When revisiting our 2011 mobile trends, Julie Askand I concluded that many, if not all, of them were still evolving and relevant. We have placed the main new trends for 2012 into four categories: business, ecosystem, consumer expectations, and technology.
Mobile Is A Key Business Strategy Enabler
Product strategists must work with other roles in the organization to:
Develop a scalable approach to delivering mobile services. Organizations will need a strategic approach to building and spreading institutional knowledge as well as governance for the development of mobile services.
Craft a mobile strategy that extends beyond phones. The emergence of tablets in particular will require a different approach than smartphones.
Differentiate on the delivery rather than the content of mobile services. In 2012, “how” mobile services are delivered will differentiate them — not what they offer.
A year ago, Forrester stated that 2011 would — finally — be the year that Near Field Communications (NFC) began to matter. We predicted that dozens of millions of NFC devices would ship and that the market would start moving away from being niche, although it would still be years away from becoming mainstream. Now that 2011 is coming to an end and it is once again the time for predictions, let’s look back at NFC’s year before we publish our report on mobile trends in 2012 at the start of next year.
I recently got confirmation from trusted sources that 35 million to 40 million would be a good estimate for worldwide NFC mobile phone shipments. 2011 was a game-changing year in that handset makers eventually started to embed the technology in their product portfolio.
Despite the hype about Google Wallet, the reality is that few consumers can use it. It will take a few more years before we reach a critical mass of not just NFC device owners but also users of services enabled by NFC technology. Why? Few services are available now; the out-of-the-box experience is still poor; consumer education is missing; and there’s only limited availability of NFC readers in the retail environment.
Product strategists should stop focusing on NFC as just a contactless payment technology but should instead anticipate new uses for the technology that enable consumers to interact with the environment around them.
Most consumers using an NFC device in 2012 will more likely use it for device-pairing or data-sharing purposes than for payments. Why? Because it can work in a closed loop without the need for NFC infrastructure. Device manufacturers will offer NFC-based multimedia content sharing services, such as the recent Blackberry Tag.
Product strategists in various industries tend to dismiss telcos' role in service innovation, focusing instead on disruptors such as Google and Apple. It is true that new entrants and over-the-top (OTT) players have bypassed carriers, reducing their role to providing bit pipes.
Product strategists at telcos are suffering from what we are calling “bit pipe syndrome.” Didier Lombard, the former CEO of France Telecom, summed this up well when he declared back in 2007, "I am not building freeways for Californian cars."
Since then, many observers have claimed that telcos will die if they do not reinvent their business models, leveraging their networks as a service. This case is overstated: Reports of operators' deaths are exaggerated.
No doubt telcos are increasingly being commoditized to the point that they will become utilities, but there is no shame in monetizing networks — carriers' bread and butter for a few more years. Fundamental connectivity remains a valuable service — all the more if product strategists focus on gaining more pricing power and delivering more segmented offerings, either on their own or with new strategic partners.
When it comes to product innovation, operators still have key assets to leverage — particularly their billing capabilities — to become trusted partners for consumers and third parties. Some global carriers have a strong presence in emerging countries, and they will have more sway in shaping the types of content services that the world consumes.
Product strategists at operators have the assets to continue to differentiate their offerings and innovate in a disrupted telecom ecosystem. I am not saying this is not challenging and extremely difficult, but here are some approaches that could work:
A year ago, Forrester fielded our Q3 2010 Global Mobile Maturity Online Survey. We interviewed more than 200 executives in charge of their companies’ mobile strategies around the globe (40% in the US, 40% in Europe, and 20% in the rest of the world). You can see the results from last year’s survey here.
To help consumer product strategists and executives benchmark and mature their mobile consumer strategies, we’re updating this survey.
Planning and organizing for the use of mobile technologies is a complex task. Some players are laggards and think they still need to get the basics of their online presence right, while others are clearly ahead of the curve. Yet two questions we consistently hear are: “Where is my organization compared with others in the use of mobile?” and “How can we mature our mobile consumer approach?”
Here’s how you can help:
If you’re in charge of your company's mobile consumer initiative or if you’re familiar with it, then please take this survey.
Today, Apple’s product strategists revealed their newest premium smartphone: the iPhone 4S. Just like the 3GS at its introduction, the 4S relies on a leap in processing power and a new interaction paradigm but eschews technology upgrades upon which product strategists building Android-based devices rely today, such as LTE and behemoth screens.
Apple’s new iPhone lineup provides a complete portfolio of products, from the premium 4S in memory configurations up to 64 GB, to the 8 GB iPhone 4 which will allow all of Apple’s carrier customers (including new partners Sprint and KDDI in Japan) to offer a mid-tier iPhone. Apple’s product strategists have opted to add an entry-level option for its GSM-based carrier partners by maintaining the 8 GB iPhone 3GS.
With the iPhone 4S, have Apple’s product strategists designed a product that will maintain Apple’s leadership in the high-end smartphone battle? Forrester believes so — even though Apple chose not to include features that its competitors use to command a premium position, including:
Thanks to the phenomenal popularity of Apple’s iPhone and Android’s growing traction — more than 550,000 Android devices are activated each day — many product strategists tend to assume that smartphones are a mass-market phenomenon.
The reality is that in a global population with more than 5 billion subscriptions, smartphones are still niche. However, in the US and some European countries, smartphone penetration is racing past 25%; smartphones are going mainstream, albeit at a varying pace across the globe.
Consumer product strategists should anticipate the consequences of moving from a smartphone target audience of early adopters to one that is more mainstream.
When targeting the second wave of smartphone users, we believe strategists should:
Design specific mobile products by better understanding new smartphone owners. New segments of smartphone owners will emerge, with a much more diverse profile than the first wave of smartphone early adopters. One way to obtain more detailed information about these consumers is to use the basic connectivity of the smartphone to establish the beginnings of a digital customer relationship. The promise of ongoing product upgrades is one incentive that may convince these new customers to share their information, but free content such as an application is more likely to win their confidence.
Carefully monitor new smartphone owners’ usage. There is always a huge gap between the features available on a smartphone and the actual use of these features. It is critical to constantly analyze how smartphone users are using their devices; this will allow strategists to optimize the road maps not only for new devices but also for those products and services to be delivered to the second wave of smartphone users.
Maps and navigation are not yet mainstream, but they are more useful as product features anyway. This means that location is no longer a service like maps or navigation but is increasingly an enabler of new product experiences.
Location and maps are increasingly becoming features of new mobile products and services.
Location will happen automatically, behind the scenes. Adjustments will be invisible from a user perspective (think about the automatic weather update on your home screen widget).
Relevancy of local data will improve quickly. The era of basic point of interest (POI) information is over. Enriching addresses with more accurate information on opening hours, real-time data (traffic information, promotions, etc.), product/brand data, dynamic data (consumer reviews, inventory information) will deliver greater consumer benefits.
New algorithms will bridge the physical and digital worlds. Coupling more accurate local data with user context and other sources of information will foster the development of crowdsourcing and predictive analysis (e.g., predicting traffic congestion or air quality monitoring). Moving forward, these new algorithms will have far-reaching consequences well beyond mobile.
I have had the opportunity to contribute to a brand-new piece of research led by my colleague Julie A. Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.
We both believe mobile has the potential to be even bigger and more disruptive than the Internet.
That’s a bold statement! Today, few of the numerous professionals we interviewed are developing digital strategies that leverage context and make the most of the phenomenal technology packed inside mobile devices. Even fewer are anticipating the opportunities that will emerge tomorrow, with technology innovation driving capabilities around the user’s context.
Indeed, the fancy features, such as GPS and NFC, embedded in mobile phones will become common, while new sensors like barometers will reveal more about the user’s environment. The phones will also act as modems, relaying or interpreting information from other machines or from attachments with sensors. In a few years, mobile will be divorced from the PC. While a mobile device may have the ability to act like a PC, it has the potential to do much, much more. Product strategists must step into the leadership role, driving the development of user-context-based products. Increasingly, voice and motion will control devices and applications. There will be an entirely new generation of products and services delivered on mobile platforms that will not originate online.
At the end of the day, who knows you best? Your mobile phone! Why?
Because it will become the device you use to interact with the world around you — your hotel room, your shopping cart, your TV, your bank, your parking meter, your car, your running shoes, and many other aspects of your life. You won’t be able to keep anything secret from your mobile phone.
Google’s product strategists just announced the launch of Google Wallet — an NFC-based mobile payment solution. As my colleague Charlie Golvin pointed out, this is another early salvo in what will be a long and hard-fought battle to change consumers’ payment behavior and, as a potential result, the makeup of the payments landscape.
We have covered this issue in more detail in a new Forrester report “Google Wallet Is Not About Mobile Payments.” Clients can access the report here.
Given its core search business and ad-based revenue model, why would the company make that investment? Because Google’s product strategists’ focus is not on the payment itself; it’s on all of the other elements that comprise a commerce experience and the data that characterizes those elements.
Indeed, appending real-world purchase information to its treasure trove of online behavioral data will vastly increase the value of customers’ profiles and increase the rates Google can charge its advertisers. It will be a way for Google to increase its local presence. NFC is too often equated simply with payments, but Google understands that NFC tags have broad application (working like Quick Response [QR] and other 2D barcodes do today). Google can help retailers use NFC tags for in-store promotions and check-ins, augmenting the understanding of customer behavior for ad targeting.
Rarely a mobile conference goes by without this debate popping up: Should you build a mobile website or an application? I don’t think it really matters; in fact, I’d say it is irrelevant. This is just one of many topics where technology leads marketing by the nose— as is often the case in the mobile industry! Product strategists often forget to ask themselves the right questions: which product and services, for which audiences, at what cost, and when?
Consumer product strategists designing product experiences for mobile phones and smartphones must decide on their development priorities across the mobile Web and apps. While some believe this is a fundamental “either/or” choice, current consumer behavior suggests that consumers are using both. More than half of European (and 60% of US) consumers who download apps at least monthly also access the Internet via their mobile phones at least daily. In short, heavy app users are also heavy mobile Web users. The more frequently consumers access the Internet via their mobile phones, the more likely they are to download apps at least monthly. More than 10 billion apps have been downloaded cumulatively since the launch of the Apple App Store — the majority of them via iPhones. But this doesn’t stop iPhone owners from being the most frequent mobile Internet users: 72% of European iPhone owners (and 63% of US iPhone owners) access the mobile Internet on a daily basis.