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Why mobile will not be just mobile much longer

By Li-at Karpel Gurwicz

While the year ahead offers many economic uncertainties, given the astounding speed of mobile adoption we can say with complete confidence that the mobile market is quite strong.

From what we have seen through our experiences thus far, we have identified what we believe are some of the most important trends, forces and developments that will intensify and emerge in 2013.

1. Mobile is not just mobile anymore
Because mobile technologies emerged around the smartphone — and because so many early mobile innovations leveraged on-the-go utility and involved geo-targeting — we still think of mobile in that frame.

But that is no longer the case.

A vast percentage of mobile use is not mobile in that on-the-move context, especially with the tablet explosion.

Mobile communication happens when we are immobile: sprawled on the couch, relaxing in the kitchen, dealing with the indignity of the three-hour layover.

In fact, according to research unveiled by AOL and BBDO in October 2012, 68 percent of mobile Internet access actually takes place in the home.

The CES show last month in Las Vegas reminded us of this, too, with more than 90 connected devices being debuted at the show. These devices are built around the smartphone as the nexus of the smart home – there is nothing “mobile” about that at all.

So we expect this to be the year that, once and for all, we start bringing mobile home.

2. Rise of the personal retail app
Retail usage, for both price comparisons as well as purchases, is an explosive force in mobile.

One study found that retailers’ applications take up the most amount of time consumers spend with their smartphones, at a substantial 27 percent.

Given this information, it is remarkable that there is no customization of retail apps as of yet.

Why should a suburban mom with two kids get the same retail app from Macy’s as a single guy who lives in a trendy, hipster neighborhood?

Imagine how much more engagement Macy’s could create if it offered personalized apps for each of them – with different designs, different interfaces and, of course, different product offerings. We expect this next level of retail engagement to emerge this year.

3. Money, not mingling
We believe that despite the problems that Groupon and other daily deal sites are having, we will still end the year with more confidence in delivering coupons and offers via mobile – and with less confidence in the staying power of location-based services.

Take into consideration that the daily deal sites represent 13 percent of smartphone usage. That is a stunning number, and once Groupon and LivingSocial improve their targeting algorithms – too many 75-year-old men are still offered discounts on bikini waxing – we will see this business take off.

Also, consider the gap between consumer interest in coupons and the use thereof.

Another recent study found that while 55 percent of us are interested in mobile coupons, only 10 percent have actually had one pop up on our phones.

Once merchants make coupon delivery an integral part of their operations, and once consumers make this behavior as routine as clipping coupons once was, that gap will close.

Meanwhile, everything we have seen tells us that the novelty of the check-in is somewhat checking-out.

A recent Business Insider story warned that Foursquare’s traffic is flat and they might be running out of cash.

We also know that Facebook is rumored to be working on a location-tracking app.

But remember what happened the last time it went down that road? Epic fail. Text-messaging apps such as WhatsApp, which are on tens of millions of smartphones, have become the default method for finding friends nearby — without the creepiness factor.

4. “Me-porn” is unstoppable
Much of mobile use is related to the fetishization of the self. Every move we make, every bite we take, is now worthy of being photographed, shared and made part of digital posterity.

A few years ago, if you told someone that people would be whipping cameras out in restaurants, and that some restaurants would actually start to ban the practice, you would have been soundly derided. But it is become commonplace. In fact, OpenTable recently bought Foodspotting for $10 million.

Me-porn is also manifested in health-tracking apps, and even in mood apps. Here is a great image we found on the Quantified Self Web site. It is a shot from an Apple Store in Santa Monica, CA, that shows 22 different self-tracking items for sale.

Beyond food, health, and mood, we expect other self-tracking mobile products to emerge, including those that measure our exposure to sunlight and pollution, and those that follow our conversational patterns. (Are you speaking too much and not listening enough?)

So, if you are thinking of developing a mobile app that monitors your posture, do not bother. Someone has already done it.

5. Online education will truly go mobile
An enormous amount of energy and investment in online education and MOOCs (massive open online courses) have been focused on the Web.

But this year, we will see greater concentration on creating mobile learning experiences that are truly bespoke to the small-screen platform.

A job we found on the Coursera Web site neatly captures the trend we are speaking of:

Software Engineer – iOS
Coursera is seeking iOS developers to build the future of mobile education. Working in a small team of engineers and designers, you will bring a compelling classroom experience to the touchscreen. You will be responsible for the design and architecture of mobile applications from the ground up.

If advocates of the power of online education are going to prove their case that the classroom experience is just one model, not the only model, to educate people for the jobs of the future, they will have to prove it on mobile.

UNDOUBTEDLY, THE amount of innovative energy in the mobile space is driven by the emotional engagement we have with our smartphones, the processing power they represent, and the improvement of carrier networks.

That is the kind of perfect storm that creates industries. And the same goes for the manufacturing of predictions.

Li-at Karpel Gurwicz is mobile marketing director at Conduit Mobile, Ness-Ziona, Israel. Reach her at [email protected]