The astonishing growth of smartphone and tablet ownership is almost unprecedented in the history of consumer technology. The only thing that it can really compare to is the introduction of other technological milestones such as the automobile, the computer, the television and the radio.
As of 2017, there were over 2.3 billion smartphone owners and consumers were spending 69% of their digital media time in front of mobile devices. Meanwhile, people in emerging markets are accessing the internet for the first time through a mobile device, skipping desktop and laptop computers entirely.
The plethora of different devices – which use different technologies and different form factors – means that web development has faced a rethink from the ground up, and 2018 is arguably the first year in which mobile-first design has really taken off. Meanwhile, companies are developing smartphone applications and using mobile-first social networking sites while still taking advantage of older technologies such as SMS marketing and mobile emails.
Here are just a few of the trends that have defined 2018 and helped to shape the industry for the years to come.
Trend #1: Fewer Apps – But Better Quality
Brands haven’t exactly been slow to release mobile applications, but they’ve largely failed to take advantage of the full functionality that they have to offer. With application launches growing at a faster rate than app installs, as well as the fact that up to 90% of people use an app once and then delete it, there’s simply not enough room on the market.
Mobile apps cost a lot of money to develop, and it’s often a better option to focus on optimising the user experience of your mobile site. Releasing an application involves the same challenges as releasing a book to raise your profile as a businessman – ultimately, it takes a lot of work and leads to something else that needs as much promotion as your primary product.
When brands do release a mobile app, it’ll need to be quite something. This challenging aspect of mobile marketing takes a large commitment, but the payoff is worth it if you nail the execution. Like most other aspects of digital marketing, you’ll want to weigh up the risks and the rewards and monitor performance over time to figure out whether it generates an ROI.
Trend #2: VR and AR
Today’s mobile devices are high-tech, versatile machines that are capable of much more than you might initially imagine. They’re no longer just phones – they’re fully functional computers, and their small size means that you can use them in exciting new ways.
One of the most rapidly growing new uses for mobile devices is to turn them into virtual reality (VR) and artificial reality (AR) headsets. Better still, the big boys are getting involved and cheap kits like Google Cardboard are now readily available.
This democratization of VR and AR mean that people no longer need to spend big on the Oculus Rift to have access to an immersive experience. Instead, they can simply pick up the device that they already carry around and hook themselves right up to the matrix. Expect more and more brands to hop on the bandwagon and to create virtual worlds of their own.
Trend #3: Voice and Semantic Search Optimization
According to comScore , 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, with 40% of adults using voice search once per day. This presents an interesting new area for marketers to focus on.
The shift to voice search means that marketers will need to consider spoken queries as part of their keyword strategy. Voice searches and typed searches differ dramatically and search engines are already updating their algorithms in an attempt to deal with it.
That’s where semantic search comes in. Loosely speaking, semantic search is an attempt to understand the meaning behind queries, instead of just the keywords. For example, if a user searches for ‘ford’, the search engine will try to understand whether they’re searching for information on Henry Ford, for a Ford vehicle or for the shallow part of a river – as well as why they’re searching for it in the first place.
Trend #4: Mobile Video
Video is huge and so is mobile, so mobile video is a no-brainer. Of course, mobile video has been around for a while and so the main thing that’s likely to change is the way in which its conceived and then delivered.
Mobile video ad spend is expected to hit the $6 billion mark by the end of the year, and it’s unlikely to hit its peak for several years to come. That means that advertisers will need to innovate to stay relevant, while webmasters and vendors will need to think of new ways to monetize their sites with non-intrusive mobile experiences, dynamic banners, and ad delivery systems that resonate with consumers.
Trend #5: Faster Load Speeds
It’s no secret that page load time is a key metric for savvy marketers, but 2017 is set to see an increased emphasis on pages that load quickly, especially on 3G or with limited connectivity.
Google has already revealed that mobile page load times are one of their ranking factors, and 40% of people abandon a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load for them. On average, websites lose 7% of their traffic for every second that the load speed is delayed by.
Slow load times also hamper conversions. That means that if your mobile site is slow, you’ll lose search rankings, traffic , nd conversions, three of the main metrics that marketers like to focus on. No wonder it’s such a priority.
With 2018 already on the horizon, it can’t hurt to look ahead at what else is in store for mobile marketers. The main trend, though, will be the continued struggle to place relevant content in front of consumers in a format that suits them and which displays correctly on their device.
The only thing that’s certain is uncertainty, but if the formative years of mobile marketing have taught us anything it’s that the rewards are there for those who are brave enough to take them. Let’s hope that the trend continues as mobile marketing heads towards maturity.