As we kick off another new year, it’s helpful for marketers to look backward and forward as they set their blueprint for the next twelve months.
On the mobile front, this year had a number of important milestones. eMarketer predicted that smartphone usage worldwide would grow 25% in 2014, with the number of people that own and use smartphones hitting 1.76 billion by the end of the year.
Mobile commerce took a big leap forward this year, growing more rapidly than desktop e-commerce. This was especially evident on major online shopping days — according to IBM’s Digital Analytics, “mobile sales on accounted for 22 percent of online sales [on Cyber Monday], an increase of more than 27 percent compared to the prior year.”
We also witnessed the emergence of several new mobile technologies. We saw the announcement of the Apple Watch and, more importantly, the launch of Apple Pay.
Last but not least, 2014 also saw an unprecedented number of security breaches, ranging from private celebrity pictures and conversations being leaked to millions of compromised accounts like at JP Morgan Chase (bigger than just mobile, but mobile users were affected).
For 2015, the trends in mobile won’t be unfamiliar and will build on some of the momentum of 2014. Given the increasing importance of mobile as a channel, I predict that this will be a year of focused less on innovation and more on areas like security, infrastructure and overall blocking and tackling.
That doesn’t mean you won’t see innovation, but more energy will be spent on blocking and tackling and scaling. With that as a the backdrop, here are five key trends in mobile I see for 2015:
1. Mobile Security Becomes Critical
To date, a majority of the biggest data breaches with financial institutions, retailers and major social networks have been initiated through a variety of hacks, mostly not mobile in nature. However, as mobile apps and web usage become more prevalent, there is a significant risk as millions (if not billions) of people carrying mini “computers” in their purses and pockets expose both personal and enterprise-level data to cyber criminals.
As Cisco’s Senior Director of Security Marketing Strategy, Jennifer Leggio, said in her prediction from my last post:
Application developers will assume even more responsibility as companies will no longer be able to sacrifice security over user experience. Especially in the face of so many high profile breaches, a lack of diligence in security even for the most entertaining of applications can lead to loss of business or consumer data, an impact to the bottom line and even loss of brand integrity.
To date, this has not been an area of focus for most companies — just one more reason brands need to think through the strategy of whether or not to build an app or merely support a great mobile presence (more on that later). For marketers, this should be reminiscent of the late 1990s, where similar decisions had to be made when building e-commerce sites.
2. Smart Things & Wearables Move Beyond Thermostats & Fitbits
For the most part, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wearables and items deemed part of the “Internet of things.” As smart or “Internet-enabled” objects continue to evolve and proliferate, these interconnected devices — and now, increasingly, automobiles — are starting to make one another smarter.
This is a theme we will see over the next few years, as the real value of mobile (and digital, for that matter) is when data sets can inform one another rather than sitting silo-ed.
Regarding wearables, the most popular to date have been fitness related devices like Nike’s Fuelband, Fitbit, and Jawbone’s Up wristband. While the health and sleep data these devices provide is interesting, it’s hardly game-changing when it comes to impacting our lives.
However, there is a whole new wave of wearables — many of which will hit the market in 2015 — that will potentially provide much more useful information. These will include clothing and jewelry that will monitor heart rate, skin temperature, breathing, sweat gland activity and even blood pressure.
Of course, these are all activities that serious athletes would like to track — but think about the sick and the aging and what peace of mind they and their families could enjoy by knowing the second something goes wrong, with a smart alerting system to boot.
3. Retailers & Other Brands Go Back To Basics For Mobile Web
Over the past 10 years, companies — retailers in particular — have chipped away at creating a presence on the mobile web. Whether a mobile app or mobile-friendly website, many of these outposts have focused more on innovation and sizzle (think virtual dressing rooms) than practicality.
Up until last year, this didn’t matter much because, quite frankly, there weren’t enough mobile users to truly make a difference. That changed in 2014, however, as millions of consumers shifted buying behavior to smartphones and tablets versus shopping in-store or even on their desktops/laptops. In fact, retailers like Best Buy saw several major outages on Black Friday this year due to surges in mobile web traffic.
In 2015, marketers will go back to basics, ensuring that their sites are secure (see trend number one), stable and useful.
This means that in many cases, they will focus on their mobile website experience versus mobile apps. While apps can work in certain instances, they have some distinct disadvantages:
It is hard to get users to adopt them.
They silo data and don’t help with search engine optimization (SEO).
With the proliferation of mobile operating systems and devices, it is becoming increasingly difficult to build applications without significant investment in creating multiple iterations, which then require regular upkeep (not to mention new versions when new operating systems are adopted).
If your company is considering a mobile web reboot in 2015, start by looking closely at your web logs, which likely have mobile traffic (by device type) broken out separately.
4. Mobile Payments Go Big
While mobile payments are hardly a new phenomenon, they have yet to gain significant traction in the retail world. Some of this has been predicated on technology (like NFC) and lack of a common platform. Apple helped the world of online payments take a giant step forward this fall when they announced Apple Pay.
Similar to when then-CEO, Steve Jobs, was able to bring the major players in the entertainment space together to offer digital music and movies, Apple once again gained consensus among the three largest payment companies — Visa, Mastercard and American Express — and also encouraged most of the world’s largest banks and retailers to come on board. Combine this with the several hundred million active credit cards already on file with Apple via iTunes, and you have a winning formula.
Brands (both online and off) can leverage this to make buying experiences easier for their customers. Whether it is a one-click checkout on any e-commerce site online or the ability to click a button on one’s phone just before walking out of a physical store, the brands that fully embrace the utility of mobile payments will be big winners in the end. The biggest potential value here is the ability to stitch together online and offline profiles (see Walmart and Starbucks as examples of companies that are doing this well).
5. Smarter Smartphones & Data Move From Silos To Integrated
Book author and Altimeter Group CEO Charlene Li envisioned a time in the not-too-distant future when smart interconnectivity would rule the day:
When I look up my next appointment on my calendar, a rich profile, social feed, past meetings, latest emails associated with that person will seamlessly appear. When I walk into my favorite restaurant or coffee house, my order will be waiting for me.
This is the real power of mobile and one that companies have only started to scratch the surface of. 2015 is the year where the proliferation of devices, accessible data sources, and outside-the-box thinking by companies will start to tie these capabilities together.
Also important in 2015, as alluded to in the previous trend, contextual technologies in retail will help facilitate smarter smart phones, better experiences and less silo-ed data. As Shel Israel, co-author of Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data & the Future of Privacy, recently predicted:
[These technologies] will change the relationship between merchants and loyal customers. Almost all of the major changes I see involve proximity technologies – Beacons, NewAer, Tapingo, Aisle 411 and the not-yet-launched Qualcomm LTE Mobile will start letting every customer who opts in enjoy an increasingly personalized experience.
Clearly, there are other major trends happening in mobile in 2015, like an increased focus on mobile for internal collaboration. Mobile will also play an increasingly important role in the evolution and user behavior of social networks both new and existing. We will also find out what impact more wearable devices like the Apple watch and Samsung’s Gear series will have on consumer behaviors and purchase patterns.
If you haven’t thought much about your mobile strategy, now is the time to get started. It’s never too late but it will get increasingly harder to get into the game as the technologies continue to evolve at lightning speed.