Last year, we saw mobile apps getting smarter, tapping a wider range of personal data to anticipate and deliver in-the-moment needs before a customer takes action. Google is in the lead with Google Now, but Apple and Microsoft also signal interest in this space. Much like the VIP concierge services of major credit cards and airlines, these apps have the potential to form intimate customer relationships and increase affinity for products and services. And they are resetting expectations in a new paradigm we call the mobile mind shift — the increasing expectation of individuals that they can access any service, in context, in their moments of need.

You have an opportunity to play in the game, but to a different tune, one that enriches your brand by enhancing existing scenarios, engagement points, and relationships. 

In 2014 and 2015, we anticipate that customer-obsessed companies in verticals such as retail, finance, and insurance will introduce and develop proactive features in their mobile loyalty apps. CIOs should expect an influx of requirements from marketing peers leading such efforts. With the opportunities will come challenges on three dimensions: 

1. Business strategy. Proactive experiences can reap extraodinary rewards but can also lead to devastating consequences. For example, achieving 85% accuracy with your recommendation engine appears to be a success — until you consider the diminishing returns of a 5x penalty on trust factor for that 15% you got wrong. 

2. Data management. Intimate, real-time personal data, often referred to as “small data,” coming from mobile devices, digital services, and the Internet of Things marries with big data to build contextual mobile experiences. These new data forms are unfamiliar and often difficult to obtain and protect from external exposure.

3. Technology architecture. Most enterprises do not have the capacity and scalability to store and analyze small data. And the most difficult technical challenge — executing business transactions in response to real-time proactive interactions — requires rationalizing back-end systems and exposing internal capabilities in a machine-readable way. The interplay between internal and partner-supported processes will be dynamic as a set of point solutions fragments across categories such as analyticspersonalization recommendation engines, and mobile back-end-as-a-service (BaaS). 

My colleague Tony Costa and I are working over the next two months on a new stream of research to provide guidance on how to crawl, walk, and then run into proactive engagement. We’re interested in talking to companies with proactive engagement on their road map, as well as vendors and consultants helping clients make such experiences a reality. 

Please contact Nate Fleming (nfleming at forrester dot com) to participate in an exchange of ideas around this topic, or email to inform us of your product offering. 

Michael Yamnitsky is a Researcher at Forrester Research. You can follow him on Twitter @ItsYamnitsky.