Growth was the primary theme at the MobileBeat conference in early July, and with good reason! There was palpable energy around mobile laying claim to an ever-increasing share of revenue, supported by new strategies highlighted by players such as Airbnb, Yo, Pandora, Walmart, Nascar, etc.
Yo stood out as a poster child of what is possible on mobile in this new millennial driven mobile economy. The founder, Or Arbel, noted during one of the session, “There is a fine line between Genius and Stupidity,” as he described the growth they had witnessed in the last year.
The general feeling was that the sheer numbers in terms of Smartphones, app downloads, and app usage, are leading the way and presenting a platform for value creation yet unseen. Unlike the early days of the dotcom boom when the herd was led more by promise than facts, in today’s scenario the facts are in plain sight. One cannot really argue with 125B apps downloaded and 26/apps per smart phone growing at a 40% y/y rate.
So the question then becomes – if the framework of growth around mobile is unquestionable and supported by hard facts, what does the eco-system now need to do to support that growth? MobileBeat brought to bear some perceptible trends:
There is an app for everything. Growth is being driven by more and more functions/processes/brands moving to claim their piece of real estate on the mobile device. This is true for both at the consumer and enterprise level. There were a host of app development vendors at the show ranging from platform players to pure services vendor that spoke to the heterogeneous growth in this sector and how the industry is evolving to meet it.
Mobile versus web-based behavior. There were a host of discussions around how the behavior of people changes when they are in a mobile channel versus when they are browsing the web. The sense of urgency, the real-time nature of the channel, the location sensitivity, the low barrier to entry and exit, all these factors give rise to a set of needs that are very specific to the channel. On this point we heard from the likes of Walmart stressing on geofencing as a way to get the consumer what they want and when they want it. There were talks on deep linking by players such as Airbnb that highlighted urgency for this to get the customer to what he/she wants directly.
Analytics, analytics and more analytics. The mobile channel, in my opinion, supersedes all other channels as a way to map human behavior. I have my phone in the palm of my hand most of my waking hours, and some sleeping hours as well …. well not really. ☺ Sill, I am using it to do a host of transactions and also using it as my primary tool to get and give information. By that definition the analytics footprint that the device emanates is un-paralleled. There were many vendors at the conference that are capitalizing on this. One group of analytics vendors that stood out for me was the app crash vendors, focusing on problem with apps. This really spoke to me about the continuing nascence of this medium where an entire cottage industry is centered around troubleshooting for apps.
Redefining the marketing funnel. We heard from companies such as Kahuna and others that are focused on redefining how people engage with brands in a mobile-first world. Advertising has now moved to the era of personalized geo-sensitivity. The burden is on the brand to be relevant both in time and space while having deep knowledge of the customer’s likes and dislikes.
And finally, devices. There were folks at the conference from companies such as AT&T that led the charge on discussing devices. The point here was to understand how mobile apps are really the first window into the Internet of Things. Keeping this in mind, everything that was talked about during the conference just multiplied by significant orders of magnitude.
The thought I walked away with after my two days at MobileBeat was that as an industry we have the framework in place for multi-faceted growth. However, in a market where consumers’ attention spans are as short as 30 seconds, and growing shorter by the day, we will have to serve up a new form of value and experience to make this growth sustainable. On this, I believe we are still at the beginning of the journey, with a long way to travel.
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