Another Year In Review: Revisiting 2013's Mobile Trends

Every year for the past few years, I've revisited our predictions for the previous year's mobile trends. It's now time to look back at 2013 and, specifically, at the 2013 mobile trends post I put together a year ago with my colleague Julie Ask.

So many things happened in 2013, making it difficult to sum up the year overall. BlackBerry’s struggle and Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia devices offered apt symbols for the end of the old mobile era. However, the mobile war is far from over. Following marketers’ integration of mobile into the mix, many vendors started to acquire mobile expertise, technology, and resources — and those acquisitions are far from over. Players like Facebook that acknowledged their past mistakes and turned into mobile-first companies managed to generate significant revenues; mobile now represents more than 40% of Facebook's ad revenues.

Let’s take a look at some of the key trends we highlighted last year. We expected that:

  • Advanced marketers would integrate mobile into a multiyear strategic vision. We said: "Mobile platforms will act as a catalyst for the next generation of connected experiences. In particular, smart apps connected to products and CRM systems will emerge. In 2013, leading marketers will anticipate the longer-term mobile disruption and shift from tactical efforts to more transformative mobile strategies." The reality: We have seen traditional brands tackling the mobile agenda far more seriously and moving responsibility for it up a level to the C-suite. As this article explains, the likes of Mondelez, Macy’s, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks, among others, are much more mature in their approach to mobile.
  • Implementing this strategy would require significant investment and marketing control. We said: "Mobile on the cheap is over. Implementing the complex technology to make the most of mobile opportunities requires a new vision of how to interact with customers, significant changes in culture and competencies across business and IT, and more investment. Leading marketers will take back mobile ownership from agencies and services vendors." The reality: Leaders are spending well into the eight figures and have more than 100 staff members — most of them on the technology side. We spoke with one head of mobile who reports to the CMO of a global insurance company and found that the company’s total mobile budget — including the creation of an internal mobile factory — was dozens of millions of euros. However, the majority of companies still lag behind, and many are still experimenting without coordinating their approach with companywide governance.
  • Some hyped mobile trends would disappoint. We said: "Indoor location, cross-channel attribution, responsive design, automated mobile marketing and targeting solutions, mobile 'big data,' and other mobile technologies will make progress, but they won’t be game-changers this year." The reality: Huge progress has been made in all of these areas, but it is difficult to isolate any one of them as having made a breakthrough, despite the hype around the likes of mobile RTB, Near Field Communications, and iBeacon.

What did we miss? Do you disagree with the above statements? In your opinion, what were the key trends of 2013? And what do you expect to happen in 2014? Forrester will publish a new report next week sharing our perspective on 2014's mobile trends. Stay tuned!

Thomas Husson is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving marketing leadership professionals. Follow him on Twitter at @Thomas_Husson.