December 11, 2013

The Crystal Ball 2014

By Lai Kok Fung, BuzzCity CEO

It's that time of year again . . . time for holiday parties and annual budgets . . . and time to pull BuzzCity's Crystal Ball out of the desk drawer, dust it off and have a look at 2014.

(Sorry to mix the work metaphors with the play, but it seems appropriate for those of us in the mobile industry. After all, we're using our phones on a daily basis now for everything from reading office memos and replying to emails to watching viral videos and buying theatre tickets.)

This year, we're going to keep it simple. Just two main predictions:

1. Many Channels, Mobile First

2. MobileMoney Becomes Commonplace - Everywhere!

If you're a close follower of the GammaLife blog, you'll know that we've been writing about the prevalence of mobile commerce & mobile payments -- as well as a mulit-device, multi-channel world -- for some time. But these two trends are only going to become stronger in the year ahead, as they shape our industry - and consumers' lives.

Many Channels, Mobile First

Prediction: Advertisers and Content Producers accept that people live in a multi-screen environment, while producing for mobile first to meet consumer consumption patterns.

Do you remember the conversations about 'transition' and whether tablets would displace phones or computers? To many pundits, it seemed that at least one device was headed to the history museums. Or how about the debates about laptops versus PCs, cable TV versus free-to-air and television vs. radio?

Today, we know that the birth of a new channel does not mean the extinction of another. Businesses no longer worry about which device will 'take over' as consumers own multiple devices. They primarily use them, though, in different ways:
  • Desktops are for creating content (spreadsheet analysis, writing, photoshop and producing videos),
  • Tablets are best for consuming content (watching movies, playing games, reading books and long documents) and
  • Mobile are for networking (chat, blogs, tweets, sharing photos)
Of course, there is overlap. I can still surf the web from my computer and watch videos on my phone. At times, consumers start to consume content from one device, then continue with another (perhaps because they've just left home or arrived at their destination). Sometimes, it takes more than one device to complete a task. Let's say you're banking on the internet or shopping online from a PC, your bank may send a confirmation code to your phone, which you'll need to then enter on the original device.

To adapt to this new multi-channel world, we recommend that businesses craft content along three key consumer traits:
  • Enquiry (search, product information and reviews)
  • Experience (personalised information and advice to complement the experience of discovery) and
  • Engagement (social interaction, including consumer feedback)
Keep in mind that the vast majority of mobile users - some 85% - prefer to surf the internet with their phones and nearly 60% are using handsets to shop online.

MobileMoney is Everywhere

Prediction: In markets across the globe, consumers will use their phones to store, transfer and spend money on a daily basis.

Forget the stories about the potential of mobile wallets and m-payments. MobileMoney is here. While m-commerce didn't quite take off in the last year, mobile 'banking' is quietly revolutionising how people interact with money . . . and the conditions are ripe for this sector to spread rapidly in the year ahead.

MobileMoney first started as a way for consumers to buy airtime and simple mobile content like ringtones and wallpapers. But now, employers can use mobile to pay their workers, who in turn use handsets to pay bills, go shopping and send money home. Direct Carrier Billing is also becoming more commonplace, while cash withdrawals and money transfers are today's killer apps - just take a look for example at GCASH and SMART Money in The Philippines.

Yet MobileMoney is still not ubiquitous. This will change in the year ahead. Four forces are coming together to set the stage for MobileMoney growth: market factors, government regulation, consumer demand and private sector providers. In markets across Latin America, Africa and Asia, for example, 
  • Mobile penetration is high
  • Financial inclusion is low
  • Mobile banking costs have fallen significantly
  • Central banks and governments are formalising rules that enable carriers to offer e-money and non-banks to provide financial services like cash in & cash out.
At the same time, companies are becoming more creative at turning a consumer's phone into a wallet.  Amazon has created a service for any company to use an Amazon checkout on its website, eliminating the need for customers to enter credit card details or remember another set of login details.  In the UK, more banks are joining Barclays' Pingit to expand mobile services that allow businesses to transact with individuals.  And in France, 2014 will be the year that you can walk into a McDonald's and buy a Big Mac - or anything else on the menu - with PayPal.  

These are just a few examples.  Look for retailers across the globe to start offering in-store mobile payment systems in the year ahead!

What do YOU think? We'd love to hear your predictions. Be sure to check back in a year, as well, to let us know how the crystal ball has performed.

Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous New Year!