Graham Christie
Jan 14, 2016

With mobile in 2016, act like you're a VC

The Mobile Hub: In his regular review of all things mobile, Graham Christie of Big Mobile argues that marketers need to approach the channel with more of a speculator's attitude.

Graham Christie
Graham Christie

Let's start with some figures that frame 2016 and beyond for mobile across APAC, courtesy of eMarketer.

Firstly the top five mobile ad markets globally will remain the same: US, China, UK, Japan, Germany.

The next tier is where things change, with Australia in 2016 becoming the seventh largest market globally, surpassing South Korea. Worldwide in 2016 the mobile ad market will exceed US$100 billion, accounting for 51 percent of the digital market. Yes, 51 percent. This is a 430 percent increase on 2013 levels. Very notably, the forecasts for 2018 show Indonesia will make the largest gain out of all 22 rankings, rising from  21st in 2015, to 12th and a value of US$1.4 billion. This values the market bigger than Italy, Russia, Mexico, Spain, and India.

In a recent Economist Intelligence Unit publication (The Rise Of The Marketer), the speed of growth of mobile is highlighted. Comparing ANZ and APAC with the rest of the world, the future trend that will have the biggest impact for CMOs by 2020 in ANZ is real-time mobile personalised transactions (65 percent). But across APAC as a whole it is the internet of things (54 percent). Wearable technology comes in third place across all geo-segments (average 32 percent). 


Mobile payments reach maturity in 2018

Talking of wearables, Gartner has released a Report (2016 - Know Your Customers to Capture Opportunities in the Personal Technologies Market), stating that payments via smartphones and smartwatches are to hit 50 percent in advanced markets (such as Japan) by 2018. Given the good deal of overall fragmentation in the NFC space, plus the embryonic stage of Android Pay, Gartner suggests that cloud-based payment services will instead fuel the growth through less vertically aligned, (i.e. closed) models, and a wider range of use-cases beyond the classic store-based interaction.

Mobile share

ZenithOptimedia released a global forecast just before the end of the year that shows percentage of adspend by medium 2015 versus 2018. Quite a short window admittedly, but clear themes tabled with TV, desktop, newspapers, magazines, radio, and OOH all decreasing, but mobile doubling. I think the desktop percentage still seems a little too buoyant, however; this may the burgeoning video space and way data is counted.


The problem with mobile’s adolescence

So although there’s runaway growth, there is also the vital task of making mobile more mature and measurably productive. It's similar, really, to developing an adolescent into an adult human being.

Bear with me on this. In an excellent book that is essential reading for parents, Adolescence, Michael Carr-Gregg and Erin Shale scrutinise the tricky teenage period and the impact of those around the young person in an attempt to make more sense of it all. Here are some of the chapter headings in the book:

  • ‘Am I normal?’
  • ‘Who am I?’
  • ‘What Is My Place In The World?'

Rings any bells? These are exactly the sorts of sober questions marketers are asking of ‘mobile’ as they look into 2016 and beyond. It’s abundantly clear that mobile isn’t a normal marketing channel (a younger version of a more mature media-channel sibling), nor is its ‘place’ defined. It’s a work-in-progress and, it has to be said, remains extremely over-stimulated.

Time then, for all to act like VCs

So that’s the tension. On one hand, standards and norms need to be established to help mobile scale efficiently, but on the other, there’s a need to leverage mobile more holistically and certainly more innovatively, which will inevitably encourage straying from proven pathways.

Of course, it’s not an either/or, but a necessity to do both. And here’s a way I think more marketers should orient themselves to take better advantage of mobile in 2016: Pretend you’re a VC. You should not only scale up investments in the proven areas and in the proven ways that make sense, but also look to invest in and cultivate a medium- and long-term customer asset through innovation and ‘figuring it out’.

Speculate. Try and fail. Iterate.

Mobile is a sure thing, we all know this. But the irony is, some organisations are risking significant failure in the medium and long term by exhibiting too much hesitancy in the immediate term. 

Importantly, these marketers also need to set a framework for assisting their agency partners to recommend mobile strategies and tactics with the same speculative, VC-type mindset.

I agree with Julie Ask of Forrester, who wrote in her blog: “In 2016, the gap between customer-obsessed leaders who will embrace mobile as a means to create new value, and laggards who consider mobile to be a stand-alone channel, will widen.”

Which side of that gap will you be on?

Graham Christie is CEO and Partner at Big Mobile Group.


Campaign Asia

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