Few consumers categories have seen the explosive adoption that wearables have - especially fitness wearables.The category has gone from zero to tens of millions in sales in less than five years.
Without smartphones, however, the wearables market is likely nothing more than a fad for devoted athletes and passionate (or overzealous) weekend warriors. Smartphones have fueled growth in two core ways:
Mass adoption of smartphones made the components cheap.
Apps allowed for and created the engagement (e.g., gamification, competition, support, coaching) consumers need to meet their goals.
Your customers are inundated with messages every day from friends or family, work colleagues, and marketers among others. Notifications from their banks, news organizations and fitness bands also land on their mobile phones. Let me show you the home screen of my iPhone.
A summary of my communication (or lack thereof) shows:
24,998 unread personal emails (okay, mostly from marketers)
4,937 unopened work emails
272 unopened SMS messages
45 unopened/read messages on WeChat (these are from marketers)
0 unread notifications from Facebook (and I average 23 per day)
0 unread notifications from Slack (and I average 87 per day)
I still use all of these communication channels, but I pay more attention to some of the channels than to others.
Here’s what is happening:
My email inbox has been overrun by emails I no longer read or want.
I continue to download new communication applications. Each time I do so, I am very selective about who I add into my new circle.
I pay most attention to those applications that offer value to me in the form of entertainment or as in the case of Slack, collaboration with a very small group of trusted colleagues. These messages are extremely relevant to me – and personal.
Fitbit made its S1 filing coming off a quarter of astounding growth: $336.8M in revenue – up from $108.8M in Q1 2014. The enterprise generated $48M in net income. Last week we learned it hopes to raise $100M through an IPO. Why would Fitbit IPO now?
There are any number of traditional reasons - raise capital, return money to investors, etc. But what is interesting to debate, however, is the timing of Fitbit’s IPO. Fitbit may have chosen to IPO now so it can:
Draft off Apple’s wave. Fitness bands and smart watches have been on the market for years, but sales have been limited – especially for smart watches. Apple’s entry and marketing spend will drive awareness of the category from early adopters on the west coast to mainstream consumers. The tide will lift all boats, as the saying goes.
Raise capital at a possible peak. The smart watch may kill off or stymy the growth of lower end fitness bands. The cameras on early mobile phones were not as good as the digital point and shoot cameras or SLR’s owned by consumers, but a camera on hand is better than the one at home in a drawer or closet. The pedometer and sensors on a smart watch may not measure activity with the same precision as a dedicated device, but it may be good enough for many consumers.
Take advantage of a market with few IPO candidates. Few small companies will mature enough – let alone show the financial strength – to take their companies public. Many entrepreneurs are building services that make great features rather than great businesses. Their exit strategy is to sell to a Google, Facebook, Salesforce.com, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, or SAP.
The move shouldn't surprise anyone. Remember Rakuten and Viber? Retailers need to expand their reach to acquire more customers. The more contextual the better. The investment is small relative to Snapchat's valuation and Alibaba's worth. I would view it more as an option to make a future, larger play than a clear indication of a new strategy.
Two things matter the most in mobile:
1) Audience. Snapchat offers a new audience to Alibaba - one in the US and one that is described as being younger. Consumers spend more time in communication and social media apps than in retailing apps - in aggregate. Accessing consumers - marketing to consumers, letting consumers engage with brands or letting them make purchases where they already spend their time is an important strategy for brands looking to engage consumers on mobile devices - we call this "borrowing mobile moments." Alibaba's recent moves including products, acquisitions and investments clearly signal that they intend to make a strong play in mobile. They acquired a mobile OS player a few weeks back. An investment in Snapchat is another strategic asset.
2) Data. Insights generated from mobile, social, sensor- etc. data will fuel the next generation of mobile experiences. This data will also give retailers insights into the needs and motivations of their consumers - especially in real time, on the go, what is trending. Consumers love flash sales, for example.
Neither the valuations nor the velocity of deals should surprise anyone. Mobile phones are more akin to islands with limited (valuable) real estate than ever-expanding universes. Smart players like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Alibaba know this. Expect the trend to continue.
Mobile World Congress (MWC) is “the” event in mobile. It is the event where Samsung, HTC, Huawei, Sony, Microsoft, LG … well, really everyone (but Apple) will launch new mobile phones, tablets, and wearables. And, yes big-screened mobile phones are still “in.” I’m more likely to buy a leather jacket with bigger pockets or a larger purse than to buy a smaller phone.
Thousands flock to Barcelona annually to hold these devices in their hands. Words too often fall short in describing the feeling of holding the next Samsung device in your hand or the emotions of delight and bewilderment when you turn the device on.
The question then is: “So what? What does it mean for my company?”
Two things matter in mobile: audience and data. SnapChat has audience.
Audience matters because consumers are using fewer and fewer applications on their mobile devices. Brands can no longer pursue a “destination” strategy and expect consumers will come to them. They need to go engage consumers where they are. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for $19B gave us a sense of just how valuable audience depth, reach and usage is.
Data matters because it helps us simplify or improve mobile experiences by anticipating the needs of customers or to improve the value of advertising - if you are monetizing your app that way. Under Armour just paid $475M for MyFitnessPal for the audience, food database and personal data.
The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opens in Las Vegas on January 6th,with global electronics manufacturers from Samsung to Sony to LG looking to outdo one another with whispers and snippets of content that will increase our anticipation of the next "must have" device.
CES is typically dominated by TV's and home entertainment systems with the same manufacturers using Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona in early March for smartphones and tablets. But I both hope and expect to see some new things at CES this year. In fact, I even put them on my Christmas list. This year, I expect the new eye-popping devices to:
Push beyond entertainment. Entertainment has dominated the electronics industry for years. But there are only 24 hours in the day that consumers can engage with entertainment, that is - if they don't sleep. So while technologies like the DVR have made consuming content more efficient so we can squeeze more in, ultimately our ability to consume entertainment is capped. Don't get me wrong - I still expect to see mind-blowing advances in cameras, screen resolution, and audio quality, but growth in electronics will come from expanding their use cases. Translation: expect to see more devices offering utility to consumers - helping us lose weight, eat healthier, cut our energy bills, care for a plant, or let UPS leave a package inside the house.
Uber isn’t a mobile app service. (I heard a taxi driver call them “app cars”). Uber is a business enabled by mobile.
Mobile changes consumer expectations of convenience in three dimensions:
Immediacy. I may wait three to 10 minutes for a ride, but I have instant access to information (e.g., the location of the vehicle and when it will arrive).
Simplicity. I press a button “pick me up” and a car is ordered for my precise location. Ordering a ride could not be any simpler — well, at least until someone learns to anticipate when I need a ride and asks me before I order. (I’m waiting on my airline to do this for me).
Context. Context is the sum of all of the information that a company has about a consumer (or employee — in this case supply of rides also) including situation (time, location, etc.), past behavior or preferences, and emotions inferred from one’s logistics. Uber depends primarily on real-time context or location in the moment to match supply and demand. Drivers also use ratings to decide if they want to pick up a passenger.
Mobile reached a tipping point in 2014 as it solidified its position as one of the most disruptive technologies for businesses in decades. Not since the advent of the Internet, has a technology forced businesses to rethink completely how they win, serve and retain customers. Mobile has completely shifted consumer expectations. Today, consumers expect to get anything they need immediately, in context. Forrester refers to this as the mobile mind shift.
Forrester believes that, in 2015, the gap will increase between leaders and laggards. Leaders will use mobile to transform both their customer experience and their business. They will anticipate the needs of their customers and engage them at exactly the right moment with the right content and services. Forrester refers to these moments as mobile moments. Doing so will require massive spending in the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to put the infrastructure, technology, processes and organization in place to engage consumers in their mobile moments.
Most companies will fall short. They have a myopic view of mobile. Why?
Treat mobile has a squeezed down version of a PC experience or a portion of their digital strategy. Why? That is how they are organized and goaled. As a result, they fail to optimize the use of mobile for their overall business. Second, they fail to serve the needs of customers.
Too many brands fail to leverage the potential of mobile because they act like destinations. Some of you may think being a destination is awesome. Who doesn’t like Paris or Bora Bora? But what does it mean to “act like a destination” in mobile? For most brands, their only strategy to engage their customers is on their own mobile web site or app.
Let’s step back a minute and talk about destinations.
Atlantic City was conceptualized as a destination in the 1800’s. Tourism peaked during Prohibition when drinking and gambling rules were not enforced. Consumers had limited options. That changed. Fast forward 50+ years. In 1976, Atlantic City legalized gambling which led to a partial comeback, but they’ve struggled since the early 1990’s because consumers have better options and prefer to spend their time elsewhere. People still go there – just fewer.
Developers have since tried to revitalize Atlantic City as a destination. In May 2012, the Revel Casino opened. Billions were spent to create a destination with shops, restaurants and gambling – everything a visitor could want. How many people visited last weekend? Zero. Revel – this casino - closed its doors in September 2014 with its assets liquidated for small change relative to the investment.