Everybody, especially commentators and journalists, loves to talk about defining moments. That is the reason there has been so many column inches dedicated to predicting, or dismissing “the year of the mobile”.
Everyone can see the potential for mobile devices to change the way we consume and engage digitally and they are all hoping for, and expecting, a single event that marks the beginning of mass mobile adoption from a marketing stand point.
The reality however, is this event is never going to occur. The year of the mobile will probably never happen as there is no single event which is going to change the way we use and consume information and advertising on mobile devices.
What will happen is a natural evolution of mobile devices, platforms, and user attitudes that will evolve mobile internet into a channel with mass usage allowing for marketers to engage with customers more.
Smart phones and mobile commerce
This evolution is of course already underway. The mass adoption of smart phones has been the biggest single shift in usage as their full web browsing capability made mobile internet more usable and functional.
Apps and mobile friendly websites have further facilitated the growth as user experience improves, and the next bastion to fall is that of mobile payments, both on a technology, and user confidence stand point.
It would appear the technology element of this is just around the corner, with major retailers such as ASOS and John Lewis launching mobile commerce applications in Q4 2010.
In another areas of mobile the major banks and payment providers are making steps towards launching contactless payment technology which would make your mobile device a transactional tool via near field communication technology.
While this doesn’t have implications for online payments per se, the technology could revolutionise the voucher and offers market which is picking up pace. Contactless payment with inbuilt redemption of a voucher at point of sale breaks down current barriers faced by retailers who struggle to facilitate online vouchers in store.
As the number of users paying for goods via their mobile handsets increases the marketing spend will undoubtedly follow. At present it is difficult to gauge the success of mobile marketing programmes if you are reliant on offline transactions or no data at all.
None of these individual developments alone will cause the sea change some members of the industry are looking for, but each will add to the growth of mobile marketing and form part of the evolution in mobile adoption.
So rather than experiencing a single radical change that affects how we interact on mobile devices and what this means to marketing, it is likely mobile usage and the marketing potential through mobile channels will slowly increase until it is a major part of any digital strategy.
With this in mind, the smart thing for marketers to be doing is engaging existing mobile channels while they are small, learning the best way to utilise them, and growing them as usage and advancements allow.
This way you won’t find yourself playing catch up after spending your time dismissing mobile as an under-developed channel before realising its volumes have grown and your competition have stolen a march on you.