Building for everywhere: The convergence of apps and the mobile web

Build for everywhere

In association with Tune, The Drum brought together leading figures from eBay, OpenTable and AOL for a panel discussion at Cannes Lions to examine possible next steps in the evolution of mobile marketing.

Covering convergence between the mobile web and apps, the challenges of keeping up with consumers on a fragmented medium and initial moves in instant messaging and chatbots, the debate built on the findings of a report published by The Drum in June, in partnership with Tune, titled Marketing’s New Frontier: The convergence of mobile-web and app.

OpenTable’s senior vice-president of marketing, Scott Jampol, and eBay’s vice-president of global marketing operations, Rafael Orta, outlined the balancing act between the desirability of converting people into app users and the danger of overlooking the importance of the mobile web experience.

For OpenTable, the lifetime value of an app user is greater than a non-app user, admitted Jampol, while Orta asserted that after customers download the eBay app their value to the business “multiplies by factors”.

Jampol said he was not biased against the mobile web per se, but explained that on the OpenTable app “people are much more likely to be logged in than not, so we know much more about them based on that, whether they log in through Facebook or other channels, and we can use that information to provide a better experience.”

Despite this, Jampol agreed with Matt Gillis, senior vice-president of mobile publisher platforms at AOL, that companies must invest in both their app and mobile web offerings to cater for everyone. “Build for everywhere and let consumers choose the path they want to go down,” said Gillis.

A new trend, which was brought up by Tune chief executive Peter Hamilton, is for more crossing points to appear between the app path and the mobile web path.

Examples he offered included Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, which are making the mobile web feel more like a native experience, and the ability to use deep links to send users from the mobile web to a specific part of an app (if they already have the app installed).

Deep links have been found by OpenTable to be “great for conversion”, said Jampol, while Hamilton went on to say that they would help create parity between apps and the mobile web, but they were not straightforward.

“It’s complicated because there are lots of different types of links and different ways of thinking about the experience in campaigns across various kinds of channels – and on top of that you have [the impact of] the platforms like iOS making updates.”

Another crossing point mentioned by Hamilton was Google’s Instant Apps for Android, a new tool intended to help mobile web users “get to an app immediately without having to download it straight away”.

Jampol said this was of definite interest to him because OpenTable found that, when its non-app customers are searching restaurants, “the act of downloading the app is so disruptive within a booking experience”.

“The idea of being able to provide them with value before they actually install the app, and then they [later] get the app on their phone, is great,” he added.

The focus of the discussion moved on from how you get people to download your app – Jambol suggested asking them the first time you deal with them “is maybe a mistake” – to how you keep them engaged with it.

Retargeting people to make sure that they’re thinking of the app when they’re in a moment of intent is one way, while push notifications is another, according to Jampol.

Picking up on notifications, eBay’s Orta said they were a key interaction model that his company is interested in, believing they will become more sophisticated.

“Today notifications are basically sequential, but devices will become more intelligent about which notifications they show and at what point in time. We want to participate effectively in that and our belief is that a lot of it is going to be predicated on relevance and personalisation. We’re pretty good at that.”

Orta also made the point that the mobile universe is bigger than first-party apps and mobile websites.

“The idea that people have to go to [our] app – we feel like that’s not the problem we’re trying to solve. The problem is how to make sure that we’re there as people start interacting with their device.”

Orta believes that artificial intelligence platforms [eg Siri, Cortana, Alexa] with voice recognition capabilities are going to be a primary way for consumers to interact with their devices.

“We think that as those platforms become more open we can start plugging some of our capabilities into them. Of course the owners of those operating systems are going to be the gateway, so we just have to be very good at being relevant.”

In addition, Orta said that eBay is making investments in delivering commerce experiences and content in instant messaging applications, such as Facebook Messenger.

Chatbots in instant messaging are “a huge opportunity” for OpenTable, which is testing out multiple platforms, revealed Jampol.

Hamilton agreed, suggesting that the industry would soon be talking about the convergence of apps and chatbots as well as that of apps and the mobile web.

“Six of the top 10 apps right now are messaging apps and this is like a whole new layer. Each of them could have their one app stores of chatbots and every brand could have their own chatbot that solves that consumer experience and connects it back to their deeper CRM. I think it’s going to be a really fun, exciting time.”

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