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Thoughts on the mindset and handset

By Vanessa Horwell

Many end-of-year or dawn-of pieces open with the obligatory “My, hasn’t time has flown by?” or a “What a year it’s been!” statement. I will skip both, but go on record to say that 2012 was the year where mobile finally got top billing, a year where experts predicted that by 2017, more than 4 percent of all ads will appear on mobile phone screens.

Two thousand and twelve was also the year that mobile finally got the recognition and investment it has long deserved, paving the way for an aggressive mobile takeover in 2013.

And 2012 was the beginning of the mobile mindset – recognition by brands and marketers of the need to understand the mindset of mobile users, first and foremost.

It was a year of deeper knowledge of how customers and consumers interact with their device or multiple devices in multiple locations and at different times. Any form of mobile messaging is useless without that knowledge.

Think about it.

Maturing mobile mindset
As I hinted at above, the maturing mobile mindset is truly what defined 2012. More than the technology itself, it was how consumers used that technology and how brands capitalized on those uses.

One thing is certain. Just as our devices grow more complex, so do our brains. Call it an equitable give-and-take.

No longer are consumers tethered to one place as they were in the 1980s, ‘90s and even in the early 2000s.

Today, computing is pervasive in all environments and across all walks of life. And the type of engagement that users gain from their mobile experiences differs depending on their location, whether it is the beach, the kitchen, the office, the train, or anywhere else.

For marketers, this means an unmatched opportunity to tailor their messages to these places of use.

Some may look at this speed of our mobile progress with trepidation. I am not one of those people.

Instead, I wholly embrace these changes and appreciate that if there is one area where humans truly excel, it is communications. Our language, our thoughts, our ideas are what set us apart.

In light of that million-year communication heritage, why would marketers and consumers not embrace all that mobile has to offer?

Are security and data privacy issues a real concern? Absolutely. But as tech-savvy millenials already know, the best defense against ineffective mobile marketing and general communications noise is rooted in the four E’s – enhance, engage, experience and enjoy.

In other words, opt-in messages are opt-ins for a reason. And telling a marketer “no” is the best way to end an unwelcomed solicitation – regardless of where that message is received and on what device.

Now on to the technology itself and some of the trends we will see in the year ahead.

Setting off the proximity alarm: Geo-marketing is gaining traction
At times, I am shocked by how much farther this technology needs to advance. Do not get me wrong: smart digital signage definitely lit up screens as it did minds in 2012, but I did not feel as though its “future had arrived.”

Look at foursquare, a location-based social networking service. It has “only” reached 25 million users in the last three years. That is about the size of the New York metro area. Compare that to Facebook, whose membership now exceeds 1 billion, or one-seventh of the human population.

With more people using more mobile more of the time, it is only natural that marketers should tap this growing resource. That is, assuming they send timely and relevant offers. Otherwise, consumers will fence off geo-fencing for good.

Of course, there have been some encouraging 2012 examples. In July 2012, Clif Bar & Company, a California-based organic foods company, launched what it called, the first geo-location Twitter campaign.

All Clif Bar Twitter followers had to do was tweet their location in a park, a beach or trail. Once your location was confirmed, users were sent instructions on how to claim a free trail mix bar. Yum.

KLM airlines also soared to location-based marketing success with two programs.

First was “Meet and Seat,” which allowed passengers to share their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles with fellow passengers via opt-in on the airline’s Web homepage and choose who they would like to sit next to.

The airline also had a team research traveler social network data and delivered personalized gifts at the airport, such as a bottle of wine.

Like mobile payments, 2013 may not be the year proximity marketing hits it peak – again – but it is scaling the mountain of public skepticism.

Perhaps 2013 will see the growth of what I will call “hyper fencing,” or proximity-based offers and deals within a single shopping outlet or mall or airport?

Just think how many times you have left a store only to realize you have left something off the list. I do it frequently, even with my applications.

In the near future marketers will be accurately predicting your list – almost before you have written it. Or, in my case, they could remind me before I have left the store.

Mobile payments and wallets usage will grow, but not prosper – yet
Mobile payments became a hot topic among industry experts and consumers alike in 2012, with 66 percent of the latter believing that mobile payments will eventually overshadow card payments.

Perhaps no better example of this trend emerged with Apple’s Passbook.

Billed as the ultimate one-stop-organizing point for digital gift cards, coupons, movie tickets, boarding passes, points accrual and loyalty program memberships, the app continues to gain converts, has seen more than 20 companies join its ranks in the last three months, and the latest upgrade rumors hint at the possibility of NFC.

But Passbook is not exactly mobile payments, and emerging technologies such as Near Field Communication – NFC, or radio frequency contactless payments – that herald a new age of mobile wallets, truly doing away with paper cash and plastic card, have yet to fully mature.

The limited number of NFC-enabled devices – only 12 attendees at an NFC conference had the NFC enabled phones (ironic, no?) – as well as nagging security risks, namely third-party digital eavesdropping and the theft of personal data, will tend to keep NFC and the mobile wallet game a spectator sport – even if Passbook performs some kind of NFL-style NFC punt.

Augmented reality will augment the face of mobile
What used to be considered a fad that would eventually disappear has undergone a significant turnaround.

Augmented Reality, or AR, superimposes digital data, gathered from the Web at-large or individualized through social media networks and places that information over physical objects or pictures.

Recent Juniper research already predicts that AR smartphone apps will generate $300 million in global revenue this year.

One company, Layar, began its AR focus on real estate in The Netherlands. The logic being that when a potential buyer is looking at a home for sale, that is when she will require detailed information about the potential purchase.

Rather than cumbersomely “hunting and pecking” Google-style on a smartphone, all AR users have to do is point their phone’s camera at a given home and a wealth of digital information populates the image.

Today, however, the company has shifted its AR arsenal to print media, as many believe that is where the technology will prove most entertaining for consumers and revenue generating for marketers.

For example, the Guinness Book of World Records announced that its 2013 print publications will feature augmented reality where users point their smartphone cameras at paper pages that then become “alive” with a host of interactive data.

In another example, Popular Science magazine ran an AR-enabled ad in its November issue that allowed viewers to see the inner workings of a Roomba Robotic vacuum cleaner.

Of course, to its detractors, AR might cause one to yell, “AAAARRRRR!!!!!” as it is not yet where prognosticators predicted the technology would be.

But the recent flurry of media interest reaffirms that AR really will augment the face of mobile – eventually. And that metamorphosis is beginning now.

Enhance, engage, experience and enjoy
Ultimately the four E’s are what matters most. Not just for consumers, but marketers as well.

When Motorola’s clunky brick phone started us on our collective mobile path more than 30 years ago, no one could have predicted how far and fast technological miniaturization would evolve.

The first mobile phones were not envisioned as enjoyable, engaging experiences –although they did enhance quality of life by some limited measure – but rather utilitarian devices that performed a task or got a job done.

For marketers, though, that is the furthest thing from a successful product – and it is a good thing that mobile devices today, be it smartphones or tablets, are far removed from their clunky predecessors.

LIKE THOSE EARLY mobile models, many of the trends highlighted in this article – proximity, mobile payments and augmented reality – have yet to fully hit their stride.

But that is what prediction and prognostication is all about as each year brings new advances and developments that could scarcely be believed a few months prior.

I, for one, am betting on mobile’s continued success – in the mindset and the handset.

Vanessa Horwell is chief visibility officer of ThinkInk, Miami Beach, FL. Reach her at [email protected].