But all things change and mature. While the mobile industry as we know it today is still quite young, there is a new opportunity out there – a new technology boom on the horizon that will lead to an entirely new set of opportunities for brands to interact with consumers. But before I get to that, let’s keep in mind that we, as marketers, still have room for improvement in how we manage the consumer experience within mobile.
If mobile is planned properly it should create an interaction. That is the power of the device. It has opened a new channel for brands to connect with consumers in a very different manner than any other platform in the past. Planned properly, leveraging all the unique elements of mobility and that fact rises to the surface. Plan mobile like any other medium, even a digital medium like desktop, and you’ll see the success and engagement fall faster than the hype around Google Glass. In 2017 we can no longer treat mobile like a check box. The thing we lose sight of most often is what the device means to the consumer. Those insights are just as important and relevant to the topic of mobile marketing than 3rd party data points that are used to build targeting stacks.
Imagine yourself in a focus group – you’re the study of one for a moment. What is the one thing you couldn’t live without? Something tangible. More often than not it will always come back to the mobile phone. Think of all companies that have grown out of mobile technology – Snapchat, Uber, Postmates. Go down the line. How much of your time spent on your mobile devices is with companies that exist solely on the mobile platform? They were born as a direct result of consumer’s behavior. Consumers want more accessibility. They want more convenience. They want it all now, in the palm of their hand. That is mobility. This is why it is an essential part of our lives. It is the first thing you check in the morning and last thing you look at before you hit the bed for your few hours of slumber. In total, the average consumer spends roughly 3 hours a day with their eyes focused on their smartphones.
There is one trend, though, that should be able to tell us where we’re headed next. Smartphone sales were up only 7% YOY between 2015 and 2016. This leveling off in sales should not really surprise anyone. The majority of adults 18+ in the US already own a phone. And while the software driving the devices continues to get better by offering more dynamic features the truth is that more adults are holding onto the devices and updating the OS. The market has stalled on innovation in form but that is a topic for another time (where are the bendable screens folks?).
So if the smartphone market is hitting a plateau does that lessen the opportunities for brands to engage with consumers? No. The opportunity for brands to have a more immediate relationship with consumers is greater now than ever before. Mobile specific behaviors have given way to more sophisticated solutions around location, creative, the rise of video and more. In fact, the mobile phone has become the Swiss Army knife of the digital age. In the beginning it pulled in traditional mediums like radio, print and tv and put them through a mobile lens. Spotify became our radio. Flipboard became our print. And YouTube became our TV. Now, through IoT, mobile has become the tool to connect all things. New technology is coming into the consumer’s field of vision. Hardware that doesn’t live on the five-inch screen but satisfies the thrust consumers have for more technology that unlocks new experiences.
And this is where I circle back to when I mentioned the new technology sitting on the horizon. While mobile isn’t going anywhere any time soon, there will be something that grows alongside of it, and that will be in the form of Artificial Intelligence. I’m not going deep down the rabbit hole here, discussing deep learning platforms or artificial consciousness or singularity (you know, like Sky Net). The AI in focus now is around simple voice assistance. Platforms like Siri, ViV and Google Now, have helped products like Amazon Echo or Google Home come into market, and there is a real desire for consumer friendly AI.
Amazon has led the way with Alexa serving up information and entertainment in the home. Roughly 9MM Echos have been sold with the product often out of stock across the country. Within less than 2 years, consumers have jumped at this new technology and brands should be considering how to leverage this platform. It is more of a natural pivot from mobile than most would think. When Apple rolled out Siri most of us didn’t know what to do with it, but over time we began to see the utility provided from our virtual assistant. Engagement went up and a new behavior was born. Ironically, we cut down talking on our phones in favor of apps like FB Messenger and WhatsApp long ago but now we’re back to voice again. This time it’s with a piece of AI. After we found use for phone based voice assistants, Amazon, and now Google, have taken it one step further with a more robust AI solution. Connecting to commerce and branded experiences, Amazon Echo has brought a new found level of convenience and utility into the home. There are now more than 10,000 skills on Alexa. Some are a bit silly and not worth activating, but others are incredibly useful. Brands need to take a long hard look at what opportunities these skills provide. Some may argue against this notion, but I believe that AI driven elements like skills for Alexa and Google Home, as well as ChatBot across Facebook Messenger, are the new solution to branded apps. The level of utility possible across AI is greater than anything we’ve seen in the past 10 years of mobile.
The penetration of mobile devices along with the rise of AI will continue to create challenges for brands. How will brands juggle mobility and the rapid evolution of technology? By being nimble and understanding that any sort of activation has to have the consumer at the core. Plan mobile accordingly with the native functionality of the device in mind. Embrace the simple elements of AI as the next marketing opportunity, because none of it will be going away any time soon.
The world of technology and the shift to mobility and mobile first brands has been exciting, and the future will be thrilling.