09/30/2012 07:14 pm ET Updated Nov 30, 2012

The Real Returns of Mobile ROI

The digital revolution, specifically with the commercialization of the Internet, has brought a whole host of new responsibilities into the advertising world. With it came new ways to achieve the familiar: awareness, engagement, education and affinity, and new requirements to achieve the less familiar: transactions, loyalty programs, fulfillment, customer management and service. These new requirements have not only created massive complexities in managing the number of agencies and service providers for a particular client, but also in the way everything is measured in terms of returns. This is especially true when we start to think about mobile, its intimacy, its data and how to look at ROI.

The reality is that we are getting much more intimate with the people that buy our client's products and services. Social media, online behavior, decision-making algorithms and transactional data all deliver and exploit a level of understanding about an individual that constantly challenge the boundaries of what's appropriate. But when we think about our most intimate selves, our mobile devices now rank nearest to the top. Our mobile devices now take our connected selves beyond the tethers of our computers into a world of places, transactions, interactions and community like never before. Further to this, we now have media and communications converging all around us, always, fueling us individually and collectively.

So what does this mean in terms of returns? We often think of ROI as a simple input / output relationship for marketers. Sure, we have subtle definition variations like return on ad spend, value of a fan, etc., but the true measure of success has always aimed to build an equally strong connection between the marketing input and the consumer output. Mobility, especially in the convergent world, offers us the closest peek into a host of transactional factors that we have never really seen before. What did that purchase journey look like? What interactions took place? What role did advertising play? How much was spent? What else was bought? Who was there? What was looked for? What was said? The list goes on. But herein lie the real questions: What do we miss when we focus too much on that one-to-one relationship between the investment input and return output? What unspoken truths do we not uncover when the sale today is the only focus? And how do we manage the intimacy of those data points?

The reality seems to lie somewhere in the middle. Returns are a complicated business, and while we can definitely get a better sense of what the critical influences are to achieving them, the boundary of intimacy will be a critical area to manage. The key folks to watch are those on the front lines of the mobility-driven convergent world. What is being built, used, distributed, connected, transacted and shared through mobile all give us the requisite clues in solving the age-old ROI question for marketers. It is my ambition to better understand how it comes together with some of the world's most progressive and innovative mobile leaders on Monday, October 1st, where we hope to challenge just what the real returns of mobile are.