The year ahead in mobile

Isobar's director of mobile and strategy predicts big things for small devices

For mobile-watchers, 2014 was the most interesting year for some time. We finally saw the moment when mobile overtook TV as our most-used media channel (although spend on the channel is still multiples away from catching up!) and we actually saw an Apple announcement that was more than simply "a little bigger, a little more powerful."

The double-whammy of Apple Pay and Apple Watch blew open two huge areas of potential growth, and they’ll be interesting to watch through 2015. While both are well conceived and have the chance to grow the industry exponentially, we should probably view both with some caution: Uptake won’t skyrocket overnight.

However, here are four other trends that will affect the mobile devices and mobile marketing arena in 2015.

Death of Windows Phone. Two thousand fifteen will be the year we admit we’re in a two-OS universe. Android and iOS have developed the scale to be the key determinants of our mobile experience, and Windows Phone will continue to be the key casualty. This is going to be painful for Microsoft’s ambitions as it competes with Apple and Google to provide a wrap-around ‘digital universe’ and in my mind will likely reduce the company to a smaller software provider run on other people’s OS. Microsoft's recent releases of Office for iOS show an admission the game is up. Moves for the likes of Nokia were too little too late, and with the failure to engage the developer community Microsoft has simply failed to deliver the virtuous circle needed to build a user base for its admittedly great OS.

Ecosystem thinking. And while we’re talking about the ‘end’ of things. I’d like to call the End of Mobile Strategy for 2015. With mobile now the pre-eminent part of most users’ digital lifestyles, it’s time for many brands to re-examine their digital experience holistically.

Mobile is a very pointed weapon in any marketer’s arsenal, and we all know that used wrongly, it can have off-putting results for consumers. So to make the most of mobile, brands need to develop a connected experience architecture that’s data-driven and responds to the needs of individuals. This is not a short-term project, and requires a common vision across web, apps, media, social and retail. Creating this kind of ecosystem means de-siloing the enterprise to act as one in the best interests of the consumer. It sounds like a tall order, but some forward-looking brands are taking steps in this direction.

Re-up of the branded app. Hardened mobile warriors like myself will remember the initial burst of excitement around branded apps in 2009 and 2010. Brands dove headlong, and sometimes at great expense, into this "shiny new thing" — with almost invariably terrible results — most branded apps had triple-figure downloads at best. Now however there’s a new momentum behind apps.

Driven by social and the increase in content production, there’s a great case for the mobile app as a single brand touchpoint. Brands with high engagement (and that limits it significantly) can place all their content and interaction behind one single branded button.

Provided the app blends content, messaging and (most critically) value for the user, in the form of discounts, exclusives, sweeps and so on, there could be enough to justify that download. And notifications provide an opportunity to sustain that engagement over time if used wisely.

NFC — finally. Back in 2011, I collaborated with a client to install NFC chips in their beer taps in tens of thousands of pubs across Europe. We knew it was a risk, with key decisions on progressing the project taken just weeks before the iPhone 5 release. However, we saw the arrival of NFC as inevitable, given the momentum of the payment industry and every other phone manufacturer and carrier.

Clearly Apple dug its heels in until it felt comfortable with its role in mobile payment, but now the promise of contactless interaction independent of previous app download might be upon us. We simply need Apple to open up access to NFC in the same way they have done for Touch ID.

Here’s to an exciting year ahead in 2015! 

Tim Dunn is Director of Mobile and Strategy at Isobar US.

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