John Puterbaugh, Ph.D.: Director of Mobile/Digital Strategy, BlueSoHo
To thrive in 2018, brands must find ways to reach consumers despite all the noise. This involves being mindful of the economics of attention and the underlying disruptions being enabled by constant connectivity and mobility.
- We will become MORE connected.
First, we went from offline to online using computers (desktops, laptops) via dial-up and broadband connections. Then, we went from being online albeit fixed or portable to being untethered and mobile (feature phones, smartphones). Last year we reached a significant saturation point in mobile usage and phone ownership with over 80% in the U.S. Now, in a third phase, not just our computers and phones are connected but all appliances and electronics are headed there. Many households have over ten devices; our TVs, phones, tablets, watches, speakers & voice assistants. And on each, we can communicate either via speech, text, pictures, video and/or haptics. 2018 will bring even more movement on the adoption curve with the number of connected devices we own, our time spent on them and how we interact with them. In 2018, marketers will need to reach consumers who use multiple devices simultaneously and interact with them using multi-modal interfaces. This will dramatically impact how content is produced and presented.
- Get fixated on the mix.
Rob Tercek, a pioneer in mobile gaming, coined the term “vaporize” to refer to the process of how physical goods are turned into pixels and bytes of data. This started in media with our CDs and DVDs. And, concurrent to this, mobile devices evolved to become the de facto recording and playback equipment. They are our cameras, stereos, game consoles, and our televisions. At this point, all major media has viable digitized alternatives. Yet, physical media hasn’t disappeared nor will it. The question now is, how will this media mix stabilize and what will be the right combination of physical and digital media when it comes to marketing and communicating with consumers. A number of factors will determine the secret sauce for each consumer based on where they live (rural or city), when they were born (millennials vs boomers) and behavior and lifestyle (shopping habits, recreation patterns, purchasing pathways).
- Prepare to figure it out at the individual level.
The impacts that vaporization and connectivity bring to marketers forces them to look at consumers on an individual level. Knowing who they are, what they are doing, how they are feeling, where they are, and at what time they are doing it. What also must be considered is what they are giving up to do it—what value exchange is happening. Impacting and transforming a business involves understanding and applying this at scale. Many different people doing many different things in many locations. Complicated stuff.
- Realize, software is still hungry.
In 2011, Marc Andreessen proclaimed that “software is eating the world” describing the disruption and the reigning impact new businesses had on older businesses; Netflix on Blockbuster, Amazon on Barnes & Noble. More recently, how Uber and Airbnb have completely reimagined transportation and hospitality. And now, Blockchain is being used to rethink copyrights, currency and legislation. The idea is that software companies win since they liberate content from physical limitations. Like when TV was no longer constrained to households by physical cable connections and could be viewed via smartphones and tablets. Software will not lose its appetite in 2018.
- First media, then retail … now what?
So, first it was media and then retail. In 2018, the services industries will be impacted. Distribution vehicles like bank branches for cash are no longer needed. Similar to necessary innovations in retail, this industry is now using alternative models that reward individuals for how long they are in a brick and mortar and if they transact. The service mix has changed because the world no longer revolves around physical banks and their checking and savings accounts. This industry will have to rapidly innovate in order to stay relevant.
- Face it, you are stuck within a walled garden.
In 2018, the guardians of identity and behavior will continue to be the walled gardens of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft. Early on in mobile, the network operators (e.g. Verizon) and service providers (e.g. AOL) were walled gardens—they controlled the content, connectivity and communication and kept it within the borders. The new walled garden will continue to play significant roles as data exchanges, while also capitalizing on their ability to arbitrage the data they control. And consumer-facing businesses will be required to work with them as well as continue to reevaluate their own business models.
- Get back to marketing to people rather than devices.
As we’ve migrated from being online via a laptop or desktop to being mobile, the way to identify someone has changed from a cookie to a device identifier. The small piece of data (cookie) that represents a record of an interaction stored on a device by a web browser comes in handy for a retailer when you go to their website on your laptop. They store some historical data of what you did and then use that bit of intel in the future when you return to that location. When it comes to mobile though, cookies often don’t work. They can’t be used in apps and they aren’t effective on mobile browsers because of third-party blocking. Instead, trackers use unique device identifiers. And, ultimately cookies have really only been proxies for people. As mobile usage continues to explode, since multiple devices can be associated with each consumer, the emphasis will go back on people / identity-based marketing.
- Mobile is so five years ago, think again.
Close to 80% of U.S. adults own a smartphone. And, two thirds of our time spent with digital is on mobile devices. And, 80% of our time on mobile is within apps. Not only does mobility play a role in technology trends and business topics that commanded attention this past year (Uber, Pokemon Go, SnapChat), with its unique disruptive effects it will continue to dominate marketers’ strategies. Our smartphones will still be our dominant, go-to device that centralizes our identity. As such, our primary device will continue to be a critical vehicle for marketers and service providers to access and exchange data. Regardless of the proliferation of connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT), mobility and smartphones are still the main show.