The mBlox founder tells us why he believes 2013 will see ‘large scale’ experimentation when it comes to engaging with consumers via mobile.
As founder of one of the world’s leading providers of mobile engagement solutions, mBlox head honcho Andrew Bud is no stranger to the ever-evolving nature of the industry’s approach to consumer interaction. With no fewer than five billion consumer contacts passing through his company every year, there are few more ideally placed than Bud to offer a choice prediction or two as to how the mobile engagement landscape is set to shift over the coming 12 months. And, as luck would have it, ME was lucky enough to catch up with the man himself for a chat about what lies ahead on the 2013 mobile horizon.
Having taken mBlox from it humble beginnings as a start-up in a Shoreditch shed to the global corporation that it is today, Bud’s vision for the company has, in essence, remained the same in spite of the vast technological advances over the years. “mBlox today is remarkably similar to the business - in terms of vision – that I founded at the end of 1999,” he explains. “The fundamental idea then was that mobile would become a very important, if not THE most important means for enterprises to communicate with consumers, and that the unique power of mobile to engage consumers, particularly through the power of push and SMS, was a unique channel that was going to be developed and facilitated.”
Since then, mobile engagement has indeed become a vital means of engagement between business and consumer. And with so many enterprises utilising the powers of mobile, the key challenge for companies now is how to harness mobile capabilities in such a way that is both highly engaging and unique. “The question now is ‘how do you get consumers to engage more?’ In other words, how do you engage people when their app is not open? And how do you optimise the user experience, both in those intermediate times and when they have their app open?”
With this in mind, Bud sees the coming 12 months as an absolutely crucial time for the business of enterprise to consumer engagement. And with so many searching for new and innovative ways to reach consumers, experimentation could well be the mantra behind many a new engagement initiative in 2013. “I think this could be the year that it becomes perfectly clear to all consumer facing enterprises that the way that they use mobile to engage with people is actually of primary commercial importance,” he suggests. “ It is no longer just a bit of a fun R&D hobby, and I think that’s a big swing. That now manifests itself in a number of different ways. One of the things that we are convinced of is that the whole concept of targeted mobile engagement will go from being a bit of an experimental topic of conversation to being a major piece of people’s businesses.
“What does that mean? Well, the modern smartphone gives the enterprise access to a vast amount of context information. With their permission, you can see where people are; what they are doing; what the status of their phone is; the things they’re interested in; the links they click on. You can then use that information to engage with them in a much more relevant and targeted manner, so you tell people things that they want and need to know, when, or even before, they knew they needed to know it.”
So, with such quantities of contextual information readily available given the consumer’s permission, in which ways does Bud see the mobile engagement sector utilising such a resource in 2013? “I think that the key is to engage consumers in a conversation,” he says. “If you just shout at a consumer or try to do things fast and loose, you don’t get the opportunity to have a conversation with them. In a conversation, you have a bit more time and space to explain to them what you want to do and why you want to do it and to get their buy-in. The way you have that conversation is by earning your place on their phone, which is by giving them useful and relevant things.”
It is in this area that Bud expects to see a raft of new ideas come to the fore over the coming months. “One of the things we are going to see in 2013 is people experimenting. Experiments are terribly important,” he elaborates. “People have to build conversations, try them out with consumers and find out what works and what doesn’t. There are no textbooks on this. There is a lot of accumulated experience and theory built up over the past 15 years by the mobile industry, so we are not starting from scratch. But, even so, technology is moving fast; screens are getting bigger; the interactions are more powerful. So, in a sense, the lessons learned over the past 15 years are going to be very useful, but there’s still a lot to learn, and the way that companies are going to learn more is by experimenting.”
While experimentation may be the way forward for consumer facing enterprises, not everyone is going to be able to plough the necessary funds into the experimentation process, which itself can be a hugely expensive process. So, how best to combat such difficulties? “People need to find faster, cheaper and more fluid ways of running experiments and learning more of them. And, because that’s so important, we think that 2013 will see both the platforms to do experiments and the enterprises increasingly running them.”
Evidently, Bud believes that the route to optimising the business-to-consumer engagement experience lies down the path of experimentation; whether this be in terms of the initiatives instigated by enterprises or the way in which they are devised. And with this in mind, it’s hard to disagree that 2013 is set to be a significant year in the world of mobile engagement.