2013 is The Year Mobile Becomes a Mainstream Media Channel

Every year since 2010 has been heralded by many to be the “Year of Mobile”.  Such pronouncements were primarily based on the presumably positive correlation between the number of mobile handsets with the increasing pace of rolling out high-speed mobile networks globally.

Usually, such correlation gives marketers belief that mobile has “finally” come of age that offers a credible media channel to reach young, sophisticated, on-the-move and supposedly profitable target customers. While there have been improvements in core metrics such as conversions (e.g. closing sales), customer engagement (e.g. time spent on brands’ mobile channel) and call-to-action (e.g. scanning a QR code) from 2010-2012, the absolute success quantum of improvement vis-à-vis other digital channels have not excited advertisers to increase their budget allocation for this media.

Part of the reason for this lackluster performance is the fragmented mobile ecosystem over the last 2 years that discourages investment to optimize channel efficiency and innovation to offer services that attracts advertisers.   Another possible reason for mobile’s less-than-stellar performance against other digital channels is the market’s readiness to accept mobile as an Internet channel to reach their target audience.

Hence, changes must take place in the mobile ecosystem before we can label any year to the “Year of Mobile”. Are these changes happening in 2013?Consider the following and the impact for marketers:

1. Smartphone’s inflection point

Samsung has overtaken Nokia as the world’s biggest mobile handset maker in 2012.  Together with Apple, this news effectively signals the arrival of the inflection point in the worldwide mobile handset market that smartphones are now “more popular” than basic handsets.  As a result, today’s mobile users are likely to carry handsets that are:

  1. Capable of accessing the Internet
  2. Large screens to view mobile Internet pages
  3. Processing power to operate applications on handsets.

Hence, the fragmented mobile ecosystem is slowly morphing into a duopoly consisting of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, thereby reducing development costs to support other platforms such as Nokia’s J2ME/MeeGo.

Source: IDC Android and Me

Impact to Marketers: This gives marketers plenty of opportunities to develop mobile advertising and services to reach their target users at a relatively lower cost, and bodes well to the release of new mobile marketing initiatives in 2013.

2. High speed networks becomes mainstream

Mobile network operators (MNOs) are accelerating the commercial roll-out of next-generation wireless connectivity called Long-Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G in Asia Pacific that offers data speed comparable to fixed-line broadband. Indeed, MNOs in Singapore, Philippines, and Hong Kong are now offering 4G subscription plans that come with an impressive array of handset choices from Apple, Samsung, LG, and HTC for their users.  The shift to 4G wireless connectivity is accompanied with enhancements in traditional 3G networks to offer improved data speeds (via HSDPA+), thereby giving users quicker access to the Internet via their mobile devices.

Impact to Marketers: What this means for brand owners is that the mobile user interface (UI) can now go beyond text-based web pages to rich data such as mobile-formatted video that will clearly add emotive elements to mobile marketing campaigns.   In addition, video produced for terrestrial/cable broadcast and online can now be extended into the mobile channel, thereby improving return on investment (ROI) over the campaign period.

 3. Return of the mobile content  

As mobile video gains widespread acceptance by today’s mobile users, content creators and cable operators have begun formatting and creating content for this channel.  Users can enjoy content out of home on their own mobile devices, and view original content that fits those on-the-move.

Source: StarhubTV

What is interesting is the disrupters such as Youtube, Dailymotion, and Vimeo have dominated the mobile, on-the-move video segment as branded content owners and conventional broadcasters debate on the merits of cannibalizing their traditional advertising revenue by offering the same content on mobile devices.  Clearly, the emergence of Sohu.com and PPTV in China and Toggle in Singapore have convincingly settled the debate with content available on mobile.

Impact to Marketers: There are now more avenues to allocate advertising funds earmarked for mobile video.  One could argue that branded content have wider mainstream appeal relative to the independently produced content on the above-mentioned disrupter video services.  Therefore, it is important for brand owners to understand the content preferences of their target audience before any budget is allocated to the mobile video segment.

These are the trends that feature strongly in my crystal ball for the mobile channel in 2013.  As smartphone users familiarize with the features and benefits of their Internet-ready devices, it is inevitable that the mobile channel is ready to move from early adopters to mainstream acceptance.  Therefore, marketers seeking for conservative, mainstream media to allocate their marketing budget should include mobile in the mix for 2013.

Related reading

A QR code which leads to the URL for the ClickZ article about QR codes. Meta.