Beacon Marketing: Be Wary Of The Hype

Thomas Husson

Beacons have a great deal of disruptive potential as they bridge the digital and physical worlds. I quite like this quote from Steve Cheney, SVP at Estimote: “Beacons as a platform are really a wedge into ‘appifying’ the physical world. They give context to a physical space. They are a way of actually extending the network intelligence to the edge again, something that has been missing since the desktop era. Beacons are truly a way of giving your smartphone eyes—place dumb signs around you and let your phone discover and read them.”

Beacon technology offers new opportunities for marketers across a wide range of industries and verticals. In particular, they enable marketers to:

  • Engage consumers in their mobile moments via in-app interactions.
  • Improve the customer experience.
  • Understand customer behaviors by leveraging analytics.
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What To Learn From The Japanese Mobile-Centric Market

Thomas Husson

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.

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Marketers: Now Is The Time To Act On The Mobile Opportunity

Thomas Husson

Mobile phones have changed not only the way we live and communicate. They have also changed the way we think. Customers have experienced a mind shift: They expect any desired information or service to be available, on any appropriate device, in context, at their moment of need. Technologies packed in mobile devices enable people not only to instantly consume but also to create content and maintain greater control in their everyday lives.

Customers' behaviors are becoming as sophisticated as their devices. Mobile has become the new digital hub. According to our Technographics data, 47% of European online adults who own a mobile phone use mobile apps at least weekly. Forty-five percent browse the Internet at least weekly, and 38% search for information on mobile search engines, too. In the US, 50% of online adults who use a mobile phone use their devices to check sports, weather, or news at least weekly. Forty-five percent access social networks on their phones at least weekly, and 22% research physical products for purchase! This implies that you must have a mobile component for your digital strategy. But it goes beyond this, as mobile is bridging the offline and online worlds.

Yes, mobile is a hot topic. Reading the press or listening to conferences, you may be under the impression that marketers have embraced the mobile mind shift and are really integrating mobile into the marketing mix. A significant majority of marketers told us that their senior leadership team understands the importance of mobile.

Really? We find this hard to believe.

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No Matter The Mobile Technology, Extend Your Product Packaging To Engage Customers

Thomas Husson

My colleague Reineke Reitsma recently published a blog on the limited but growing uptake of QR/2D barcodes.

Let’s face reality. Usage is low and marketing execution is poor to date, with too many campaigns that lack a clear consumer benefit and that provide a bad user experience by not offering mobile-optimized content. Today, mobile bar codes are an interesting tactic to engage with early adopters.

However, moving forward, we expect QR codes to gain traction and to be increasingly mixed with other technologies (including radio technologies like NFC) to provide extended product packaging solutions. Bar codes do not have to be just cold, emotionless, black-and-white squares. Solutions now exist to personalize QR codes’ designs and seamlessly mix them into a logo or band chart – even merging QR codes and NFC tags, as in the example below from mobiLead solutions.

The 2D bar code market will follow the same path as the 1D bar code market: fulfilling the need for certified and scalable platforms dealing with millions of standard code generation. Mobile bar code vendors will have to move into scalable mobile engagement platforms, progressively integrating multiple access technologies, such as Near Field Communications (NFC) tags, image recognition, or audio tags such as Shazam, and offering deep analytical tools. Beyond the emerging role of 2D bar codes in sales, we expect a growing number of brands — especially in the nutrition and health space — to systematize the use of bar codes on product packaging. Consumers want access to more product information, and brands can leverage mobile technologies to create a consumer relationship.

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Another Year In Review — Revisiting 2012 Mobile Trends

Thomas Husson

Every year for the past few years, I've been revisiting our mobile trends predictions. So let’s do it again for the 2012 Mobile Trends post I put together a year ago with my colleague Julie Ask.

So many things happened in 2012 that it's difficult to sum up the year. We’ve passed three key milestones in 2012: more than 1 million apps available, more than 100 million tablets and more than 1 billion smartphones in consumers’ pockets!

Let’s take a look at some of the key trends we highlighted last year. We expected product strategists to work with other roles to:

·         Develop a scalable approach to delivering mobile services. Most advanced organizations took a more strategic approach to building and spreading institutional knowledge as well as governance for the development of mobile services. However, the majority still do not coordinate their approach between marketing, IT, agencies, and vendors.

·         Craft a mobile strategy that expands beyond phones. Only the most advanced players differentiated their tablet strategies. I know of a leading online retailer that is now generating 10% of its overall online sales via tablets because of the launch of an iPad app only eight months ago! However, most players still lump smartphones and tablets into the same “mobile” bucket without understanding the differences in the context of use.

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Apple Maintains The Status Quo With The iPhone 5, But For How Long?

Tony Costa

Apple's new iPhone 5 is a case study in incremental improvement. Nearly every aspect of the product -- the CPU, display, cameras, radio modem, size, weight, etc. -- are all improved over the iPhone 4S and at the same $199 price point. No doubt, the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 will sell millions of units, preserve Apple's momentum, and hold off the competition, but significant threats are mounting that Apple cannot afford to ignore:

  • Nokia is delivering Apple-quality innovation. As Nokia demonstrated last week at its Lumia 920 event, Nokia's innovation engine is firing on all cylinders. When the Lumia 920 launches (rumored for November 2), it will outclass the iPhone 5 in key areas such as imaging (PureView imaging, Cinemagraph) and location (Maps, City Lens, Transit) as well as bring wireless charging and NFC into the mainstream. While the breadth of accessories will be nowhere near what the iPhone offers, Nokia gets strong marks for showing Apple how NFC can enhance the accessory experience. 
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iPhone 5: High Expectations, NFC, And Consumer Experiences

Thomas Husson

A year ago, we stated that despite being only an incremental improvement to the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S would maintain Apple’s leadership in the high-end smartphone battle.

A lot has changed in a year. Samsung sold 20 million Galaxy S III devices this summer, while Google recently announced that more than 1.3 million Android devices are activated each day — and that it would soon reach the milestone of 0.5 billion Android users. The San José court’s recent decision to fine Samsung $1 billion for copying Apple raised a number of complex questions regarding what exactly innovation means in the smartphone era. While it badly affected Samsung’s brand image, Samsung has a larger portfolio of mobile devices and has also proved it was able to innovate with the Note.

Even more so than a year ago, Apple’s product strategists face an ongoing paradox: maintaining premium leadership with an annual product renewal while tapping the rapidly “mainstreaming” global smartphone market. Consequently, expectations were extremely high — often irrationally so — that Apple would once again truly innovate with hardware design and features.

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With The Galaxy S3, The Samsung/Apple Fight Will Enable Smarter Product Experiences

Thomas Husson

After months of rumors and a good marketing orchestration, Samsung has just unveiled its new flagship device, the Samsung Galaxy S3. Samsung will first launch the HSPA+ device in Europe at the end of May to benefit from the current weaknesses of its competitors — in particular, Nokia. It will release in the US in an LTE version later this summer. The aim is clear: to take the lead from Apple’s iPhone in the high-end smartphone segment and do even better than the Galaxy S2, which sold more than 20 million units.

Samsung is positioning a wide range of products in all segments and in multiple consumer electronic categories, leveraging its scale and scope and its vertically integrated approach (screens, processors, storage components, etc.). Despite the growing dependence on the Android OS, Samsung does not have all its eggs in the same OS basket. However, it clearly needs to catch up in the software and services space. That’s the reason I continue to believe that, in the premium segment, Apple is still in the best position to offer a seamlessly integrated experience across devices. Samsung’s cloud component is still missing, and it will need to continue its efforts to close the gap with Apple.

On the contrary, Apple — still one of Samsung’s largest clients (chipsets and screens) — has few models and higher margins and is in a position to leverage a different ecosystem around its OS, apps, and iCloud models. Thanks to the phenomenal success of the iPad, the Apple brand is reinventing itself and expanding into hardware categories that represent new growth drivers from which Samsung is not yet able to benefit.

Beyond the Samsung/Apple high-end leadership war, the great news is that these new smartphones will increasingly enable consumer-facing brands to launch innovative new product experiences. Some of the new services introduced by the Galaxy S III highlight this phenomenon:

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Thoughts About NFC, Contactless Services, And Nokia Lumia Devices

Thomas Husson

A couple of weeks ago, I stated that there was much more to Near Field Communications (NFC) than just contactless payments. The WIMA conference starting today in Monaco will showcase numerous use cases for the technology.

I continue to believe that most consumers using an NFC device in 2012 will more likely use it for device-pairing or data-sharing purposes than for payments. Pairing NFC accessories and reading NFC smart tags will open up new opportunities. NFC will be a key technology for interacting with the world around you — and it is time to test it, as highlighted in this recent piece of research written by my colleague Anthony Mullen. There is an ongoing debate about bar codes’ potential replacement by NFC; I think both technologies serve different objectives and have different advantages but will continue to co-exist. Radio and optical technologies are converging, as highlighted by French startup Mobilead, which does a fantastic job of delivering a great branded experience mixing QR codes and NFC tags.

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Thoughts From My Pilgrimage To Mobile's Mecca

Thomas Husson

Once again, I've just spent a couple of days in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress (MWC). Year after year, the show is opening up to non-telecom players and going beyond mobile. Think about the rise of personal cloud-based services delivering consumer experiences across devices, Sony's marketing efforts to promote seamless entertainment across different screens, or the emergence of the "phablets" acronym (devices in between a phone and a tablet, such as Asus Padfone or LG Vu).  

While it is difficult to summarize all the news and announcements, here are some thoughts on MWC 2012:

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