How Brands can Create a Better Service through Mobile

It seems obvious, but as an ‘always there, always on’ channel, mobile gives brands the opportunity to give their customers a better, more frictionless service. Mary Meeker has highlighted the media shift from traditional channels to mobile and tablet devices. Google has shown that mobile is used at every stage of the consumer journey, and 80% of users are doing that in conjunction with other media. For example, their recent in-store study found that customers often use their smartphones as an assistant to check information whilst they are in-store.

Mobile service may seem obvious, yet many brands fail to do it. An IAB study found that only 63% of the top 100 brands have a mobile optimised website. Even where there are mobile sites, there is a limited mobile experience. A recent DMA study highlighted an often over-looked area for brand service. Making a phone call! Simple services such as click-to-call buttons or scheduled call-backs were top of the consumer priority list.

In spite of this, some brands have understood the need to create a mobile-optimised experience across their whole service – from Marks and Spencer to Nike to Starbucks. The following Slideshare shows the issue and how brands can gain some quick wins from a simple, yet optimised mobile service:

Changes afoot for iAd

According to reports in the digital media press, iAd is contacting UK agencies about changes in their pricing policy and structure. In the US, the minimum spend has already been reduced from $1m to $100k, but it seems there will be even further developments. Currently iAd uses a ‘hybrid’ (or double) pricing model of both CPM and CPC for its advertising, which is a major barrier for advertisers. Apple are also expected to increase payouts to developers in order to create further distribution of ad content.

The expected changes come at a time when the mobile advertising market is hotting up. Google’s Admob has moved closer to the Adwords model and Facebook are likely to launch a major mobile ad initiative before the spring. Back in June 2011, I wrote that Apple seemed to be losing interest in iAd and a report by The Digital Times suggested that the recent moves are a last-ditch attempt save the project. Apple have driven the consumer market in mobile, but have failed to ignite the world of advertising. With the amount of profit they’re making, I suspect they’re not too worried about it.

One reason why Google+ may not succeed

Tim Berners-Lee was right when he said that Facebook was anti-web. The Comscore chart below shows the almost exponential rise of Facebook, and the almost inevitable decline of The Web as we knew it. A decline of 9% in fact. Given that Facebook has essentially created their own web, within the web, how will Google+ compete with that? Many users are effectively locked in to Facebook and need a massive incentive to move social accounts. Google+ has great functionality, but Facebook is a past master of implementing good technology and doing it quickly. The chances are, Facebook will simply implement similar features to Google if they appear to becoming successful. Google do search brilliantly, and did mobile (Android) surprisingly well, but when it comes to their ability to do social, the track record isn’t so great. At best, Google+ will be for the real social media geeks and not a true mass market product.

One reason why Google + might just succeed

Google have failed at a social media a few times already – take Buzz or Latitude, for example  – however, Google + has lots of whizzy features that make it useful – Circles looks like a good concept. But there’s one key point about Google+ that may actually make it successful. It’s not Facebook …

Now see one reason why Google+ might not succeed >

Google’s mobile search worth over $1 billion

If there wasn’t enough evidence already to show the growth of mobile search, Google announced last week that it was worth over $1 billion. Nice going. Google are at pains to point out that they are more than just a search company, using the success of Android as evidence. However, whilst there is no doubting the success of their mobile OS (now over 30% of the US smartphone market), the revenue comes from … well, it’s search advertising!

More on the report here, in Techcrunch:

Who owns the mCommerce platform, operators or handset makers? Let the battle commence.

With all the talk of mCommerce and contactless (NFC in particular), a war between the operators and handset manufacturers was always on the cards. It looks like it’s beginning to kick off. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that RIM (BlackBerry) was ‘locking horns’ with operators over who controlled the NFC customer data. The issue is about where ‘credentials’ (the encrypted personal payment information) will be stored. Will it be on the SIM card (operator) or the phone memory (handset manufacturer). This is much more than a row over a technical function, as the customer will be tied either to their network or handset depending on how this data is stored. Whilst RIM talked about their close relationship with operators at the Mobile World Congress, one senior figure at Bell Canada recently stated “we expect some closed operating-system vendors will probably try to build into the handset. RIM and Apple fall into that category”.

The problem from an operator perspective is that whilst revenues are being squeezed, customers are demanding much more for their money, in particular they want more data. How do the operators make more money in already saturated markets? The answer is through providing mCommerce. In order to do that they will need to invest in expensive security infrastructures, making it even more critical to keep their customers with SIM-based credentials. On the other hand, we have increasingly seen handset manufacturers and handset operating systems define the mobile market and mobile content. The two that have done most to drivfe this change are Apple’s iPhone (and appstore) and Google’s Android.

My money is on the handset/operating systems winning out. Apart from their obvious success in defining the mobile content channel, they seem to have the revenue model right. Operators tend to charge consumers or merchants/content producers high transaction charges – look at app stores before Apple (£1000 + to get your game listed) and the low payouts on premium SMS. On the other hand, Apple and Google are past masters at the freemium model – get something for free and pay if you like it. And there’s no question about which model consumers prefer.


Dean Bubley’s blog gives more insight into the NFC revenue model

Where do AdMob’s 2 billion daily requests come from?

The Google Mobile mobile ads blog has given some insight into the countries that generate the most traffic to their mobile Ad network, AdMob. The 80:20 rule still seems to apply, with just 17 countries out of 190 served, providing 80% of the traffic. Whilst North America is the biggest region, Asia takes second place, with Europe in third. Surprisingly India saw the most ads served in Asia. Although the country has a large mobile population, it is generally represented by lower end handsets and small data usage. However this shows the trend towards more smartphones and a growing middle class population. In Europe, the UK represented 1/3rd of advertising traffic, with France and then Germany some way behind.

With 1000% rises in traffic in some territories, Google predicted that 2011 would be a ‘break-out year for mobile’. It looks like mobile advertising has really come of age.