This piece originally appeared in Forbes. Read the full article here.
2015 was a huge year for mobile. In the U.S. more than 79% of mobile phones are now smartphones, and globally more than 1.4 billion smartphones were sold in 2015.We’re quickly moving to a world where everyone will have a smartphone as a primary computing device and connection to the world. Companies and brands that saw this trend coming and invested early are seeing huge returns on those investments.
Service companies like Starbucks and Dominos are leveraging mobile in a big way and are leading their categories by reducing friction and becoming the easiest default choice by being better than their competitors. Social networks and messaging apps existed before today’s mobile era, but have been catalyzed by the rise of mobile. Services like Uber and Airbnb exist now because of mobile; they simply weren’t possible before.
As we move forward from this year’s Mobile World Congress 2016, a few trends stand out –for this year and beyond.
Invisible Apps And Services
The first smartphone apps did something that was amazing at the time: They allowed us to stay connected with our digital lives away from home and work. These apps worked on demand: When we started them, they would start working for us. At this year’s MWC event, there was a trend toward smarter “invisible” apps that run in the background and surface information when we need it. For example, Google, which showed off some impressive indoor mapping, now re-routes us dynamically as driving conditions change. In 2016, we’re moving further toward a world of information that is processed automatically in the background, and surfaced at the moment it’s important or actionable. Consumers are increasingly expecting this type of experience, and it raises the bar for everyone creating apps.
When you think about your brand and mobile, use this as a lens to think about how you can more seamlessly fit into a consumer’s day, in a way that they’ll truly appreciate and find useful. If your product doesn’t meet expectations, they’ll drop it or use a better competing product as soon as they can.
5G And Its Implications
This year’s MWC show also brought the hype around 5G, the next generation standard for very high speed wireless communication. The new technology has potential to be 50x to 100x faster than 4G, with potential speeds that surpass most wired internet connections. AT&T is planning tests in 2016 that will use 5G technology to reach these speeds for fixed (home) network access, and Verizon is planning mobile 5G tests in 2017. The final standard that will define 5G is set to be finalized in 2018, so we are years away from ubiquitous 5G, but we will get there, just like we did with 3G and 4G.
This commitment opens up a world of possibilities with 360 video and mobile VR. This was one of the focal points of Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote, in which he envisioned a world where moments we now share in video would instead be shared in VR. Facebook has developed and is releasing dynamic 360 streaming technology, which will allow for good experiences on our current wireless networks, but will benefit from 5G.
With this in mind, brands need to find a foothold – both technologically and in brand standards – in a world where consumers create and share video – even in VR – nearly seamlessly and with greater speed. Now is a great time to explore and see what people are doing, while adding your own work to the collective.
Location, Location, Location
Ad-blocking, bots and ad fraud are dominating the digital conversation, and attribution has never been a bigger topic. At this year’s MWC show, location players like xAD and Foursquare announced ways to help location data work for advertisers. Their contention is that by adding context and intent, advertisers can connect with consumers more effectively based on actions, as opposed to assumptions.
This news intersects the broader trend of consumers actively – and willingly – sharing their location with each other – and advertisers. Many of our favorite apps and platforms require location services to be turned on, and have created a digital ecosystem populated with more signals than ever. Snapchat, for example, recently rolled out location-based geofilters to every consumer through a self-service web portal.
Location brings relevance, and 2016 will continue to push us to use consumer data in service to consumers where they are. While the possibilities are nearly endless for mobile and location, we have to provide something meaningful in exchange for consumer data.