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An Open Letter to Mary Meeker: We Are in a Mobile Engagement Crisis

Help us, Mary! Failure is imminent.


Dear Mary,

Like many others, I anxiously await the release of your 2016 Internet Trends report at the upcoming Code conference. We look to you to understand the macro trends that are shaping business, society, media, entertainment and tech.

 Mary Meeker delivers her annual Internet Trends report at Code 2014.
Mary Meeker delivers her annual Internet Trends report at Code 2014.
Asa Mathat

Selfishly, I am most interested in your analysis of the mobile space. The impression you left from last year’s report was that mobile is doing fantastic. Many of us are excited about mobile and its massive potential.

But this year is different. This year, I think it’s incredibly important that you broaden your focus on mobile, because we are in a critical phase of its growth, with huge implications for both business and society.

I believe we’re in a mobile engagement crisis. Here’s why:

If I learned anything from my time working with Steve Jobs in the early days of mobile, it’s that you must think big. But today, businesses are not reimagining their mobile experience fast enough. The vast majority of businesses have failed to innovate at anywhere near the same pace of consumers’ demands and expectations for mobile. Better connectivity, more and smarter devices, and the proliferation of apps means that consumers’ everyday lives are now mobile. Multitudes of businesses will fail if they don’t drastically change their approach to meet and exceed consumers’ mobile expectations.

I’m not surprised that we’ve arrived at this point. History tells us that technological advancement always reaches a tipping point.

I firmly believe that we’re on the verge of failure at a similar, or even bigger, scale. We saw it happen with the Internet. Companies that ignored the change failed, while those that chose to innovate captured a disproportionate share of the market and succeeded.

Mobile is fundamentally different from the Web, and it needs to become part of an organization’s DNA. It provides the opportunity for a bi-directional, real-time, interactive relationship with end users — however, most companies simply aren’t taking advantage of this yet.

Businesses today face opposing forces that compromise the path to success.

Mobile promises great engagement, but can also be a largely misunderstood distractor. Consumers want personalized experiences, but their privacy concerns are higher than ever. Technology and data have given businesses the power to do mobile right, but there is great risk of doing it wrong if they don’t understand the data or use it the wrong way. And the temptation to just do “something” and check off the box is greater than ever.

Instead of using mobile to build deeper relationships between companies and consumers, most companies are taking a “good enough” approach.

According to Forrester Research, “44 percent of companies state that mobile services are simply a scaled-down version of their online initiatives.” I see this time and time again, and it leads to bad business outcomes: Poor engagement with users, customer churn and money left on the table.

Forrester also notes that the most popular business metric for determining mobile success is “views/traffic to my mobile site/app.” We already know this didn’t work for websites, so why would it work with mobile? Companies are investing a lot of money to acquire mobile users, but they aren’t focused on creating ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships with those users. I won’t even say that this metric isn’t good enough anymore, because it was never enough, period.

Lastly, companies simply do not fully understand how to meet their users’ expectations. And there is plenty of data to prove it:

Failure is imminent. Any company that thinks otherwise just hasn’t tasted that failure yet.

So why am I writing this to you? Because, Mary, I’m hoping you can help change the course by putting more emphasis on mobile in your report, and guide the industry on a path to success. It’s imperative that we reverse the tide and make mobile successful — not just for users but also for businesses, their partners and investors.

We have the potential to usher in a new era of brand loyalty and business transformation, if only companies would stop seeing mobile as an extension of what was and see it as a catalyst to what could be.

The time is now for companies to double down on two key things — becoming insights-driven when it comes to mobile, and making sure they truly know their mobile users.

We cannot improve mobile engagement unless we take advantage of the deep insights from the data that users are readily sharing with us. They are giving us all of the information we need, but it’s only powerful if we act on it. And we cannot make sense of those insights unless we truly understand who our users are and how to engage with them.

If we do this, the promise of mobile will be fulfilled. We will have developed the immersive relationships that consumers demand today and tomorrow.

Mary, you talk about all the ways the Internet has changed lives, but I hope you, too, see that there’s a major disconnect between what consumers want and what businesses are currently delivering. When it comes time to lead the industry in your evaluation of the Internet Trends of 2016, in addition to pointing out all the great ways that mobile has changed our world, please highlight the wedge mobile is putting between businesses and their customers. We are in a mobile engagement crisis, and we must act now.


Raj Aggarwal

Raj Aggarwal, an analytics and mobile expert, is the co-founder and CEO of mobile engagement platform Localytics. He has worked with, and alongside, some of world’s most well-known brands on mobile technologies and strategies, including Apple, Microsoft, Salesforce and the New York Times. Reach him @analyticsraj.

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