on the cell phone

Five bucks if you can look around wherever you are right now and find someone more than an arm's reach from a mobile device.

Our phones and tablets and wearables are wardrobe essentials, tangible symbols of our ubiquitous digital connectivity.

Leaving home without one is sort of like walking out the door without pants of some type: some people do it on occasion, but we tend to judge them and cluck our tongues behind their backs.

Computerized Security Blankets

And if you stop to ask why, you stumble into a murky, mucky swamp of insecurities, anxieties and even narcissistic tendencies. For most of us, mobile devices are the modern equivalent of those childhood comfort objects — things that give us the illusion of closeness to everything and everyone that matters to us.

You see a cell phone. I see the floppy bunny I carried everywhere as a preschooler.

I involuntarily abandoned the bunny when my older sister threw it under a moving truck.

I ultimately forgave her. But God help her if she'd try today to toss my cell phone in traffic.

Mobile connectivity is just a way of life for me. And I'm not alone.

Here, There and in the Bathroom

Living in the New York City area for two decades makes one thing very clear: If you're one in a million, it just means there are 20 others exactly like you — and thousands more that are almost a perfect match.


So based on deductive logic like that alone, it's fair to view mobile connectivity as a defining factor of modern life. Remember that much quoted 2011 Google study that found consumers use smartphones as extensions of their desktop computers — and 39 percent use those phones in the bathroom?

We've gotten worse. A recent Consumer Reports survey found about 81 percent of Americans use mobile devices in the bathroom — playing games, talking, posting on social media and, yep, even taking selfies.

According to Mary Meeker and the team at KPCB, smartphone and tablet shipments exceeded PCs in late 2010, mobiles surpassed landlines in 2012 and global mobile Internet traffic reached 25 percent of total Internet traffic at 2014.

Is it any wonder mobile marketing is such a hot topic?

What's the ROI?

To be sure, mobile still represents just a fraction of overall marketing spend. KPCB estimates it represented just 14 percent of total Internet traffic in 2014. But it's growing strongly (34 percent year-over-year) while desktop spending is decelerating (down 11 percent year-over-year).

One of the biggest challenges with mobile marketing lies in connecting the consumer pathway. The customer journey has grown twisted and tangled: About 65 percent of all revenues come from multi-touch conversion paths, mostly from impressions across multiple channels.

How can you measure your investment? There are data-driven attribution methodologies, of course. But these involve levels of sophistication outside the scope of many marketing departments.

Traditionally, marketers have tracked the success of their online efforts with cookies. But cookies are all but useless in the mobile space — and even when they do exist, how do you connect one person across a desktop and mobile device?

According to a recent Facebook study, more than 60 percent of online adults in the US use at least two devices everyday and almost one-quarter use three devices. More than 40 percent of online adults sometimes start an activity on one device only to finish it on another.

As Google notes, "over time, one customer may see and be influenced by many different marketing programs from the same company. So if your No. 1 overall objective is profit, then your return on investment should be measured based on the sum of all marketing inputs, not just the direct-response campaign a customer saw right before making a purchase."

Rethinking Measurement

As mobile marketing matures, so will the ways we measure it.

Companies like Janrain, a provider of Customer Identity Management solutions, are using umbrella terms like Marketing Continuity: "a continuity of experiences for a user as they interact with your brand across different devices, channels and touch points, as well as a continuity of the marketer’s view of each unique customer across her business and marketing systems."

How do you achieve continuity? As Adobe explains, reaching your customers is no longer enough. You have to know them.

You have to know the user everywhere, and connect your data about that user on the back end.

For example, marketers can work with third-party attribution analytics technology and implement deterministic device pairing. That enables marketers and advertisers to link the device on which an ad is originally viewed with the resulting use of the correlated mobile app on any subsequent device.

Deterministic device matching uses personally identifiable information from social logins to platforms like Google, Facebook or Twitter, or pulls together data from multiple publishers to make device connections.

Marketers can connect user activity through specific user identifiers such as email, a user ID, username or social login ID.

But it's not without its critics. Does following individuals across devices using usernames or email addresses cross the privacy line?

The other option is probabilistic device pairing, which makes assumptions that the same person is likely using a particular smartphone and a particular tablet through the use of algorithms and machine learning. The assumptions, while not 100 percent accurate, are based on analysis of thousands of data points and attributes from devices.

Enhanced Digital Experiences

Marketers are just starting to benefit from next generation, enhanced digital experience (DX) platforms. Nathaniel Davis describes DX as a byproduct or legacy of the way we design peoples’ interactions with computing interfaces.

"Today, in the digital-experience house that information architecture and UX design have helped to build, relevant content and usable user interfaces are critical drivers of customer engagement and loyalty," he wrote.

DX is quickly evolving beyond a buzzword to the foundation of actionable marketing solutions — technologies that offer new insights into the all-important customer journey.

As Salesforce explains in its “2015 State of Marketing” report, brands are turning to the customer journey to help guide their overall strategies. "The goal of modern marketing is to elevate the customer experience across every channel. Marketers are now able to extend the customer journey in a powerful new way inside apps and across devices, creating personal brand experiences for every interaction with every customer,” the report states.

Just last month, Jahia, an open source User Experience Platform, presented Marketing Factory, a new digital marketing personalization and optimization engine.

Defined as "a complete solution to collect actionable data on all your online projects," Marketing Factory has been conceived and developed to address the challenges of mobile marketing and more specifically of cross-device marketing.

The issue here is to be able to reconcile into a single merged profile the behavior of User A browsing a website from his desktop with the behavior (and associated data) of User B going to the same website from his/her mobile device, whether smartphone, iPad or Apple watch.

That is where Marketing Factory truly empowers marketing teams: though a slick interface, marketers can define critical fields (email address, Facebook or Twitter accounts, for instance) to be mapped in order to merge two users into one single profile, the company claims.

Marketing Factory also tackles the  issue of having a disconnected customer journey, posing as a comprehensive marketing hub: the solution allows for the collection of data from the various touchpoints where a customer may interact with a brand (websites, mobile devices, CRM, brick and mortar shops, etc.). Thanks to this capability, mobile marketing becomes really effective as real-time data converges to deliver a personalized experience at the right time.

The DX evolution has only just begun.

As it progresses, expect to see advancements in the ways we track and measure mobile success. At that point, already robust investment in mobile marketing will increase — because then marketers will have empirical evidence of what they already intuitively know.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  Title image by thirdblade.