When it comes to customer data, take nothing for granted, warns Daniel Weisbeck, CEO, Netbiscuits.
Consider this: a sales executive hurriedly rushes back to his office after a global conference, delighted to tell his boss he’d just won a contract with a South American outdoor goods company who placed an order for 25,000 parasols. Without delay, the company swung into full action, completing paperwork, increasing their manufacturing output and packaging up the delivery ready for mass shipment, including assembly instructions written in Spanish. The order was dispatched and received successfully, yet the overall transaction was a failure. Why? Because the goods were dispatched to Sao Paulo in Brazil. A Portuguese-speaking country. Just a horrendous mistake? A lack of cultural awareness? Or simply making a broad assumption based on the generalisation that the majority of South American countries speak Spanish.
It’s an extreme example, however there are lessons that all businesses can learn from the above episode. Where customer data is concerned, take nothing for granted. A good example of this in practice comes when I speak to marketers and developers responsible for creating mobile web experiences for different brands. I hear similar patterns around the inherent lack of trust they have for their own customer data, and how consumers are engaging with their brands through mobile channels. Therefore when looking at the next evolution of their mobile strategy, a lot of decisions on device preference and user behaviors are being made based on assumption and common hearsay.
We live in a multi-device world, where a single consumer uses different devices at various times of the day. Security experts Sophos claim that consumers globally own 2.9 mobile devices. What this means for businesses of all sizes is that we’re continuously being subjected to an amplified volume of customer data, where we try and make sense of these data points, while simultaneously questioning the integrity of the information to make sure it all stacks up. Brands need accurate access to mobile user data, not only because they need to understand who’s accessing their content online, but to create an engaging mobile experience, they need to know the composition of device types demanding access to their website. Only then can they serve up the most appropriate web pages.
In terms of mobile device detection, how bad can it really be? In a recent benchmark test conducted internally, we found many of the most commonly used industry device databases, were serving up erroneous detection, resulting in error rates anywhere between 30%-90%. This included false or missing information on crucial elements such as the device model or browser version. If you think that doesn’t matter, then think about this – is there such a thing as a single mobile user experience, or a one dominant device preference anymore? There are just too many different permutations, not to mention a hoard of emerging device handset vendors using proprietary OS and browser specifications that impacts what your user could be doing online, how they could be accessing your content and what they expect based on their device screen-size and capability.
Who do you trust when it comes to mobile web data? Have you ever wondered about the accuracy of data when it comes to being able to report on how many of your users are on which browser version or OS? If you haven’t, now is the time. The mobile world is highly diverse and constantly changing. There are now an estimated 7 billion mobile devices across the globe, which is truly phenomenal. To give you an idea of scale and growth of the mobile market, at Netbiscuits, we add up to 200 new mobile profiles to our database every month, and are already covering over 8,000 unique profiles across 500 critical device attributes like model version, operating system down to the ‘dot release’ version, video capability, exact screen size and resolution.
Even for the biggest device geek in the world, that’s a lot of data to keep track of. Conducting testing on real devices is an area that is hugely critical, as is ensuring the detection service being used by your customers is as accurate and as detailed as possible. And you may be surprised to find out that most leading web analytics companies (I’m talking the big guys we all use to capture web traffic) don’t actually have their own device database, but use third party data or limited sample data compiled ad hoc by the open source community.
So if we’re talking trust, there are a few things you need to ask your provider up front to gauge the accuracy of their data, and therefore, the information that is being used to determine your visitor experience. I encourage all marketing-minded folk to start challenging analytics vendors to validate the approach and accuracy of how they detect and report on mobile data. Ask them how and where they get the data, and how often it is updated and tested. As mobile web traffic is sure to surpass desktop by 2015 and marketing ad spend on mobile reaches over $3billion, don’t you owe it to yourself to start asking the critical questions? Otherwise you’re relying purely on your buena suerte, or good luck as they say in Spanish.
Daniel Weisbeck is CEO of Netbiscuits, which provides mobile analytics and device detection solutions to help profile mobile traffic, increase conversion, and deliver more personalised Web content to every device. Previously, he served as vice president of marketing for the EMEA region at Polycom; he also helped build the strategic vision of new and existing business for companies such as Corel, VisionTe and 3dfx. Reach him @Daniel_Weisbeck.