January 10, 2013

The Crystal Ball - Predictions for 2013

By Lai Kok Fung, BuzzCity CEO

What do you think will be the biggest and most important mobile trends in the year ahead?

What if I told you that iPhones were just a big fad and by January 2014, no one will be talking about them anymore? Or how about if I wrote that mobile penetration has peaked and will start to decline?

Yeah, I wouldn't buy it either.

However I do have four trends that I think will define the next twelve months:

  1. Smartphone Dominance
  2. Marketers become Data Crunchers
  3. Mobile becomes the starting point for advertisers, not an after-thought
  4. Emerging Markets Responsible for Breakthrough Mobile Innovations

Take a look and let me know what you think! What are your predictions for the year?

1. Smartphone Dominance

A massive migration from feature phones to smartphones is currently underway. In some markets, nearly everyone is using a smartphone. Global adoption of the device has reportedly topped 1 billion handsets. And in at least 30 countries, half or more of all mobile surfers are using smartphones. Based on BuzzCity's research, here's a look at the top twenty countries for smartphone use, from Kuwait where 95% of mobile users have a smartphone to Germany and Austria where the penetration rate is 80%.

Consumer preference for smartphones is undeniable, thanks in part to lower prices. The fact that smartphones are gaining ground is not nearly as surprising as the explosive nature of the growth. Watch out for rapid shifts in Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico and The Philippines in the year ahead. Smartphones are also gaining ground in African markets, though it might take a bit longer, say into 2014, before we see wholesale smartphone penetration there. Overall, by the end of the year, 75 – 80 % of the global handset market should be dominated by smartphones.

Feature phones will still attract attention in niche markets though as marketers aim to capture larger audiences by targeting those consumers who have not yet made the smartphone leap.

2. Marketers become Data Crunchers

It used to be that when people in our industry talked about fragmentation, they were lamenting the huge variety of handset models and operating systems. Now, though, fragmentation increasingly refers to the variety of media channels.

It's no secret that the days of Mad Men when you could simply design a great magazine ad or TVC are long gone. But today's media world is also extremely different from that of just a few years ago as well. More than ever, consumer attention is divided across multiple screens – television, mobile, computer, tablet, radio and print – and a plethora of channels within each media. Building a critical mass is difficult now and will only grow harder in the year ahead.

In addition, I could be watching a TV programme on my tablet while surfing sites on my phone. Which media will influence my purchasing behaviour? And how will marketers deliver a message to me while my attention is divided?

Start by analysing your own campaigns in detail. If you work with multiple ad networks, consolidate the data. Do the same for PC networks. Then factor in data from your QR and SMS campaigns. At every turn, brands and agencies will view ads as an exercise in integrated marketing: activate, analyse data, optimise, amend, analyse in a repeating cycle.

The key for marketers going forward is definitely data analysis. Get used to crunching numbers.

3. Mobile First

Increasingly, advertisers will develop strategies for mobile first, then work outwards to progressively enhance their campaigns for larger screens. This is pretty much the opposite of the current approach of many brands, which spend less on mobile and sometimes treat it as an afterthought.

But there are some six billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, according to ITU. Plus, there are now more than one billion active smartphones, according to Strategic Analytics, which estimates that this threshold was crossed in the third quarter of 2012. (Strategic Analytics also says that Africa has the potential to add another one billion smartphones by 2015.)

In a world where smartphones are mainstream and there are two times as many cellphones as televisions and computers combined, it makes sense to put mobile first.

4. Innovation from Emerging Markets

From m-payments to HIV/AIDS prevention, emerging markets are leading the way when it comes to innovative uses of mobile technology.

Across Africa and Asia, “mobile phones are used less for talking and more today as platforms to support daily living,” writes Robin Renee Sanders, a former US Ambassador to Nigeria, who argues that creative apps and mobile services are improving people's quality of life.

In South Africa, Nokia has launched “MoMaths,” a teaching tool that targets users of a popular instant messaging platform. An NGO called Refugees United “offers a safe, secure and anonymous way to find family and friends”. And in China, Baidu Xunren has a service that helps locate kidnapped children (there's another app for finding lost dogs).

As for m-commerce, my colleague Hisham looked at how mobile purchases have become mainstream in parts of Asia and Africa in his last post.

In the year ahead, we thoroughly expect more mobile innovations to originate in developing countries, which already account for the majority of the world's mobile users.

At BuzzCity, we're pretty confident that these trends will hold true. Check back with me in a year to see how we've done!