Major Trends at MobileBeat 2015

Earlier this week, the San Francisco Sonus team attended MobileBeat, hosted by VentureBeat.  A quick three-block walk from our office in downtown San Francisco, MobileBeat was the perfect opportunity for us to take the pulse of the consumer mobile industry and to connect with top professionals and influencers.

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Word of mouth rules

The day started off with the general sessions, featuring experts from the mobile industry.  Matt Marshall, the Founder and CEO of VentureBeat, talked about how apps are increasingly being found, not through a Google search, but rather by word of mouth.  When people have great experiences with an app, they tend to tell their friends about it.  Sometimes Google isn’t the best way to find exactly what you’re looking for in an app.  Word of mouth is often more effective, and Matt mentioned that this was how he found out about the messaging app Slack (which Sonus uses religiously!)

Deep Linking and Mobile for College Students

One term we kept hearing repeatedly throughout the day was “deep linking.”  A deep link is any link that directs a user past the homepage of an app or website, to content inside of it – for example, the deep link would link directly to a certain product instead of the home page.  The speaker from Home Depot, Mike Amend, mentioned deep linking during the first session of the day.  He talked about the importance of using deep linking to connect customers to specific offers within an app.

We also heard from Chegg, which specializes in online textbook rentals, online tutoring, help with homework, as well as scholarships and internship resources.  Dan Rosenweig, the CEO of Chegg, pointed out that high school and college students have very specific mobile patterns.  They assume that you know where they are at all times, that information is accessible whenever they need it, and that they will always get what they need through their mobile apps.  So, if companies don’t make it extremely easy to find what they need on their apps, college students and other young people will ignore them.

First-time users and deep-linking

After the morning general sessions, it was time for the breakout talks.  I attended a panel on the topic of mobile content discovery.  Speakers from NBC, Yelp, Yummly, and URX were there to share their insights.  The speaker from Yelp, Eric Singley, talked about how important it is to make sure the first time someone uses an app, they are treated to an excellent experience.  That’s why at Yelp they spend a lot of time focused on the very first experience that users have with the app.  Once people have downloaded the app, it’s important to deliver the content they’re looking for as quickly as possible.

Deep linking came up yet again during this panel session.  The CEO of URX, a company that provides deep linking tools, talked about how URX works with Yummly (an app and website that provides recipe recommendations personalized to each individual’s tastes) to send app users directly to Yummly’s website.  Deep linking is also used to connect users with other apps, like Instacart, to make shopping for recipe ingredients easier.  Essentially, deep linking can bring app users closer to the features and content that made them want to download the app in the first place.

Putting the Customer First in Mobile

After lunch, we attended the afternoon general sessions and heard from the SVP of Marketing at OpenTable, Scott Jampol.  Scott talked about how using the OpenTable app helps improve the dining experience and removes the friction of paying in a restaurant.  People can pre-pay for their meal through the app, so it’s an elegant way to split the check without any of the awkwardness of figuring out who owes what at the end of dinner.  Scott noted that there are so many apps out there, that people are becoming more selective about which apps they’ll allow onto their phones – and they are using fewer apps on a regular basis.  Scott noted that if someone has used your website three to four times, they are then more likely to download your mobile app.

We also heard from Mary Beth Laughton, an SVP at Sephora.  She talked about how the Sephora app includes an in-store experience component, which uses beacons to detect when a customer is in the store and points them to special offers.  She highlighted that Sephora uses customer insights to drive mobile experiences – for example, people often watch videos to learn more about beauty products and how to apply makeup, so Sephora integrated videos into their website and app to meet that customer demand.  The main lesson here was that companies should take a consumer-focused approach to mobile.  They should tailor their app around what the customer actually wants and needs.

Halo Moments

One of the most interesting talks came towards the end of the day, and was about finding your “halo moments.”  A halo moment is a moment when your life is made better or simpler by using a mobile app.  This happens when there is less friction between pulling out your mobile phone and receiving value form it.  The panel – which included speakers from MyFitnessPal, Skyhook, Niantic Labs, and eBay – gave examples of halo moments, one of which included the CVS app.  This app is alerted when you step into a CVS store and automatically pulls up the CVS card on your phone without you having to look for it.  This is a halo moment because it makes your life easier and friction-free.

The problem with halo moments is that they have an expiration date – users will eventually come to expect them and will become accustomed to them.  One panelist noted that we are creating “an age of the never-satisfied customer” as the customer comes to expect more and more.  Since halo moments are cyclical, companies can combat this by giving the customer a little halo moment, then having them “level up” to the next one.  They can allow customers one small halo moment at a time, at regular intervals, so these moments are always sure to surprise and delight.

Looking Forward…

We wrapped up the day with networking and meeting with mobile tech companies in the exhibitor hall.  There were people from all around the world in attendance, all with interesting and unique perspectives.  It was great to take the pulse of the consumer mobile industry, and we look forward to the next one!