Cool Vendors in Mobile Marketing, 2013

Archived Published: 26 April 2013 ID: G00249548

Analyst(s): |

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Widespread adoption of mobile devices means that consumers are now more accessible and connected than ever before. A new crop of Cool Vendors is looking to arm marketers with the tools needed to access and engage with consumers, wherever they are.


Key Findings

  • U.S. consumers are expected to buy 88 million media tablets and more 160 million smartphones in 2013.

  • More than 50% of Facebook users access their pages via mobile devices; more than 30% of the's subscribers access it via a mobile device.

  • Digital marketers are in the early days of developing strategies and practices for leveraging social, local and mobile in their campaigns.


  • Illuminate your mobile app blind spots with analytics that help tell the story of what's happening post-installation and ensure that users are getting real value from your apps.

  • Look to comprehensive mobile marketing platforms that provide closed-loop transparency and cross-campaign tracking over point solutions that require integration.

  • Experiment with innovations at the intersection of social, local and mobile to foster richer audience engagement and to extend the social graph in new ways.


This research does not constitute an exhaustive list of vendors in any given technology area, but rather is designed to highlight interesting, new and innovative vendors, products and services. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

What You Need to Know

With its inaugural debut, "Cool Vendors in Mobile Marketing, 2013" reflects a focus on the areas Gartner believes form the foundation for any good mobile marketing strategy: platforms, analytics and the ability of a brand or service provider to tie online and offline worlds via mobile devices. Each of the vendors profiled in this year's research enables or provides one or more of these areas.

Social and mobile initiatives will see increasing budget and attention from digital marketers in 2013. Budgets for mobile marketing and marketing on social networks and via social media are the top priorities for 2013 according to 35% of CMOs surveyed by Gartner in December 2012. Balancing the forces of social, local and mobile to develop and maintain engagement, especially with younger users (18 to 34 years old) will become increasingly important to most digital marketing programs.


New York, New York ( )

Analysis by Jake Sorofman

Why Cool: Mobile apps can be an effective strategy for brand engagement, but the majority of new apps fail to deliver on their promise. App analytics firm Localytics found that 26% of downloaded apps are used only once. Appboy is among a new class of vendors that instrument and measure mobile app engagement and retention, providing granular user analytics to optimize the post-install life cycle. This helps get the necessary to model and refine user segments to improve targeting of messages and offers, and to understand engagement patterns to optimize the user experience, features and functions that make mobile apps sticky with their users. Appboy also provides a suite of marketing and tools for engaging users via messages, offers, incentives and rewards to actively influence metrics.

Founded in 2011, the current version of the Appboy product was released in July 2012. The product is available for iOS only, but is expected to offer support for Android during the first half of 2013. Appboy is licensed as a software development kit and Web-based dashboard for enterprises and developers. Both are based on a paid monthly subscription.

Challenges: Mobile app analytics features are available as part of broader mobile marketing platforms from a variety of vendors. Although most offer more limited user engagement analytics, this is a logical area of strategic investment and may experience commodity pressure over time. Without Android support (which it expects to deliver in May 2013). Appboy doesn't address the largest and fastest-growing market segment. Further, as an SDK, Appboy is highly dependent on developer adoption. In addition to a paid developer edition, Appboy offers a free developer version that hasn't seen wide developer adoption, although the company suggests that several pending partnerships will substantially improve reach into developer communities.

Who Should Care: Mobile marketers, mobile app developers and digital marketing leaders all have a substantial stake in understanding user engagement with their mobile apps. Flying blind or looking at download metrics alone isn't sufficient for managing growth and monetization of mobile apps.


Southborough, Massachusetts ( )

Analysis by Jake Sorofman

Why Cool: Applause is a free mobile app analytics service of uTest, the application testing company that uses global crowdsourcing to improve software quality. Applause was incubated by uTest Labs, but now operates as a separate brand under uTest ownership. Applause crawls and analyzes a reported 65 million iOS and Android reviews across Apple and Google mobile app marketplaces to mine user sentiment and calculate a 0 to 100 rating reminiscent of Klout's social influence score. Windows support is planned for 1H13. In addition to an overall score, Applause rates apps on 10 key attributes: Content, elegance, interoperability, performance, pricing, privacy, satisfaction, security, stability and usability. The recently announced Applause Index aspires to become, in the words of a company spokesperson, the equivalent of the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the app economy. It will track a set of bellwether apps and subindexes for categories like gaming, lifestyle and entertainment.

By 2016, Gartner estimates that consumers will download 300 billion mobile apps annually. Applause brings transparency to app marketplaces by looking beyond download stats and star ratings. By distilling reviews and other fragmented quality signals into aggregated ratings, Applause delivers insights to the supply and demand sides of mobile app marketplaces. On the supply side, it helps app developers and marketers to better understand user sentiment. On the demand side, it enables informed decisions about which apps to purchase and/or download.

Challenges: Applause is supported by a strong corporate benefactor, but the commercial prospects for the service are unclear. A uTest spokesman reports that the company is considering multiple potential paths to monetization, beginning with a paid premium version in 2Q13. But, that service lacks a clear revenue model. Also, app marketplaces may choose to invest in richer analytics that take advantage of nonpublic data to create a proprietary advantage in delivering mobile app insights.

Who Should Care: Mobile marketers, mobile app developers, digital marketing leaders, digital and mobile agencies, and mobile app consumers all benefit from better visibility into user sentiment. As the volume of mobile apps compounds, deeper transparency arms users and brands with insight for better decision making.


Redwood City, California ( )

Analysis by Mike McGuire

Why Cool: Banjo is forging the reach of consumers' social graphs with real-time location information. The company delivers to advertisers and premium content publishers what it claims is a unique fingerprint (profile) — or multidimensional view — of each Banjo user. An essential element of the company's forging process is that the linked datasets that result in a footprint — social graph location data from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare are anonymous as far as marketers and publishers are concerned. By linking real-time location information to the data thrown off by consumers as they interact with their social networks and social media sites, Banjo offers a cross-sectional view of the consumer The company is building an enormous repository of regularly refreshed content. Conceptually, it's a telescoping view of these profiles, snapping from the hyperlocal (a friend is skiing at Vail, Colorado right now) to the global (a first-degree friend of the skier is stuck at La Guardia). For many digital and mobile marketers, this telescoping capability will provide an important nuance to consumer profiles.

Banjo allows consumers to focus in real-time at places and events around the world. If, for example, you are in San Francisco, but are curious about an event back on the East Coast, Banjo provides the link via the people you know or are following on Facebook who are at a specific location. For example, you can follow friends at a Yankees-Red Sox game as they post photos and leave comments via Twitter. Banjo's promise is to make these kinds of links in real time for a consumer — links that they otherwise might not make. If a mobile marketer had a mind for a highfalutin description, Banjo is an app that provides consumers (and mobile marketers) a new form of data visualization that merges physical and virtual, and online and offline words.

Behind the scenes, Banjo's platform is an excellent example of big data management. Based on a fairly substantial Amazon Cloud implementation, the platform is indexing users based on their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Foursquare activities, and tying it to the user's location in real time. The result is a real-time, location-enriched social graph of more than 500 million users.

Challenges: Banjo's value to consumers is as a unifying overlay of their social media personas, preferences and interests rooted to any location — in real time. If there is a "third rail" in the ever-evolving world of mobile marketing, Banjo has managed to position itself at a potentially dangerous intersection of the three rails:

  • Rapidly evolving technology that can pinpoint a user's location

  • Social network and social media providers that are also trying to walk the line between business opportunity and honoring consumer concerns about their information and privacy

  • Brands that are desperate to find any advantage, but are extraordinarily protective of the brand equity they have built with consumers

Who Should Care: Sales and marketing teams for digital content publishers looking to exploit opportunities created by the intersection of consumers' interests, their geolocation and their social connections; content companies such as record labels and movie studios that are looking to better understand consumer behavior that can influence how they market and monetize content; and mobile marketers for brands or service providers that benefit from identifying pockets of customers or prospects in specific locations.


Cambridge, Massachusetts ( )

Analysis by Mike McGuire

Why Cool: TalkTo is a smartphone app (iOS and Android) that is a departure from the focus and hype around "real-time" everything. The company also has a Web app for users who don't want to download a native app. In an era when every interaction and every transaction strives to be real time, it's easy to forget that not every thought or question a customer or consumer has about a product or service will result in a conversion to buy at that moment.

TalkTo uses the simplicity of text messaging to ask businesses or providers simple questions. These kinds of queries are commonplace, but getting the answers by launching a browser, logging in, entering a search query and scanning results is either too complex or simply too time consuming for a non-time-sensitive query. Moreover, particularly for teens and young adults, the text-messaging-based interface is far preferable to actually making a voice call to a business or service provider.

Powering TalkTo's conceptually simple, but challenging, searches is a combination of automation and algorithms that can handle some queries automatically, and actual humans — TalkTo agents — who can use other tools, including phone calls and instant message chats, to get answers. This is particularly useful for small businesses without their own Web presence. On the TalkTo side is a staff of trained call center workers who will text, email or use online chat apps, for larger entities that have them. For businesses, especially small businesses, no special hardware or software is needed. Merely having a smartphone with the TalkTo app loaded would be enough for most businesses.

In a very real way, TalkTo is an example of an app that enables cognitive offloading, at least as it applies to the question of the business or service. TalkTo doesn't require the business to have a special application on their point-of-sales system, nor is it dependent on feeds. In some cases, store or retail personnel have the app on their smartphones and directly respond to queries. Some customers have TalkTo queries sent to their store or shift managers' mobile phones, while other companies have their queries directed to their call centers.

Challenges: TalkTo is barely 2 years old (it received $3 million funding from Matrix Partners) so it faces all the challenges a young company may experience. Yet as an application, and a company, it also must figure out if it can hold off potentially larger entities that may offer similar capabilities. In particular, what's left of the U.S. directory business — or Google — could create similar functionality to TalkTo's offerings and overwhelm it.

Who Should Care: Social and mobile marketers for retailers, small- or midsize-business owners or agencies that service this segment and want to make it easy for customers to reach them via text messaging to increase engagement.


Chicago, Illinois ( )

Analysis by Jake Sorofman

Why Cool: The widespread adoption of mobile devices makes consumers identifiable as a point in space, at a moment in time. This creates opportunities for brands to leverage the mobile channel to drive awareness, engagement, transactions and loyalty. Vibes offers a mobile marketing platform that combines full-featured mobile campaign management tools with closed-loop analytics and Tier 1 carrier aggregation, which provides direct connections to 50 or more wireless carriers. In a fragmented and immature market, Vibes is set apart for the maturity of its offering, the depth of its carrier relationships and its ability to support reliable and transparent mobile campaigns at scale.

Founded in 1998, Vibes flagship offering, Catapult, provides tools for mobile messaging such as short-messaging service, multimedia messaging service and quick-response codes; post-click engagement, such as mobile-optimized microsites, mobile coupons and app engagement; mobile wallet, including Apple Passbook; and data-driven mobile marketing capabilities for profiling and targeting.

Challenges: Vibes participates in a highly competitive and fragmented market where the promise of the mobile consumer is attracting substantial capital investment in new vendors and product innovation. As a relatively small independent company, Vibes will need to increase brand awareness and defend its competitive position in a market that will become even more competitive over time.

Who Should Care: Marketing executives, mobile marketers and digital marketing leaders are all under pressure to make sense of the mobile opportunity. Vibes offers an integrated mobile marketing platform, and strategy and implementation services that can help marketers execute mobile campaigns.

Recommended Reading


Gartner used a combination of first-party interviews, Web searches and industry reports to develop this report.

Gartner surveyed 253 large (average revenue over $5 billion) U.S. organizations using digital marketing techniques from a cross section of industries. Results from marketers who represented 203 of those respondents are shown in this report. All respondents were screened for personal knowledge of their organization's digital marketing techniques and spending. The study was conducted in November and December 2012 by Gartner's Primary Research organization to help us better understand how companies are spending on digital marketing. Interviews were conducted online using a B2B Web panel to reach the right type of organization and respondent. Quotas were set by vertical industry, organization's size, and respondent's role. Findings presented represent the respondent base and not the market as a whole.

© 2013 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartners research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

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