Mobile’s Game-Changing Force: When Will It Arrive?

Posted on: June 29th, 2012 - Written by: John Blomberg

Mobile Force

In addition to delivering voice, email and text, Smartphones are amazing in what they can do from mapping routes to delivering reports. But mobile commerce has remained a little challenging. Making “buying stuff” simple on a Smartphone has eluded mobile platform developers and maybe buying over a small screen is not what consumers really need – but we’re on the verge of what appears to be a tremendous leap in this area.

If you are an Apple follower on Twitter, you’re alerted every time they bring on NFC (near field communication) engineering expertise. NFC is the wireless technology that is likely to power wave-and-pay mobile systems. In fact, this was demonstrated (through a tap-and-pay app on an Android) at the Web 2.0 Summit almost a year ago. BlackBerry and WebOS won’t be far behind the Android when this app is actually released.

This will be a game-changer – and not just for women shoe shopping and men snatching tickets to sporting events. Let me tell you why.

Shopping and Information Gathering Will Become More Social

Social shopping is already a big thing but mobile will make it bigger. As of January, 5 million Groupon iPhone and Android mobile apps had already been downloaded in just nine months of availability. Receiving mobile coupons is just part of it. Take it to another level. Imagine that a critical mass of shoppers within a certain area could trigger a bargain in a store in their proximity. These experiments are in somewhat of a “beta” test. Four-square has a loyalty program and rewards for first-time and frequent shoppers. And because everyone’s locales are known, imagine if one store could offer a coupon when a consumer walked into a competitor’s location.  It would be open-season for marketers.

Of course, this pushes the limits in what we feel like others should know about us – a little big brother-ish – but the creepiness factor will be reduced by the value of the offer.

Because of alert capabilities, new, changing information is easier and quicker to gather. Knowing whether new information has been created is gone from the equation and alert links direct you immediately to it. The catch here is in understanding how to use and set-up these tools to be most effective in alerting you to the correct information.

Brick-and-Mortar will Become Digital (and Vice Versa)

No more wondering whether you’re getting the best price. Scan the bar code of your item while you’re in Target or Best Buy – or even your bottle of wine at the restaurant table – and do a quick search to find prices of your item elsewhere.

When this happens, you’re shopping both in brick-and-mortar and digital environments. Who would have thought this just five years ago – or just two years ago when you thought you were really bleeding edge in phoning home to have your teen-ager do an Amazon offer comparison.

Out-of-the-box marketers are already taking this to the next level. Roving gourmet catering trucks are tweeting their menu specials along with their locations to customers so they know where to find them and what to expect when they arrive. Offers and invitations are only one way that merchants can leverage mobile traffic to make things happen. Analysis of Twitter and check-in stats provide customer service data that businesses can use to plan and promote.

The mobile device as a payment tool works for both the customer and business. Many companies offer simple mobile payment hardware and software that lets the large and small collect payment over the mobile phone. This also helps smaller businesses that may not be able to afford full-blown credit card processing collect payments using mobile devices. Imagine not even having to stand in line to pay. Great for the customer and great for opening up floor space for merchandise rather than registers.

New Technologies Helps New Products and Vendors Enter Mobile Markets

Mobile will be a disruptive technology that gives early adopting vendors wedge their way into markets and push the established market dominators aside.  A “mobile” example of such disruption is the recent displacement of Nokia from the top of the mobile platform list. Nokia rose to the top of the market by creating sleek phones with great reception and long battery life. One moment they were on top of the market – the next they realized that things had changed. Consumers were suddenly demanding fun things on their devices along with practical functionality. Nokia will have to make big changes to thrive again.

The same sort of mobile apple basket turnover will eventually happen with financial transaction vendors as consumers exercise their preferences for quick and easy online purchasing through service providers such as Paypal. Visa and Mastercard continue to report growth in transactional revenue: May’s reports indicate a 30% increase. There is one caveat: This increase can – at least in part – be attributed to greater overall transaction volumes, leaving the possibility open for Paypal’s significant online transaction share to be gaining ground on Visa and Mastercard. It is obvious that the Paypal-type model is a threat. Visa came out with its own Paypal copycat last year. Even Apple and Google will begin to chip away at the lock hold that Visa, MasterCard and the banks have had on these transactional services.

There is still a gap between online and mobile purchasing capabilities, but once the mobile payment frenzy starts, the gap will close quickly. Already the number of those running Google’s Android operating system is impressive and you can’t overlook Apple’s 160 million iTunes customers or Amazon’s 130 million or so. And as these guys start to carve out their chunk of the market, the big boys will have to continue to deal with telecoms (Verizon, AT&T, Vodafone, Telefonica and T-mobile) who are taking their market cut as well. The outcome is not yet determined. But seems to favor the disrupters (Apple and the gang). Consumers must be convinced to shift from wallet to phone, but as much as we love our devices, that doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. Remember the birth of the ATM? (I’m really dating myself now) When the first ones were debuted, few thought they would catch on. I suppose Docutel had a good laugh at the naysayers.

Businesses that embrace the coming changes and are ready for it will be the winners. And that can be game-changing for each small competitor in each niche market. Embracing the next great thing is also game-changing for consumers because competition offers more choices and better pricing.

Your Mobile Phone Will Become Your Identity

Every day with every new app and every new feature, our Smartphones are transcending into our identities. We use them for more and more activities. We’ve transitioned from multiple points of contact to different ways to reach us on one since we receive voice, texts, emails ads and alerts on our single mobile device. We use them to find restaurants, to take and receive pictures and work files and to use proprietary applications.

Businesses are recognizing the value of proprietary or customized applications that employees use on their Smartphones. Our work with such applications has actually been growing over the past year or so and we’re now offering more examples of mobile-enabled applications. Whether they enable industry specific processes for real estate and medical professionals, manufacturers or distributors, the ability to take proprietary software with you into the field is being adopted and implemented to improve operations and customer service.

With all this personal data and financial transaction history, you cannot even argue that this device is not a proxy for your identity. While your driver’s license or social security card may be more “official”, your mobile device represents – much more accurately – who you really are. Because of the growing importance mobile devices and the sensitive nature of the information they now hold and payment capabilities they are likely to have (if they don’t already), securing the device will be next on the agenda. Passcodes to unlock, methods to find, and systems to “blow up” the data in mobile devices are already in place. Deeper levels of security are not far behind, including biometric recognition (thumbprint or retina) and methods that employ multiple levels of scrutiny – for example, your password, location, and some private bit of data. And if that’s not enough, work is underway into voice recognition and “gait analysis,” the ability to acquaint your phone with the way you walk so that if someone else tries to walk away with it, the device locks up. Amazing, isn’t it?

Of course, much of this discussion is still based on “if and when.” While “beta tests” are happening, the real devices are still not “released”. When they are finally available, there will – no doubt – be a shake-out period where the bugs are worked out.

In the meantime, be open to the mobile innovations that will be game-changing for our business and our private lives.

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