5 Years And 50 Billion Downloads Later, Apple Still Leads The App Store Economy

 

More often than not, people refer to 2007 and the launch of the iPhone as the key milestone that changed forever the mobile industry. Despite an incredible device, Apple struggled the first few months because its business model relied on sharing revenues with telecom operators instead of letting them subsidize its smartphones. The key milestone was in fact July 2008 and the launch of the Apple App Store because it symbolized a new era: the shift from hardware to software in the mobile industry.

While Apple was not the first app marketplace, it is fair to say it created the App economy. 5 years and 50 billion downloads later, where do we stand?   

  • App Stores: A Unique Opportunity To Engage Consumers Directly

Ask console gaming companies what they think of disruption created by app stores (now a generic term following the end of the “app store” name lawsuit between Apple and Amazon) and you’ll get a sense of what the app economy is. We’re scratching the surface of changes to come but clearly the app economy enables brands (including those who do not have a  retail presence) to get insights on consumer behaviors to create new products and to distribute them at much lower cost. Numerous consumer app stores have flourished (more than 70 different Android-based app stores in China!) but few are really succeeding. Google Play has surpassed the Apple App Store when it comes to the sheer number of available apps and both have surpassed 50 billion downloads leaving competitors in the dust. However, volume does not matter so much any more. This is all about usage, personalization and recommendation.

  • App Monetization: Not There Yet
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Don't Confuse Tablet And Mobile Marketing

Too many marketing leaders still lump tablets and smartphones into the same mobile bucket. That’s a mistake. Why? Because tablets are not primarily mobile devices. Instead, they are mostly used within the home. Marketing leaders must create a differentiated tablet experience or risk dissatisfying their best customers and missing opportunities to engage when customers discover and explore their products.

Here are the key takeaways from new research I conducted in the past few months:

  • Tablet marketing matters. Tablet marketing enables marketers to engage with influential customers who spend less time on PCs and print media. People use tablets differently from smartphones, requiring marketers to adapt their approach.
  • Marketers should use tablets to enhance discovery and depth in the digital home. Marketers will see the benefits of designing immersive tablet experiences for people discovering and researching their brands and products. They should use search marketing to drive better conversion rates and tablet commerce. And they should maximize TV ads by creating tablet extensions for multitaskers as well as creating new marketing experiences in the digital home.
  • Shift to contextual marketing. Most of us have only had mobile phones for, at most, 12 years. I have already explained here why we’re all mobile teens, figuring out our relationships with others and with brands. Unsurprisingly, marketers face challenges integrating mobile and tablet in the mix. It’s time to stop thinking about devices and instead shift to thinking about contextual marketing.
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No Matter The Mobile Technology, Extend Your Product Packaging To Engage Customers

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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The AppGratis Controversy And The Mobile App Discovery & Promotion

AppGratis is a French app promotion and discovery platform startup that was recently ejected from the App Store on the grounds that it violated Apple’s developer T&Cs. Back in September 2012, Apple tweaked its developer guidelines, adding a clause that states: “Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected.”

Simon Dawlat, the CEO of AppGratis, shares his vision in great detail here and explains why he thinks the ban is totally unfair. Even France’s digital industry minister, Fleur Pellerin, has spoken up in support of AppGratis, describing Apple’s actions as ”extremely brutal, unilateral, and without explanation,” and calling on Cupertino to “behave ethically.“ Natasha Lomas at TechCrunch fairly and exhaustively summarizes the whole story here.

Without going into the legal details here, one may argue that there is a blurring of the line between app discovery and app promotion. I personally viewed AppGratis as a traffic booster based on curated app discovery experiences. I think it definitely helped gain some initial visibility in app stores, but I think app developers and publishers still needed to measure the customer lifetime value and make sure their audiences would stay engaged.

Anyway, the AppGratis controversy highlights the growing dependency from publishers and developers to Apple and Google in the app economy.

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We Are All Mobile Teens

To borrow from McCann Truth Central, most of us have owned mobile devices (not to mention smartphones) for, on average, 12 years — and we’re still figuring out mobile phone behaviors and the impact of mobile on our relationships. We have distinct mobile personalities.

This means we’re all mobile teens, trying to envision our futures and figuring out our relationships with others and with brands. If mobile marketing is entering the teenage years, then needless to say, tablet marketing is in its infancy.

To draw the analogy a step further, let’s consider marketers as parents. What does this mean? It implies that marketing leaders should help their kids grow and develop, play to their strengths, accept their differences, and reinforce their identities without forcing them to become what they are not. It means that the future will be full of surprises, with unknown territories and new use cases to come for not only smartphones and tablets but also reinvented laptops and personal computers. A lot of the attention will be paid to the new baby (the tablet), certainly creating some conflicts with the older sibling (the smartphone), which is particularly keen to become independent despite its relative immaturity.

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Back From Yet Another Pilgrimage To Mobile's Mecca

 

After experiencing some of the most exhausting days in the life of a “mobile” analyst, I am back from Barcelona. I shared some thoughts before the event started (see here), but here are my key takeaways from the 2013 event. I saw:

  • Fewer high-end smartphones. Gone are the days when handset makers announced their flagship devices in Barcelona. In a communication ripped from Apple’s playbook, Samsung announced a press conference for the likely launch of the Galaxy S4 on March 14. Among the most interesting devices from a price/technology standpoint were the Huawei Ascend P2 and some of the LG handsets. 
  • More and more “phablets” and tablets. In the “phablet” category — I prefer to call them supersized smartphones — a special mention goes to the LG Optimus Pro. Numerous tablets were announced, including the Sony XPeria Tablet Z for $499, three Android Lenovo tablets, and the HP Slate 7 — an Android tablet for business users at only $169. These types of announcements are new for MWC, highlighting the evolution of personal computing and the growing importance of the screen size.
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MWC 2013: More Global And More Disruptive Than Ever Before

It’s that time of the year: the pilgrimage to the Mobile Mecca, Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona. This is my 10th pilgrimage in a row and, needless to say, the event has changed tremendously over the past few years – from 3GSM in Cannes to the new venue in Barcelona this year. While CTIA is still very US-centric and CES is still a lot about TVs, MWC is really the only global mobile event with a strong presence of operators and handset manufacturers from all over the world. Every year the show becomes not only more global, but also more open to new categories of players — such as advertisers and developers — willing to make the most of mobile technologies, and more open to connected devices that go far beyond the traditional definition of a mobile phone. Markets are colliding and mobile innovation is at the center of these upheavals. MWC used to be a telecom show focusing mainly on mobile technologies, but the event is now bringing together people from every industry.

In the light of today’s first announcements, here is my take on how to put in perspective the announcements to be made at MWC 2013 in the coming days:

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It Is Time To Differentiate Your Tablet Approach

If you still believe that tablets are merely a fad or just a way to engage more affluent early adopters in their 30s or 40s, you need to change your mind — now. 

According to our latest Technographics® data, European tablet ownership is highest among 18- to 24-year-old online users — 25% of them own one! 2012 saw a surge in the popularity of tablets among this age group. Why? As with any technology that’s reaching critical mass, the profile of its adopters evolves over time — and it will continue to do so. 

With double-digit growth in tablet uptake across Western Europe in 2012, about one in seven online Europeans now owns a tablet. And with further double-digit growth expected in the years ahead, tablets are changing the consumer technology landscape. According to the Forrester Research World Tablet Adoption Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (Global), 55% of European online consumers will own a tablet by the end of 2017.

Tablet owners are not precious about their devices: Of those that have a spouse/partner, 63% share their tablet with them; one-third of parents share their tablet with their children. This makes tablets a far more social device than smartphones, which are much more personal and intimate.

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2013 Mobile Trends For Marketers

In advance of Mobile World Congress, I revisited our 2012 mobile trends predictions with my colleague Julie Ask and we found that all of them are still evolving and relevant in 2013.

The trends we’ve identified for 2013 center on multiyear plans and scaled-up investments. Mobile’s dynamics of immediacy and ubiquity will challenge the notion that mobile is immature. Innovators will overcome any concerns about maturity to make big, strategic investments in mobile to pull ahead of their competitors. Differentiating with mobile will require marketers to develop the multiyear visions required to drive real change in their business and their approach to implementing mobile services.

When we categorized the key 2013 mobile trends and their implications for marketers, they fell into two major groups:

To summarize the key takeaways into three main points, here’s what we think will happen in 2013:

  • Advanced Marketers Will Integrate Mobile Into A Multiyear Strategic Vision

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.

  • Implementing This Strategy Requires Significant Investment And Marketing Control
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RIM Is Dead: Long Live BlackBerry?

To avoid brand dilution, RIM’s corporate brand name is disappearing today and is being replaced by BlackBerry for shareholders and employees in an attempt to instill brand values internally.

While the (too) long-awaited new Blackberry OS is innovative and will help reduce churn among BlackBerry’s 79 million existing subscribers to competing devices from Apple and Android in 2013, the longer-term challenge for the BlackBerry brand is still huge.

Don’t get me wrong: The great strides that BlackBerry’s made in the device and OS deserve credit.

The two new devices announced today — in a price range above $500 — also look great and on par with, if not better than, the best high-end smartphones on the market today; they have eventually put an end to the poor browsing, app, and multimedia experiences delivered on BlackBerry devices until now. The new OS brings some very interesting and innovative features. The smart contextual prediction keyboard, the BlackBerry Hub, the BlackBerry Balance, as well as the new video chat and screen-sharing functionalities available to BBM users will also offer a seamless and innovative experience to the “business execs,” “working moms,” and “hyperactive teens” that BlackBerry is targeting. Telecom carriers will also significantly support the new devices, with about 200 operators worldwide launching them by June 2013. Why? BlackBerry devices have always delivered more profitable customers to carriers because of their network efficiency. Due to the limited uptake (for now) of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8, telecom operators will no doubt give the new products a chance to succeed in order to avoid being dependent on Apple or Google.

However, there is little rationale today for most product strategists and marketers to invest in customized BlackBerry experiences.

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