Mobile Travel in Europe

Thomas Husson

ACCOR, the global hotel chain, just launched an iPhone application.

Accor This  is just one of the many examples of travel brands leveraging the mobile momentum. Airline companies have always been at the vanguard of integrating mobile into their strategies, but it looks like many other travel brands from hotel chains, airports, rail companies, car rental companies, and travel-related brands (from Lonely Planet to luxury brands) are now tapping into existing mobile opportunities and building mobile products that meet burgeoning customer demand.

Travel is indeed inherently mobile. Now that the promise of location-enhanced services is beginning to be fulfilled on mobile phones, travelers are starting to use their devices as personal travel assistants. More than 10% of European Internet travelers use their mobile phones to look up flight or train schedules. Frequent business travelers are the ideal target group, as they are more likely to be regular users of the mobile Internet and are more likely to spend while traveling. More than 30% of them are interested in booking train tickets or checking in for a flight via their mobile phones.

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Orange's approach to the new mobile ecosystem

Thomas Husson

Earlier this year, I pointed out how Orange and operators were pursuing their innovation efforts in the context of new entrants (Apple, Google,...) shaking up the mobile value chain.

The recent announcements made at the 10th Orange collection are another proof of Orange's dynamism.If you have no clue what lifeisbetteron.com, wormee.com, radiomee.comcityvox.com, or webcity.fr have in common, I strongly advise you to take a look at this document.

Another interesting announcement was made this morning at the LeWeb conference in Paris, where Orange officially announced the launch of its Application Shop (available in beta in the UK and France for several months). This shop will first be available to 1 million customers in these two countries before being roll-out to millions more customers throughout 2010. For now it gives acess to 5,000 applications.

Replicating Apple's success will not be an easy task and operators should not follow this route. They should on the contrary leverage their key assets to offer:

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The mobile revolution is just getting started

Thomas Husson

I just presented the latest findings of a new research published "Mobile Technographics in Europe" to Forrester clients at our London Consumer Forum.

This report looks at the state of the European mobile market and at how consumers are using mobile services. We have created different profiles looking at how consumers are using their mobile phones in the different countries.

Over the past two years, the introduction of the iPhone has changed the way consumers and brands perceive mobile phones. It acted as a marketing catalyst, raising awareness of smarter devices and conveying the idea that there are as many mobile services as there are consumers. Consumers will continue to shift their attitudes toward mobile phones — perceiving them not only as communication tools but also increasingly as entertaining and productive devices that can help them in their daily lives. More than 40% of European consumers are beginning to demonstrate sophisticated usage of mobile services.

We expect this to grow over time led by the two most sophisticated group of users (SuperConnecteds and Entertainers). They will change the general perception of mobile phones:

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When do you opt for your cell phone rather than your computer?

Julie Ask

My answer to this question was, "never" until a couple of years ago. Sure, I was more likely to make a phone call on my cell phone than on my computer, but that is to be expected - it has traditionally been designed to be a voice communication device.

Opting for my cell phone rather than my laptop first started for me a couple of years ago. I began using SMS as a substitute for email. Then I started using email on my Blackberry because it would boot faster than my computer. Next came Google SMS - for me it was soooo much faster to get a phone number for a business through Google's SMS service than to call (ok, which costs money) or look online. Then, I got an iPhone and started downloading all kinds of applications. Some I barely use, but .... there are quite a few that I use rather than comparable experiences on the PC. These include Facebook (I'm more likely to be doing something interesting when I'm out and about), Scrabble (tallies the score for you), and maps (stopped printing all those maps out) among others.

For all of these services whereby I opt for my phone rather than my PC, I do so because the experience on the cell phone is more convenient. That means the benefits outweigh the inhibitors to use. When it comes to mobile services, there is convenience when there is value to the immediacy of the information or service, tasks are simple to execute and there is context - like my location.

We lay out this framework in our newly released report, "The Convenience Quotient of Mobile Services: A Facebook Case Study."

Why mobile could reinvent social computing

Thomas Husson

Many innovative start-ups have pioneered mobile social networking in the last few years: BuzzCity, Peperoni, Fring, Nimbuzz, eBuddy, Zyb, Plazes, Loopt, Foursquare and many others demonstrated the potential of the market.

 

In the last few months, a bunch of announcements clearly showed that the convergence between mobile and social computing is gaining traction and attracting the largest stakeholders:

 

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Mobile augmented reality

Thomas Husson

The pace of innovation is accelerating in the mobile space like never before and opening up new opportunities. Mobile has the potentiel to bridge the digital and the real worlds. Not a day without a new mobile augmented reality service or application out on the market. Of course, that's still niche but it clearly demonstrates the potential of the mobile platform.

If you disagree or if you don't get my point, just watch the video below

This video is not brand new and has already been seen close to 500,000 times. The service is provided by an innovative start-up that offers a reality browser available for Android. However, these types of applications are flourishing. See for example the Métro Paris application here or more recently the Meilleursagents.com app here.

 

I bet the best mobile service at the next MWC conference in Barcelona will be a mobile augmented reality app or service. If you haven't submitted your service, the contest is now open at www.globalmobileawards.com.

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Quantifying mobile trends in Western Europe

Thomas Husson

At the end of this year, Forrester expects mobile Internet penetration to reach 17% in Western Europe — the same adoption rate for the PC Internet a decade ago. At that time, mobile phone penetration was still below the 40% threshold and mobile shops were opening at every high-street corner. Companies were only starting to launch their web presence and to anticipate the impact of the Web. Operator-branded mobile Internet solutions would only launch 3 years after and 3G in 2003/2004.

10 years after, the mobile Internet is reaching critical mass and a virtuous mobile Internet cycle is kicking off. Consumers who have a flat-rate data bundle spend more and more time on the Internet from their mobile phones, brands begin to launch their mobile Web presence to monetize these growing audiences and engage with their customers via more relevant mobile content and services, which in turn attracts more and more consumers to unlimited mobile Internet tariffs.

The current economic climate will lengthen handset renewal cycles, foster the development of low-cost offerings, and boost the uptake of SIM-only contracts. Operators are likely to postpone major investments in new networks such as 4G / Long-Term Evolution, despite early trials and commercialization in the Nordics. However, it will only slightly reduce the pace of growth for those elements that stimulate mobile Internet usage: 3.5G and Internet-centric mobile phones as well as all-you-can-eat data plans will be widely available in the next five years. That's the reason why Forrester expects mobile Internet to grow to 39% by the end of 2014. That's a lower end point than for the PC Internet in 2004, but the growth curve per se looks quite the same.

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What role will mobile play in the future of social networks?

Thomas Husson

I published my first report on mobile social networks 2 years ago (see here) at a time when Facebook audience was "only" around 50 million unique monthly visitors. At that time MySpace was a paid-for and exclusive experience on Vodafone-Live and Bebo was about to launching a mobile version. Needless to say lots has happened in the last 2 years.

Numerous acquisitions and parternships took place between the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter, Hyves and with handset manufacturers / mobile operators. Several mobile-only communities (AirG, peperonity, itsmy.com, buzzcity...) have gained traction and there is plenty of innovation in that space. INQ generated lots of media coverage and interest by lauching its so-called "Facebook phone" and plans to launch new devices. I am not sure what the latest Facebook mobile stats are but not that long ago rougly 10% of the worldwide installed base of FB users had registered to the mobile version. Even more significantly, the GSMA announced a few months ago that UK mobile consumers who access Facebook via their mobile phone spend, on average, 24 minutes on the site daily, just shy of the 27.5 minutes that PC-based Internet users spend daily on Facebook; mobile users of Facebook average 3.3 visits per day versus 2.3 visits per day from PC users.

Facebook mobile

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Mobile contactless payments in Europe: reality beyond the NFC hype

Thomas Husson

Hardly a week goes by without a press article or conference reporting how ubiquitous mobile payment services and their adoption are in Japan. Forrester decided to put some figures on the so-called Japanese mass-market reality and to understand why Japan is the declared leader in mobile contactless payment services. What lessons can others learn from the Japanese market and to what extent do they apply to Europe?

There are several reasons why Japan is ahead of the curve among which the role of Felica Networks in the value chain and the scale merchants could benefit from (Sony and DoCoMo invested several dozens of million euros to make sure that retailers and points of sale had the technology to read the chipsets embedded in mobile devices), the loosening of Japan's financial regulations (making it possible for non-banks to become financial services players), operators' role in paving the way for mass market adoption of mobile Internet and higher usage of mobile services (fostering the natural expansion of mobile payments).

Despite this, reality is that the mobile contactless market in Japan is only reaching critical mass, not mass-market adoption. In Europe, conditions differ quite a lot and even if Near-Field Technology is likely to play a key role in the future, the technology is only entering the pre-commercial era.

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The "magic blue circle"

Thomas Husson

I recently came accross this quote in the Financial Times from the former Vodafone CEO on November 19, 2007: "The simple fact that we have the customer and billing relationship is a hugely powerful thing that nobody can take away from us". Would you still agree with this operator statement written in golden letters at the forefront of any "smart pipe" operator strategy?

Since then, new entrants such as Google and Apple have shaken up the value chain. I have two examples in mind showcasing the tectonic shifts happening: 1) Apple imposing a direct billing relationship via iTunes/App store and 2) Google managing to create its own location data base (via cell ID or Skyhook's wireless technology) without relying on operators' network.

As early as in July 2007 (before the 3G iPhone version embedding a GPS chip), Google Maps on iPhone (the combo of Google's and Apple's strengths) started offering the "magic blue circle" experience. You could benefit from a compelling user experience like never before, with instant localization without any GPS chipset. Of course, the accuracy may not be good enough if you are looking for a pure turn-by-turn navigation, but honestly this is so simple and useful if as a pedestrian you're looking at the streets nearby.

PicGoogleMaps

Location is at the very heart of the mobile value proposition.

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