When the Apple iPhone App Store launched a couple of years ago, we saw a flurry of marketing applications released. Some were exceptional. Many were average. iPhone apps were "hot," and consumer brands rushed to build them. They were somewhat expensive with most of the return based on press mentions and buzz. Brands felt that the perception of tech-savviness generated by the presence of an iPhone application would enhance their brand. I think they were right, but soon consumers began to expect iPhone applications. Initally, the iPhone didn't offer much reach. The iPod touch helped build the numbers. Apple's most recent announcement put total sales at over 80 million. Pretty good.
Two years ago, consumers mostly used their cell phones for communication. They also listened to some music and got a bit of weather, traffic and news. Now ... they do just about anything. They shop. They research products. They blog. They look up recipes. Are they doing so in large numbers? No, not yet. Consumers are a lot more likely to do more complex tasks on smartphones like the iPhone. The stakes are much higher for marketers - the potential return is higher with the ability to generate real leads and sales.
Here we are in 2010. Apple recently announced sales of 1 million iPads. Forrester believes that number will at least triple by year end. Apple has launched the iAd platform and promised consumers an engaging media experience that will include advertising, but not be disrupted by it. iAd includes the iPhone platform. iPads add another dimension or canvas that will unleash advertiser/agency creativity. We are now seeing our first marketing (first perhaps) and commerce (secondary?) applications. They are engaging. They offer rich media. They are interactive. They offer opportunities to link to videos, music, social networking sites, and shopping.
It has the potential to be more valuable than inventory on many phones.
People who own smartphone devices are more active on their cell phones than your typical cell phone owner. For simpler tasks like SMS, they are moderately more active. For more complex tasks such as shopping, using maps, banking or doing product research they are significantly more active. iPhone users are some of the most active smartphone users when it comes to commerce-related activities.
Advertisers have held back on spending more on mobile marketing for many reasons. One of the primary reasons has been their inability to demonstrate the effectiveness of the medium or calculate an ROI. It gets a lot easier to calculate the ROI when consumers are buying items or using services such has mobile banking to deposit checks. Consumers are spending real money. My colleague Sucharita Mulpuru will be working on a mobile commerce forecast later this year. Anecdotally, we saw consumers spend in the hundreds of thousands of dollars with individual merchants/hotels/restaurants in 2009. We're likely to see run rates in the low millions for a few companies within a few industries by the end of this year.
The more consumers spend, the more advertisers will be motivated to spend. Consumer product and service companies will invest in mobile services such as "find the nearest," consumer reviews, available inventory, etc. to support commerce-related activities. The greater the supply of services (of great services), the more adoption and usage we'll see among consumers. Then consumers will spend more because the experiences will be convenient - it'll be easy to buy books or toothpaste.