The release of Apple’s iOS 9 led to an increase in the popularity of ad blocking apps, after support for such products was added.

Dave O’Flanagan, the CEO and co-founder at Boxever, a customer intelligence and marketing company, spoke to Mobile World Live about how this trend will affect app makers and what they can do to make ads more relevant to their users.

How does ad blocking impact app developers and marketers?
The advent of ad blocking will have a monumental impact on mobile app developers and marketers, forcing them to rethink their entire development approach. Trackers and ads are intrinsic to how many apps function.

The restriction of these core tenants could result in many things, from a decrease in the amount of free apps available on the market to a completely new approach to how mobile marketers fund projects and reach consumers.

Brands will produce better ads if they forget their agendas and focus on providing truly relevant and personalised offers and communications. They need to excite and delight customers throughout the entire customer journey, not just when they make a purchase but before, during and afterwards.

A customer will only view an ad if he or she has a positive relationship with the brand which is built off an exceptional experience that brings value to the customer.

Brands can establish this one-to-one relationship by designing experiences from the customer’s point of view rather than what the brand is trying to promote; communicate with the customer throughout the journey (for instance, if it’s a flight, the brand needs to reinforce positivity throughout the trip); deliver intermittent perks and rewards to the customer; and end the experience on a high note, assuring the customer there will be further opportunities to engage.

Regardless of what changes in the mobile app environment, developers and marketers need to remain true to what their users crave: a terrific mobile and digital experience that provides value.

According to a survey your company did, 56 per cent of respondents said mobile ads don’t add value while 51 per cent said they’ve never taken action on a mobile ad – how can advertisers fix this?
The answer is pretty simple: focus on meeting the needs of your customers, not your own marketing agenda. Invest in understanding your customer base, and then use that intelligence to produce highly relevant and personalised digital communications.

Retailers place mobile ads in an effort to generate more clicks and revenue. But, as these numbers indicate, mobile advertising approaches are having the wrong effect on consumers.

Beyond the glaring lack of engagement, nearly 70 per cent of consumers said they’re likely or extremely likely to use ad blocking apps, and another 15 per cent said they’d consider it.

Retailers who build a business model purely on acquisition will be at more risk, especially when ad-blocking becomes more mainstream.

Advertisements need to shift to embedded content that feels more like a recommendation than an ad because the content is relevant to what is already being consumed on the app. Amazon, for example, has had much success with increasing basket size by offering personalised recommendations. Another great example of this is Netflix.

They aren’t advertising a new show for you to watch – they are making a targeted recommendation based on your behaviour and interests. Ultimately, if ads and content are relevant to the end user, ad-blocking tools will reach a tipping point.

How can brands use customer intelligence to create more relevant communications?
There is an enormous gap between the type of marketing and communication that consumers want and what they’re actually getting.

Another recent Boxever report found that only 2 per cent of consumers believe that the brands they frequent and patronise know them extremely well. This is astonishing when you consider all the data analytics, customer intelligence, predictive marketing, decisioning and digital and automation technology now available.

Brands can create robust customer profiles by aggregating transactional and behavioural data from across multiple channels, including email, Web, mobile and social. Every customer has their own needs and preferences, which vary depending on what they’re doing and where they are.

Intelligence needs to be contextual and take the behavior and real-time needs of customers into consideration.

Effective content will add value to something the consumer is currently doing or planning to do in the future. Without understanding the context of a situation, this type of personalised marketing is unattainable.

True customer intelligence can predict future habits, improve conversion rates, generate more sales and lead to improved customer experience.

What are your thoughts on operators letting users control the advertising they see?
Enabling customers to control what content appears on their mobile devices makes a ton of sense. Consumers, in large part, see mobile ads as nothing more than an interruption because they lack relevance. If consumers had access to content that was personalised to their needs and preferences, engagement would go way up.

Ultimately it is about creating a personalised experience for every consumer. If consumers drive the agenda, they may see less advertising, but they would be more likely to take action on what the app presents – which is the ultimate goal anyway.

Brands that jump on this opportunity and change their mobile strategies to focus on one-to-one, personalised marketing won’t be impacted much at all. On the other hand, for brands that continue to mass-advertise and spam, ad-blocking will become a very large problem, especially for publishers whose income and revenue streams depend on selling ads and driving traffic and referrals.