Well, it looks like 2011 has been a pivotal year for mobile marketing, as detailed by Juniper Research (here’s a summary on it from Marketwire). Juniper is saying that the mobile space is predicted to have a $15 billion retail opportunity in 2012, which is a 50% increase from 2011. Clearly the mobile marketing space is growing almost exponentially, and advertisers and marketers are taking notice.
The big event I can think of this year, especially with regards to my own personal purchases and lifestyles, was that the iPhone finally opened up to service providers other than AT&T. As a side note, I could never really understand why Apple cut that exclusivity deal way back when the iPhone first launched to just have AT&T as the exclusive partner — I’m sure the money was good, but it really did limit their audience, and I’m sure the decision was frustrating to those that were already rabid Apple fans, but could not change providers because they were already under contract. Heck, even if they could, AT&T network reliability had the reputation in L.A. (and other cities) of not being that dependable vs. some of their competitors. What good is an iPhone if you can barely use it? So I think Apple did itself a disservice with that deal, for some short-term revenue that they really didn’t need.
However, it did have the effect of building up long-term demand, so that when the product finally was available, we all went for it. Case in point — I am a Verizon user, and held off on a smart phone upgrade to wait until the iPhone was finally something I could get on my plan. I did have the chance to go to Android, but having already experienced the iPod Touch (essentially, a laptop computer you could fit in your pocket, which could play music and go on the internet over wifi), I was pretty sold on the concept of the iPhone at that point. I’m no early adopter or big Apple fan, but by March of last year, even I was won over by the concept of the iPhone and the lifestyle changes it enabled. I bought mine as soon as I could.
And how many other people out there were like me? I think a lot, because iPhone app sales and downloads jumped in a big way in 2011, and this is borne out by Juniper’s research. Per my earlier blog post about mobile penetration in major age groups, smart phones are now a must-have accessory for a majority of the first-world population, not just a luxury product, a toy to show off, or a fashion statement. People own these things everywhere, and we’re using them to do real business, purchases, even our reading — heck, I read most of my books on the Kindle software now on my iPhone, and won’t even bother to buy or look at the hard copy.
Smart retailers are all over this. The company I work for? We’re seeing big increases in our mobile inventory, and advertisers are buying that inventory in levels I have never seen before. What a change a year makes. Heck, 6 years ago, I was asked by the tech department to test mobile ads (successfully), but we had no interest from advertisers at the time. Even a year ago, we barely saw any demand for mobile vs. web inventory. But this year, demand is shooting through the roof. There is a clear recognition by advertisers that mobile devices, whether they be smartphones, tablets, Kindles/e-book readers, and whatever comes next (heck, even laptops that are roaming on a mobile card) are where we are going to see the most productive branding and purchase decision-making influence.
Final example — I was at Babies R Us the other day, picking out strollers, and I used the barcode scan feature of the Amazon app to very quickly pull up reviews on strollers and use that to influence my buying decision. It was very effective, and while Amazon didn’t get any sales from it, it certainly boosted their metrics and made me very aware of the price spread in the market. Potentially, if Babies R Us didn’t have the best price, I could have gone with Amazon. Clear proof of the life-changing effectiveness of the smartphone/mobile sphere.
Until next time — Glenn Highcove