Contextual Mobile Services: How Ready Are You?

By Abhijit Kabra

By now, you’ve probably heard the word contextual in the same breath as app, commerce or service. Contextual mobile services harness real-time, context-relevant data, such as geographic location or personal purchasing habits, to provide a personalized service driven by an individual’s needs at any given time.

As the user’s circumstances change, so too might the offering, behaving as a Living Service that learns from experience. By offering easy, seamless, personalized and relevant services, businesses can boost their bottom line and give customers what they may not even realize they want.

People’s expectations are increasingly liquid, and patience for clunky experiences from apps or service providers is on the wane. Apart from driving customer loyalty and engagement through an improved customer experience, contextual services have the potential to be a tremendous revenue generator for businesses.

Personalized offers can be accompanied by seamless payment capabilities on the same device—or even through the same platform—increasing sales through convenience. According to Business Insider Intelligence, mobile commerce will account for 45 percent of e-commerce by 2020, an estimated $284 billion industry.

But results will not come through luck or sticking plaster solutions on legacy infrastructure. Planning is vital to ensure the best in contextual service provision, as is the ongoing monitoring and management of a service once it’s launched. As we’ve seen with mobile apps, if they falter or stop offering the best user experience, they are soon rejected, sitting idly on devices and closing potential revenue streams.

For some business models, offering customers the best may mean collaborating with new partners. When working with external parties, it’s even more important to have a robust strategy in place detailing how each party can benefit from successful contextual service offerings.

Sharing Information to Build Opportunities

Proper data management is essential to the success of contextual services; Without data, there can be no context. As companies accumulate more information about customers’ preferences, their ability to provide better, targeted services inevitably improves. Data must be collected and analyzed properly though, if insights are to be used to drive contextually relevant services.

Companies must be equipped to synthesize large volumes of data from a range of sources, including mobile devices, embedded sensors, CRM systems, past-purchase records, and even unstructured big data from social media and other sources. Without the proper systems in place to collect, compute and communicate this information, companies risk data overload—and missing out on valuable insights.

In today’s digital environment, other organizations are another important source of valuable data. Contextual services are at their best when offering something genuinely useful at the time when users need it.

By opening APIs to third parties, a symbiotic relationship can be built, enabling services within a service. For example, some mapping apps offer taxi-booking services through their platforms, thereby driving business for both providers because they’ve made life easy for the user—a one-stop shop for different tools that transcend industry barriers.