NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- When it comes to mobile, hype so often outpaces reality that it's important to keep expectations in check. While apps aren't on every phone (yet), and not every American is tuning into live mobile video in the doctor's waiting room, the iPhone, Google's Android, ubiquitous GPS and fast 3G networks have ushered in a year rich in innovation. We asked experts in the mobile space to give us their take on what has them excited about the future -- and what kinds of inspiring efforts they're seeing today. Oh, and we've included a handy glossary for the terms in bold. since we know sometimes it all sounds Greek.
The best mobile-marketing efforts provide consumers with value, which is why I like GoMobo. What Fandango has done for movies, GoMobo is doing for food. The company started out going door-to-door to local shops and has now signed up the likes of Dunkin' Donuts, Subway, Burger King and Starbucks. It recently announced the launch of the GoMobo Agency API, which provides interactive agencies with an easy way to make a restaurant's consumer-facing digital assets transactional, by connecting to the in-store restaurants systems to transmit orders and payments. Restaurant websites and e-mails can now include an "order now" button. It also provides agencies with a wealth of data to inform restaurant-marketing strategy.
There are a ton of new business models being built on the mobile platform but what's often overlooked but is terrifically exciting is the extension of existing services to mobile. I am a huge fan of Open Table's service to begin with and the Open Table (OT) iPhone app solved a form of the "last-mile" problem for me. I often realize that I want (or need) reservations when I am not around an easy PC connection and the OT iPhone app delivers the key elements of the OT service simply and easily -- and in my pocket. Mobile adds two key elements for OT: ever-presentness and location. It is hard to think about dinner reservations without these elements, and I find that I've abandoned the PC interface entirely.
I am hugely in favor of the Webkit browser becoming the de facto browser for mobile smartphones. ... It will open up the door for brands and agencies to ultimately create better and more compelling web-like experiences for consumers on their mobile devices. And it will allow programmers with desktop-web skills to more easily make the jump into mobile-web development.
And I love the ShopSavvy app for Android. It will fundamentally change consumer behavior while shopping in a retail environment. Consumers use the mobile device's camera to scan barcodes to find the best prices for products. Being able to price-comparison shop from your mobile device while in store will not only force retailers to be better at competitive pricing, but it will also create more educated consumers.
My favorite brand example is currently Barnes & Noble's iPhone strategy. On one front, you had SnapTell's photo-recognition program offering retail shoppers instant price comparison on all books. Then Amazon, which actually acquired SnapTell, expanded its competitive offerings with the Kindle iPhone app. How did Barnes & Noble respond to these threats? It released a bookstore app that used photo recognition to deliver ratings and book info, minus price comparisons but plus on-device commerce. It then released an eReader application. B&N's eReader sits above the Kindle app at the top of the most popular apps in the "Books" vertical, and its bookstore app broke into the top 10 most-downloaded free apps right after launch. It's such a great story about competing through increased utility, which is a great strategy in today's digital marketplace.
The best, most exciting app I've seen is the Hidden Park. It combines great technological features (location, camera, accelerometer) with a narrative experience and without a hint of superfluousness (it's the best example of a great, relevant use of augmented reality).
I was going to add my voice to the concert of all the experts enthusiastic about augmented reality, social networks and geo-localization capabilities, both as stand-alone features or as powerful assets when combined. But what most excites me today is the foundation of a mobile exposure -- the basic step, the entry door. I am referring to the mobile site. It is the spine of the future "m dot" strategy and the backbone on which all applications, product sites, event operations, media plans will rely. With 270 million cellphone users in the U.S. (and a total of four billion worldwide), brands and advertisers can no longer wait to engage their consumers through mobile.
The technology/app/behavior that I've been most excited about recently is Foursquare, in essence because it is all those things. As a believer in combinatorial creativity, Foursquare is exciting precisely because it combines elements of 'geotility' [location-based usefulness], gaming, social networking, manufactured serendipity and more. By using a gamelike set of incentives to create a new kind of behavior -- checking in at a venue when you are out and broadcasting that check-in to your network -- they are creating a rich source of local data and delivering on some of the promise of the location-based social web.
Apps and location-based services matter most right now. Check out the Around Me iPhone app to see the power of LBS plus app plus marketing. Mobile video and augmented reality are all the rage right now and I don't think that will change much over the next 12 months. Optical messaging (2-D, 3-D, Microsoft TAG, etc.) is coming but the industry hasn't quite figured how to charge for it yet (it is free in Asia). ... All that aside, the most powerful and visionary mobile demo of the year was given at TED, when the MIT Media Lab previewed Sixth Sense.
First, Charmin's Sit or Squat application, which was built by Dense Brain. A smaller brand like Charmin gave a clear and on-equity reason for consumers to digitally engage by offering consumers a high-interest utility -- a bathroom-locater app. This won the P&G Global Media Award this year for best media idea. Touching lives, improving life. This app does just that. (P&G is our client.)
Second, CoverGirl's "Color Match" WAP site and "Olay for You" iPhone app, which was built by Talk Me Into It. The beauty aisle is an overwhelming experience, with lots of products by lots of companies with similar claims and benefits. ColorMatch is a tool she can use on her phone in store that helps her, based on her skin tone, get shade and color recommendations for foundation and lipstick (which is the No. 1 trial barrier for mass cosmetics).
I think the Layar Reality Browser technology is amazing. I like the approach they have chosen to let the development community create their own content layers. I also think the Absolut Drinkspiration iPhone app showed innovation and marketing savvy. Drinkspiration integrates mobile location-based services with social networks (Facebook and Twitter) and you can share what and where you are drinking or see what others are drinking around the globe. It also has drink recommendations based on your mood, time of day, weather, liquor type, bar type, bar vibe and more. Not only was it good for branding efforts, it also engaged the customer and presented the opportunity to drive location traffic.
Two things: First, Barnes & Noble leverages an innovative, yet simple technology from LinkMe to create an easy way for shoppers to find exactly what they're looking for. Here's how it works:
This is an early glimpse of retailers using technology to deliver a simple, relevant experience that, in turn, serves as a lead channel to both the physical and digital point of sale; the internet alone can't do this.
On the control side, DirectTV offers the ability to command and control devices and services in your home remotely. This is the first of many remote control-like offerings -- AT&T will offer something similar next year to tie its U-Verse offering with the iPhone,* and you can now also control your Sonos music player using an iPhone. You can brainstorm 'til the cows come home on what additional things you'd like to control or monitor from your mobile device.
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Editor's note: You can actually already control AT&T 's U-Verse service via an iPhone app, as well as via a web portal and other wireless devices.
What the heck are these people talking about?AUGMENTED REALITY: Augmented reality marries real-time video and digital information. On a desktop or laptop, you hold a black-and-white image or object (called a marker) up to a webcam to activate an on-screen 3-D image. On phones, AR sees the world through the mobile camera and can overlay relevant text, photos or hyperlinks based on GPS coordinates.
AROUND ME: An iPhone app that uses geolocation to tell you what's close by -- banks, coffee shops, theaters, restaurants -- and maps the route from you to them. It also taps into Wikipedia to find info about what's around you.
FOURSQUARE: A mobile-social location-based gaming app in which users "check in" from various venues, be it a park, a museum or a bar, and earn points and badges for doing so. It lets you to see where your friends are, making it an easy tool for quasi-serendipitous meetups. Big in New York and San Francisco.
GOMOBO: A service that ties into restaurant ordering systems to let users place orders online and via text message.
HIDDEN PARK: A iPhone gaming app that uses the phone's camera, accelerometer and GPS to create a fantasy game set in real locations: local parks.
LAYAR REALITY BROWSER: An augmented-reality platform. People look at their surroundings through their phone's video camera and see links, photos or text projected over specific locations. Others can build applications on it. Zillow, for example, has overlaid real-estate listings on the Layar platform.
SIXTH SENSE: A very-early-stage wearable device out of MIT's Media Lab that lets you create, trigger and interact with digital data -- on any surface or product -- using your hands. Think "Minority Report."
SNAPTELL: Visual product search. Snap a photo of an object, send the picture to SnapTell and get back product information and offers. Owned by Amazon.