Apps & Marketing

2019 Trends: The Move From Tracking To Trust–And The Challenge Of Having Too Much Data

41 min read

Mobile is as personal as it gets, and smart products power fiercely personal interactions between brands and consumers. Together they put the pressure on companies to balance data sharing and tracking—the foundation of superior and seamless customer experience—with the requirement to respect personal privacy. It’s just one of the mobile mega-trends John Koetsier—journalist, analyst, futurist and VP of Insights at marketing intelligence platform Singular—discusses with our host Peggy Anne Salz as they kick off the first show of the New Year. John also shares recent research around the ad partners you need to know and watch in 2019 and highlights the key takeaways of new (yet unpublished) research into the top challenges facing mobile marketers. We won’t give it away (you’ll have to read his post over at Inc. for that), but we can say marketers are overwhelmed with data and warming to approaches that will unify it.


Hello and welcome to Mobile Presence.  I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz, with Mobile Groove, where I plan, produce and promote content that allows my clients to reach performance goals and scale growth.  And of course growth is what it is about here at Mobile Presence.  And it’s the first show of the season, I’m really excited.  I’m particularly excited because when you want to look into the future, you have to go to the source.  So, of all the people out there, I have chosen John Koetsier, he is VP of Insights at Singular but also more importantly a journalist, analyst, futurist and dreamer.  John, great to have you back.

It’s so wonderful to be here, it’s a lot of fun and I’m excited too.

I love it and I love the part about the dreamer, so I’ll take off from there and say okay, dreamer – what did you want to see in 2018 and how does that match against what actually happened?  Did your dreams come true, John – in mobile, in mobile only but we can go personal if you want!

I won’t go too personal but everything is personal, right?  Carl Rogers “that which is most personal is most general”.  However, I’ll stick to technology.  You know, I’ve had this thing for over a year, I call it smart matter, and it’s this confluence of technologies that are coming together where everything we’re putting chips into it, motors, sensors and technology into it and we’re making it addressable.  And the neat thing where that ties back to mobile is that mobile’s a command centre for it and that is something that I really saw at CES in the early part of 2018 and just companies that you’ve never heard of coming out of China that are billion dollar companies with entire eco-systems of products for the home, for the office, for the factory and just amazing, amazing things.

So I’m looking forward to more of that in 2019 and I’m looking forward to the role that mobile continues to play there.

So it’s really more of that, you know, finally after writing about it for maybe an odd decade, it’s really about the experiences that flow from channel to channel, the content that flows from channel to channel – everything sort of connects finely, we’re converging because I guess because it’s possible as CES showed you.

Absolutely.  I mean, interestingly enough for advertisers, for brands, we see a movement from tracking to trust, right, and we’ve seen the tracking, we know that there’s many trackers when we go on the web, when we’re in an app, other things like that, that’s been there and that’s a problem.  We’ve seen that with GDPR with an increased privacy conscience, even in the United States some people never believed it would happen but it is happening.

But we’re moving from tracking to trust because when I have a smart product, I’m in a relationship with a brand whether I know that or not, I probably should know that.  Google knows when my house is cold, right.  Spotify kind of knows what mood I’m in based on what music I’m playing.  Apple knows when I’m going out for a run or other things like that, right?  And so I’m in a relationship with the brand that’s really, really tight and that becomes very, very interesting in terms of privacy, in terms of how that information gets used, shared, if at all and how I’m aware of that.

So, those are some top themes of the year for you.  What about some top events or milestones?  I mean, let’s just start off with maybe the best most interesting, because you do it in your work also as a journalist, the most interesting person with whom you connected in the year 2018 in the industry?

Wow, this is a tough one.  You know, I’m continually impressed with what Bonin Bough is doing, reinventing himself – he was the CMO of Mondelēz International, now working with one of the biggest basketball stars in the world, LeBron James and doing interesting things in his hometown of Cleveland.  He’s doing VC-type stuff and he’s still staying relevant in the marketing conversation, that’s really, really cool.

I’ve also just met some really interesting people, I’ve been attending a series of conferences in Jamaica for the past year and a half put on by Kirk-Anthony Hamilton who is a Jamaican of the diaspora, many Jamaicans left and went to Europe, North America, other places and became something, did something and they’re coming back and they’re re-injecting technology into that place and I know it’s Jamaica, it’s in Caribbean, it’s a small island, nation of 4 or 5 million people but they’re doing some really interesting things, there’s amazing passion there and it’s kind of a microcosm for me of what technology can do in the hands of people who maybe they’re disadvantaged, maybe they haven’t had all the opportunities but maybe they’re passionate, they’re smart, they’re interested, they’re curious and they want to build something and want to grow something, and that’s something we could see in just about every eco-system around the world.

So, what is that – you mentioned that one event overall – was like that the event for the year because people are always asking me as well, John, “oh the year is starting, what are the events we absolutely have to go to in 2019?”  I’m just curious if anything really pegged the needle for you?

I don’t believe that there’s one event that you absolutely have to go to.  I love Web Summit, I know it’s getting very, very…


Crowded, yes, I know, and it’s getting very, very, I don’t know – people are ragging, Web Summit’s too busy, too many people but guess what?  If everybody’s there, it’s easy to meet everybody and if you – a hard part is maybe if you go there without any connections, I totally get that, it’d be challenging and tough, but if you can make a few on the way in, I think everybody’s there, that’s a lot of fun to be at.

Everybody rags on CES as well, I’m going to CES this year in Vegas in January, I love it, it’s exciting, it’s fun, there’s a million things there and just about everybody that you want to connect with is there also.  So, I like those events a lot.

I do not go to Mobile World Congress, maybe I’ll go the following year but I’m not going this year – I find that a little more corporate which is fine, not a problem, but I like to be a little more, maybe down to earth.

I hear you on the Mobile World Congress, that used to be my must go to show and now it’s sort of moved on so maybe, maybe, it’s going to be Web Summit.  I mean, you bring up the point about CES, John, I’m really tempted now, we’ll have you back as a CES review perhaps because we haven’t done that for a while, I haven’t gone to CES for a while but then again, you never know.  Just wondering before we move on a bit – we talked about what was exciting for you or what was outstanding for you coming from CES but what isn’t moving the needle anymore out there?  What is the buzzword that has died and moved on or what is it we thought this was going to be the year of and isn’t?  I’m just curious for you what’s sort of like down as far as priority as opposed to up.

Sure, and this is really interesting, right, because what is in the hype cycle isn’t necessarily what’s real in terms of driving business and so mobile’s been in the hype cycle for many years and it’s out of the hype cycle now.  That’s the interesting part actually but what’s interesting in mobile isn’t the growth numbers anymore, isn’t the devices anymore, isn’t all the “now we’re doing this on mobile” anymore – that’s done, we’ve been there, we’re past that.

Now, we’re into the era where it’s actually affecting and impacting our lives in very significant ways, we’re managing the world with mobile, right?  I can see who comes up to my front door with my mobile device, I talk about smart matter, or managing with mobile, but also the promises from a marketing point of view, direct customer contact is coming true where there are brands that have a one to one relationship on products that they’re selling me via mobile, relationships they’ve brokered via mobile.  That’s always something that marketers get super-excited about but it comes with a caveat, right?  Just because that’s possible doesn’t mean it’s going to be happening for you.  You need to be a smart brand, you need to be a good brand in all senses of that word – you need to be a brand that somebody wants to connect to and that’s the bigger challenge than enabling the technicalities of it.

I think my challenge is actually going to a break, John, because I feel like I don’t want to so I’m going to do it against my will.  Listeners, don’t go away, we’ll be right back after the break with John Koetsier, VP of Insights at Singular, journalist, analyst, futurist, and dreamer.

And we’re back at Mobile Presence.  I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz and of course our guest, John Koetsier.  And John, right before the break, you know, we’re sort of getting our vibe, we’re talking about what was 2018, what wasn’t it, what was the hype, what’s going to be exciting, even potentially in the New Year, and I want to take it just another step back, let’s look backward, holiday marketing – it is the thing you have to get right, it is the thing you have to start probably now for next year – like August is late even though we have all our holiday marketing shows and your holiday marketing report, closer to the holiday period.  But you’ve got to think about it early on so let’s give the listeners a break here, so okay, we’re going to start thinking about it now by looking back at what we did right and wrong.  So, if you had to give marketers a scorecard for holiday marketing 2018, what would it be?

Maybe somewhere around a C-plus, maybe a B-minus, kind of depends brand by brand.

So, what did we get right?  I mean, I like the idea what you talked about with tracking to trust, so I think we got our head around understanding to be useful and trustful – I don’t know how well we did, B-plus, C-plus, B-minus, but give some idea of the context for your grading.

Yes, so you can’t just do holiday marketing, you can’t just jump in and start holiday marketing.  It’s not the most effective way to do it.  Holiday marketing starts way before and it’s not about the holiday, it’s about your brand and about what you offer in your product, in your relationship to a potential customer.  And so people need to see you a few times before they start to be into establishing a relationship, recognition, maybe even some level of trust.  So, we often see that marketers’ behavior and consumers’ behavior are misaligned.  In some cases, that’s because somebody’s jumped on the holiday marketing bandwagon at the last minute.  In other cases, it’s because they’re actually mistiming their market.

So one thing that we looked at is click-through rate at various times, in certain verticals.  And so one vertical, productivity, click through rate is much higher – 63% higher in February than it is in July.  But we see a ton of marketing in the holidays and I’m looking at it and I’m saying “Hey, productivity, you know, it’s a product typically kind of early part of the year type of scenario, maybe late part of the year as well, very late part of the year, but January, February type of thing”.  I’m thinking about how am I going to make it effective this year, what new processes am I going to put in place, what new technologies do I need?

So you have to know, you have to know when people are willing to purchase your product.  We see that the marketing activity and the ad spend for that category, for instance, was highest in July through November, so you know when people are ready to buy and you have to spend less in order to acquire them.

We also see interesting things where marketers that are kind of smart can kind of growth hack a little bit in this sense.  We see an echo effect in conversions.  So, what we can track at Singular is we can track ad impressions, we optimize about $10 million in annual ad spend so we a lot of ad impressions, we see a lot of conversions.  We see ad impressions peak at a certain point but we see conversions peaking as much as a week after and so what we kind of see there is we kind of see a market being primed.

A market being primed and seeing a lot of ads for a particular category and at some point somebody decides, “Hey, that’s actually interesting, I’m going to jump in” and who they jump in with and what ad they decide to convert on is really, really interesting because it’s not just the one that they’ve seen every time perhaps, it might be that that’s all just paved the path for another marketer to come in and kind of snag that conversion.  When growth marketers understand these macrocycles, not just their cycle, not just their marketing for their product, you can achieve lower cost conversions.  That’s really, really interesting.

It’s also smart to look at your category.  So some categories, maybe entertainment, for instance, food and drink, are strongly seasonal and that’s not just about holidays, it is about holidays but it’s about specific not year-end holidays, it’s all through throughout, weekends, other things like that.

Other categories like games, very, very year round.  It’s important to know your category not just spend because others are but listen to your conversion rate, right?  Your conversion rate is interesting – you have to look at a lot of things, obviously a lot of things build into that quality of your creative, really, really important, but if you can normalize for quality of the creative, maybe time of messaging, maybe a few other things and see that your conversion rates are turning down, it might not be the best time for you to be spending and so there might be other options for you.

Very interesting stuff that we saw there.

Really interesting about sort of like the company that you keep, in a way, is what I was hearing, you know?


What everyone else is doing and probably not trying to piggyback on that as much as has been in the past is what I’m hearing.

Marketers like all the rest of us are kind of herd animals in a sense and we tend to look for trends, follow trends and jump when others jump.  That may not be the best thing for your returns.

What about the ad partner landscape?  I mean, I’m talking to a number of companies doing some research on this, just sort of informal, trying to understand are they going to increase, stay the same, possibly decrease – some say ad networks, I’m matching fraud in a totally different way so I’m going to be safe and maybe cut down on those.  So, it’s a lot of different voices, a lot of different opinions out there.  Now you, over at Singular, you’ve also done some research in that direction, maybe you can share some top-level findings there and we can chat about what I’m hearing and what you’re seeing and see where we meld, where there’s some interesting overlap.

Yes, so two interesting pieces of research that I’ve done and am doing there.  One is on scaling mobile growth which we’ll get into possibly in a month or so and how that works, how to decide what number of ad partners to work with and how that impacts your return and that has a huge impact, by the way, and it’s not necessarily what you’d assume it would be.

But the other piece of research that’s still ongoing right now and we’ll be releasing in about a month, I believe, is just the top ad partners of 2018 and so the final data’s still to come but some interesting things that we’re seeing right now – clearly, Facebook and Google are still tops and we’re seeing some interesting flip flop between the two of them in different categories and verticals, different areas, regions, all sorts of things, so that’s interesting.

What we do also see as super-interesting is Unity and so maybe not everybody understands or knows what Unity is, it’s a relevant platform, half the world’s games are built on it and they’ve got a monetization solution for mobile.  Because of amazing reach, they’re doing really, really interesting things.  They actually have a lot of data because they’re in so many games and I actually had the opportunity to talk to a Unity exec, believe it or not, at a holiday party just a couple of weeks ago and so they‘re doing a lot of marketing in games, obviously, that’s the space that their biggest in.  But they’re taking that and they’re moving beyond that.

And that’s interesting for marketers because you can find your audience in different places, right?  When you – let’s say you need lawyers as your audience, as your potential customers – you don’t have to just go to a place where all lawyers go, you can go to where – lawyers read the news too.

Lawyers are people too, John, is what we want to say.

Shockingly, who knew?!  So lawyers play games as well and other things like that.  If you can find the right audience within a larger audience and find the subset, sometimes you can message them much cheaper.  So Unity is doing some amazing things.  Apple Search Ads, incredible, really, really strong, so some things that we’re going to release there, some data we’re going to release on that.

I was pleasantly surprised with Snapchat, so the world has been down on Snapchat lately, the stock is tanking, there’s all kinds of issues there, questions about leadership, other things like that.  We saw some real strength there and some increasing strength actually and I wonder if that’s going to be something that we’re going to see come out in the stock price in 2019.  That was interesting.

Fraud is another interesting story, when you look at top media sources, top ad partners – fraud is still a really, really big deal.  There are still major players with 15-20% fraud and that doesn’t happen by accident and so that’s still a major concern for marketers and I’m not sure it will ever go away.  We see fraud getting increasingly sophisticated, fraud that isn’t just extreme top of funnel fraud, fraud that tries to mimic engagement patterns, fraud that really tries to look like a human.  So there’s interesting things there.

Absolutely, John, I have to cut in right there, we do have to go to a break but on that note, we’re going to come back – we’re going to talk about more of the ad partners, the events you’re seeing and what we might expect in your research coming forward.  But right now, as I said, we have to go to a break so listeners, don’t go away, we’ll be right back.

And we’re back to Mobile Presence.  I’m your host, of course, Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and we have John Koetsier.  John, so good to have you on the show, it’s really just sort of refreshing, insightful and some surprises, some surprises, for example, in your top ad partners of 2018 research.  I cut you off a little earlier, maybe you’d like to just wrap up with one of the surprises from that research.  We talked about winners, losers, people gaining some traction like Unity, ones to watch for – what was the surprise?

A couple of things, some small players that are doing interesting things.  So – wasn’t even really aware of them, Criteo bought them recently and that just shot up our rankings, very impressive.  Our rankings are based on not just scale, not just conversions but also we’re looking at fraud, we’re looking at performance, we’re looking at engagement and other things like that and did really, really well.

A couple of other perennial names that did well – Aarki did well, Vungle did very well.  I was a little surprised by AdColony – AdColony has been a strong performer, it’s been a bit of a niche, particularly in video and other things like that but it’s been a strong performer.  Didn’t see a lot of AdColony this year so a little surprised there.

It was also a little upsetting over there as well, I mean, I’m in the Mobile Marketing Association in Germany where I’m based and we had AdColony as a member for a while and didn’t because things were transitioning there.  You’re also doing some research similar to what I’ll be doing but at a much lower scale, you probably started earlier – I’ve interviewed 35+ growth marketers, you’ve done quite a lot more and you’re going to give us a little peek into some of that research before you publish it at Inc.  Is that correct?

That’s correct.

OK, so dive in, I won’t stop you.

No worries.  I’ve asked about 250 marketers “What is your biggest challenge with marketing data in 2019? And we know we’ve had the data explosion, right, we’ve gone from, what, 300 Martech tools, maybe six years ago, so 5, 6, 7 years ago to almost 7,000 Martech tools right now and so what are the biggest challenges with that data explosion that you’ve had?”  And the Number One thing that marketers bring out is “I need actionable insights, I need technology that looks at my data and shows me what do I do next, where are the opportunities, where am I losing, where am I winning, what should I increase, what should I decrease?  There’s so much there, there’s so much technology, there’s so much data, I need help and show me what my next best option is”.  Other things like that, it was a total runaway Number One consideration.

Second biggest and just ahead of our third biggest was unifying data and so we have data from as many as 80 or 90 different technologies, cloud technologies that we might be using in an enterprise as a marketer, smaller companies, maybe mobile-only companies or mobile-first companies might have 20 or 30 different data sources.  I want to see that unified, I want to see that together, I want to see my marketing data, my customer data together so I can make the right decisions.  That was Number Two.

And then just behind it, and I think it’s a sign of the times, we’ve talked about it already today – the whole issue of privacy, trust and security.  And marketers are really, really concerned about this on a lot of different levels.  One, how do I do my job legally, how do I do my job in an environment where consumers are increasingly concerned with privacy and less likely to share data with me and, if so, it’s under strict controls?  And then also security of data – if I don’t have adequate security on customer data, on prospect data and it gets out, I’m liable.  And so marketers, that was their third highest concern, it’s just privacy, trust and security.

So, really, really interesting things, we saw some other stuff in there, AI and machine learning automation and obviously you could see how that’s going to help with actionable insights.  We saw interesting things about accuracy and quality of data, some marketers said they had too many tools, other marketers, more of them, said they had too much data, they can’t make decisions because there’s too much going on.  But, you know, biggest one was getting actionable insights.

Getting actionable insights, absolutely, and that may be where, at least what I’m hearing, when you have some AI sitting next to you, co-creating, tapping you on the shoulder when it sees a pattern in a sense, that might be the way it goes, so many things we could discuss, John, about where to take your research and the conclusions but really sadly we have to go, we have run out of time, just flew by.  So, I would assume the Inc. article is going to be out there, we’re all going to have access to it because you’re the publisher, right.

Absolutely, yes.

So, very cool, so we’ll look for that article and how do we stay in touch with you, John, I mean, you’re everywhere but what’s the best place?

Google John Koetsier.

Seriously, it’s, isn’t it?

It is, nobody can spell that name, but hey.

Oh, they’ll learn it, they have to – you’ve got to know who you are, John, that’s why we have you on the show which, I’m pleased to say, listeners, we will do this often.  First of all I enjoy it a lot, talking to my esteemed friend, colleague, John, he’s got his finger on the pulse and we’ll be back, John, with that mobile growth hacking special programme – I’ll tell people about it, you’ll tell people about it – we’ll be back here probably in about a month with it. 

But in the meantime, folks, if you want to keep up with me throughout the week or find out more about how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, you can email me,, and of course you can look for all earlier episodes of Mobile Presence by going to or you can find our shows on iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, Spotify and iheartRadio simply by searching Mobile Presence.  So friends, until next time remember, every minute is mobile, so make every minute count.  We’ll see you soon.