In this special report, JWT explores how the world of mobile connectivity is evolving, based on insights gleaned at the GSMA’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in late February.
“The mobile is moving well beyond its role as a phone and even as a communication device more broadly, becoming an enabler for a wide range of experiences, from TV viewing to shopping to banking,” said Ann Mack, director of trend spotting at JWT. “In this respect, the mobile is evolving into a primary screen for consumers.”
“Mobile is disrupting industries from retail to autos to finance and beyond — and the consensus at the Mobile World Congress was that change is happening at an astonishing scale and speed,” said JWT Intelligence editor Marian Berelowitz, who attended the four-day event. “The drivers of change will include the shift to 4G, the millions more consumers getting connected, and the rapid spread of machine-to-machine communication.”
JWT’s ‘13 Mobile Trends for 2013’ outlines key trends in evidence at the MWC, along with examples that illustrate these developments and implications for brands. The report also incorporates insights from interviews with several mobile experts and influencers.
1. Maturation of Machine-to-Machine Communication: As new partnerships and common standards develop, we’ll start seeing more consumer-facing applications of machine-to-machine communication (objects wirelessly communicating with each other through embedded sensors and other devices). And as M2M connections proliferate and expand the Internet of Things, expect disruption in sectors and industries from energy to health care to urban planning.
2. The Car As a Mobile Device: With the advent of in-car 4G, built-in Wi-Fi and ever more partnerships between apps and automakers, the automobile is turning into a speedy smartphone. The potential that advanced connectivity brings to cars — for improved safety, entertainment options, geo-local advertising — is enormous.
3. Connecting the World: Mobile companies are focusing on connecting the next billion people, which will require not only cheaper handsets and data costs but a rethink of hardware design and software (apps, discovery, etc.).
4. Mobile As Gateway to Opportunity: Connectivity brings positive economic, political and social effects. On an individual level, the mobile is a tool that can help users do everything from basic chores to acquiring knowledge to running micro-businesses — leading many in emerging regions to see it as enabling upward mobility and a better life.
5. Revolutionizing Transactions: Mobile devices have the potential to revolutionize transactions in places where bank accounts and credit cards are the exception. As mobile money slowly comes to fruition, it will make a major impact on developed markets — and an even bigger one in developing regions, where it’s already broadening access to financial services.
6. Gen Z Mobile Mavens: Since members of the youngest generation take mobile connectivity for granted, they have come to expect everything — information, products, friends, entertainment — to be instantly available in the palm of their hand. This mobile-informed outlook makes them more impatient, socially connected and constantly stimulated than any generation before — presenting a new challenge for marketers looking to engage with them.
7. A Million Ways to Say Hi: Today, the ‘telephone’ element of the mobile is diminishing, and new messaging services are starting to take a bite out of traditional texts. People are using the mobile phone to communicate in multiple new ways that are more visual, richer, faster, easier, more automated or simply more fun.
8. The Disappearing Smartphone Screen: As we come to take the convenience of smartphones for granted, we’ll want the next level of convenience: not having to pull out a device, unlock it and open the relevant app. Accessories like glasses and wristbands, along with in-car connectivity, will enable a more seamless and discreet experience, infusing the tech into daily routines. Mobile will extend beyond the confines of the device screen to become more human-centered.
9. Video Unleashed: The mobile device is starting to become a primary screen for viewing long-form video, thanks to bigger and better screens, faster processors and connectivity, and evolving consumer behaviors.
10. The Mobile-Powered Consumer: Consumers are tapping into mobile resources as they discover and research goods and services, order and pay, share purchases with social networks, rate products and experiences, and engage with brands post-purchase. Unique mobile technologies like geo-location, augmented reality and NFC will help further integrate mobile into each step of the consumer journey. This is empowering both consumers (especially in-store shoppers) and brands, which are gaining new opportunities along the consumer path.
11. Mobile Device As Genie: The mobile device can summon what you need, when you need it. More companies are using mobile technology to enable consumers to request products and services at the push of a button and have these delivered to any location.
12. Mobile As Sixth Sense: The mobile device is becoming a sixth sense for users, harnessing a variety of data streams to enable an enhanced sense of the world. Smartphones contain an array of sensors that provide real-time information about the device and its surroundings, and thanks to an array of appcessories, they have the potential to add on capabilities as needed.
13. Brands Blend In: The question isn’t how brands can advertise on this platform but how they can blend in to the mobile lifestyle. The challenge will be to sync with the user’s frame of mind or intent, potentially predicting just what consumers might need, want or be open to at a given moment. This will mean sending contextually relevant messaging to those who opt in or providing enough utility or value to become integrated into the mobile routine.