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Mobile Marketing

Predictions for 2016 in Mobile

Robi Ganguly  //  January 13, 2016  //  10 min read

One year ago, I made a few predictions for the role of mobile in 2015. Namely, I said 2015 would be the Year of Customer Loyalty.

Looking back, 2015 was certainly a big year for loyalty, but was it the Year of Loyalty? To answer that, let’s see just how well 2015 held up against each of last year’s predictions.

Prediction #1: Re-engagement strategies will become commonplace in loyalty programs.

This one is true. 2015 saw a dramatic rise in re-engagement ads and strategies, including the use of app indexing to keep your app top of mind with customers.

Prediction #2: Mobile re-engagement ads will become wedded with loyalty campaigns and customer insights to the point where they can show how many unused lives you have in a game.

Unfortunately, this one proved false. There is still a disconnect between data and advertising, as well as an inability to tailor ads to that extent.

Prediction #3: The cost of acquiring a loyal customer will continue to rise.

True. At the end of 2014, it cost an average of $2.10 to acquire a loyal customer. By September of 2015, this number had almost doubled, reaching $4.14. As more and more publishers enter the bidding war, the advertising costs will continue to climb—showcasing, once again, the need for a strong loyalty campaign or strategy/approach.

Prediction #4: Traditional brick-and-mortar loyalty programs will extend to the mobile arena.

True. In 2015, we saw a heavy investment in mobile customer loyalty from an array of companies, including Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and IHG, stemming out of the success of their offline loyalty programs.

Prediction #5: Retailers will be able to use Apple Pay in conjunction with their loyalty programs to keep track of, and reward, loyalty.

False. Apple Pay adoption proved slower than I expected, and few brands have made the first step of introducing mobile wallets into their stores.

All in all, 2015 ushered in a wave of improvements to traditional customer loyalty programs and the mentality around mobile. Was it the Year of Loyalty? Probably not as there remains a disconnect between customer data and loyalty programs, but we are moving in the right direction.

As for 2016, I came up with a similar list of predictions. Based on conversations I’ve had with our customers, recent news, and our own data library, I’ve made eight predictions on how the mobile industry will change over the course of the next 365 days.

Will they hold true? Check back here next year to find out.

1. App indexing adoption will skyrocket

Our first prediction is one we’ve already published quite a bit about: App indexing.

App indexing in Google search results will surge in 2016

App indexing, as illustrated by Google

App indexing is the process of making in-app content searchable and linkable from a mobile web search. If your app is set up for indexing, search engines can crawl your app, just like a web page, and ‘index’ your app content for retrieval in future search queries. Once your app content has been returned in a search result, readers will see a snippet of the text and a deep link to either launch the app (if they have it installed) or download the app in an app store (if it cannot be found on the device).

In 2016, I believe app indexing will skyrocket in popularity. Introduced in small increments over the last two years, app indexing is a capability that few know about or understand. Those who do, however, have already seen its rewards in spades, with 40% of searches now returning app-index results. While there is no exact data on app indexing adoption, looking at its base technology (deep linking), would imply a slow adoption rate, as only 22% of the top 200 apps used any form of deep linking two years after the capability was introduced.

2016 will change this as the floodgates open on indexing. Publishers will catch on to the enormous impacts they can drive for both acquisition and re-engagement by making a searchable app, and app indexing will be seen in small and large apps alike. As this happens, the organic acquisition game will change in a major way. Whereas 68% of apps are currently discovered by means of app store browsing, customers will increasingly discover your app from the web. Search engines will prove the new battleground for app marketing, and the end-goal will change from a unique visit to a download as web-dominant and app-dominant content publishers alike strive to establish an ongoing connection with their customers.

2. The Apple TV will command the attention of app publishers

Last September, Apple CEO Tim Cook went on record saying, “the future of TV is apps.” I believe this is exactly how 2016 will shape up.

Apple released the long-awaited revamp to its Apple TV in September. Marked by a new operating system (tvOS), its own App Store and a software development kit, the fourth-generation Apple TV was the first to support third-party apps. Third-party publishers were compelled and developed over 2,600 apps in the Apple TV’s first month, 1,000 of which were games.

Apple TV gaming app

Will the Apple TV mark Apple’s entrance into the console war? Image source: Apple Insider

In 2016, I believe game developers, content publishers, and retailers alike will set their eyes on the Apple TV as the next great way to meet their customers where they already are. With the learning curve of the new SDK behind us, the Apple TV will see a steady increase in third-party apps as publishers think, once again, about the large screen. For consumers, I expect to see more use cases for the Apple TV, with consumers purchasing the device as a standalone gaming console, as a home entertainment system, or as an alternative to the desktop computer.

3. Mobile will usher in a connected world

With the rise of mobile, global trade, collaboration, and connectivity are easier than ever before. And companies have been quick to seize the opportunity.

Mobile-first companies are increasingly broadening their scopes and tapping into new markets across the globe. Emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India, and China that brick-and-mortar retailers have struggled with for years, thanks to underdeveloped infrastructure and prohibitive legislation, are now easy pickings for mobile commerce.

Leading the movement are companies like Amazon, which shipped to 185 of the world’s 192 countries this holiday season. Realizing that mobile web adoption has now surpassed the desktop web, Amazon prioritized its apps and mobile presence this year to bring online shopping to 96% of the globe. And it worked, with 70% of Amazon’s customers shopping via their mobile devices in the 2015 holiday season.

In 2016, this trend will continue to escalate. The app ecosystem, driven by Android’s 53% global market share, will transcend borders to reach every corner of the globe. It will go beyond retail, too. I expect to see a proliferation of all apps in 2016, including an array of apps in mAgriculture, mHealth, and mLearning, that will narrow the economic divide on a global scale.

4. App streaming will be popular

Building off our predictions around app indexing, our next prediction revolves around Google’s approach, via app streaming, to make the searchable world more connected. App streaming brings apps to the cloud by building a “web of apps.” In doing so, it removes the install barrier and allows you to open an app-indexed-page just as you would any other web page.

App streaming in motion. Image source: Marketing Land

Currently tested with the help of nine US publishers, including Hotel Tonight and The Weather Channel, app streaming is still nascent, restricted to the Google App on select Android 5 and Android 6 devices. Given some early hurdles including requiring a fast WiFi connection, I don’t expect to see it go mainstream this year. I do, however, predict that the subject of its beneficiaries and implications on the app industry will be a hot topic for debate.

The benefits of a world of apps are myriad. For consumers, it presents a way to quickly access app content without downloading an app. For developers, it provides access to a larger audience in a world dominated by search. And for Google, it promotes mobile web search.

The consequences are still being explored. I fear that app streaming’s staunch requirements around speed and bandwidth may stymie app developers as they’re forced with either trimming down their app for easy streaming or losing market share to their lighter competitors. It remains to be seen whether developers will get behind Google’s “closed” approach, especially as antitrust accusations escalate.

5. Developers will internalize in-app messaging

This next prediction is something I’m proud to see is something that has already taken flight: We’ll see a tearing down of the fourth wall as apps become a portal for customer communication.

From standalone messaging apps (think FB Messenger, Whatsapp, LINE) to team communication tools (Slack, Hipchat) to in-app customer service, to voice texting, the world of chat has come a long way from the days of only SMS and email.

In 2016, I predict developers will start to move their personalized communication away from social media and into their own apps. Across the board, enterprise apps will adopt messaging technology and launch their own version of a peer-to-peer messaging app.

This notion is starting to take hold in the areas of retail and customer service, where companies are opening their doors to customers by making themselves available 24/7 wherever their customers may be. Over the next year, I expect to see exponential increases in the number of retailers who make mobile a large part of their customer service strategies and a greater conversation around the ROI of customer communication, in order to get a handle on the pulse of the customer experience.

6. Retailers will get more creative with app sensors

Today’s smartphones collect more data than most companies know what to do with. We’re skimming the surface with the application of beacon technology to geo-local marketing, but few retailers have moved beyond beacons to explore all that sensors have to offer.

Every modern phone has an array of sensors, that can be shared with a mobile app, that record usage data. Such sensors include a gyroscope (to inform an app when to adjust the screen orientation), a compass (to power GPS technologies), and a proximity sensor (to trigger context-specific mobile moments). Together, these sensors provide an accurate and complete map of the customer journey.

Geolocal proximity marketing using mobile app sensors

Sensors power hyperlocal marketing with proximity-based messaging. Image source: Clearbridge Mobile

In 2016, I predict retailers will become smarter about leveraging these insights to inform their marketing strategy. I expect more stores basing their inventory levels and product placement off of sensor-powered heat mapping, using virtual reality technologies to allow customers to envision a new outfit, or recognizing when customers are approaching a brick-and-mortar location and luring them in with a personalized coupon.

Nordstrom is already pioneering sensor application with their concept of “co-shopping,” where customers and staff shop together for a superior, data-driven experience. The retailer spends more than 30% of its capital budget on technology and was quick to embrace sensors in remarkable ways. Through an array of social monitoring and proximity sensors, the company is able to track Pinterest pins to identify trending brands and apparel unique to each store, and using the data to inform their inventory levels and in-app promotions.

We already have the data, and in 2015, we’ll get smarter about leveraging it.

7. The global customer experience gap will grow

Our next prediction takes a less positive spin as the digital divide grows to dictate your mobile app experiences.

Mobile internet penetration worldwide

Mobile internet subscriptions as a percentage of population. Image source: International Telecommunications Union

From what I’ve predicted with app streaming and sensor technology, 2016 is going to demand a fast and reliable mobile connection in order to deliver the best data-driven experience.

For much of the first world, this isn’t a problem, as the mobile subscriptions per capita rate exceeds 100% for entire countries. In this countries, an expansive WiFi and 4G network enables apps to perform at their fullest, delivering instant personalized and geo-local experiences. For the developing world, however, even the best apps are bogged down with slow or nonexistent mobile connections.

As a result, we’re seeing a growing reliance on mobile connection speeds and a growing gap between the “haves,” for whom this isn’t a problem, and the “have nots,” for whom it is. For no fault their own, those with a 2G connection, or even a 3G connection, will increasingly experience apps vastly different from their 4G counterparts. And in 2016, this gap will only grow with greater demands for app speed and the continued development of 5G.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. In October, Facebook rolled out “2G Tuesdays,” an experiment to give employers a taste of 2G data connections and close the “empathy gap” between Silicon Valley and developing economies. The act is part of their initiative to build for all connection speeds and raise awareness of the need to invest in IT infrastructure on a global scale.

8. B2B companies will go mobile-first

For years, B2B has lagged behind B2C when it comes to mobile. In 2016, I expect B2B companies to realize the mobile opportunity and market with mobile in mind. From enterprise apps to mobile-optimized emails, 2016 will necessitate a mobile-first mentality.

In years prior, mobile’s role in the B2B buying cycle was a question of debate: Sure, customers have moved to mobile, but your B2B decision-makers are still stuck behind their desktop computers. Recent research, however, has dispelled this myth. According to recent reports, 66% of emails are opened on a mobile device, 59% of B2B buyers use mobile when researching options, and 22% make purchases from a mobile device. On a global scale, we see as much as 80% of the workforce not sitting behind a desktop.

In 2016, mobile will move from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” in the world of B2B marketing. Regardless of their sector, marketers need to design for the mobile screen, as 46% of the Fortune 500 found out the hard way in 2015.

Share your thoughts

And there you have it: eight predictions for the growing role of mobile in the new year.

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts and predictions in the comments below, and stay tuned as we revisit each prediction in-depth in future posts.

About Robi Ganguly

Robi Ganguly is the Co-founder and CEO at Apptentive. He is passionate about giving customers a voice via mobile. Follow Robi on Twitter @rganguly.
View all posts by Robi Ganguly >

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