Mobile Marketing Trends with Ian James at Verve

This week we sit down with Ian James, GM of Verve a location-based mobile marketing firm to learn more about how data can help brands target their audience and what’s next for the mobile advertising industry. Verve use Catalyst to track the latest trends in the mobile marketing industry and share these insights with their clients across leading verticals such as Retail, FMCG, Automotive and Fast-food chains.

1. Can you tell us little about your role / background?

With 20 years, digital and traditional media experience, I have undertaken various leadership roles across entertainment, CPG and media organisations. Throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to be part of the ever-evolving transformation of a multitude of large brands and businesses.

Since 2001, I have been part of the digital revolution, firstly helping to transform brands relationships with consumers across the Chrysalis music group and Bacardi Global Brand Portfolio and then building advanced digital products, services and capabilities across 2 of the worlds largest media networks, Aegis and then Starcom Mediavest Group. Over the last 4 years I have focused on the latest wave of innovation in the digital transformation of companies – Data – leading the International operations of data giant Acxiom and now distilling that data focus to the mobile device with International leadership of Verve.

Ian James, MD, Verve Mobile
Ian James

What’s most interesting about Verve, is it brings together so many of the learnings that I have picked up from brands, agencies and technology platforms – that the mobile device is the link between on and offline media, and joins up the single identifier of the consumer journey.


2. What is the role of innovation within Verve and how do you help your clients stay ahead of the curve?

Here at Verve, we’re lucky and proud to be uniquely positioned in the market of location data. There’s a common perception that location data is dirty/wrong, and for a long time the market has been unable to decipher the good from the bad. What Verve have created is a location-smart SDK that enables advertisers to build robust audience segments based on accurate and precise data sets – essentially enabling them to talk to an individual through personalised experiences, instead of a mass audience.

In addition, we partner with premium publisher app partners,  who are seeing triple digit revenue growth through the power of location derived advertising. By integrating the Verve SDK into the premium publisher app, we extract the most accurate and precise location data which we then cleanse and score to ensure we provide our advertisers with the best data sets on the market.


3. How has the mobile marketing industry changed over the last 10 years?

The mobile industry transforms year on year, and the past 10 years have seen incredible growth. Not only are budgets re-aligning, perception and opportunities are starting to shift. Just think of how devices have changed from the early days of the smartphone. According to Deloitte’s UK mobile report, 27% of smartphone devices have fingerprint readers, 31% of users no longer make traditional voice calls in a given week, and almost half of UK adults had access to at least one type of connected device.


Mobile is securely placed firmly in the driver’s seat for digital growth. As mobile scientists continue to innovate and improve device models, 5G services start to improve GPS connectivity and WiFi access points being placed in nearly every building across main cities and homes, the opportunity to target audiences on the go, at work and in home are bigger than ever before. We’re constantly looking at the mobile marketplace to ensure we’re submerged in technologies and consumer behaviour so we ensure our clients keep ahead of the game.


4. How are how Millennials and Gen Z impacting mobile consumption and culture?

Funny you should ask this – Verve ran a U.S. research paper last October looking into these two demographics, a group of young mobile consumers we’ve aptly named the Mobile Prodigies. The rise of these two influential generations brings with it fundamental changes in the way mobile consumers approach the brands, products, and services that capture their attention … and their spend.

And spend they do. Millennials alone represent some $200 – 600 billion in annual buying power; Gen Z is reported to represent $200 billion annually when taking into account that their generation is influencing parental buying decisions.

For Mobile Prodigies, mobile experiences are app-focused and our research found that:

  • 84% of Mobile Prodigies said they discover apps through multiple sources, a combination of word of mouth, social media, and digital ads.
  • 77% said, however, that app-store browsing is still a common and enjoyable way to discover new downloads.
  • 80% of Mobile Prodigies spend more time on mobile apps than they did one year ago; 74% report spending more time on mobile apps than they did six months ago.


Verve Mobile Prodigies Report


5. What do you think are the 3 key disruptive trends impacting your industry?

1. Data: The more I learn about the power of mobile location data derived from the device, the more opportunities I begin to see for the future of mobile advertising. The question is – getting it right. Too often this industry falls into the trap of taking the ‘quick and easy’ route, which has essentially pissed off the user and lost their trust. If we get this right – if we use the best data the market has to offer to build both enriched audiences and meaningful messages – then the digital world is ours to take.

2. GDPR: One of the most important impending trends we are seeing hit the digital and mobile market is the launch of the GDPR next May. For us at Verve we see this as an important movement for companies to align their strategies to the most robust privacy regulations – to essentially protect the consumer. But it will disrupt the industry and so it’s paramount we start to educate and prepare for the next 8 months.

3. Bridging on-offline: I’m so excited about the opportunities that real-world behaviours and advertising brings. With the mobile device firmly in the heart of the digital landscape, the opportunities in bridging our digital and off-line experiences is growing closer in arms reach.

Overlaying data sets – advertiser data and media data – is opening a plethora of opportunities for both marketers and publishers to reach audiences and provide unmatched experiences.

With the mobile device firmly in the heart of the digital landscape, the opportunities in bridging… Click To Tweet

6. How do you use tools like Catalyst to track the latest insights and track innovation?

Verve’s mission is to educate and innovate our partners and clients. It’s impossible to be an expert in your field, without knowing the impacting movements of other areas in our ecosystem. We use Catalyst insights to share with the internal team every day to ensure we are aware of the latest news and trends across International and U.S. markets. We also ensure we pay particularly close attention to competitor activity and anyone who sits within the mobile and location space.


Verve Mobile Insights Tracking Innovation


7. Finally, what’s next for the future of mobile advertising?

Brand investment:

In 2016, 75% of marketers believed location-based marketing to be an important element to their business strategy. And brands are continuing to invest. More than 50 percent of companies say they use location-based marketing to target customers, and that number is predicted to increase significantly in 2017.

But this is still not being executed well by brands. Brands should be using location-data to start thinking about the mobile device that’s always with the individual and be smarter about how they use that data to talk to them in the right context.

Gen-Z – an untapped potential

As noted by Ernst and Young’s study, while millennials were slowly introduced into the world of smartphones, tablets, social media, and mobility – Gen Z were born into it and are digital natives.

EY’s further research shows that trying to gain the loyalty of Gen Z through traditional loyalty programs and promotions is a losing battle. For instance, the percentage who say a loyalty program makes a store special to them drops from 45% for millennials to 30% for Gen Zs. Gen Z expects retailers to make their lives convenient and get the product to them.

Unlocking the value of data

The industry is starting to see the joining of the ‘Mad Men’ (and women) and the ‘Math Men’ – a prediction made by Sir Martin Sorrell, Chairman of WPP back in 2013. The increasing need for science and art to work together, is more evident than ever. Here at Verve, we’re seeing mobile buyers improving their internal workforce, aligning their data and creative teams to serve their customers better, which is fantastic to see. Yet, we’ve got a long way to go. The multitude of data sets available is huge, presenting untapped opportunity for brands to get closer to their customers.

The future of mobile advertising, places mobile as the identifier for brands to join the dots between these data sets. These tiny, personalised devices move with their user throughout their entire day-to-day journey, correlating with several data sets at different points of that journey. We’re on the very cusp of building the richest audience segments this industry has ever laid hands on, and mobile has a very unique role to play here.


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