This is a guest post by Rob Hammond, Senior Director of Mobile Engagement at Syniverse
As developers, product leaders and marketers, we instinctively understand the importance of context. Context is the foundation of the personal marketing, marketing automation, customer 360, “market-of-one” and “know your customer” philosophies that are based on gathering and understanding consumers’ purchasing preferences, behaviors and locations to deliver more personal interactions with your customer. The challenge, however, is defining the options along with the data and interaction boundaries.
Mobile phones and wireless broadband have changed everything. The mobile phone has been described as a remote control, second screen, handheld computer and more, but what is missing from that is acknowledgment that the mobile phone is a sensor that gathers information on who you are, where you are and what you are doing. The device is a user interface, processing device, network element and sensor all in one. Mix these roles with a widely available high-speed network and add in enterprise insights, and we have a recipe for unprecedented access to users and the ability to understand intentions and actions as never before.
We all have examples of context, but as a collective discipline we lack a common vocabulary for describing context. As a result, we are challenged to evolve and build on past efforts. To aid our collective growth, I’m suggesting five types of context that I think will guide us in better understanding and realizing the value of context in mobile marketing.
- Physical context – Physical context is the category that is commonly meant when context is used in the generic form. Physical context describes a consumer’s location. Some widely used examples of physical context include where someone is, how fast the person is traveling, what direction, and where he or she is in a building (for example, in a shopping mall). Expanding our thinking a bit, physical context today also includes such information as a person’s mobile device network connection, device type, temperature and acceleration. To avoid confusion, it should be highlighted that physical context can be determined from one or multiple sources. For instance, location information could be derived from a network, a device, a beacon, or an expected destination of an itinerary.
- Temporal context – Temporal context is the collection of contextual elements that explain what a person is doing at any moment. Examples could be standing in line or playing a game. There are also more granular elements of temporal context. For instance, the actual page someone is viewing is an element of temporal context or what level they’re playing in a game. Another element of temporal context is the concept of purpose. In other words, what is the purpose of the activity? Is the intent to buy or browse or something else?
- Personal context – Personal context includes a person’s preferences, identity and relationships. Preferences can either be provided explicitly by a consumer or inferred through interactions. For instance, in one case, a brand could simply ask a customer what communication channel she prefers or, alternatively, the brand could choose to parrot the user and communicate using the same channel. Of course, brand preferences and campaign opt-ins are other examples of preferences. Identity is a broad and evolving category that is also included in personal context. Identity includes user demographics and relationships. The obvious element of identity is the person, such as her name, alias, address, loyalty status, etc. Equally interesting is a person’s affiliations. These relationships could be direct family and friends, as well as business or personal affiliations, like a child’s school, alumni group or hobbyist organization.
- Psychological context – Psychological context is what a person aspires to be or do. This is different from historical context that describes what a person has done. Significant work has been done that shows that our subconscious mind has a significant impact on the decisions we make. This category also represents aspirational relationships where a user is influenced by a brand, person or lifestyle.
- Historical context – Historical context describes what a person has done. Enterprise applications are filled with historical context in the form of transaction data. Data mining is the process of harvesting context from this collection of historical information.
As developers, product leaders and marketers, we need to understand that it’s our relationship with the customer that governs what we can do. I like to call it the “creepy/cool” factor. Much the same way that a person can pull away when a casual acquaintance shares way too much information, the customer will withdraw if a brand goes too far past the customer’s comfort level. Conversely, when a friend shares something only the two of you will understand, it’s a rewarding experience, and you lean in to hear more.
Whether it’s two people or a person and a brand interacting, it’s a relationship. Relationships require time to grow and must be cultivated. In other words, just because we technically can communicate something in a mobile message, doesn’t mean we should. It’s all about context.
Rob Hammond joined Syniverse in 2013 and has more than 28 years of global leadership experience in enterprise strategy, product management, sales and engineering, with a special focus in mobile and enterprise applications. As Senior Director of Mobile Engagement, Rob is one of the leaders in Syniverse’s Enterprise and Intelligence Solutions, the business unit that enables brands and mobile service providers to better engage mobile users. During his tenure at Syniverse, Rob has helped lead the development of products from inception to launch for such areas as A2P messaging, campaign management and fraud prevention. Prior to Syniverse, he served in leadership roles for several of the world’s largest mobile and technology companies, including Microsoft, Sprint and Motorola. Rob is currently a doctoral candidate at the Muma School of Business, University of South Florida, with expected graduation in 2017. He also holds a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Science in engineering, and a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering.