Wednesday, November 24

2011's Mobile Killer App

It's the time of year when everyone publishes their 2011 Internet Predictions. I might as well start with Mobile.

2010 has actually been the Year of Mobile. First, this requires that we stop making fun of everyone who predicted it last year. Second, it requires that we actually figure out how to fit mobile into our marketing programs.

The Mobile Hype of the Year award was easily won by location-based social networking: Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places, Twitter Locations. Some marketers experimented with it, while the majority waited to see if anyone would actually use it.

According to Pew, only 7% of mobile users check-in anywhere. This isn't the mass audience required for mobile to be an effective marketing tool, although it hasn't stopped the Location Czars. Yelp now allows businesses to offer special promotions/offers to users who check-in. Foursquare is playing the loyalty card angle. Gowalla offers custom sponsorships of digital rewards. Facebook is testing Deals.

What about QR codes? These are the little square symbols showing up all over magazines and outdoor advertising. They are big in Japan. The idea is simple: take a picture of the symbol with your phone, send that image to the Interweb, and receive specific content back (video, text, link to mobile site). At least it sounds relatively simple until you realize that you first need to download a QR code reader to your phone -- of which there are many apps to pick from.

It doesn't help that Microsoft developed their own custom QR code format requiring their own proprietary mobile app, which they are aggressively promoting through print media partnerships. Anyone who lived through the Netscape/IE/AOL browser wars in the 90s knows how this will end. Nothing drags out technology adoption and stifles consumer usage like competing technologies that all do the same thing.

Consumers are Technolazy. They don't want to learn how to do something new. They don't download and install things without a real good reason. It isn't a surprise there are no published case studies on QR marketing programs. Its most effective result is freaking out your competitors and making them spend time rushing to launch their own QR-enabled print ads.

Mobile commerce has its place for some marketers, but only 20% of retailers currently offer it. Recent research shows that mobile has its largest opportunity in the aisle as a final point of purchase influence:
  • More than one third of smartphone-carrying consumers (who represent 24% of all U.S. consumers) are ready to use their mobile devices in ways that transform how they shop everywhere and, in particular, how they shop in retail stores.
  • New behaviors facilitated by mobility, all of which can take place in stores, include searching for price and product information, checking merchandise availability, and comparing prices at nearby stores, browsing product reviews, and purchasing goods.
  • Consumers using multiple channels sequentially as they move from Web to store will give way to concurrent omnichannel behaviors as consumers bring their comfortable use of m-commerce with them into the store. These new behaviors will exert pressures that weaken the store's immediate influence on purchase decisions "at the shelf."
Influencing in-aisle purchase decisions is the Holy Grail for marketers and the reason so much money is spent on shelf talkers, hang tags, and end caps. Mobile offers the ability to deliver content to consumers in-store, without being subjected to the retailer's promotion restrictions and costs. Marketers should focus their mobile efforts on delivering branded content in this environment.

The majority of mobile users plan to leverage their phone to compare prices and read product reviews. This could provide enough value for even the Technolazies to try it out. There are already a couple apps available to scan UPC codes and receive competitive pricing, although they also suffer from the QR Code Clutter adoption barrier.

Amazon just upgraded their iPhone app with UPC scanning/price checking capabilities. eBay recently acquired RedLaser, which will allow their apps to do the same thing. Enabling existing apps with these features will be much more successful, since users won't need to download anything additional. Their success is only limited by the number of users who have them installed.

Which brings me to the Killer Mobile App for 2011 = Facebook. Yeah, I know, Facebook was the killer mobile app of 2010. They already have the largest penetration and usage of any mobile app. Their users are already accustomed to interacting with the real world via their phones (taking pictures) and uploading images via the app. Introducing new techno-functionality is as easy as the next app upgrade.

Facebook is in a unique position to push any mobile technology they want. It doesn't mean everyone will use it. How many of your Fbook friends have checked into a Place recently? But enabling a consumer behavior that is already ingrained -- in-aisle mobile information -- is much easier than trying to create new ones.

In order to avoid being trumped by the Next Big Internet Thing, Facebook must expand their reach beyond a big website. Don't scoff, AOL, Yahoo, MySpace, and GeoCities all thought they were irreplaceable also. Mobile is a natural for reaching consumers beyond their computers. Facebook is a natural for reaching consumers with mobile.

Facebook has been very public about their intent to not rely on advertising dollars as a revenue source. Even less so for mobile advertising. Mobile commerce could become Facebook's killer revenue stream. Maybe direct sales (but probably not). Maybe commissions based on mobile shopping referrals (more likely). But offer marketers the opportunity to influence purchase behavior in-store? That provides a social ROI that would actually be worth spending money on.

1 comment:

carlos said...

i never have any social account on myspace,friendster, twitter you name it.. but i register facebook on 2010, because its connect me with old friends/lost contact person.. rather than new friends in others social web