Mobile DMP: Dead At Design Time

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tomchavez"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Tom Chavez, CEO at Krux.

In June 1999, a venture called Wingspan Bank launched with a breakthrough idea: Consumers should do their banking online. By September 2000, it was defunct. What happened?

If you’re not living in a log cabin deep in a forest writing a manifesto, you already know what happened. Everyone — consumers, investors and especially banks — quickly came to their senses and realized that online banking made no sense as a standalone concept. Incumbent banks adjusted quickly and began offering online as part of the plain-vanilla package for all their consumers. Wingspan went from hero to zero in 14 months.

Markets moved fast then, but they move exceedingly faster in 2014, which is why the half-life for “mobile DMP” is less than six months. Just as there was no online banking, similarly, there is no mobile DMP. There’s simply DMP.

Let’s be clear: Mobile is fundamental and it’s growing fast. Pew Research indicates that 91% of Americans own some sort of cell phone and that 57% of all Americans now go online using their mobile device. More than 50 to 75 billion devices will be connected by 2020, according to separate forecasts by Cisco and Morgan Stanley. That’s a huge number of people creating millions of mobile data points every second of every day.

As a result, marketers and publishers need to understand consumer behavior across screens and devices. Their intention is to engage users at the exact moment when they are ready to make a purchase — whether they are sitting behind a desk in their office, riding in the back of a taxi on the way to the airport or lounging on the couch with their tablet before going to bed.

Companies who peddle mobile DMP are essentially saying, “Look, I’m happy to help you with what’s happening in the taxi or on the couch, but what happens behind the desk — well, that’s another kettle of fish, something you should handle with your regular DMP.” And, in the best case, if they show up and say, “Good news, we can help you with what happens behind the desk, too – that’s our DMP solution, and it costs X,” then they’re charging an unwitting customer twice for a single product masquerading as two.

Multichannel Lives

Both in conception and fact, a well-designed DMP needs to help marketers and publishers engage with people who no longer live in a single channel. We’re conducting highly non-monogamous relationships with the phone, tablet, work laptop, personal laptop, home PC and the gaming device. DMP needs to capture, protect, and manage the data generated across all those screens while surfacing the “1+1=5” opportunities lurking in their interactions and correlations.

A CPG manufacturer wants data-driven insights about how working moms become aware of a product at night on TV, visit the manufacturer’s website on their tablet before going to bed, read reviews on their handheld on their train ride to work in the morning and then purchase later in the afternoon from their laptop. With this knowledge, the CPG company can drive more holistic, integrated marketing strategies and smarter advertising investments that balance risks and opportunities across all the channels where they need to play.

Perhaps the seller and the buyer of mobile DMP both agree with the need to stitch data from multiple devices into a unified picture of the user, which is exactly why they’re allocating extra dollars now to integrate their DMP and mobile DMP solutions downstream. It’s well intentioned, but it’s paving the cow path. Creating a standalone mobile DMP instance that needs to be synchronized with a non-mobile DMP instance perpetuates the silos and stovepipes that have plagued businesses for too long. And while it creates extra service fees for the vendor or a lucky systems integrator, it’s entirely superfluous if your DMP is architected correctly to ingest people data from multiple systems and screens, and map it to a single “uber-ID,” as we like to refer to it.

Presuming that your mobile and regular DMP solutions are integrated, maintaining mobile data in a separate silo adds unnecessary latency by inserting an extra hop between your DMP instance and your mobile DMP every time a new user needs to be put into an audience segment. With good architecture and a little help from the cloud, you can skirt the mobile vs. non-mobile integration problem at design time. Stream data from multiple systems and screens just once, map it to a single user, reverse the arc and send targeting instructions to wherever it’s needed and engage with users at will and on any screen.

A Lesson From ‘Branchless Banks’

Recall the direct banks that began popping up throughout the world in the late ’90s and early 2000s? These “branchless” banks allowed users exclusively digital access to their accounts, minus the face-to-face interaction at a branch. Ultimately, most of these banks learned that their customers wanted flexibility. They wanted access to their current accounts using whatever technology happened to be most convenient in the moment. Whether that meant a branch visit today or online access next week, they wanted options, including an occasional face-to-face interaction.

The object lesson from branchless banks is that, while mobile is an important modality, it’s not the whole enchilada. I spend a lot more time on my handheld, but I certainly wouldn’t want to write this post on it. Amid the excitement around mobile, with mobile DMP we run the risk of having the pendulum bang us on the head when it swings back, as it inevitably does.

Technology moves inexorably forward, and there’s always another gizmo around the corner. Wearable computing, for example, provides another connection surface between businesses and consumers. “Tweener” wireless products on the cusp of being invented can take root at any moment. As long as all these devices speak HTTP, and your DMP is architected around the construct of an uber-ID, you don’t need to toil over any device decisions. Flexibility, at least in this case, comes for free.

As your customers move across devices, your platform should let you tailor your interactions with them across any device. Mobile anything is ill posed. Your customers live digitally integrated lives. Isn’t it time your DMP caught up?

Follow Tom Chavez (@tommychavez), Krux (@KruxDigital) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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