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Top consumer mobile services that will make business sense

If as a digital marketing person, you do not have a strategy to make most of the growing popularity of mobile social networks, mobile apps stores, and location-based services, then your brand can stand to lose in the coming two years. A recent study released by Gartner shows that the mentioned services will be the highest value mobile services in the next two years, with more and more consumers demanding such services.

“Consumer services and applications that consumers use when online — whether they’re on the move, at work or at home — involve various devices which are often used interchangeably for common uses such as streaming video, shopping, banking or engaging social networks. Understanding how consumers are using these devices is an important element of understanding mobile’s benefits and risks. Mobile technology is the vehicle of immediacy, putting mobile marketers in the critical position of being masters of timing — knowing when and how to drop the right offer at the right time,” said Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner.

In fact the research agency expects mobile advertising to reach mainstream in the next two to five years. This expected growth is being driven by robust adoption of smartphones and media tablets, and their increasing use as all-purpose information, entertainment and social networking tools. In order to take advantage of this growing popularity of mobile devices, the digital marketers need to be aware of and use three key technologies in this field including bar code marketing, mobile coupons and augmented reality. “Aided by a recovery in overall ad spending, the mobile advertising category has accelerated its evolution during the past year, despite lingering issues, such as privacy, metrics and standards. We expect the mobile advertising market to more than double during the next two years and to increase twelvefold by 2015 to $20.6 billion worldwide; or about four percent of total ad expenditures,” said Mike McGuire, research vice president at Gartner.

The research agency has defined few key points that digital marketers have to keep in mind when devising their next generation mobile marketing strategy:

Mobile Social Networks: Follow your followers, wherever they go
Research shows that mobile social networks will gain mainstream adoption in less than two years, attracting one billion users by 2014. According to Gartner survey, 15 percent of mobile phone users access social networking sites via their phones. However, the market is crowded, and by 2015, the pure-play, mobile social-networking market will likely consolidate around five or fewer players. Mobile social networking is likely to affect many vertical sectors, particularly for companies that interact with large communities — such as in the retail, education, healthcare and government sectors — or that have a large, distributed client-facing workforce — such as in the pharmaceutical, transportation and utility sectors. These vertical markets and their memberships can be sources of important contextual data.

Mobile Application Stores: Choose your friends wisely
Mobile applications can be used to engage customers, conduct targeted marketing campaigns, solicit customer feedback and increase wallet share. Mobile application stores that have good distribution outlets and a large development community — typically resulting in a broad array of consumer and productivity applications — are recommended together with advertising support, user review, ranking and recommendation engines, and billing and reporting features.

Location-Based Services: Use as a stepping stone to contextual services
Location-based services can improve service delivery, customer support, and workforce and marketing effectiveness. Gartner is already seeing the convergence of location functionality with social networking, news, information, search and entertainment services and expects almost 800 million location-based service users worldwide by the end of 2012. Revenue generated by consumer location-based services is forecast to reach $13.5 billion in 2015, of which advertising will be the dominant contributor. Applications that will generate the highest interest in the near term will be navigation, location search and friend finder/social networks.

Bar Code Marketing: Use as a tactical tool
Gartner expects bar code marketing to reach mainstream adoption within two to five years, driven by the growing availability of bar code and marketing campaigns designed to increase consumer awareness of what they are and how to use them. Bar code marketing is a crucial element of any new direct-marketing campaign, giving consumers fast access to product/service information and special promotions, increasing brand loyalty and contributing to a cutting-edge brand image. Bar codes are increasingly being used in mobile ticketing and check-in applications within the travel and entertainment industries.

Mobile Coupons: Follow the leaders
The benefits of mobile coupons centre on increasing purchase frequency and average transaction size. This is part of a larger effort by brand marketers to increase sales, margins and customer loyalty. While adoption has been slow, Gartner’s surveys show a growing willingness among smartphone users to adopt mobile coupons. Digital marketing leaders can jump-start their mobile couponing efforts by leveraging lessons learned by retailers currently using mobile coupons and by using specialized technology providers to test alternative approaches. Longer term, mobile coupons need to be part of a multichannel e-coupon strategy that services consumers’ desire to access and redeem coupons via any channel.

Augmented Reality: Get ahead of the curve
Augmented reality is a technology that superimposes graphics, audio and other virtual enhancements on a live view of the real world; it is this “real world” element that differentiates augmented reality from virtual reality. Augmented reality can be used to enhance the user experience and is a logical extension of location-based and context-aware mobile interactions. Augmented reality reached the peak of its hype in 2010, and while technical and privacy concerns persist, augmented reality has substantial long-term potential and will reach mainstream adoption within five to 10 years.