It always seems a brisk start in January, but CES in Las Vegas certainly kick starts the digi-tech juggernaut every year, and this year was no exception.
It felt like this was the year that the Internet of Things, (IoT), went mainstream, with a widening range of products being able to talk to each other, and anything else around them if it makes sense to do so.
Take the BMW i3 with BMW remote, (i.e. on the wrist) valet parking control, or the eGeeTouch Smart Luggage Lock, or the Misfits activity tracker watch, or Emiota’s Smartbelt called ‘Belty’, which, via your smartphone, will tell you if you’re getting fatter. Yup that’s right, so don’t buy the wretched thing!
It seems that, if anything has a ‘chip’, its producers feel compelled to give it the power to communicate. There’s a lot of opportunism in all this, and no doubt there will be many many more flops than slam dunks in the IoT’s gold rush, but, that’s OK, as the failures will be probably more important then the successes in the long run. The smartphone or tablet is of course central to the user experience, as it often acts as the user's mission control centre, managing preferences, presenting information, and sharing.
Take the example just now, of health bands, like Fitbit. People spend screen time reviewing Fitbit’s data. For some people, these will be extra minutes of screen time, for others these are minutes stolen from other mobile apps or sites. Of course the migration of overall traffic from PC/laptop to mobile is growing total time spent, which is a good headline. But it’s these potential behavioural changes that tell a bigger story.
The chart below, ‘Mobile App YOY Usage’ published by marketingcharts.com from Flurry data, shows relative growth rates in productivity, utility and health apps outpacing news, entertainment and games.
Of course, utility apps are growing from a very small base, and also are not commonly monetised, and news/entertainment/games are massive and still growing, but nonetheless there are considerations for brands seeking attention amongst their target users in this shift.
Outside of mobile, content and wearables, and for the geeks, TVs of course take the main stage, with drones, and personal transportation (look for Rollkers), all highlights. Take a look at the CNet site for a good summary.
Xiaomi now No. 3
Following news that Xiaomi, the Chinese phone manufacturer, sold 61 million units in 2014, comes an update that the company plans to extend its footprint this year and hit a stated ambition of 100 million units.
Already trading in seven countries, it seems widening operations across Southeast Asia, and entering Mexico, Turkey, Russia and Brazil are on the cards. The company’s aggressive stance includes building and centring on e-commerce capabilities, creating a Xiaomi-based tech ecosystem, plus making a string of other strategic investments inside and outside of China. Bigger than Samsung in its home market, Xiaomi is the OEM to beat, and this can only be good for consumers with a voracious appetite for spec’d up handsets on which to live their digital lives.
Nokia: Only mostly dead
Still on hardware, I noticed over the festive holidays that Microsoft is launching a new Nokia phone. Now, I thought the Nokia brand had been retired—which I did think was an odd thing to do, in spite of obvious challenges. Not so. Don’t get too excited, however. This isn’t a new assault by Redmond on Galaxy or iPhone, but instead a curious sort of semi-smartphone. The Nokia 215 is a messenger-focused unit and doesn’t run Microsoft OS. In the US$30 range, it comes with pre-loaded Facebook that syncs with Microsoft Messenger, and I assume it is hoped gets younger users in emerging markets earlier into phones—so the company can sell them a low-end actual smartphone soon thereafter.
Mobile banking usage levels up; user confidence varies
In January Nielsen published some research (Nielsen Multi-channel Banking Study Q4 US), asking two groups, one dubbed ‘mass affluent boomers’, and the other named ‘mass affluent millennials’, about their attitudes toward banking on mobile.
One theme that emerged (see chart below) is that millennials, the most online users ever, are less trustworthy of some banking tasks over mobile than their grandparents. This seems counterintuitive, but perhaps it’s a function of millennials relative inexperience with managing money, and having less of it to play with.
The other element that sticks out is affluent boomers frustration with doing what they want to on mobile. This seems to speak to UX, and being able to know firstly that a task can be undertaken, and secondly how to do it. See chart below.
This is consistent with lessons the NAB (National Australia Bank) was happy to share pre-Christmas about the importance of really knowing the consumer, and the effect of changing the smallest thing. Just one example. NAB has experienced a 247 per cent increase in new product origination from placing a simple “add new accounts" button after the mobile-banking login process. Customers simply have to click and choose the product they have been pre-approved for, and within days receive the relevant information by mail. Mobile design and UX, especially in advertising, is rightly center stage as the medium develops.
AUS mobile ad market: A$900 million by 2019
Before Christmas, Frost and Sullivan Australia published its annual Australian Mobile Advertising Market Report (2014). The company reports 45 per cent of mobile advertisers increased their 2014 budget for mobile advertising compared to the previous year. Mobile advertising expenditure, it says, was $273 million for the 12 months to June 2014, an increase of 110 per cent from the previous year. With half of that accounted for by tablets. Mobile search and online display both grew very strongly. Expenditure is forecast to reach A$900 million by 2019, with a CAGR of 27 per cent between 2014 and 2019.
It’s January, and mobile is already into sprint mode. We should get used to it.