Before beginning her Mobile Bootcamp keynote at iMedia's Breakthrough Summit in Miami, AKQA Mobile account director Tina Unterlaender wanted to explain the presentation's title, "Corn, Oil, and... Mobile Applications." Corn and oil are two of the largest industries in the world -- we use them every day. Once a basic food item, corn can now be found in products like soda, sanitizer, and baby powder. Similarly, there's oil in diapers, makeup, and curtains. Unterlaender believes mobile to be the third player in this trio -- something that will continue to increasingly integrate itself into our daily lives.
"Mobile devices and their applications will dominate the way people access the internet, engage with each other, and interact with the world around them for the foreseeable future," she explained. "Advertising must learn a new language to connect with these consumers." Case in point, Unterlaender pointed out that the average time spent looking at a mobile screen has now surpassed the average time looking at billboards, newspapers, and magazines.
Focusing on macro trends that have crucial impacts on consumer behavior, Unterlaender highlighted the four major areas where this is occurring: rating, searching, buying, and reporting.
Mobile has allowed consumers to "express, distribute, and quantify our opinions like never before. We are in an age of hyper-democracy. Authority is dead," Unterlaender said. As seen on Yelp, rating is all about the what, where, who, and why. Consequently, it provides a deluge of information that will "dictate the future of brands." In the past year, the travel industry has realized the impact these ratings have. Now, it's advertising's chance to catch on.
In addition, thanks to mobile, a "crystallization aspect" has begun with search: After you input your preferences, the product finds you. Unterlaender cited Zipcar as an excellent example of a new, four-pronged approach to search -- customize, reserve, availability, supply -- as consumers use it to not only find a car, but also to determine where it is and for how long it will be accessible.
Companies like PayPal, eBay, Amazon, and iTunes have taught the world a new way to buy things online. Now that the groundwork is laid, "new technologies, mobile apps, and retail adoption will allow consumers to carry everything they need to make a purchase in their device," Unterlaender said. Smartphones will make purchasing everything much easier, another huge incentive for brands to get involved in the mobile arena.
In addition, emphasized by companies like Foursquare, near universal self-reporting is a trend that's here to stay. "Since the beginning of modern civilization, people have wanted to know what just happened, and communicate to others what is happening," Unterlaender said. "It is a fundamental human behavior." This real-time information distributed from users has huge implications for the advertising world.
Unterlaender used Nike and Michael Kors as examples of brands taking full advantage of what mobile has to offer. A self-reporting rating of a sports event will trigger a return message from Nike with a map to the closest Nike store and information on certain products. This provides the consumer with a direct relationship with the brand and a special deal. Nike gets a cost-effective, direct dialogue with fans while promoting its products.
With Michael Kors, consumers can download an application to their devices that allows them to scan the barcode of a Kors product. When they do this, the item is added to their Amazon wishlist. When their birthdays approach, the same item will pop up on their social graphs, eliminating -- or at least decreasing -- the chance of receiving a present they didn't want.
In conclusion, the mobile revolution is being driven by multiple forces. Increasingly powerful mobile devices are landing in the hands of consumers faster than ever before: People are now switching phones every eight to 12 months, up from every 24 months. More developer communities are creating mobile applications that growing populations of younger generations are embracing.
Phones used to be for calling people. Now, we use them to find, measure, and pay. "Welcome to the new little voice in your head," Unterlaender said. "It's your phone."
Lucia Davis is associate editor at iMedia Connection.
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