The mobile landscape is set to change in a big way in 2013, and though some of the coming changes can be predicted, others will provide big (and perhaps unwelcome) surprises for both consumers and advertisers.
As seen at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Mobile World Congress, tech companies are focusing more than ever on smartphone and tablet devices. Companies such as Sony, LG, Asus, and even HP unveiled new devices that will enter a market already largely controlled by the likes of Apple, Samsung, and Amazon.
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What is somewhat surprising is that many of these companies might actually have a chance, considering how quickly the mobile industry is growing. On March 4, ABI research estimated that mobile users will download 14 billion tablet apps during 2013. Almost three-quarters of those apps will be running on a iPad device, but Android devices are now set to lead in the number of smartphone app downloads, which ABI predicts will reach 56 billion in 2013.
For consumers the proliferation of more devices with a wider variety of features could mean confusion and burnout. It also means that consumers have never had more choice, and more power, than they do now. The choices they make this year about the devices they purchase and the technologies they adopt will shape the technology landscape for years to come.
Apple stock has had a rough winter, in no small part to the Apple Maps debacle and the fact that the iPhone 5 failed to iterate significantly on the device's past models. While Android devices are introducing larger smartphones, NFC technology, wireless charging, and features such as water resistance, Apple's credibility as a innovator in the market segment it created is shrinking.
As Apple now begins to follow industry trends with the iPad mini and a less expensive version of the iPhone, Samsung is poised to become a market leader. The Korean company will unveil its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S IV at an Apple-like announcement in New York on March 14. Samsung's hefty manufacturing capabilities and willingness to mimic Apple have propelled it to the forefront of Android smartphones, but the company's new marketing (another thing it has taken directly from Apple's playbook) is also beginning to become part of the cultural zeitgeist.
The mobile market right now might be considered tablets and smartphones, but later this year Google will introduce a completely new type of mobile product with Google Glass. Though the device's success is far from certain, it could introduce an entirely new mobile category, propelling the industry forward with even more constant connectivity. Glass' ability to record on the fly also brings privacy concerns, meaning laws and social norms will be further tested by advancing technology.
With all of these changes coming to the mobile space, it's worth considering how advertisers will adapt. While having consumers constantly connected and consuming content may seem preferable for advertisers, the abundance of that content can make it difficult for ad campaigns to target their audience. At the same time, the abundance of content and metrics can put consumers in control of much of the advertising they see.
As Susan Wojcicki, senior VP of advertising at Google, recently put it in a Google Plus post, "We are living in uncharted territory."
Wojcicki argues that as always-connected devices continue to proliferate, advertising will quickly move into a "choice-based economy" where users will be able to control the content and ads that they see. She writes that "ads views will effectively become voluntary."
It's not hard to imagine how advertisers will have to adapt in that type of ad economy. Choice-based ad models will have to cater to consumers at an individual level with adaptability and engage customers in nearly the same way that content itself does. Wojcicki suggests that future technologies will provide more "interactive and beautiful" ads, but that's only the beginning of how mobile advertising will change in the coming years.
Accepting that consumers are no longer a captive audience for ads may be a terrifying prospect for both advertisers and content creators, but consumer choice is only continuing to increase. This could make solid advertising opportunities more expensive, but also means that brands will have to adapt their ad techniques to grow a fan base or to provide upfront value to consumers.
How do you think advertising should adapt to consumer choice? Tell us your ideas in the comments.
As the nature of mobile advertising changes, how advertisers measure the impact of their campaigns will have to change as well. Wojcicki puts it bluntly by stating advertisers will have to develop "standards beyond the click." However, it's hard to predict just how those measurements will be made in the future, particularly in light of the growing backlash from privacy advocates.
Wojcicki stated that Google is beginning to to roll out surveys to provide advertisers with a way to measure the performance of their display and video campaigns. Google's skippable "TrueView" ads are also now integrated into mobile AdMob apps, allowing consumers to decide for themselves what ads they will view.
As the future of the mobile industry finally begins to take shape this year, consumers have never had more choices with regards to hardware, software, and services. However, the plethora of choices thrown at consumers can also create confusion, and will inevitably lead to a few trusted brands leading the way. While advertisers attempt to pare down consumers' choices for them, future technologies, such as Google Glass, will continue to continue to change the way people interact with technology and their environment.