MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor has a keen sense of where things are headed. He sees mobile and social as the two drivers of a world based largely in software. Last year I covered the announcements at the MicroStrategy events in Amsterdam and the vision Saylor put forth in his keynote speech. MicroStategy World 2013 last month finds the company delving into such diverse areas as identity management, marketing services and integrated point-of-sale applications. The uniting factor is mobile intelligence.
At the event, MicroStrategy highlighted three innovative product lines. Usher, announced in 2012, is a mobile identity management system that allows you to issue digital credentials on a mobile device. Alert provides a mobile shopper experience, including promotions, product locator, transaction capabilities and receipt delivery. Wisdom, winner of the 2012 Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award for Social Media, mines social media data from Facebook to help drive brand insight. Along with large investments in cloud and mobile intelligence, these technologies illustrate where the company is headed.
In a breakout session provokingly titled “Beat Amazon and Google with Revolutionary Retail Apps for Your Store Operations,” MicroStrategy Vice President of Retail Frank Andryauskas brought the company’s technologies to life by outlining a typical in-store mobile purchase process. A customer may start by using Alert to engage social media while he looks at items on his phone or tablet and checks prices, sizes or availability within the application. Based on his selection, he may want recommendations through Wisdom for items that his friends like or that appeal to them because of their unique preferences. He could choose to purchase an item with a coupon promotion delivered through Alert, or have the item drop-shipped to his home or to the store.
On the back end, marketers can run purchase path analytics that tie the customer experience to the transaction. This in turn helps with promotional strategies that can influence purchase behavior at the store level. The key for the retailer, as well as for MicroStrategy, is to create customer value through an in-store and online experience that is differentiated from ones in other stores. The tools help retailers move beyond “showrooming” and leverage their physical assets to drive competitive advantage.
The MicroStrategy mobile retail vision gets even more compelling when you look at what’s going on with their customers, including large retailers that are using analytics to drive things such as employee engagement in a brick-and-mortar retail environment, which in turn can improve customer retention and increase share of wallet. The Container Store demonstrated how it uses MicroStrategy mobile BI to allow employees to view their performance as compared to their peers. This taps into a fundamental human need to be on the leading part of a curve and never lag behind. Friendly competition between stores with similar footprints and trade areas can drive best-in-class store performance. It will be interesting to see whether MicroStrategy can leverage this game approach across other industries, such as travel and tourism, government, manufacturing and healthcare.
MicroStrategy has a strong presence and compelling use cases in the pharmaceuticals industry, with solutions around mobile sales force enablement where operating smatrtphones and tables is a priority today. This area can show tremendous productivity gains, as in-meeting effectiveness often requires fast and easy access to pricing, distribution and benchmark data. The ability to communicate with other team members in real time during the sales process and to conduct transactions on the spot can reduce sales cycle times. Ancillary benefits include providing an audit trail of the best sales processes and representatives, so that, much like in the retail environment, pharmaceutical companies can develop and replicate a best-in-class approach.
While the company’s long-range vision is solid, MicroStrategy may be too far ahead of the curve. I would argue that the company is on the leading edge of mobile and may have spent more money than it had to in order to catch the mobile wave but is more ready than any other BI provider. With technologies such as Wisdom, Alert and Usher, it may be in a position similar to the one it was in a few years ago with mobile. Wisdom uses “like” data from Facebook to drive analytics, but how far can that data really get a marketer today? This innovation needs to pay more dividends for marketers, and it might in the future as Facebook starts to introduce a categorical verb universe that denotes specific attitudes and purchase intent. Alert could be good for a mid-market retailer, if its value and ease of use is compelling enough for mobile users to download the application and sign up as a store customer. Usher is spot on with its intent to manage digital identity, but uptake may be slow since separating data about the user from data about the phone is challenging.
In sum, MicroStrategy is pressing its advantage in mobile intelligence solutions and is figuring out ways to drive that advantage into the mobile applications market. It is investing heavily in enterprise business intelligence applications in the cloud, where it already has more than 40 customers. It has an industry-leading business intelligence toolkit and was ranked as a hot vendor in our 2012 Business Intelligence Value Index.
MicroStrategy has a lot going for it, but it is also placing a broad set of innovation bets relative to its size. In a recent interview, Saylor said, “If these things play out the way I expect, then we’re a $10 billion revenue company, out 10 years. If they don’t play out the way I expect, then whatever. We’ll muddle along and we’ll do what we’re going to do.” I’m inclined to agree.