Using Tiny Data to Engage Mobile App Users in Real Time

Posted 2/23/2016 10:06:00 AM by RICHARD HARRIS, Executive Editor

Using Tiny Data to Engage Mobile App Users in Real Time
We recently visited with Djamel Agaoua, Senior Vice President, Cheetah Mobile/Cheetah Ad Platform, to discuss the concept of “tiny data,” and how the concept offers a unique opportunity to better engage mobile app users.

ADM: What is tiny data?

Agaoua: Tiny data is another way to look at big data. Big data doesn’t give us the whole picture; it’s really the tiny data that gives advertisers a more granular look at the individuals they want to target. Tiny data is that additional layer of information that reveals better bits of intelligence that truly make all the difference in creating successful ads. 

In the mobile world, we are learning that tiny data combined with demographic and psychographic information paints a much more detailed picture of the user, enabling us to better serve them.  The context is better, the ads are more relevant, and the consumer engages more with ads this way. 

When it’s done well, we can be very effective at pinpointing the right consumer, with the right offer, at the right time.

ADM: How is tiny data discovered?

Agaoua: The best way to unearth tiny data is to study people’s behavior as they are using their mobile devices and apps. It is essential for this data to be new and refreshed on a daily basis. 

Where some metrics, such as CPI, tell publishers what happened before the install, the first person in-app signals tell you how the user actually uses your app after the install.  This information is key to creating value for both users and advertisers. It also creates a lot of opportunities for marketers.

ADM: Why does the data need to be refreshed so frequently?

Agaoua: You don’t want to put someone in a category as a “great potential buyer” based on data that’s old and may not really be indicative of who that user is today. For example, just because I downloaded and was a heavy user of the real estate app, StreetEasy, six months ago, doesn’t mean I’m still in the market for a new home, or ads for a real estate agent or new building developments.

We’re human – our tastes change, our behaviors change . . . once a person buys a home, gets a mortgage, purchases a new car, then that person is not going to be a good target for those types of advertisements anymore. Catching the user in the moment of intent is everything. That’s tough to do with stale data especially since intent can be fleeting.

ADM: Give us an example of a successful use of tiny data

Agaoua: Let’s say I’m going to the grocery store and using one of the apps out there to create a low calorie meal.  The organic behavior that follows selecting a meal is to create a shopping list, therefore, that should be included as a function of the calorie-counting recipe app. I use utility apps including Google Maps and WhatsApp to get to the store and to communicate with my dinner guests about dietary restrictions.  

The ability to interpret and respond to these data signals in real-time is the advertising holy grail. Advertisers should know who I am as a consumer, where I am, and what I’m trying to accomplish in order to advertise a service or product to me in real-time when I can truly benefit from it.  

The suggestion of a wine that pairs well with my low-calorie dish, or a special offer from a dessert brand that meets the dietary restriction of my dinner guest are examples of ads that would be well received.

In this example I went about my everyday activity and used my mobile device as a tool to help me accomplish things with a little more ease – non intrusive and utilitarian, those are the key words to keep in mind to really understand native and the value of tiny data.  

ADM: How is Cheetah Mobile using tiny data in its apps?

Agaoua: Cheetah Mobile specializes in utility apps. Some of our most popular apps include Clean Master to help improve device performance, CM Security to protect your phone with anti-virus software and privacy, and Battery Doctor to optimize your phone battery life. 

Another app, ISwipe by Clean Master, learns from user behavior and presents the apps that I use most frequently, in different circumstances, right on my home screen.  If I’m in New York visiting our new office, I use Uber all the time to get around so it’s on my home screen during the duration of my trip.  However, once I’m back in San Francisco, I no longer use Uber and instead am a heavy user of Waze since I use my own car to get around. 

ISwipe pulls data from my American Airlines app to know my travel schedule and where I am on any given day, making sure my most-used apps are easily available to me on my home screen.  This, in turn, ensures the right advertisers the best opportunity to get the right message in front of me at the right time when I am engaged with my app.
Djamal Aguau

ADM: What should app developers do?

Agaoua: It’s important to not devalue, or even ignore, organic user behavior when engineering apps. Certainly, for those creating commercial apps, developing their product without the user’s perspective in mind seems limiting to one’s market potential. Focus on the app user’s behaviors AFTER they download your app – when and how they are most engaged. What keeps them coming back? Make sure to enable your apps to have the functions and features necessary to meet their organic needs. 

ADM: What should app developers keep in mind to make better use of tiny data?

Agaoua: Enhancing the utility of the user’s device, and not interrupting them with unrelated ads, is key to the types of apps and in-app experiences we must create for them. The most direct route to success lies in using tiny data signals to build experiences that appeal to our natural behaviors.

ADM: Is tiny data essential for native advertising?

Agaoua: It sure is! Cheetah Mobile ads that run on our ad platform, Cheetah Ad Platform, are mostly native. The use of tiny data is native advertising at its finest. It boils down to using small parts of user’s mobile data signals to provide calls to action that are delivered at just the right moment, in just the right context, to inspire an m-commerce transaction (this is the basis of contextual commerce).

Where before this was just an idea or wishful thinking, the confluence of trillions of in-app data signals, the technology to interpret what they mean, and the commitment to treat each mobile user like the unique individual we are is starting to make advertiser’s big ideas for big data a reality. 

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About the author: RICHARD HARRIS, Executive Editor

As the Publisher and Editor for App Developer Magazine, Richard has several industry recognitions and endorsements from tech companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google for accomplishments in the mobile market. He was part of the early Google AFMA program, and also involved in the foundation of Google TV. He has been developing for mobile since 2003 and serves as CEO of Moonbeam Development, a mobile app company with 200 published titles in various markets throughout the world. Richard is also the founder of LunarAds, a mobile cross-promotion and self-serv mediation network for developers. He has been a featured presenter at trade-shows and conferences, and stays active with new projects relating to mobile development.

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