Like clockwork, every fourth quarter, people in advertising anticipate exactly which trend or tactic will define mobile developments in the coming year.
But what if I were to tell you that that’s not the case this time around. That it simply can’t be our approach as modern day marketers. The global market demands more attention be paid to the mobile consumer than ever before. Smartphones alone are veritable extensions of today’s consumers (who we know are never more than three feet away from them). That’s because mobile has come to mean having the Internet of Everything wrapped up to-go and right at our fingertips. No one trend -- no matter how revolutionary it may be -- can possibly encapsulate all that awaits us in 2015.
The six trends below should be considered just the tip of the iceberg. There’s far more to these mobile trends than meets the eye. Delivering for your customer means being where they are, knowing their mobile behaviors, and providing them with value when they want it -- even giving them the things they didn’t yet know they needed.
Henry Ford said it best when he noted, "If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse."
So what do we have in store for us this year? Here’s a look:
1) Screens on screens on screens -- cater to the multi-screeners and their tribes.
With more than "90% of media consumption occurring in front of a screen," marketers will find themselves at a serious disadvantage if they don’t understand the difference between sequential and simultaneous usage and how each affects multi-screen communication.
Remember: Consumers aren’t just two-screening now. They’re adopting three- and four-screen habits when it comes to brand engagement in various contexts. Having the ability to create seamless experiences for consumers who jump from smartphone to laptop or who use their laptops while watching TV is no longer a plus -- it’s a must. And with new types of wearable tech becoming viable add-ons for everyday consumers, you can expect even more screens to enter the scene in the coming year.
I'm talking about going deeper than social TV. It’ll be about about providing a conduit and enabling micro-communities to connect. Amazon didn't pony up $970 million for the acquisition of Twitch because it loves gamers. It did it because it wanted even more detailed information to power the brand's personalization and commerce data warehouses and to extend its position as a monolithic trade giant.
2) The proliferation of connected and automated tech drives more pressure to pay attention to user context.
What's your stationary and on-the-go engagement plan? What are you doing to cater to the $700 million wearable tech industry? According to the GlobalWebIndex, 71% of 16- to 24-year-olds want more of these smart devices, and sales are estimated to break $1.4 billion by 2016. But like multi-screening, all of this connected technology will hinge on advances in consumers’ thirst for great experiences. Sure, responsive design has enabled us to adapt from one device to the next without interruptions in user experience, but that won’t be the backbone of mobile innovation in 2015. Context-driven design stands at the forefront of connected tech because what users want more than shifting screen sizes is a relevant experience that appeals to their 5Ws (who, what, where, when, why), be it in a specific app or the ubiquitous browser. From smart watches to Oculus Rift virtual reality, the spectrum of connected devices offers a vast playing field.
3) Omnichannel commerce is here (for real this time).
Suffice it to say, Apple Pay is rearing for release in a big way. By publicizing its integration into the iPhone 6, the folks at Apple are laying the groundwork for what clearly looks to be a concerted push toward an accepted mobile payment system. Considering more than “84% of smartphone shoppers use their phones while in a physical store”, this concept of omnichannel commerce makes sense in the retail ecosystem. And while previous efforts by the likes of Google and PayPal have fallen short in their ability to crack the seal on mobile commerce, Apple’s partnerships with American Express, Bank of America, and Chase (to name but a few) lead one to believe the company is closer than ever to making this digital dream a reality.
But this one goes a lot deeper than monitoring mobile payment models. It’s what happens before and after the purchase that brands need focus on. So break out your endless aisles, get your stores connected, and be ready for a whole new level of chasing consumerism. In this arms race, those who win on experience will be laughing in the faces of those left in the dust with their QR-enabled hang tags.
4) Seeing enhanced experiences through rose-colored camera lenses (and always on microphones).
We’ve already seen a number of apps do this, but enhancing a user's line of vision through interactive, augmented reality is top of mind for marketers. As the industry collectively seeks to lift all constraints from consumerism (holding your phone up to virtually anything as a means of shopping), what we know of branded experiences will transform dramatically. Amazon’s Fire Phone is a perfect example of this. The device’s Firefly technology directly syncs users with vast stores of information, products, and services by intuitively identifying any one of some 100 million items. These “shopping goggles,” if you will, will undoubtedly become commonplace among mobile tech in 2015.
But it goes beyond the lens, too. Information like where you are and what you’re doing is feeding big data machines as they crunch through cooked-up algorithms that enable brands to send you aptly customized messages. Do these Big Brother tactics freak you out a bit? Try leaving your phone out and start randomly talking about something you would never want to buy. Don’t be surprised when you start getting ads for that same thing the next week.
It’s worth noting here that Facebook’s Atlas acquisition puts it in a prime position to take on the big G. Now that the social king’s castle gates are down, the company is able to track all of a user’s activity without relying on cookies or what’s done solely within its platform.
5) Proximity will beat out geolocation.
Location-based marketing has enabled brands to zero in on key consumer sectors for years now. But when we talk about the actual transmitting of wireless data, issues like dead zones, carrier type, and signal strength have prevented brands from reaching consumers precisely where and when they want. Proximity technologies like those behind iBeacon and Near Field Communication (NFC) aim to bypass these hurdles by using base-to-device Bluetooth signals. You can expect this to change the face of on-site consumer interaction. From providing wayfinding maps to on-shelf products to sending out purchase incentives once the person is standing in front of a product, iBeacon and NFC may very well put an end to showrooming as we know it.
6) The smartphone is the remote control of our lives. New nodes and networks will continue to be added daily.
From unlocking your front door to keeping an eye on your pet while at work to making sure your thermostat is dialed in to the perfect 68 degrees, home automation is a market on the rise. Google scooped up Nest and Dropcam, and it's only a matter of time before it feeds that image data into Skynet -- or what’s become of Google's personal Cloud for storing targeted, personalized data. This should connect the digital dots for true predictive analytics.
Get Ready for the Engagement Wars of 2015
Today’s mobile device is more than just a pocket-sized billboard. It’s the gateway, the journey, and the point of purchase for countless consumers across the board. So, a myopic “year of” trend isn’t something we should expect to see. Rather, look ahead to the ways individuals are seeking out products and innovations that deliver entertainment, utility, and real-time value to people. Those are the defining factors that brands should be incorporating into their methods for reaching and engaging consumers, not just more vanity metrics that cater to their C-suite bigwigs.
5 Takeaways to Carry Into the New Year
- Update your consumer journey maps and measurement plans often, and validate by observing and talking to your customers as well as your analysts.
- Know what your consumers’ mobile behaviors are, and match them with human-centered design and messaging.
- Tailor your experiences -- both digital and analog -- to surprise and delight at every stage in the consumer journey, especially post-purchase.
- Focus on human metrics, not vanity metrics. Measure smiles and your customers’ happiness index rather than trite stats such as "likes", tweets, followers or net promoter scores.
- Tap into all of a user’s senses. The more you can blur the lines of analog and digital, the more seamlessly your customers will be connected to your brand.
What other major mobile trends and behaviors are you anticipating in 2015?