According to Reuters, Japanese messaging app Line has filed for an IPO valued at over $10 billion.
No doubt the space is heating up. Competition is increasing. Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion. Japanese Internet giant Rakuten purchased Viber for $900 million. More recently, Kakao Corp (the maker of KakaoTalk, South Korea’s top messaging service and a direct competitor to Line) and Daum (one of South Korea’s largest Internet portals) announced they would merge through an equity swap, creating a company with about $2.9 billion market capitalization!
To put all this activity in perspective, I recently published a new piece of research explaining how messaging apps are morphing into new media portals and are becoming the new face of social.
WeChat is jockeying to become a global digital platform, thanks to the deep pockets of its parent company, the Chinese Internet giant Tencent. The other Chinese Internet giant, Alibaba, which recently invested $280 million in Tango, could also connect the dots between its commerce, payment, media, and social capabilities.
Soon to have 500 million registered online users, Line is definitely a key player in the space. The money to be raised will help in developing the already significant international expansion and further develop the positioning of Line as a “smartphone life platform.” The majority of the $335 million in revenue generated in 2013 came from games and about 20% from stickers — “emoticons on steroids,” as my colleague Julie Ask called them.
Japanese consumers are among the most mobile-savvy in the world: They were shopping, banking, and gaming on mobile phones long before consumers in other nations. The Japanese mobile ecosystem used to be unique; telecom operators specified to Japanese handset manufacturers the design of services to implement on multimedia phones. This is changing in an app world.
Indeed, the mobile market is opening up quickly to the smartphone app ecosystem. While Japan is a mobile-centric society, smartphone adoption has lagged behind other major markets. Many international brands launched their first mCommerce initiatives in Japan several years ago, but the market subsequently disappeared from the innovation radar due to the US-centric smartphone app ecosystem. But this is changing. It is time to take another look at Japan to uncover how the nation is combining innovation and scale as its market embraces smartphone apps.
More than a decade ago, I had the opportunity to work with NTT DoCoMo to introduce i-mode — the mobile multimedia service in France. At that time, Japan was clearly two to three years ahead of the rest of the mobile world. The Japanese market — and more specifically, the i-mode business model — is rumored to have inspired Steve Jobs to launch the Apple App Store. After that, Silicon Valley became the new source of innovation and inspiration for mobile marketers. Now that the app ecosystem has come full circle, marketers should again consider mobile marketing in Japan, benefiting from a more open ecosystem to distribute their apps and engage with Japanese customers. I recently spent a full week in Japan, and it is fascinating to see the relationship people have with mobile phones over there.
There are lots of lessons to learn from the likes of Rakuten, Line, Felica, Softbank, or NTT DoCoMo and from a mature ecosystem of mobile contactless and connective-tissue technologies.
Facebook, the social media giant that has already made a large dent in the mobile ad ecosystem, today showed it has no plans to stop the momentum: Welcome, Audience Network.
Before today, there were already several factors working in Facebook’s favor: its reach among avid social users, its engaged and captive audience, and its trove of affinity data, which my colleague Nate Elliott talks more about in his blog post here.
After its Audience Network announcement today, Facebook is breaking the application of its tools and its data out of its own silo, and this could benefit several players:
Other developers and publishers could make more money by offering Facebook data-infused mobile ads.
Advertisers can dip into Facebook’s rich affinity data to target their ads across other mobile properties.
And of course, Facebook itself just extended its potential revenue base and faces a new competitive set with the likes of Google AdMob and MIllennialMedia.
William Hill PLC, one of the world's leading betting and gaming companies and trusted UK high-street brand, has recently undergone a significant strategy review. The strategic changes came in response to the fact that more and more of its customers want to engage with the company via digital and increasingly also via mobile platforms — which at Forrester we refer to as the mobile mind shift.
In this new business context, William Hill now focuses on three main initiatives for expansion: 1) develop a wider product range, 2) encourage greater multichannel usage, and 3) increase internationalisation. To better understand how it is tackling these business priorities and, in particular, how the firm is driving multichannel usage by delivering visible value (and in context), we invited Kristof Fahy, William Hill’s Chief Marketing Officer to deliver a keynote presentation at Forrester's Forum For Marketing Leaders in London coming up on May 13-14.
In the run-up to the Forum, Kristof was kind enough to answer a few questions to provide a sneak preview to the content from his speech. I hope you enjoy his responses as much as I did, and I look forward to seeing many of you in London!
Q. You’ve led marketing efforts at a wide variety of companies, from big and established brands like Orange and BlackBerry to challengers like Yahoo. Are there key things that all brands—regardless of size and industry—should be doing today to stay relevant and top of mind in our hyper-connected, multi-channel world?
At the beginning of the year in our yearly mobile predictions report, my colleague Julie Ask and I made the following call: "mobile will affect more than just your digital operations — it will transform your entire business. 2014 will be the year that companies increase investments to transform their businesses with mobile as a focal point." McDonald’s France is a great example of such a trend.
In France, you can now order a Big Mac anytime, anywhere on your smartphone, tablet, or desktop and pick it up later at any of 1,200 McDonald’s restaurants. But mobile ordering and in-store pick up are just the first steps of a broader and more ambitious strategy: differentiating McDonald’s brand experience and powering a future relationship marketing platform by enabling direct behavioral customer insights. Although it started with a mobile ordering and payment app nationwide, McDonald’s France aims to transform all points of customer engagement by building a platform to extend new services to loyal customers and evolving the entire organization.
Despite a less mature mobile ecosystem and lower mobile usage than in the US, McDonald’s France was the first subsidiary of McDonald’s to launch a mobile ordering offering at scale. Such an ordering service is only at pilot stage in the US. France is McDonald’s second-biggest market after the United States, with €4.35 billion in turnover in 2012. Most other countries had piloted mobile payments so far. With more than 16 million members, McDonald’s Japan mobile couponing and in-store contactless payment services is the only other mobile service for McDonald’s (and the vast majority of brands) that has scaled massively, but it does not yet offer the same value.
3. 70% of MAU use the service daily (Source: TechCrunch)
4. WhatsApp offers users in Europe, Brazil and other emerging markets (= net new audience) (Source: Gravity/Techcrunch)
5. Nearly 200 minutes of usage each week (Source: Mobidia)
6. Facebook gets how to monetize mobile through paid advertising without wrecking the user experience. (In Q4 2013 they crossed over from 49% of revenue from mobile to 53% from a base of 945M mobile monthly active users) Source: Facebook, TechCrunch
Why $16B to $19B? I am not a financial analyst, but here are a few thoughts:
- Facebook generated $1.37B in mobile revenue in Q4 2013 on a base of 945M users ... annualized that is $5.80/MAU (monthly active user)
- WhatsApp already generates $1/user for a chunk of their users through a subscription fee (less fee to app store?)
- If WhatsApp users can be monetized at the same value, that adds another 50% approximately in mobile ad revenue
- Facebook reported 914 minutes of use on mobile per month in 2013 (Source: allthingsd.com)
First, the good news: Mobile marketing is maturing within organizations. More marketers than ever have mobile programs in place, and they are shifting from testing to “see what happens” to the more strategic, and Tim Gunn-recommended, “make it work.”
Now for the bad news: Marketers have to demonstrate whether their mobile programs are, in fact, working. And in a still-evolving industry that lacks measurement standards, coupled with marketers who are just starting to measure strategically, this is no easy task.
But it can be done! Our advice to marketers is this: Start by benchmarking against yourself. Here are the three steps to help you set the right baselines:
Set up a mobile dashboard. You’re going to need a clear view of your data to develop consistent measures. And for mobile, this requires a feature-rich dashboard with the right level of granularity. What does your mobile dashboard need to have? New filters like operating system (OS) and app version, new data sources like app review sentiment, and cross-channel measurement capabilities to demonstrate mobile’s full impact.
Establish your baselines. So many variables impact the success of any one company’s mobile program — from its stage of mobile maturity to its audience to the campaign's creative. To make sure you land on the right baseline for your company, create a measurement plan that defines which KPIs matter for your goal and what the right frequency of tracking is based on the longevity of the program or introduction of new factors.
Seventy-six percent of marketers think that marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the past 50 years!*
Mobile is a significant contributing factor to this rapid pace of change. For example, between 2011 and 2013, Google’s YouTube share of mobile traffic has increased from 6% to 40%! Facebook’s mobile monthly active users have more than doubled from 432 to 945 million!
My colleague Craig Le Clair recently explained why business agility is a key competitive advantage. I just revisited his framework analysis to explain how marketers must adopt the principles of business agility to survive in the mobile era.
For mobile marketing to succeed, you must deliver your brand as a service, implementing more-personalized and more-contextualized brand experiences on mobile phones — but you can’t do it alone. These differentiated experiences require revamped back-end systems, which requires marketers to take an interest in the software, architecture, and processes handled by business technology (BT) teams. You must work closely with your BT counterparts to innovate new capabilities and deploy them with modern process methodologies and tools. Marketers have a lot to learn from the values underlying the notion of agile IT development.
As mobile matures as a marketing outlet, and as consumers around the world continue to embrace it as their primary Internet touchpoint, mobile’s volatility and velocity of change will instill the need to constantly iterate your entire marketing approach. It will become increasingly imperative for marketing leaders to embrace agile marketing.
I had the opportunity to talk to nearly 50 companies working on mHealth and mWellness services and technologies in 2013. With the perspective of 13 years as a mobile analyst behind me and a career in telecom that started in the late 80's, I say with confidence that this category within mobile is more exciting and has the potential to be more game-changing, than anything since the introduction of the iPhone. Most of you reading this blog are not in healthcare - that's why the report offers a WIM (what it means) for industries outside of health and wellness.
I started this research journey with a simple mission: "what mobile engagement tactics can and do change consumer behavior?" Or, in other words, what gets people up off the couch? Is it competition, community, feedback, encouragement or coaching, a poke, or what?
How did MyFitnessPal facilitate more than 100M pounds of weight loss?
How did RunKeeper get their users to move 783 million miles?
How did Strava motivate their users to move 1.4 billion kilometers?
Facebook will launch its new Paper product on February 3. The questions I have been asked are, "Why?" and "Should we be thinking about multiple apps rather than one large app?" Both good questions.
The first question -- I can only take a shot. Facebook, like many other media properties, depends heavily on advertising for revenue. To get advertising, you need eyeballs. More and more minutes per day are spent on mobile phones. Consumption of news, information, and media generally tops the list behind communication. Consumers also expect highly curated experiences on small screens that can be more challenging to navigate. At first glance, the Paper user interface and experience looks to be quite elegant.
It always makes me smile to see a product or app launched that takes a mobile first-approach. From the short video that was released, you can instantly tell that they didn't start with a web experience and think, "How can we strip this down and put it on a small screen?" They appeared to have done ethonographic research -- to watch and observe how people engage with their phones and consume information through the course of the day (e.g., the unfolding of the newspaper). This is one of the best practices in mobile design -- understand the needs of consumers on the go. Companies must ask, "What are those moments during the day when someone reaches for the phone to access information or a service?" Forrester calls them mobile moments. Companies must be ready to serve customers in those moments.