Virtually every day, new evidence emerges of the consumer shift to mobile. According to new data from Gartner, by 2017, mobile apps will be downloaded more than 268 billion times, generating revenue of more than $77 billion and making apps one of the most popular computing tools for users across the globe. To put these huge numbers in context by comparing them to the current world population of approximately 7.1 billion and counting, by 2017, every man, woman and child on the planet will have downloaded 37 mobile apps. In reality, considering that a large swath of the world's population still does not have access to mobile apps or capability to download them (as is case with my six-month-old daughter), this means that those of us who are wielding smartphones and tablets will be downloading A LOT of apps. Looked at another way, by 2017, mobile apps will have gone completely mainstream, giving businesses a new way to connect with consumers.
Of equal significance to businesses, Gartner predicts that mobile users will provide personalized data streams to more than 100 apps and services every day. Taken as a whole, the Gartner findings anticipate an overarching theme that will continue to gain force and shape the marketing function in the digital age: consumer connection through data aggregation. It is in this way that mobile apps will drive the future of marketing.
Forming Connections with Mobile
Even now, research shows that apps are beginning to dominate the mobile ecosystem. In 2013, the U.S. consumer spent an average of 2 hours and 38 minutes per day on smartphones and tablets. 80% of that time (2 hours and 7 minutes) was spent inside apps and 20% (31 minutes) was spent on the mobile web. Digital marketers focused on producing ever greater amounts of web-based content in an attempt capture consumer mindshare may want to consider this and shift some resources into specific-use mobile app production.
Businesses can utilize specific-use mobile apps to enhance and/or simplify the customer experience with their brand. As mobile device usage proliferates, users are becoming more reliant on mobile apps for search and needs discovery. Businesses should view this not as a threat, but as an opportunity to gain competitive advantage.
The very idea of mobile implies proximity (be it geo-locational or online) in action. Moreover, given that mobile devices are ultimately toted around by humans occupying a physical (and virtual) space, the future of mobile is inextricably linked with social media.
As I've written before, the rapid advancement of mobile technology - with its integration of social media and expanding geo-locational capabilities - has elevated the concept of contextual relevance in digital marketing. This is equally important for businesses, as contextual relevance breeds brand affinity- a necessary prerequisite to forming connections with consumers. Today's social-Local-Mobile (SoLoMo) consumers now expect businesses to provide contextually relevant online content and resources that inform and entertain, or resolve a need or a want. In brief, SoLoMo has shifted power to the consumers, and they know it.
Consumer Connection through Data Aggregation
To survive and thrive in the consumer-driven digital age, businesses must figure out how to provide contextually relevant content and resources to consumers. They need information and feedback- some way to tap into the continuous streams of consumer-generated data to properly measure and refine their initiatives- all in an ongoing attempt to connect with their target audience. In an era rife with data, the greatest challenge for businesses lies not in the data itself, but in its efficient aggregation and meaningful interpretation. The ability to quickly compare marketing initiatives with real-world results allows businesses to continually refine brand messaging and marketing initiatives, using content and context to form deeper connections with prospects and customers.
As the aforementioned Gartner data suggests, mobile apps provide an indispensable tool for businesses to form connections through data aggregation; by doing so, they will drive the future of marketing.