Digital Data Trails, Brand Insights and Mobile Users

10/03/2016 12:13 pm ET | Updated Oct 06, 2016
By Jeremy Lipschultz
Skype

Consumers using branded mobile apps leave a digital data trail, and this simple fact is changing business, advertising and social experiences.

Phunware Data CEO Alan Knitowski is focused on the value of audience behavioral insights. The mobile software already touches more than 625 million devices through 5,000 applications. The Phunware big data offer brands “more than 40 billion actionable insights” per month.

Audiences can be targeted and engaged based upon data showing how and where consumers use apps, Knitowski says, “and being a horizontal slice through all of the vertical walled gardens – not just Facebook and Twitter, but groups like Apple and Google and Microsoft, and others.”

In an airport, shopping mall, sports stadium or during a live event, the Phunware IDs translate into 650 monthly active users. As we shift from the Internet Google and social media Facebook waves to a mobile wave, Knitowski says Phunware data will change the way the Internet of things develops through global business to consumer targeting at inside or outside venues.

“You get into contextual awareness, you get into interests of what users like or don’t like, what they want to be engaged with (and) what they don’t, what brands they care about (and) which ones they don’t,” Knitowski says.

“It’s like having a global, real-time focus group indoors and out with contextual and location-aware applications that not only know all the things about what you’re doing and who you are, but they dynamically can change the value that you present to a brand, depending upon where you are at.”

At Starbucks, for example, brand value depends upon how much a consumer buys, but his or her value changes when they are at the airport. Knitowski says that for most brands 20 percent of their audience represents 80 percent of revenue. Phunware wants to “enable brands in the virtual and physical world… to know who was there, what they were doing, what they liked, and what their value was to that brand.” It’s about “most appropriate engagement,” Knitowski says.

Users Need Media Literacy Skills

What is less clear is how individual users will evolve to keep up with the mobile shift. Chad Hill, co-founder and CEO of digital marketer HubShout, found in a recent survey that adults do not realize they can be fired for what they post on social media. Many incorrectly claim First Amendment protection while working for a private business, he says. Drinking, drug use and other inappropriate photographs may be problem content.

“I think companies can decide that they’re not going to hire based upon some of these comments or some of the things you’re doing,” Hill says, “people put a lot of information up on the Web, or up on Facebook that may come back to bite them down the road.”

Imagine future privacy and professional implications when a user agrees to share her or his every move of mobile data in exchange for brand offers.

The media literacy problem is even more daunting for high school and college students, Social Assurity CEO Alan Katzman says. Social Assurity teaches best practices for students that focus on effective use of Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and other sites. The curriculum “emphasizes the value of networking, active community engagement and developing a unique and authentic personal narrative to best tell their own ‘self-story’” – important in college admission decisions, scholarship awards and the job search.

“For most teens and most college students, their social media is an amplification of a very small sliver of their life,” Katzman says. “What we want to do is… counter-balance that, not to tell them “don’t post the social part of your lives,’ they should have fun with it.”

While students may begin to understand the value of personal branding, the next 12 months are likely to bring dramatic business access to their mobile data. “We’re getting about 70 user event records per user, per month,” Knitowski says. “This is just what you’re naturally doing with what you engage and like, and we capture that information, always based upon what the user wants us to know.”

Engaging, Managing and Monetizing

It will take media literacy skills for users to make smart decisions about location sharing or participating in a brand loyalty program. Free Starbucks or airport Wi-Fi, for example, is traded for Phunware ID data tracking. “We get to know more about you,” Knitowski says. Brands gain granular, targeted consumer data, which may increase sales conversions. In theory and practice, ever more personalized data filter media content, product and service offers, and loyalty perks. The rich, real-time data are “natural because we’re not forcing anything, we’re just letting people be who the are, use what they like,” Knitowski says, “and they’re walking around with a device in their pocket everywhere they go.”

Phunware also is moving to convince media buyers to increase their share of budget spending on mobile data, and reduce “imperfect” traditional advertising spending. Knitowski wants to “blow up the $100 billion media buying industry so that (the company) can be an alternative when people think about Google, Facebook, then there’s Phunware.”

There is no disputing that the intersection of mobile apps, favorite brands and frequent places will help define the future of social media and social business.

Nobody forces users to download apps, agree to service terms or share location and other personal data. However, it is likely that a significant slice of consumers do not stop to think about the long-term sharing of our most personal data within a network of global corporations.

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