Futuristic Smart Tech Aside, It’s The Handshake That Gets Deals Done At Mobile World Congress

mobilehandshakeWhen Adam Warburton – head of mobile at British foreign currency exchange company Travelex – came to Barcelona for last year’s Mobile World Congress, his mission was to comb the exhibition halls and find a marketing technology partner.

At the time, Warburton had just started at Travelex after a two-and-a-half-year stint as a mobile manager at Walmart-owned grocery chain Asda.

He was already familiar with marketing automation platform Swrve – he’d been previously introduced during his Walmart days – but nothing had come of the introduction, mainly because onboarding new tech at a massive brand like Walmart required too many “legal and contractual hoops to jump through,” Warburton told AdExchanger. “So it didn’t go anywhere despite the fact that I was pushing for it.”

But when Warburton bumped into Swrve at MWC in February 2015, he was in a position to test it out and the two started a relationship that’s still going strong.

Travelex is relatively new to the digital space, but the 40-year-old brand is making up for lost time.

Since Warburton joined Travelex in January 2015, the digital team has grown from five employees to nearly 70. In May, Travelex launched its Supercard app, which allows users to avoid foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad. And several months later the brand released Travelex Money, an app that helps travelers order and transfer currency.

Travelex is using Swrve to start connecting its offline in-store transaction data with consumer data gathered on its site and various apps. The brand is also considering activating Swrve’s geofencing feature in order to trigger push notifications to users in the airport before they fly or when they land at their destination. Warburton and his team are still mulling the details.

Mobile in particular is an ever-evolving ecosystem and new solutions are cropping up all the time. That why he returned to wander the halls of Mobile World Congress again in 2016.

“We’re here looking for partnerships,” he said. “No agreement is fixed-term and we need to make sure we’re always working with the latest and greatest.”

This year, Warburton ran into app analytics company Appsee, which he’d come across several times in the past. Reps in the Appsee booth grabbed him while he was walking past, they had a good 15-minute conversation and now Appsee is already in the process of building an engineering proof of concept for potential integration.

There are more than 2,000 booths at Mobile World Congress, but only two exhibition halls out of eight are dedicated to app tech and ad tech – halls 8 and 8.1 – and that’s where Warburton spends most of his time, though he does make a point of checking out the main venues. That’s where they keep all the VR and IoT tech, the driverless cars from Ford and the luxury smartwatches from Huawei alongside the Intel-sponsored “Drone Zone.”

“All of that stuff is interesting, but I’m not going to go and order 1,000 VR headsets for all of our Travelex stores,” Warburton said. “It’s good to keep a finger on the pulse and make sure I know what’s going on in the industry, but what I’m really looking to do is get down into the micro level from an app perspective.”

And that’s why MWC is chance for vendors to get a direct crack at brand clients.

“The quality of the foot traffic is really good [at MWC], even the random people who walk up to talk to you,” said Swrve CMO Martin Doettling, who recounted an anecdote told to him by another Swrve rep who was manning the company booth this. “He said to me, ‘I just met the Travelex of 2016.’ It might take three months to sign them up, but it was a good conversation and we know we’ve got a new client.”

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