At Mobile Innovation Summit a Focus on Customer Experience and Paths to Purchase

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Total digital commerce has more than doubled in the last five years, it shows no signs of stopping, and brands must address customer experience on mobile if they intend to grow in coming years.

That was one takeaway from the Mobile Innovation Summit event in Denver, hosted by mobile shopping rewards company Ibotta. Mobile commerce experts who participated in a dozen panels and presentations this week defined the successes their brands have seen in reaching a younger audience, they got heated over digital advertising strategy, and they analyzed the customer experience.

Coca-Cola’s senior vice president for customer marketing, Dana Barba, walked the audience through the company’s process for influencing customer behavior.

The Coke campaign, titled “Pause. Play. Refresh.” looked at data about consumer TV watching, how often food and beverages are part of the TV-watching ritual, and how to get consumers to make a beverage and a snack part of that ritual.

“We looked at the path to purchase, ways to connect with people while they are planning for the ritual,” Barba says. “From the time when they’re out at retail stores all the way to the event.”

Coca-Cola’s strategy involved a digital-mobile-social platform to connect with consumers, and focused on millennials, who overwhelmingly watch streaming video and use social media – both key places for brands to target them.

The topic of transitioning advertising dollars from traditional television to digital, such as on desktop and laptop computers and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, further sparked discussion on a panel including representatives from Drawbridge, Horizon Media, Del Monte, Centro, and IMAgine Analytics. The group addressed Proctor & Gamble’s decision to cut more than $100 million in digital ad spending in the second quarter of 2017.

Shawn Riegsecker, CEO of digital ad software company Centro, said that Proctor & Gamble’s choice only points to the clear lack of a solution – not that digital is the wrong way to go.

“I’ve been in digital media now for over 20 years,” he says. “As a collective group, we couldn’t have come up with worse idea than what we have right now [for digital advertising]. It’s almost as if we went out and said, ‘We’re gonna screw this up.’ Look at the cookie. Our goal was to help brands interact with consumers, but what we did was we created this piece of code to drop on consumers’ computers, blind to them, and then we just spam them.”

Customers hate video ads on autoplay, he says. Customers hate pop-up ads – no, everyone hates pop-up ads.

“It’s a mess,” Riegsecker says. “We as an industry have to get our crap together so we can create a better experience for the customer.”

The customer experience was an ongoing theme throughout Tuesday’s sessions. Jackson Jeyanayagam, CMO of wholesale consumer packaged goods (CPG) ecommerce company Boxed, spoke about the shopper experience and the future of mobile commerce, stating that Boxed works hard to recognize its priorities. Knowing the customer’s shopping behavior and continually optimizing for that knowledge is at the top of the priority list.

“Our strategy is to be relevant to the customer in every way,” Jeyanayagam says. “Predict what they do and how they do it.”

For big box store shopping, the shopping often starts at home with a list, even if a retail location is where the purchase happens.

“A lot of customers will literally go through their house, literally go to the bathroom and look to see if they’re about to run out of toilet paper,” he says. “They talk to their significant other, their spouse, their roommate, and they might be placing an order while they’re at the dentist office or while they’re dropping their kid off at school. And that’s actually how we built our app, with the knowledge that you’re going to go through the kitchen, the bathroom, the den, the living room, to see what you need.”

The average checkout window for Boxed shoppers tends to be between two to four days, he says. That’s also factored in to how the company operates.

Ibotta founder and CEO Bryan Leach wanted the event’s attendees to get a real taste of Denver, though as conferences typically go, most of the time was spent inside a windowless hotel conference room. In one deliberate deviation from that norm, Ibotta invited world-class rock climber Tommy Caldwell to give a keynote speech during Tuesday’s lunch hour.

Caldwell repeatedly stressed how much his life changed when the New York Times started following his ascent of the Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park, thanks to Twitter. A friend had started tweeting during a climb, bringing the rest of the world onto the rock wall with them.

Caldwell read from his recently published book, The Push, describing the moment he and three friends escaped from a hostage situation in Kyrgyzstan, on a climbing trip when he was 21 years old. (Spoiler alert: he pushes a guy off the side of a mountain.)

Ibotta founder Leach said that this choice to bring Caldwell to the Mobile Innovation Summit was a way to give attendees of the conference a better look at what it is like to live in the Rocky Mountain State, where crazy people really do rock climb, all the time.

Ibotta investor Hans Tung, managing partner at GGV Capital, told Street Fight in an interview that being based in Denver is a unique advantage for the company.

“Bryan could have started anywhere, but he purposely chose Denver,” Tung says. “There’s good job growth and it’s not noisy, people don’t jump around, and they understand the heartland of America much better than people in San Francisco or New York.”

The heartland of America is the target audience, Tung says. The 99 percent.

“Having a team that is based in the heartland, but is globally-minded, is a unique advantage that we [at GGV] think is critical to building the next unicorn,” he says.

April Nowicki is a contributor at Street Fight.