Without any doubt, we are in exciting times when it comes to online marketing. In a few years time, marketing managers have seen the shift from classic display advertising such as banners, to targeted campaigns based on user segments. But it did not stop there, behavioral targeting, real-time bidding (RTB) and other new technologies have opened up unique opportunities to reach customers online.

The goal today is ambitious: to communicate with each individual customer at the right place and time, in a personalized manner, taking his or her interests and context into account. This approach of one-to-one communication is also called “The segment of one”.

In order to achieve this goal, we need to tackle two problems: first of all, we need to be able to track our customers across websites, mobile sites and mobile apps. Second, once we are able to identify individuals, we need to learn their interests, predict their intention to buy and build individual user profiles.

Once we “know” each consumer, we can communicate with each individual in a personalized manner using personalized coupons, special offers, push notifications etc. The cherry on the cake is to take the user’s context into account. For example sending a push notification to invite a customer for a test drive of a new car, based on the user’s favorite model, at Friday 5PM, when we know that individual is driving home from work, and passes by a car dealer 10 km ahead. How does that sound for targeted communication ?

It’s clear that mobile opens up unique opportunities to target “the segment of one”. Unlike websites, mobile websites and especially mobile apps, allow to trace a user’s location and even the user’s activity. Based on the location and speed of the user, we can estimate e.g. whether the user is at home, at work, driving a car, or walking in a shopping street. On top of that, users typically have only one smartphone, and they carry it with them 24/7. That’s why we say “the smartphone is the cookie that sticks to your customer”.

Tracking users

While cookies can be used to track users on a website or mobile site, it’s impossible to identify that same user in a mobile app, based on a website cookie. Cookies are not shared between websites and apps on a smartphone. So in order to identify a consumer across devices, we need cross-channel user tracking (PC, tablets, smartphones). One way is to ask the user to login. While this may work for certain use cases such as mCommerce, it will create friction in other use cases, e.g. when the consumer is researching a new car and not yet ready to buy.

Technologies such as TapCrowd’s Swipe2Mobile, solve cross-channel user tracking by creating a seamless integration of the website and mobile app of a business or brand, combined with patent-pending user identification techniques.

Once the user is identified both on the website, mobile site and in the mobile app, a unified profile can be built.

Building a profile and sensing user context

Mobile provides a unique opportunity to build a user profile. The profile aggregates the user interests, purchase history and even historical context information such as places most often visited. The user profile is built, based on the user activity on websites, mobile sites and in mobile apps.

Based on the user profile, content and special offers can be personalized. For example a news app may serve news relevant to the individual reader, a commerce shop may suggest certain products for the user, and a retail app may send a personal coupon.

When we not only have a user profile – based on historical information – but we also sense the current context of a user, the conversion of marketing efforts increases dramatically. The context consists of the user’s location and activity, and by location we do not mean a street address or coordinates, but a contextual location and activity such as “The user is walking in a shopping district, 10 minutes distance from our retail shop”.

The user profile will tell us that John is looking for a new camera, most likely model X, and this information combined with John’s context, allows us to send a personalized push notification: “Hi John, 10% off today on camera X, 10 minutes from your current location, the shop closes in two hours”.

Conclusion

Mobile creates a unique opportunity for businesses to build user profiles, in order to target “the segment of one”. On top of that, mobile is the only channel that allows sensing the user context in real-time. Online and mobile user profiles can be combined through cross-channel user tracking. Based on the user profile and context, businesses can communicate with customers 24/7 in a truly personalized manner, in order to increase foot traffic in stores, boost online sales and improve customer loyalty.