There’s good reason that mobile demands so much of our mindshare. Just this year, the number of mobile-only internet users surpassed that of desktop-only, according to Comscore, with people spending at least 54 percent of their digital media time interacting with mobile apps. Our customers are literally living, working, and exploring on mobile, and in the process, giving marketers an unprecedented opportunity to learn and start a dialogue about products and experiences that could be meaningful to them.
As 2016 approaches, the most powerful developments in the mobile marketing space will be the ones that serve to build and enhance this two-way relationship, to make the process of discovery and outreach far more relevant and personalized, and to provide customers with branded experiences that actually enhance their lives. Explore how these six trends are shaping the way that we build long-term relationships through mobile.
1. Augmented and Virtual Reality
A few years ago, it seemed practically sci-fi to scan real-life products and get a rich mobile experience in return. In 2016, that experience is going to become the standard. Rather than scanning (or ignoring) QR codes for basic coupons and the like, customers will be able to scan standard bar codes to open a gateway for personalized rewards programs, mobile gaming, and non-traditional shopping experiences. Heineken has already gained momentum on this front, creating scannable beer bottles for its Legendary 7 campaign, which focuses on the seven farmers around the world who grow sustainable crops and barley for brewing Heineken. By scanning the bottles’ labels with the augmented reality app Blippar, users unlock an exclusive content experience, including an animated film and backstories about the farmers. Customers interested in the nitty gritty can check out the company’s 2014 Sustainability Report, while those simply looking to get weird with their beers can take “7elfies,” that superimpose their faces over the farmers’ pictures.
And then there’s Google Cardboard, which lets Android and iPhone users sample the virtual reality experience in an easy and relatively inexpensive way, without having to invest in the complicated and expensive VR headsets being developed. If all goes well with Google Cardboard, brands will incorporate virtual reality into their apps and mobile marketing plans as a way to let customers experience their products—or the brand lifestyle—before they buy. In fact, some brands are already on board. The New York Times just launched its app, NYT VR, which will feature immersive documentaries—and they’re sending all their more than one million Sunday subscribers Google Cardboard headsets, so all they have to do is download the app to get the goods.
The North Face released an app that, when viewed with Google Cardboard, transports users to the iconic Yosemite National Park and Moab, Utah, for a 360-degree, 3D climbing experience.
2. Google App Indexing, Deep Linking, and Mobile Search Enhancements
When Google began favoring mobile-optimized sites a few years back, brands with responsive designs saw a major boost in search results. The same SERP updates are now starting to happen for apps. In fact, 40 percent of Android searches currently turn up app-indexed results, a number that will grow even larger in 2016, and Apple and Bing are also getting in on the app search game. And though it can certainly be beneficial for retailer apps like Gap or Nordstrom to pop up in the results when someone searches for, say, “winter coats,” the real selling point here is deep linking. Instead of search results leading just to app’s home pages, they can lead to deep links within those apps—so, when users click, they’ll be led to a page for a specific winter coat. It’s giving customers almost exactly what they want, when they want it, and building their trust in the process. We’ll also continue to see easier searching capabilities within social media, too, which is crucial as more mobile users check social channels to find suggestions about nearby businesses. Companies will be able to incorporate more searchable information, like location, hours, price range, and specific services offered, into their social profiles to lead customers to their pages.
3. Marketing Automation
Rather than continuing to cast a wide net with marketing campaigns in the hope of reeling in a few customers, marketers are going to get increasingly personal and targeted with outreach. And this is more necessary now than ever: With every technological advance made, customers’ expectations get kicked up a notch.
Mobile-savvy users have become accustomed to increasingly personalized, valuable messaging, and they’ll continue to expect it. With more than 30 billion mobile moments happening in the U.S. each day, and the wealth of customer data available, automation gives marketers the chance to make that data actionable, and deliver that personalization at scale. With the help of automation platforms like Appboy’s Intelligent Delivery, they’ll use algorithms to determine the optimal time to interact with users, and then deliver push notifications, emails, and in-app messages at those peak engagement times. Urban Outfitters used Intelligent Delivery to pinpoint the best time to message users, and sent customized, contextually relevant push notifications about a current “Home Sweet Sale” promotion, featuring deals on home items from the store.
4. Social Media Advertising Grows Up
This year will bring with it a slew of new ways to interact with fans and followers via enhanced social media marketing tools. We’re taking Snapchat a lot more seriously as it becomes a viable marketing channel, thanks to branded geofilters and video advertisements interspersed with public stories. Twentieth Century Fox jumped on the bandwagon early as the first marketer to buy the app’s Sponsored Lens product, promoting The Peanuts Movie. The 24-hour campaign, live on Halloween, included a selection of images and videos featuring the movie’s characters, like Snoopy, that users could overlay on their selfies.
Veteran social media apps, like Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, will see more sophisticated shoppable ad units. One example: Coach’s recent campaign that invited users to tap sponsored Instagram photos to open an e-commerce page. And “Buy now” buttons within apps will become more prominent, making conversions even more seamless and propelling the rise of social commerce hubs.
5. Video Ads on Mobile
Video ads on social media will become more prevalent, especially those that hit the under-15-second sweet spot (long enough to convey a message, but short enough to hold a user’s attention). Google will incorporate video ads in search results, making sponsored results more eye-catching and compelling, while Facebook is opening up its in-feed, auto-play video spots to apps within its Audience Network, so users logged into Facebook will see those ads in other apps as well. Twitter is getting in on the video game, too: McDonald’s demonstrated the possibilities beyond the 140-character copy limits when it announced its all-day breakfast menu using a variety of GIFs in tweets, including those replying to users practically begging for the extended breakfast hours.
6. Wearable Marketing and the Internet of Things
The launch of the Apple Watch drew plenty of notices—and spawned plenty of imitators. In 2016 wearable devices will see greater adoption as less expensive and luxury alternatives are launched. With more customers using smartwatches, wearables and other so-called IoT devices, brands—particularly local marketers—will be able to more accurately pinpoint customers’ locations and deliver highly targeted messaging.
Operating systems within wearables will continue to interact with beacons (such as Apple’s iBeacon and Google’s Eddystone) to alert apps when users approach or leave specific, activated locations (think: a checkout counter at a retail store, or concession stand at a sporting event). This will not only provide marketers with a tremendous amount of data on customers but will also give marketers the opportunity to send hyper-relevant, real-time messaging to devices such as smart watches. Imagine a Sony SmartWatch user is browsing the pasta aisle at a supermarket: Barilla could send that user a push notification alerting that customer to its new Collezione pasta line, and a current sale for the product.
Chances are, wearables will be high on people’s holiday wish lists, and as more people receive them, brands will have an even greater opportunity to leverage smartwatch apps and wearable-optimized ads early next year.
Mobile has already eclipsed desktop to become the primary screen for many people, and marketing opportunities are rapidly evolving to keep up with that crucial change. These emerging trends will represent new opportunities to share messaging with customers, but more importantly, new ways to get to know them and better understand their needs.