t use are just as important to monitor as the ones they do. Data allows you to identify important areas for improvement and execute on that understanding.

4. Establish customer profiles

It’s one thing to acquire customers, but another to get to know them. In marketing and advertising, the more targeted a campaign is, the higher its likelihood of success becomes. Big data enables you to consider your customers as real people who live in a home, go to work, and have routines — all specific and vital data you can use to improve your conversations with them.

“Rather than just leveraging an audience segment or a BlueKai pack to understand who your customers are, look at their real behavior and maybe overlay some third-party data on top of that to get additional data points,” Cathey said. “Leverage that to understand who your customer is…where they work, when they go out to eat, when they leave work, where they shop, and where they connect to Wi-Fi. All of those tell you valuable information about your customer.”

Once you have a good idea of who your customers are, it’ll be easier to increase your audience and expose your brand to more people. By analyzing your customer behaviors and determining patterns within them, you’ll be able to look for other users with similar behaviors that you can engage and convert into customers.

5. Benefit from the rich context that location gives you

It’s not only important to determine how customers are using your app, but also where they’re using it. And there are multiple sources for that data, including GPS, IP address mapping, and Wi-Fi network mapping.

While you can use location services to guide new customers from the parking lot to your front door, you can also use location data to determine when they’re heading toward a competitor. When that happens, sending a push notification that offers the customer a discount might entice them back to your store. Remember: location can be a source of insight, and it can also be a trigger to an event.

6. Take advantage of software and partner companies

There are plenty of software suites that can assist you with your data gathering, analytics, and customer profiling — but it’s important to understand what you’ll get. They can help you determine what you want to accomplish from your data, and give you the tools you need to get there. They can also enable you to find new ways to track your customers, which will help you target and engage those who provide the highest lifetime value.

Perhaps most important, with detailed customer profiles, you can connect user IDs to multiple devices, which will improve the granularity of data you can see for a given user and their activities. By combining the location data and customer profiles with demographic data from your CRM software, you’ll enhance your profiles to solidify insights, drive higher engagement, and ultimately get to a point of predicting user behavior. Then, you can leverage this data across all of your channels to achieve better relevance and response.

Big data is no longer just a consideration — it’s a critical tool that will not only help you optimize your interactions with customers and find ways to improve your campaign conversion rates, but also expand your customer base by discovering consumers who’ll likely become new paying customers.

But like any other tool, if you don’t use the data right, you won’t get the job done as efficiently…or you may even do damage. Take the time to learn what tools you have available — and how you can use them for the utmost impact.

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