2018 mobile marketing predictions from 18 industry veterans
What are the mobile and location-based trends that will take shape in 2018? Columnist Aaron Strout taps forward-thinking professionals in the industry to share their thoughts on what to expect.
On a lot of different fronts, 2017 was quite a year. We witnessed a real estate mogul/reality TV host get elected president of the United States. A new form of currency — Bitcoin — rose in price from $1,000 in January to $19,191.50 in mid-December and then back to $15,000 as the year closed out. The #MeToo movement saw a massive housecleaning of leaders in politics, business and Hollywood as allegations of sexual harassment came to light. And on a more germane front, Apple showed us the future of consumer facial recognition with the launch of its new X as it celebrated its 10th year of the iPhone.
The penetration of smartphone usage in the US among millennials hit 93.1 percent, according to eMarketer. GenXers were close behind at 85.1 percent, with Baby Boomers still lagging significantly at 64.4 percent. (No wonder they’re still writing checks at the checkout line of the grocery store.) In the shocking/not shocking column, Gartner confirmed that 99.6 percent of all new smartphones shipped in the world are run on either Android or iOS.
When it comes to consumption, Comscore told us that mobile apps account for 57 percent of all US digital media usage, so clearly, mobile apps aren’t dying anytime soon. And 85 percent of US adults now get their news on a mobile device compared, with 54 percent in 2013, according to Pew. Mobile data traffic around the world will increase 700 percent between 2016 and 2021, according to Cisco’s “Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast.” And when it comes to mobile advertising, eMarketer shared some juicy stats earlier this year, noting that in 2017, advertisers would spend $24 billion on programmatic mobile ads — up from $18 billion last year.
As much as we all love data, it’s even more powerful when industry experts look into their crystal balls and tell us what they see coming down the pike. And because it’s 2018, this year I asked 18 accomplished business people across numerous industries to give me a mobile or location-based prediction. As usual, this group didn’t disappoint:
Author & founder, Convince & Convert
2018 will be the year that “mobile first” actually takes root at the UI level. Designers, developers, marketers, Facebook ad designers and many other marcom workers will finally start using the mobile view as the primary visual canvas, with additional features added for desktop display.
After all, if you say “mobile first” but you’re constantly using a 34-inch, 4K monitor to create everything, you’re not really mobile first, are you? This year, that’s going to shift, and you’ll see true mobile-first creative processes among the multitude of folks who are not app developers.
Location-based targeted marketing toward passengers in vehicles will soon become a reality, and I believe we will see more of this in 2018. Transportation companies, for instance, could reduce costs to people traveling on toll roads to allow them to opt into seeing or hearing targeted advertising in their autonomous/semi-autonomous vehicles in exchange for a cheaper toll on the expressway. Advertisers could then tailor their advertising to the location of the car with suggestions such as, “X percent off of your order if you place your order now and take the next exit off the Expressway.”
Many people, of course, for privacy and security, opt out of location-based marketing services. However, for the majority of the consumer population that does not opt out of these services, and what we’ve seen so far with location-based marketing, this kind of location-based marketing in real time is not far off at all.
Global media director, Intel*
We’ll see convergence in the industry, with more ISPs and wireless providers nabbing up content creators. The new US tax laws just signed in mean corporations should have more dollars at hand to purchase companies. We will see more solutions like Oath, which brought together Verizon and Yahoo/AOL. These new companies will then be better positioned to leverage their data with marketing solutions, challenging privacy standards.
And speaking of privacy, on the other end of the spectrum in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), I think we’ll see our first GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) fine for a mobile privacy violation. When you invent a plane, the plane crash is also invented. When you pass sweeping legislation like GDPR, you expect enforcement, and therefore, fines with it.
Senior analyst, eMarketer**
Location data is primarily used in advertising to provide real-time context. This “geotargeting” of ads can be effective, but ultimately, the biggest value in location data may be in creating audiences and consumer path maps. For instance, someone who visits a ski resort is likely to be a skier even if they don’t need skis that moment.
In 2018, more advertisers will collect data for segmentation purposes, but they’ll have to do it in a way that gives users a clear opt-in. That means a lot of the big platforms that collect this data to provide services will continue to have an advantage in mobile marketing.
Author, chef and chief chef officer of Cocina
Given my passion for cooking, it won’t surprise you that my prediction is food-related. For 2018, I expect that we will see more mobile-friendly spaces that allow for easier management of recipes and tracking down fresh/local ingredients.
For the recipe management piece, I know there are platforms like Pinterest that do a decent job allowing users to collect recipes, but they don’t easily let users collect recipes from places like Cocina (disclosure: my new venture) or Food Network and then drag/drop and add pictures and notes easily. Regarding the sourcing of local/fresh ingredients, I see a need for a mobile app that allows users to easily find ingredients for a recipe and then track them down locally, provide Waze directions or purchase through a service like Instacart.
I mentioned my new venture Cocina in my prediction above. To that end, in 2018 I envision there will be mobile-first destinations like this that marry food and lifestyle. But I can see this happening across other passion areas as well.
Blockchain technology will make its way to the digital advertising ecosystem to begin combating mobile ad fraud. Ad fraud costs the mobile industry hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
One of the more exciting blockchain initiatives that I have been following is XCHNG, built by Kochava (disclosure: our mobile tracking partner). XCHNG is an open-source software project leveraging the power of blockchain and seeks to standardize a workflow of buying and selling ads through a smart contract IO.
Author & chief content officer, MarketingProfs
We’ll see digital marketing and media increasingly integrated into offline, in-person experiences through both mobile and geolocation-based marketing, making for a stronger in-person experience.
In other words, mobile tech is the connective tissue that links online with offline. For example, we’ll increasingly see AR [augmented reality] at live cultural or sporting events, professional events and trade shows, or at museums or other cultural sites; and we’ll see the use of beacons to personalize the retail or in-store experience.
The more sophisticated use of technology will be a boon for marketers, of course. But it’ll also create a better, richer experience for all of us as individuals. (Because we marketers are also consumers, of course.)
The question will be: Where does this end? Where is the balance? When does the interactivity become too much, undermining the experience for customers that we are privileged to have?
So as much as we marketers see opportunity, we also need to rein our enthusiasm in and only do what truly does augment the customer experience, and not add more friction or annoyance. I believe that a go-slow approach is always warranted — in mobile marketing in 2018, and in life!
VP of product, HYP3R
In 2018, we will see a shift towards smarter marketing. For brands with IRL foot traffic, it’s essential to bridge the physical and digital worlds with proactive social media experiences. Location-based marketing (or “geosocial” marketing as we like to call it) will become a priority as companies embrace the benefits of personalized engagement, global analytics and hyper-targeted amplification.
Big data and applied artificial intelligence will help assist, augment and automate smart marketing workflows that would otherwise not be possible at scale.
Author & board member, SheWorx
The number of Alexa users has skyrocketed in recent months. 2017 also saw exponential growth in the number of Alexa “skills,” with the estimated total now at over 25,000. Yet, according to a recent Voicebot report, the majority of skills have no users.
2018 will be all about getting to know Alexa better. Alexa will become a critical component of our personal mobile ecosystem, and we will find her to be more useful than the device she runs on. We will be grateful that she helps us detach from a screen. Brands will also figure out how to jump into Alexa’s world in a much bigger way.
Founding partner at Kaleido Insights, founder of Catalyst Companies
Marketers will be doing a push towards voice-activated marketing, using smart speakers. Over the year, these systems will combine with traditional web-based apps, providing a seamless customer experience and marketing experience using voice and handheld apps in mobile.
CMO, Dynamic Signal**
Just a few years ago, only 13 percent of employees regularly visited the intranet, [according to a survey by Prescient Digital Media]. And that doesn’t even account for the millions of employees without a corporate email address or access to their company’s intranet. Intranet engagement continues to decline and employee expectations have shifted as the smartphone has revolutionized the way we consume and share information.
In 2018 more companies will recognize the urgent need to better align employees to company goals by leveraging mobile to increase reach and efficacy. Organizations have to market to their employees (not just their customers) with a top-down, mobile strategy. Engaged employees will expand your mobile marketing reach if they’re informed, feel valued, and can conveniently share approved news and information directly from their mobile experience.
2018 will mark a complete shift in the way we think about location-based search marketing. The days of typing something into a search engine are quickly being replaced by voice- and image-based queries.
From a location-based perspective, this means I can simply speak into a system like Alexa, Siri or Cortana and have my request be combined with my geodata to deliver search results that are nearby. Voice searches already make up 20 percent of mobile queries today.
The same goes for images. Companies are investing heavily in building out image databases of the products, menu items and services they sell to enable the camera lenses on our smartphones to generate relevant search results when recognized. Watch for the augmented reality providers to leverage these capabilities in 2018 as well.
SVP strategic communications, Turner Broadcasting
The future of mobile content is the trend toward the personalization of the content experience. We are living in a time where there is a proliferation of devices and platforms that allow us as individuals to consume what we want, when we want, where we want it.
Some people are calling it “alone together,” but I think of it as the personalization of the content experience. Either way, this is the future: me watching the Yankees game on the smart TV; my son watching Cartoon Network on his phone; my other son watching a football game on his iPad; and my wife reading on the Kindle. And this is happening while we are in the same room, at the same time.
Head of US partnerships, Pinterest
The most innovative marketers understand that the future of search and discovery is visual, not keywords. Visual technology is changing the way we communicate, with advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. People are increasingly using visual discovery tools that create a similar experience to in-store browsing, and marketers are looking for new ways to capture those people in moments when they don’t know exactly what products they want to buy.
At Pinterest, 80 percent of people access our platform via mobile, and we’re seeing visual searches grow nearly 70 percent year over year with over 300 million monthly visual searches. This year, we expect to see continued engagement from consumers with visual search as they seek personalized shopping and discovery experiences.
Author, CMO of BevNet
A big dilemma in the food and beverage spaces is whether or not to go direct to consumer. One of the biggest decisions is whether they will do it in-house or via an established channel, like Amazon. The trade-off? A coveted direct relationship with the customer. This is all second nature for tech, but problems like shipping weights and shelf-stability have made this decision more challenging and caused these industries to lag.
Look for experimentation online via mobile web and apps, and for more startups and established brands to hire development, e-commerce and user experience competencies to try to capitalize on the opportunity to own the relationship with their customers. Companies like Soylent and Dirty Lemon, which is available to its customers only via texting, lead the charge, but it’s still early days.
Author & CEO, PureMatter
The smartphone’s success over the next few years will start to become truly frictionless. The invisible innovations should enable the smartphone to continue absorbing the functionality of an ever-broader array of physical objects, and displace the PC as the preferred device.
This means tablets and phones will start to dominate the majority of the business and personal users. Apps that create, speak and build media will become easier and more fun. Voice and AI will start to work more harmoniously, creating more accuracy for just about any task you provide, from dictation to making things actionable through our virtual AI assistants.
And apps will continue to work together as the phone platforms build more ways to connect your most desired action. The ball is in motion — apps will one day go away, and actions will become the new app to become truly frictionless.
Author & chief strategy officer, Broadcasting Board of Governors
The evolving information battlefield is the least understood component of our ever-changing, 16-year war on terror and extremists. Like any startup, new extremist groups are learning from ISIS’s successes and failures, using multiple platforms to perfect audience segmentation.
New extremists are experimenting with platforms like Sarahah (“Honesty” in Arabic), which allows users to send messages anonymously to one person. The platform provides a honeypot approach, in which they can A/B test different messages to see what sticks — taking a page out of a master marketers handbook. ISIS 3.0 can fail, quickly measure what resonates, and retool their pitch before the activity is detected by officials. Speed kills.
VP marketing, Wente Vineyards*
In the next several years, mobile technology will continue to enhance at a ferocious rate. It will become a truly integrated part of one’s marketing mix, versus seen as a separate mobile strategy.
The Asian market is already way more advanced than the US, with WhatsApp being your all-encompassing experience. Marketers will continue to find ways to seamlessly integrate mobile into their consumer experience, especially in physical locations. Use of NFC (near-field communication) and geotargeting to attract customers to retail stores and then engage with check-ins, help recommend products, and encourage social sharing will be key.
2018 should be a transformational year. Let’s keep a close eye on all these trends. I will plan to write more about three or four of them over the course of the year.
*Client of W2O Group
**Partner of W2O Group