Tamara Bousquet, one of the wisest marketers I've met, had one request when we were putting together a slide deck for a co-presentation at an iMedia Agency Summit master class: "Let's not try to predict what will happen in mobile more than six months from now -- no one knows," said Bousquet, executive media director of MEA Digital.
We didn't that day, but questions about mobile's future are posed on a daily basis. So in writing my new book, I asked a number of influential marketers the question.
Here are some of the tips offered by some of the more than three dozen global marketers who were interviewed.
Expect the previously passive activity of watching television to turn even more interactive
"Sports are all about live," said John Kosner, ESPN's general manager of digital and print media. "You have to watch and experience the game live. You want to talk about it while it's happening. You want more information about the game or other games taking place at the same time."
Michael Bayle, nearly a mobile lifer and now senior vice president and general manager of mobile at ESPN, says that the convergence of mobile and social changed the time-shifting DVR model almost as fast as it appeared.
"I would argue that's the biggest interruption that has happened is because of the success of mobile," he says. "One to three years ago, one could comfortably record their favorite NBA game, baseball game, what have you, and then relax and come home at night and watch it -- and choose if you wish to forward through the commercials and just get to the highlights. That's almost impossible now because of mobile and the instant access to Twitter and other means of social media."
"Social is critical to be successful in as much as fans by nature will be social, either touting or taunting their friends or loved ones or even finding new friends just by the nature of how people rally around teams so to speak," said Bayle. "I think there's a concept here...the concept of the 'game around the game.'"
Count on a continued evolution of the shopping experience
Consumers armed with mobile devices research, scan, post, and buy at retail locations. Some barely talk to anyone. That group will grow, according to marketer Rick Mathieson.
"When you go into the dressing room, you'll be able to capture video or images of yourself in the store mirror and instantly send it out to your social network for instant feedback on whether the style is 'fly' or 'forgettaboutit,'" said Mathieson. "If desired, you'll be able to grab accessories from the catalogue and superimpose them on your reflection using augmented reality and you in the store, and your friends out in the world, will be able to have a real-time shopping experience. Depending on what your friends say, or maybe despite what they say, if you decide you want that shirt, you might throw it in your bag or just wear it and walk right out of the store.
"New-fangled theft deterrent technology will be disabled, and the transaction will happen automatically and wirelessly, perhaps on the fly or with the tap of your phone on a NFC reader, because you've entered your credit card information into a web portal associated with the app or because you have mobile wallet capabilities," said Mathieson. "And you're on your way -- without digging for cash, writing a check, swiping a card or ever again standing in line. At every point of communications -- advertising or retail -- you will be able to take action through the mobile device in unprecedented ways. It will be your remote control for the entire world."
Plan for more "context" and permission-based initiatives as part of mobile marketing programs
For years, mobile has been called the consumer's most personal device because of the custom way a mobile subscriber can have the phone ring, present itself when it is turned on, and include (or not include) apps and widgets.
Now with a consumer granting access, brands can take into account a user's history, interests and location.
"With permission granted, tailoring could include the recognition of such conditions as weather or time of day," says Nathanial Bradley, Hipcricket chief technology officer. "If you look at the progression of that targeting, it has to do with whether the sun was shining when you invoked a mobile marketing campaign, the last time you bought donuts it was raining, whether the stock market was up or down or whether your sales were up or down during a particular marketing campaign or mobile delivery.
"All those ambient conditions contribute to a targeting that will become more and more enhanced," said Bradley. "You can see in the future that if I picked up your cell phone by accident, it would be absolutely worthless to me because of the amount of targeting and the amount of customization of content that goes from device to device."
Expect a blending of online and mobile
From his home country of Brazil, Terence Reis has been driving mobile forward as a Mobile Marketing Association managing director and now director of operations and partner at pontomobi interactive.
"I see one big trend -- which is the convergence between 'standard internet' and mobile, turning everything into one streamlined flow of content, powered by the cloud," said Reis. "Our challenge will be how to create a story that's coherent among many devices and screens. And sensors. Everywhere. Not in the next 18 months, though. But the smartphones and feature phones will be senseless at some point, and we'll find out that we don't have a mobile or a phone or whatever in our hands. We have a PID -- sorry for the awkward acronym: A personal identification device."
Don't be surprised if what's next is already here
In her roles at Microsoft, Barbara Williams has seen what's hot and not all across the globe. She has also seen lots of changes. Surprisingly, she isn't necessarily expecting much more soon.
"I don't know if innovation comes in new technology or combining what we have already in meaningful ways," Williams said. "People were throwing things against the wall. But when you think about it more strategically and think about the customer journey and that funnel or whatever shape you want to give it, you're going to start combining things in different ways that ultimately will create something new but components of it are known and exist today."
Of course, Bousquet is right that no one can predict the future. But as long as marketers are asking the question, we'll turn to those most insightful for possible answers.
Jeff Hasen is the CMO of Hipcricket and author of "Mobilized Marketing: Driving Sales, Engagement, and Loyalty Through Mobile Devices."
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