Five Mobile Trends for 2010

How the Computer in Your Pocket Is Changing Your Business

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Advertising is not what it was ten years ago. The past decade has seen the advent of social computing and mobile technology, two forces that changed the game forever. What will the future hold? On our respective blogs, MobileBehavior and Organic, have been tracking developments in mobile that will affect advertising in 2010 and beyond. From point-of-sale to out-of-home, here are the top five ways we see the device formerly known as a phone changing the game this year.

1. Mobile will completely revolutionize the way local advertisers can connect with potential customers.

While online display advertising has been incredibly effective for many companies, it hasn't offered all that much value to small, independently owned businesses. For one, the web is good at scale, not so good at precision. It's difficult for mom-and-pops to reach the relatively small audiences that might reasonably be expected to patronize their stores.

A number of new location-based services are beginning to provide attractive alternatives for such small-scale advertisers. Foursquare, for one, allows small business to target offers based on a user's actual proximity to their location. These offers can deliver heightened relevance by appealing to a player's status, nearby friends, or demonstrated preferences. A similar service, Gowalla, has experimented with branded badges and actual prizes that users can win if they check in at a location. Google is also catering more to local businesses by making their Place pages more mobile-friendly. Advertisers can now create Place pages that are accessible through Google Maps, attach mobile coupons, and even include QR code stickers in their window that lead you to these pages.

These examples are really only scratching the surface of what's possible for local businesses through mobile. Expect to see more mom-and-pops jump on these platforms in 2010.

2. Growth in adoption of mobile shopping applications will continue to alter in-store consumer behavior, increasing the significance of mobile in point of sale decisions making.

There are a number of mobile applications and tools emerging that consumers can use to make their shopping trips more efficient, productive, and fun. First, there are mobile price comparison apps such as ShopSavvy, Red Laser, Amazon Mobile. These allow shoppers to compare prices at a given location against nearby competitors and online properties -- an incredibly powerful proposition. There are also crowdsourcing tools like Fashism and BazaarVoice's MobileVoice that help shoppers get outside opinions and feedback before purchasing. These types of apps are prime territory for marketers looking to inject a brand into a target audience's psyche at a critical juncture in their decision making process.

Then there are, of course, mobile coupons, which are finally getting some traction. Zavers, Yowza, mobiQpons and Cellfire are actively signing up small businesses, and it's only a matter of time before big box stores get on board. Add increased consumer adoption, POS redemption infrastructure and a social dynamic and the appeal to marketers will be greater than ever.

All of the above will provide inroads for more effective CRM, specifically, loyalty programs. Consumers checking their phone just before they buy something will create opportunity to deliver more effective personalized messaging derived from prior purchase decisions.

3. Brands and agencies will continue to build branded apps, but will also have more attractive display media options, thanks to Google.

In 2009, we saw a number of brands scramble to check mobile off their lists by creating apps. But now that the marketplace is crowded, many will take a step back and look at media-buying options instead. Google recognizes this; it's why they recently acquired AdMob, i.e., to get a corner on all that in-app content. Google will also build up their network of native app content by making development and deployment of ad-supported apps on their Android platform much easier than it currently is on the iPhone. This is all with the aim of more effectively extending it's AdSense platform to mobile.

Yes, you may say that consumers are obviously keen on micropayments for mobile content. They did, after all, spend $6.2 billion on apps this year, according to Gartner. But consumers are even more fond of free, and in 2010 one way Google will challenge the iPhone is by creating a competitive alternative business model for developers. And where good apps are, consumers go and dollars follow.

Most major carriers and handset manufacturers have multiple Android devices slated for 2010 launch dates, so expect Android's user-base to catch up to the iPhone's by the end of 2010. The web-based Android app store is a hurdle to the experience and doesn't come close to the experience of the iTunes' desktop app. If Google can fix this, then developers may start putting Android first on their product roadmaps.

4. Advertising's outdoor real estate is fast becoming another connected channel capable of delivering high-fidelity digital experiences as unique, varied and measurable as more well-established mediums.

Outdoor advertising has traditionally been very difficult to measure. People move past signs through various modes of conveyance at varying rates of speed making it difficult to know who actually notices a given media unit. Add line of sight and dwell time, and the problem is further compounded.

Digital out-of-home (DOOH) signage is changing all this, and mobile is becoming the key to true measurement and engagement. Using their handsets, once-passive viewers can actually interact with an ad now. For example, Toyota released an iPhone app that let users to draw on the Thompson-Reuters screen in Times Square. Nike's "Chalkbot" allowed cycling fans to have a robot stencil messages of support for Tour de France riders on the pavement via SMS or Twitter. Vans' "Be Here" allowed its users to submit video, photo, or text messages from any of the brand's online properties to be displayed on a digital billboard in Times Square.

In all of the previous examples, mobile served as the glue or connective tissue between outdoor and the web. Indeed, the real potential of DOOH is to blend the digital with the physical world in public spaces. It will also eventually allow advertisers to customize once-mass ads to specific individuals based on data that their phone can reveal about them.

5. Consumers have new power to express their opinions through social technologies from anywhere, anytime. Smart marketers will do all they can to encourage and act on this real-time feedback.

While the crowds may not always be wise, they sure are vocal, and mobile devices are their microphones. In unprecedented numbers, consumers are using mobile-enabled publishing platforms, mainly Twitter, to instantly share their thoughts about products, services and brands.

The best companies have started closing this loop by listening to and acting on consumer's feedback. Some are even creating dedicated apps and services to collect it. Taxihack is a service for commenting live on NYC taxi drivers. SeeClickFix and CitySourced both give users mobile applications for reporting things like potholes and graffiti while out on the town. AT&T recently used a similar tactic with an iPhone app, Mark the Spot, which crowdsources areas of weak reception.

Much of the power seen in these mobile applications is through context attached to consumer feedback. Universal Theatres relies on a SMS response system to test out trailers and gauge audience response during screenings. This in the moment feedback makes for a much more accurate representation of viewers true opinions.

Whether brands carve out a dedicated mobile channel or simply rely on Twitter customer service, we'll see more embracing the feedback loop. The challenge going forward will be an internal one, setting up efficient systems to make sure consumer feedback can be acted on and implemented once it's heard.

Dan Neumann is a strategist, emerging platforms at Organic, and Allison Mooney is VP-emerging trends at MobileBehavior. Caleb Kramer, editor and trend analyst at MobileBehavior, also contributed to this report.
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