2011: A Mobile Year in Review — Q&A with Michael Ricci, Vice President of Mobile at Webtrends

December 15th, 2011 by

Today we’re bringing you the next post in our  “2011: A Mobile Year in Review” Q&A style blog series that features the thoughts and insights of mobile industry luminaries, media executives and brand marketers.

In this week’s post, Michael Ricci (@MobileNTRactv), Vice President of Mobile at Webtrends (@Webtrends), talks shop about why mobile really took off in 2011. He shares his thoughts on such subjects as the biggest mobile innovation of the year and the top reasons companies decided to invest in mobile analytics. Additionally, he offers his perspective on the mobile device that came out of nowhere and really delivered the goods in 2011. Finally, Ricci gazes into his crystal ball to predict the next big thing in mobile for 2012.

 As VP of Mobile for Webtrends, Mike is responsible for all facets of Webtrends’ mobile analytics business and works with blue chip clients like Coca Cola, Hilton, Microsoft, NY Times, RIM, Polar and a host of others to effectively implement measurement programs that shape mobile strategies and user experiences.  Mr. Ricci joins Webtrends from Merkle, where he served as vice president and mobile practice leader. At Merkle, Ricci established the company’s presence in mobile marketing and worked with Merkle’s blue-chip client list to develop mobile engagement strategies. Prior to Merkle, Mike held key executive roles at iLoop Mobile, Volantis Systems, Aggreko plc and York International Corporation. 


Q – What was the single biggest mobile innovation you saw this year?

A – I believe that Apple’s Siri represented a quantum step forward for mobile. Voice search and virtual assistance are two key steps forward for our industry and the power that this gives individual users represents an important new phase for mobile. What this will mean for the future of devices, search and user experiences is important to our industry in general and mobile marketing practitioners in particular. I’m excited to see where the evolution of Siri will lead us and what similar innovations from other OEMs will mean to mobile’s future.

Q – What were the top three reasons your customers decided to invest in mobile analytics in 2011?

A – Simply put, mobile analytics is becoming table stakes for mobile marketers. If you can’t successfully measure your mobile programs then you lack data that is vital towards informing your strategy, establishing resource prioritization, and evolving your users’ experiences. Far more importantly, I can’t imagine how you could begin to feel secure when your CMO asks you to address the key question of ROI — because if you’re not properly measuring, you don’t have a prayer of addressing that question in a meaningful way. But that aside, the key driving forces accelerating mobile analytics are that mobile marketers want to become as sophisticated as their digital peers (email, WWW, search, social, etc.) and also play a vital role in the evolution of a brand’s eCRM programs. Plus, they have listened when respected research partners like Forrester, Aberdeen, Comscore, Nielsen and countless others termed mobile measurement a “customer intelligence imperative.” and are heeding this call to action.

Q – How did the app vs. mobile web debate evolve in 2011?

A – I think that apps remained a key investment in 2011 and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. While many have introduced smartphone apps, they are now realizing that it’s vital to have sophisticated user experiences to drive repeat engagement with those apps. So, we’re seeing cool mCommerce, augmented reality and loyalty features begin to appear in next generation apps and this is driving some pretty robust growth in this area. Likewise, many brands are locking onto the importance of having a “tablet specific experience” and prioritizing investment in this form factor as well. So, all those events happening in concert means that app mania is alive and well. But that aside, we are seeing some important new steps being made into the HTML5 arena. This is becoming especially apparent in the rich media/mobile advertising space where we’re seeing some immersive new mobile advertising programs. I think this will, in turn, drive new innovation in the mobile website space and, over time, you’ll begin to see these two key areas begin to converge with the best of native apps meeting the flexibility of the mobile web.

Q – Looking at all the device specific usage data you tracked in 2011, what device delivered the biggest surprise? Why?

A – To begin with, we don’t aggregate customer data in the world of Webtrends. We believe strongly in data privacy and don’t use our customers’ data to compile aggregate trend data that we would then resell. We believe that is a fundamental conflict of interest and it’s one of the things that separates us in an important way from many other mobile analytics providers. But, if you’re asking about general device trends in the industry then I guess I’d tell you that Android’s rapid explosion and absorption of smartphone market share isn’t necessarily surprising, but noteworthy for how fast it’s unfolded. I also think that the leveling we saw of Apple iOS sales in the lead up to (and aftermath of) the 4S introduction was a little surprising to most of us who follow such things. And finally, I think that Windows Mango, in general, was a nice little surprise and it’s going to be interesting to see what transpires with the Nokia and Microsoft partnership.

Q – What’s the most innovative mobile website you’ve seen in the past year?

A – That’s a great question and the simple truth is that there are many good things happening in this area so it’s hard to single out just one. In general, I’d tell you that I’m fascinated by what we’ve seen with brands beginning to tap into what’s happening with mCommerce and allowing consumers to buy directly from their devices. Fandango, a mutual client of ours, is a great example of not just an innovative site but also a brand that totally gets the importance of using mobile analytics to guide the evolution of the site’s user experience, drive conversion and informing investments in new feature sets. And finally, I really like what the New York Times has done with its site experience and digital subscription model. Again, they are another Webtrends client that totally buys into the importance of using mobile analytics to guide the evolution of its mobile website property.

Q – 2012 is shaping up to be the year of fill in the blank. Why?

A – 2012 is shaping up to be the year of HTML5/rich media mobile advertising. I think we’re going to witness sustained innovation in this area in 2012 and this will in turn drive investment in mobile search, mobile websites and the beginnings of mobile segmentation and optimization. We’re focused heavily on the latter and we’re beginning to see some of our truly informed brands grasp how important it is to understand a specific users behavior across digital properties and use this data to inform segmentation allow for site optimization.

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