Apple is widely credited with introducing the smartphone, and there is no doubt that its iPhone took the world by storm in 2007. But IBM actually had the first smartphone--the Simon Personal Communicator--which was introduced in 1992. Unfortunately, it was just a tad expensive: $899 with a service contract. Because few are even aware of this precursor to Apple's successful launch of the iPhone, it's hardly relevant--except for the fact that Apple and IBM continue to duke it out for dominance in the smartphone (and tablet) space.
A lot has happened in the mobile marketing landscape since 2007. It's a trend that just keeps on trending and one that marketers are wise to stay on top of, says Naresh Vissa, the author of Fifty Shades of Marketing: Whip Your Business Into Shape & Dominate Your Competition and the founder and CEO of Krish Media & Marketing.
"Television is dying. Radio is dying. Print media is dying. But smartphone adoption is rapidly picking up domestically," says Vissa. According to Pew Research Center, 64% of Americans owned a smartphone in 2015.
"An entire industry worth trillions of dollars has burgeoned," says Vissa. "Some mobile-dependent applications-like photo messaging network Snapchat and ridesharing service Uber-have valuations above $25 billion each." Complementary products-such as payment processors, Bluetooth devices, and smartwatches-are creating additional new markets, he says.
"As people get more comfortable with their smartphones, and as developers improve the ease of use, mobile will be where business is done. Already, payments, banking, dating, communication, networking, art, writing, recording, and more are on mobile platforms," says Vissa.
The Year in Review
The past year has seen a continued movement to mobile, as marketers in businesses-large and small and across all industries-have scrambled to find ways to effectively engage with their audiences on the small devices that are, increasingly, always within reach. Marketers did this with a combination of video, native ads, and in-app promotions in 2015.
Google threw a wrench into the works of marketers early in 2015 with another algorithm change that quickly became known as "mobilegeddon." The change meant that marketers who had not yet optimized their content to display well in the mobile environment would be penalized in search results. But, while the initial response could be called panic, the impact wasn't as dramatic as initially feared. It was a move, though, that brought attention to the growing importance of mobile.
"Mobile programmatic advertising took off, and it's exploding," says Peggy Anne Salz, an expert in mobile search, mobile marketing, and mobile technologies; the founder of MobileGroove; and the author of The Everything Guide to Mobile Apps. But she adds, "It's not just advertising; I always say that whatever is advertising also works for content. It's important for publishers and other companies in the ecosystem to take advantage of these platforms and technologies," she says. That means being "content relevant and appropriately social-but not creepy."
The big players haven't failed to take notice of the large impact and future potential of mobile. Salz notes that Verizon "went on a spending spree" in 2015-purchasing AOL for $4.4 billion and Millennial Media, an ad network, for $238 million also in May. It's a move that she says will allow Verizon "to leverage its database of user and subscriber data as part of a larger play to help marketers deliver highly targeted mobile ads to highly defined audience segments, much like Facebook does."
And that's really a good way to think about the possibilities and potential that mobile holds for 21st-century marketers. Just as Google AdWords, Facebook, and, increasingly, other social media channels allow marketers to finely target their marketing messages to select audience segments, so will mobile. Better yet, mobile will be able to contextually deliver these messages based on where people are and what they may be doing.
A Look Ahead
Wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) were both touted as new trends to watch in 2015; neither has seen critical mass yet. In November 2015, Apple announced discounts on the Apple Watch in specific markets, a move that left investors-and others-wondering if the concept will really gain traction. Do consumers really want to wear their technology? Despite the fact that many are physically tied to their mobile devices, the answer to this question is still somewhat unclear. Virtual-reality and augmented-reality app developers are hoping that consumers will adapt to wearing headsets that take them on increasingly realistic adventures.
In terms of the IoT, Gartner, Inc. predicts that it still holds promise and forecasts that "6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day." This means that consumers will, increasingly, be able to use their mobile devices to control things-cars, lighting, and a range of innovative applications that have yet to emerge.
With any of these innovations, context is critical, stresses Salz. The future of mobile, she says, will be all about context: "Marketers must always be focused on what is contextually relevant, because we, the people, are in control-and whatever we don't like, we're going to turn off in our minds." Who needs ad blockers, she says, when consumers block banner ads and other distractions automatically? "They try to grab my screen, and I just go to another page. I'm not dissing display, but native advertising is much more effective on mobile."
And as "mobile" begins to mean so many things, Salz says, "Being contextually relevant is the only way to get someone's attention."
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)