Fifteen Years Later: Why I Got Involved in Mobile Audience Measurement
Many people ask me how and why I got involved with mobile audience measurement.
I got started in 2001, after realizing that even the biggest companies operating in the mobile ecosystem were largely flying blind. Back then, I was mostly working with carriers and device vendors. They had reach and products on the market, but what they couldn’t understand was how to foster engagement with their consumers. Over and over, I found myself constantly making the same point: for these mobile companies to be truly successful in the long term, and especially against their biggest potential competitors, they had to be able to understand their consumers.
The mobile analytics field was, and largely still is, based on mobile app analytics solutions that help app publishers measure their own audience, but fail to address the competitive landscape or total market. Existing products don’t provide key decision-making tools that drive allocated media spending (for audience acquisition, as an example), and do not provide any third party validation data if you aim to monetize your audience via advertising.
These insights led me to found Verto Analytics and launch one of the first mobile audience measurement solutions, Verto App Watch. And all of Verto’s products are based on 15 years of mobile measurement research conducted by our core team in Finland and our collective experiences in the mobile, media, and technology industries. But how did we identify the potential market for this product? A few telling experiences from the past 15 years of my career provide some valuable lessons.
Too Big to Engage, Not Too Big to Fail
Nokia is a textbook example of a mobile company that neglected to build engagement with their consumers and eventually failed. They were once the biggest mobile device vendor in the world: they controlled logistics, had the most interesting devices on the market, and owned a wide product portfolio across a number of consumer segments. However, one of the major things they lacked was engagement with their consumers.
I worked closely with Nokia for over a decade. Over that time, and on multiple occasions, key executives told that they never really knew anything about their devices or their users once that device left the retail outlet or carrier store. Nokia controlled the hardware and distribution, but not the content or apps – something that is part of the daily life of the consumer and their interaction with their mobile device. Even though they dominated the mobile device market, Nokia’s leadership did not understand the underlying habits or expectations of their consumers, or the latent demand for new features or user experience improvements. They had the lion’s share of device owners and market share, but absolutely zero engagement with the consumer.
When Apple’s iPhone hit the market in 2007, I provided Nokia with initial data on the dramatically high levels of loyalty and satisfaction among iPhone owners, and compared this with the high engagement (time spent) rate of the Nokia 95 smartphone (which Nokia released just a few months before the iPhone’s debut). Nokia executives told me that they considered the iPhone to be merely a niche device for affluent people in Silicon Valley. At the time, Nokia could have competed with Apple on the hardware innovation level, but the true magic behind Apple’s success was the fact that they fully embraced the consumer: they delivered interesting apps, they controlled the app distribution channel, and they knew what consumers did with their devices. Ultimately, Apple deeply understood their consumers and used this information to drive engagement and interaction between their devices and their consumers.
As we all now know, this led to a successful series of products, new devices, software innovations, an entirely new concept of an app marketplace, and eventually helped Apple conquer the smartphone world. Only Google (via Android) has been able to rival Apple – and they’ve achieved this success by benefiting from engagement with their consumers by using tactics similar to Apple; Google also has close ties with the consumer and enjoys high consumer engagement with their spectrum of apps and operating system features.
No One Wants to Become the Next Nokia
Looking back at the past 15 years, one thing is clear: third-party measurement companies, mobile audience measurement data, and the insights they provide, are essential for companies that still want to be in the mobile business 15 years from now. All too often, companies take this for granted, or – even worse, as in the case of Nokia – ignore it completely. Consumer-centric product development is quickly becoming a vital part of any company’s overarching strategy, and mobile-centric companies now have access to the tools and data they need to understand their consumers on a completely granular level: micro moments as well as what these behaviors mean from a larger, 30,000-foot view. I’m excited to work with some of the leading mobile companies and publishers in this constantly-evolving marketplace as we approach 2031: will Facebook, Snapchat, Google and Apple still be in business at that time, or will they face the same fate as Nokia?