An Opportunity for Mobile in the Middle of the Marketing Funnel

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6a00d8341c630a53ef0147e2a9a9c2970b-800wiThe mobile industry has struggled to find its place in a crowded marketing landscape, sandwiched between an entrenched television industry, which controls billions in branding dollars, and a formative paid search sector that dominates the ready-to-buy consumer. But Michael Hayes, the executive in charge of turning Bill Gross’ UberMedia into a profitable business, believes that the mobile industry could find its sweet spot selling to consumers in the middle of the proverbial marketing funnel.

UberMedia began when Gross, whose spawned the idea for Google’s paid search product in the early 2000s, was frustrated with Twitter’s mobile apps. The company went on to produce a number of third-party social applications. However, recognizing the difficulty in building a business around mobile applications, Gross and his team pivoted the business, developing a new strategy, which focuses on using the applications as a data source to feed a much larger mobile advertising engine.

Fast-forward three years and the company is making its push into local data. Thanks to the consumer apps developed early on, the company has access to a broad swath of first-party data, much of which also includes critical information about user’s identity — like a Twitter handle or YouTube name. Its newest products allow it to use identity information to break down the wall between devices, allowing marketers to understand a consumer through one device — say, through location data generated on a mobile device – but message them on another.

Street Fight recently caught up with Hayes to talk about the role location data can play in a reaching the mid-funnel consumer, and why he believes it will make mobile marketing a bigger opportunity than paid search.

A number of companies, including UberMedia, have built systems to pair devices around a single user. When you break down that wall between mobile and desktop, what’s the impact on the market for real-world information?
I’m bullish on it. Real-life retargeting, driven by location data, is incredibly interesting — especially when you cross-pollinate it with other information. Location data on its own is good, but when you mix it with other datasets to help you understand not only where someone goes in the real-world but the actual emotional intent of consumer, we believe that we can understand the “heart” of the consumer.

In my view, the demand for location data is going to really accelerate over the next three-to-four years in digital. We think that this emotional targeting will be a bigger market than paid search market. In the paid search market, there’s so many people at the bottom of the funnel. It’s a demand-fulfillment type of tactic. Consumers are way down in the bottom of funnel.

There’s a plethora of data out there. Where does location data excel compared to other indicators like social or behavioral information?
What mobile does really well, with all of those intent signals, is engaging users in the middle of the funnel. It’s a place in the consumer path to purchase where most advertisers don’t spend a lot of money right now. Today, they spend a lot on television and then a bunch on paid search, but there’s very little in between.

Mobile does a really nice job in the middle of the funnel, understanding consumer intent, and getting to those near-market intenders who aren’t quite ready to buy, but could be soon. And a lot that consumer understanding that marketers need to address that consumer comes from location data.

Say I’m an executive at an automaker. If I were to give you someone who searched for a car brand on one hand, and a person who visited a lot, on the other, Who’s more valuable?
The conventional wisdom is that the person that visits a specific car lot is pretty far down the funnel. But the truth is that when you look at J.D. Power & Associates data over the past few years, that funnel concept — and the belief that consumers choices get narrower as they get farther into the purchase journey — is not true. Over the last couple weeks, as consumers test drive cars before purchase, people are considering anywhere from 4-6 different car brands.

I would say that the funnel concept needs to be retired. It’s something that’s old and stale, and modeled for a different world. Almost all of the data — whether in auto or electronics — shows that consumers don’t start with a number of options and then narrow their choices in a linear fashion. They do go through awareness consideration, intent and purchase, but the concept that their consideration set progressively narrows is incorrect.

So what types of tactics and strategies have worked best to message these mid-funnel audiences?
So the person on a [car] lot is not only interested in buying, but also open to a number of brands. Once you take out the folks that work at the dealership, and those that are there for service, that population of people who are at a car lot looking for a car is incredibly interesting — not just for, say, Kia whose lot it is, but competitive set as well. It’s a rich opportunity for these brands to intercept that consumer and conquest their competitor. That strategy of competitive conquesting is already very common in autos and is gaining more traction in other local businesses. If you know that X user is on a Honda lot, as a publisher I can resell that audience not only to Honda but to Kia, Toyota and Nissan as well.

Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.