Mobile Advanced but 2017 Was a Year for Baby Steps in Personalization

Written by: on January 11, 2018

The Art of Mobile Persuasion Podcast, Jeff Hasen (Mobile Strategist)

The Art of Mobile Persuasion is a book written by POSSIBLE Mobile’s Mobile Strategist, Jeff Hasen. Jeff’s podcast is a play off of his book and discusses how the world’s most influential brands are transforming the customer relationship through courageous mobile marketing. Jeff provides actionable insights on campaigns, trends, and technologies for the world’s most innovative marketers.

Gartner’s Noah Elkin Points To Factors That Have Held Marketers Back

Episode 24 of The Art of Mobile Persuasion: Mobile became more important to marketers. That’s the good news. But while marketers broadly agree that one-to-one communications with customers and prospects has nothing but upside, most are in the crawl stage which undoubtedly is adversely affecting their business outcomes. In this podcast episode, Gartner’s Noah Elkin lays out the barriers in part one of a two-part interview. Stay tuned for part two of the interview to be published here in the coming weeks. Find more about this episode in the post below.

Running with Mobile but Crawling with Personalization

If you want hype or smoke and mirrors, you can easily find 100 people who will tell you a tale about the mobile wallet’s role in eliminating cash (it hasn’t) or the ways that beacons have saved retail’s brick and mortar locations (they haven’t).

But if you want to know what really is happening – or isn’t – in marketing, you should check in with Noah Elkin, now a research director at Gartner. I met Elkin more than 10 years ago when he was Chief Evangelist at eMarketer. His book, Mobile Marketing: An Hour A Day, is a great read, even six years after its publication.

What caught my eye recently was Elkin’s positive assessment of where we are with mobile marketing.

“A big theme in Gartner’s recent Multichannel Marketing Effectiveness Survey is the emergence of mobile as a dominant channel for multichannel marketers,” he wrote. “Now, for those who have been watching mobile’s share of ad revenues and digital time spent climb steadily upward, the notion of mobile’s dominance may seem old hat. It clearly enjoys that status for the audiences marketers are trying to reach.

“But marketers often have struggled to effectively incorporate mobile into their marketing strategies. We’ve seen that most multichannel marketers, for example, don’t see a need to go beyond creating mobile extensions of existing desktop-based engagement techniques (e.g., the website, advertising, search and email) — a finding consistent with the marketers who’ve used Gartner’s “Marketing Maturity Assessment” tool and rated mobile marketing their least mature capability.”

But lots changed in 2017, according to Elkin.

“This is one of those rare occasions where we can legitimately say, ‘What a difference a year makes,’” he said. “In 2016, marketers told us that on average, they were using 3.5 mobile techniques (out of a total of 13 we asked them about) and had another two in the pilot stage. Fast-forward to 2017, and marketers now have 4.3 tactics live on average, and are piloting 3.1, representing a combined increase of 33 percent.”

To go deeper, I dialed up Elkin for a The Art of Mobile Persuasion podcast interview. In part 1 of the interview (find episode 24 above), we talk about the increase in maturity, but also the distance that we still have to go to deliver on the one-to-one communication that so many hype.

“You see marketers taking something of a crawl, walk, run approach,” he told me. “There is this promise that if you are fully invested in personalization, it promises great things from a business results perspective. But most marketers really are starting with one channel. You’re starting with basic e-mail personalization, for example. I have a lot of calls with our marketing clients about just taking those baby steps towards better customer segmentation. That’s a long way from being able to personalize across the entire customer experience.

“There are cost implications. There are complexity implications. The technology is there but one thing we see not just with personalization technology but with marketing technology in general is that marketers buy it with intent to fully deploy it, but there is lag between when they adopt to it and when they fully utilize all the capabilities of the tools that they have.”

To believe that drastic improvement is coming is, in Elkin’s view, a bit too optimistic.

“The way marketing technology weaves itself into organizations tends to be more incremental than rapid,” he said in the interview. “We see marketers in the 2 range (the developing phase) in the marketing maturity model and they want to get to a 4 (the advanced phase) (out of 5). Marketers really want to move up that maturity curve but the challenging part is how do you change processes, how do you bring on board new technology while you are still running your business day to day?

“That’s where some of that energy around maturing areas of marketing can fall down because it’s hard to be working on those parallel paths. How do you do these changes that have significant implications for how your marketing department is run and how it is structured, the technology it uses, the skills that you require, while you are still doing the day to day and still being measured on where you are expected to deliver.”

Feeling like your mobile marketing and personalization strategy could be improved? We’d love to see how we could help. Please email us at and one of our experts will be in touch.

Jeff Hasen

Jeff Hasen

Jeff Hasen is Wunderman Thompson Mobile's Senior Strategist and is one of the leading evangelists in mobile and emerging technologies. He enables brands to get closer to their customers in times upended by new devices and behaviors. The results are increased sales and loyalty and businesses doing the disrupting rather than being disrupted.

Add your voice to the discussion: