2011: The Year of Mobile Marketing

It’s a question that seems to be asked every year: ‘is this the year of mobile marketing?’ In some ways it’s impossible to say when it’s actually the year of anything. However, the signs are that 2011 could be a very good year for mobile marketing. 2010 saw the launch of iAd, the growth of the mobile web and many exciting and creative mobile campaigns. Add to that a predicted upturn in the economy and everything points to the next year as being a good one for mobile. My mobile prediction for 2011 give a greater perspective to the mobile marketing opportunities for the next 12 months.

Your Phone as Your Doctor (pt 2)

It’s one of those New Year things, that everyone’s minds turn to loosing weight, so there is an inevitable rash of iPhone apps to help you do that. However, much more interesting is the growth of mHealth – or your phone as your doctor. I previously blogged about the development of an STI checker on mobile phones. Berg Insight estimated the value of mHealth to be over 7 billion Euros in 2010, with considerable growth in the next few years. So far that has mostly focussed on well-being, but the possibility to support more chronic health problems through our phones is certainly there. The first health offering for 2011 is the an  ECG monitor for iPhone. Whilst phones will never replace our doctors as such, they offer the possiblity of being the first point of consulation or a monitoring device that can help medical professionals improve their service. Here’s how the iPhone ECG works:

Mobile Predictions for 2011

How accurate were the 2011 predictions? As a review of the year in mobile, I have added comments in italics. 2012’s mobile predictions are here.

1.       The rise of Contactless (or NFC).

2011 will be the year that contactless technology comes to mobile in the UK (and Europe).

In the UK Orange and Barclaycard launched a (not very good) NFC phone. More significantly both the Google Nexus, higher end BlackBerry and a number of other devices included contactless. The real potential for growth will be in 2012. In the UK it will be spurred on by the need for fast payment etc at the Olympics and growth will be also be significant elsewhere, especially if the iPhone 5 includes an NFC chip.

2.       mCommerce – where the retailers lead, others will follow

Whilst 2010 saw retailers establish themselves in the mobile web space, 2011 was where they consolidated it. From eBay to Amazon, from M&S to Halfords, mobile represented 10% or more of their digital sales. Whilst there hasn’t been exactly a charge towards mobile web from other brands outside retail, during the year most of them created some kind of offering. Interestingly retailers are seeing the potential of mobile and moving beyond just a mobile site with initiatives such as augmented reality pop-up shops.

3.       Mobile Search – the next big thing in mobile marketing?

From the user perspective, 2011 saw mobile search continue to grow. More smartphones means more search from mobile, especially in stores. Research from Google showed that over 70% of smartphone owners were searching and comparing product information whilst in store. Not only that, but most mobile search is about immediate intent – people are looking for something because they want (or need) it now. Sadly brands have not really caught on to mobile search marketing in any significant way as yet. 

4.       Mobile Advertising gets Exciting

2011 saw HTML5 take off in mobile, and particularly mobile advertising. Besides iAd, Google also started to offer HTML5 banners through their ad channel. There were some creative campaigns – Nissan Duke for iAd, Tuborg and Magnum Ice Cream and Auto Trader in the UK – there is still a lot of untapped potential. Mobile is now 8% of our ‘media time’, more than in print, yet the spend on advertising is less than 1%. Print? More than 20% of the total spend.

5.       Location, Location, Location

Whilst location is the backbone of most mobile media, social location didn’t quite live up to expectations in 2011. Although Facebook incorporated location into status updates, they ended their Places and Deals, failing to become a leader in social location. However, Foursquare continued to see their numbers rise to 15m + users. Along with the likes of SCVNGR and Instagram, they engaged both users and brands. In the meantime, Facebook hired the Gowalla crew to rethink their offering. Social location remains important.

6.       The End of Unlimited Data Plans

It happened in the UK, US and elsewhere thanks to too many iPhone users. The biggest problem has been video. More and more mobile users are accessing it but it uses tremendous amounts of bandwidth. The only long term solution is 4G, which is beginning to roll out in some countries. In the UK, the government put the licence bids back into 2012, which means 2013 will be the earliest. Developing countries may well get into 4G sooner and leap-fog the UK. The mid-term solution is in rolling out more WiFi. O2 are working on that right now … hopefully there’ll be enough data bandwidth by the time every0ne arrives for the Olympics.

7.       New Interfaces

There were announcements of 3D screens, gesture control, and electrovibration to create the feeling of textures in mobile and tablet screens. The biggest impact on the consumer came in the form of voice interfaces, notably iOS5’s Siri. After Apple upped the ante, Google are looking to implement something better than Siri into Android in 2012.

8.       Fad Gadget?

Not everyone is convinced by the iPad. It made the top 10 list of worst gadgets of 2010 in one magazine, whilst also making the top 10 best gadgets in the same publication.

This prediction was entirely wrong. The tablet device, or the iPad (others sold very few), sold at a faster rate than the iPod or iPhone.   In many territories they were outselling PCs. 

9. Moblogging

This hasn’t taken off as such, but other forms of social media activity on smartphones increased. When Twitter was incorporated into iOS5, their sign up rate went up three-fold. Now nearly half of all Tweets come from mobile devices. It’s not just writing though. Mobile users say it through photos, as demonstrated by Instagram and Flickr (the iPhone 4 was the most used camera on the site).

10. Bada

I predicted that from a very fast start, Bada would become an important OS in 2011. It didn’t happen. Samsung have not released any figures about the operating system, but they would appear to be low, and the company is likely to drop the OS. In a way, it’s not surprising when you consider that Bada was for lower end handsets but consumers have moved towards smartphones. Not only that, but Android is open source and can be put on most handsets.

Review of Mobile for 2010

Last year (and the year before) I made a number of predictions about mobile and mobile marketing for the year ahead. 2010 was a good one for mobile marketing. Mobile advertising came of age with AdMob and Apple’s IAd. Many retailers got into mCommerce. And Foursquare showed the potential of location-based marketing with their check-in offer. That’s just a few examples. Looking at last year’s predictions is also a chance to review the year as a whole. So how did the predictions fare? See below – I’ve marked myself out of 10 for accuracy.

Predictions from 2010

2010 will be the year of mobile advertising
8/10 a number of things happened to make mobile advertising a significant channel this year. At the end of 2009 Google acquired AdMob. Big. In June, Apple announced IAd. Very Big. OK, you may say, IAd has a tiny reach, but Apple announced that they had secured a number of brands, and significantly 21% of the mobile advertising market. Add to that the operator DM channels such as O2 More and Orange shots, and you can see that there was significant marketing activity. However, there’s still a long way to go – so I drop two points for that.

Mobile payments will become more common place
8/10 this was a pretty good prediction. I’ve taken off a couple of points as in-app payments haven’t taken off as expected, although the ‘freemium’ model has taken hold. Significantly, the number of mobile retail sites grew rapidly throughout the year. At the start of 2010 no high street UK retailer had a transactional mobile site. By the end, M&S, John Lewis, Tesco Direct and Debenhams all had full mCommerce sites (not to mention Barney’s in the US), with other brands such as Argos to follow very soon. Tesco’s did a study which showed that 10% of people will use their mobile for their Xmas shopping this year. In the world of apps, the likes of Ocado established themselves fully. At the start of the year they took 5% of their orders through their mobile app. By the end of the year it was 10%. Ebay and Amazon expect mobile commerce to overtake the fixed internet within the next few years.

More commercial and branded apps
9/10 with a few notable exceptions, they’re all at it. It seemed like every brand launched an app whether their customers needed it or not!

Behavioural targeting will be on the rise
5/10 it all depends on what you count as behavioural targeting. If you look at the mobile operators, there is very little targetting going on. The direct channels are opt-in to selected sectors, rather than targeted at consumer behaviour. That’s probably a good thing, as the public are very wary of this type of advertising. Still, I drop 5 points for getting it slightly wrong. However, it is strong and growing strong in other ways. Facebook is the ultimate behavioural targeting, and their ad revenue rose significantly. IAd is also a form of targeting, although it is through the apps they use rather than their actual behaviour online.

Privacy
10/10 it’s an issue that won’t go away. Facebook came into major conflict with their users over changes in their privacy policies. There was the Openbook controversy, which showed how much people allow the world to see, and not forgetting the Foursquare inspired, Pleaserobme.com. Although Facebook seem to have placated most of their users for now, it will run and run. Then there was Google’s legal problems over their storing of personal WiFi data … I could go on! When it comes to mobile in particular, the personal-ness of the device will always require careful consideration on the part of brands.

Android will become a major player in mobile OS
10/10 Easy! It’s strange to think that 12 months ago Android was nowhere. By Q3 it had overtaken the iPhone and BlackBerry to become the second biggest mobile OS. Much of that came not from Google’s phone, but a couple of excellent handsets from the likes of HTC and Samsung.

Mobile content and social media aggregation
7/10 I was correct in the intent – we want our social media and our content in one place. However the results weren’t quite as expected (hence the 3 point drop). For example, Vodafone’s 360 was poorly executed and even more poorly advertised. By the end of the year they had quietly dropped it. What happened was that the aggregation went on in the places that the users were already in. The main place is Facebook. With the addition of their email, Facebook are telling people ‘why go anywhere else?’

Apps will still grow – the mobile web cannot replace them
9/10 apps have grown massively this year in large part through Nokia’s OviStore, Blackberry World and Android Market. The mobile web has not replaced apps at that level. What has happened is that the mobile web offers a different user and brand experience. Many brands are developing both web and apps.

Augmented Reality and Image Recognition will not significantly take off
8/10 arguably it’s easy to predict things that won’t happen, but there was a lot of talk about these two in 2009. We’ve seen some great stuff with Layar on the AR side and Google Goggles on the IR side (hence the two points I’ve taken off). However, they are far from mass market. Most mobile AR apps are little more than location services. There were a couple of exceptions, such as the excellent Berlin Wall project. These show the direction it could go to make AR more exciting. Google’s Goggles is a great concept – image based search – but have you tried it? It simply doesn’t work very well. Whilst the possibilities are there, Forrester predicted that it would be some years before AR takes off on mobile.

Mobile social networks will not go it alone
10/10 yes we saw Foursquare and Gowalla, as(almost) pure mobile social networks, but Facebook is THE place for mobile. In the UK 50% of status updates come from mobile phones, and over 150 million of their users update via mobile. Foursquare, on the other hand has a tiny number of users, not only that but it has had to allow status updates straight into Facebook. And anyway, Foursquare isn’t social media, it’s a game. So yes, 10 out of 10 for the prediction!

When are most people on the mobile web?

A study by Adfonica has found that mobile web usage peaks first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Interestingly that is the time that the fixed internet sees traffic dropping off. It seems to be a combination of the advent of the smartphone and our changing social habits. People used to take a book to bed, but it looks like they’d rather catch up on social media, read some news, and certainly update their Facebook status. Similarly, first thing in the morning is a chance to catch up with news, travel information and maybe some more Facebook. The ability of smartphones to allow users to dip into the mobile web quickly is part of the driver for this activity.

From a mobile advertising point of view, it shows some promise, but also raises problems. Will people want to click through to a mobile site just before they fall asleep? Will they really want to make an online purchase as they leave the house for work? More research is required. Whilst the audience is there first and last thing will it be a case that brand engagement will happen during more traditional online hours?

Business Mobile Users do More (of everything)

A new report out from the Financial Times shows that business users are ahead of the curve when it comes to using mobile sites and other smartphone features. One key figure is that 60% of business users access the mobile internet from their phones (and 40% of them access current affairs). In mobile marketing, B2B case studies are few and far between and it is often not considered the best channel for that sector. However, given the number of business users accessing the mobile web, it would make sense for the B2B sector to look at mobilising their site. Improving customer experience on mobile considerably improves site stickiness.

You can download the report here.

Google Wants Star Trek Computers

It seems that Google wants us to talk to computers more and the computers talk back to us. Or at least that’s the indication with their recent acquisition of UK company Phonetic Arts. Google seem to like the whole talking at machines thing: their Google Voice Search has been around for a while, and comes as standard on Android phones. Similarly the iphone has a voice control element.

But do we really want talking computers? Apple and Microsoft tried it way back. When I got my first talking Mac, I used it for a day and then turned the thing off because it was annoying. With the Microsoft speach recognition, the problem seemed to be that it worked quite well. However, working quite well isn’t good enough for an input device. It needs to work very well, all the time. I’ve found the same problem with the Google Voice Search. On the one hand, it’s useful if you are walking along the road – using a touch screen on the move is nearly impossible. On the other hand, it doesn’t work well enough.

There’s also the whole talking machine thing. Some people like the idea, but I think that many people (including me) are put off by it. When cinemas started having voice recognition, I felt stupid talking to the machine. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I don’t see much evidence of people using voice control or search on their smartphones. So whilst Google may be striving for the Star Trek ideal, when it comes to computers there are more than just technological barriers to overcome.