Build Your Boat Now Before The Mobile Tsunami Washes You Away

The wave is coming. Like a tsunami that starts miles off shore, unnoticeable to the human eye in the middle of the ocean but gradually builds up speed and power as it gets closer to land, a mobile tidal wave is most definitely building. And it’s forming right in front of our very eyes.

You may have noticed people aren’t looking up very much anymore. No, when you see a person nowadays they are most likely looking down at their hand. Next time you are on public transportation, in a restaurant, at the mall or any other pubic (or private) place, take your eyes off your device and just watch people. It will blow you away how often people look at their mobile devices.

So as I was doing some recent market research I came across quite possibly the most staggering collection of mobile usage and commerce statistics in the world. It’s well worth your review if you want to know where the world is going. Since it takes quite a while to swim through I have pulled out some of the most impressive stats and wrapped them into a conversation about the mobile web. Spoiler alert: You’re gonna get wet!

6 Billion Mobile Devices

There are approximately 5.9 billion mobile subscribers, which is roughly 87 percent of the world population. Mobile subscriptions outnumber fixed lines 5-to-1. Also, there are now 1.2 billion mobile Web users worldwide, based on the latest stats for active mobile-broadband subscriptions. Did you notice the ratio difference between mobile subscribers and mobile web users? It is easy to see why the experts predict that mobile Web usage will overtake PC-based Web usage very soon and why it would be a good idea to have a real mobile strategy.

Many of those mobile Web users are mobile-only, meaning they do not, or very rarely use a desktop, laptop or tablet to access the Web. Even in the US 25 percent of mobile Web users are mobile-only. In mature markets, the mobile Web will be a leading technology for business to consumer (B2C) mobile applications and should be part of every organization’s business strategy. If you are a merchant or a local business you need to pay attention and build that dang boat, a figurative term for your mobile site and interactive mobile experience utilizing an app, mobile browser or text.

8 Trillion Text Messages

Speaking of text messaging. Over 8 trillion text messages were sent in 2011, overtaking voice minutes and making it the worlds most popular mobile communication medium. We have yet to see the biggest impact SMS and messaging will have on our society. A2P, application to person SMS, is expected to overtake person to person SMS in 2016. A2P messaging includes messages between applications and customers in financial services, advertising, marketing, business administration, ticketing, television voting, and other automated systems. This nascent market should not be overlooked – by 2016 A2P messaging is estimated being worth more than $70 billion.

Global expenditure on mobile advertising was approximately $3.6 billion in 2009, and is estimated to grow to $38 billion in 2015 and the worldwide mobile messaging market will reach $334.7 billion by 2015. For any businesses this is significant or a number of reasons, namely to identify the most cost effective platforms to utilize in their mobile commerce.  People respond differently to different types of mobile marketing, proven by studies in the UK and France, where they found opt-in SMS gets the best results, and in Germany mobile Web ads got the best results.  It seems time sensitive special offers or discounts (especially mobile coupons) were most likely to lead to a purchase.

$1 Trillion of Mobile Payments

Most significant will be the transformation in how we use our mobile devices in everyday commerce. Mobile ad spend worldwide is predicted to sky rocket to $20.6 billion in 2015, driven by search ads and local ads. A logical evolution for mobile search is towards mobile transactions. Once the connection has been established through the mobile device, brands can build up much more detailed profiles of users compared to online and plan follow-up campaigns accordingly. In 2009, there were 81.3 million people worldwide using their mobile device to make payments and it is estimated by the end of 2014, this is forecasted to rise to nearly 490 million. Mobile transactions will drastically change our society. The market for paying by mobile device could be well over $1 trillion by 2015.  Simply put, that is HUGE!

Now we know a flood is coming so let’s go back to thinking about your boat. If you were building an actual boat, would it be smart to build only to float in salt water? Probably not. Then why are we building systems and business only for specific devices and operating systems? If you follow that logic you will definitely drown when the tidal wave hits since 95 percent of the worldwide mobile device market is not an Apple.  It would be best to build your boat – a mobile-optimized web experience – looking beyond a single device to maximize reach.  Do it and you will surely rise with the tide.

@jnickhughes

How Facebook Will Conquer Your Real World Identity

When Facebook released their S-1 announcing their intent to go public, Mark Zuckerberg left no doubt in anyone’s mind they have taken over our digital world.  According to Hitwise, Facebook now accounts for 1 in every 5 pageviews on the web (in the U.S.). It’s crazy to think Facebook wasn’t visionary in the revolutionary sense of the word, they just recognized the world needed a real directory of people, not merely another site to attract users. And indeed, they nailed it. The goal of making its social graph portable and fundamental to the fabric of the Web – and your virtual identity – has certainly been realized.

But can Facebook extend its reach outside the wired world and into your real world? Actually, I don’t think that’s the right question to ask. Maybe the better question is “HOW will Facebook extend its reach into your real world?”

It would seem they are on a tear and the facts are staggering. Hitwise found Facebook.com is now seeing one out of every eleven of their visits coming from the U.S., and 1/5 of all pageviews online in the U.S. takes place on Facebook.com. Their monthly actives grew 21% over the past four months. They are now seeing about 850 million users each month, with half accessing on their mobile device. In 2011, they earned almost $4 billion in revenue and of that, exactly $1 billion was profit. In the S-1 filing, Zuckerberg even goes to the lengths of declaring their intent to fundamentally rewire the way the world works, from interpersonal interactions to commerce to even government.

Facebook’s current revenue is driven mostly by advertising, and analysts are postulating about what exactly led Facebook to IPO.  Maybe it’s a desire to steer where advertising is going, to hopefully make it more personal and relevant for consumers.  But make no mistake, Facebook is already one of the most valuable companies on the planet because of the information they gather.   Age, gender, current city, hometown, employers, education, friends, interests, and now in-app activity and commerce habits are all reasons Facebook is worth an estimated $100 billion.

Yet advertising might not always be their bread and butter since it can only take you so far (just look at what other businesses Google is trying to create) and diversification is the name of the game if you want to protect your longterm business.

This brings us to a natural progression in the digital ecosystem – from advertising to payments. Within the S-1 they revealed their virtual Payments business is already bringing in $557 million in revenue per year. From the filing, Facebook writes that “we may seek to extend the use of Payments to other types of apps in the future.” Although not specific about these other apps, one could think they could include anything that somehow integrates with Facebook.

So it would seem Facebook is on pace to take over the world….. except one big side note, the mobile device. Analysts and the media are already pointing out Facebook has discovered their Kryptonite, which would be the fact that even though almost half of all their users are accessing Facebook from their mobile device, they are generating almost zero revenue from mobile usage.

Facebook risks being left behind as the world turns more of their attention to their mobile devices. Also found in the S-1, Facebook goes to great lengths to admit they have no current way to monetize mobile “We do not currently directly generate any meaningful revenue from the use of Facebook mobile products. Accordingly, if users continue to increasingly access Facebook mobile products as a substitute for access through personal computers…our revenue and financial results may be negatively affected.”

So while Facebook sees mobile as critical to its future growth, the growing number of people accessing the social network via mobile devices (again, 450 million!) could negatively impact its advertising revenue unless it is able to begin monetizing its mobile usage.

This should not be taken lightly, as anyone in the industry knows mobile is growing at a rapid pace and it’s only going to accelerate. Techcrunch cofounder and guest author Keith Teare, who is General Partner at his incubator Archimedes Labs and CEO of newly funded just.me, eloquently puts it:

The reason this risk factor jumps out of the page – for me – is that this trend to growing mobile use is inevitable. What is more, it will be both rapid and enormous. How do we know this? Well, human beings are flocking to mobile platforms in droves. This is happening to such an extent that Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker went on the record almost 1 year ago to say that we are now in the 5th major technology cycle of the past half century (mainframe; mini-computer; desktop; internet and now mobile) and that mobile traffic will “grow 26 times over the next 5 years”

Mobile is The Final Frontier to Our Real Life Identity

It has been determined the most valuable network in the digital world is all your personal connections, collected and put together to form the social graph.  Expansive and data rich, this network connects you and me in a way we never would have been able to do before Facebook hit our screens.

But offline, this is not the case since transactions are the fullest expression of commercial interaction. Offline, the most valuable network is comprised of all the loose connections of merchant/customer relationships around the world, all together representing the GDP.  Broken down to each individual, possibly named the commercial graph, one can start to see patterns and degrees of separation forming.

The mobile device is the most direct and personal connection between our digital world to our physical world. We carry them with us all the time and feel naked if we leave them at home. Their use history is a picture perfect snapshot of who we are, made complete with our media and content preferences in addition to our personal calling and messaging history. Your cell phone contact history is, quite frankly, your true and actual real world social network. The location information (what is seen and not seen by the public) draws a direct path of your everyday footsteps. Like it or not, your mobile device is the crystal ball into your existence – a pure blend of your virtual and physical self.

Yet, Facebook has not figured out how to crack that crystal ball. Yes you can access Facebook proper via your mobile device… but it is still within their digital walls. I am curious as to when Facebook’s tenticals will reach outside those walls and into our physical world. And more interestingly, if not Facebook… then who else will it be?

We Express Relationships With Businesses Via Transactions

In the physical world, the truest expression of our commercial relationship with a businesses is through transaction.  If I like a product, I don’t push a button on the shelf right by where its sitting, I buy it.  If I am attracted to a city and want to stay at a nice hotel, I book the room.  Wouldn’t it be great to directly connect with merchants we care about in our life to make those interactions and transactions much easier?  Wouldn’t it be great if it operated similar to what we have become accustomed to in out digital social worlds?  Unfortunately, we cannot indicate a preferred long term relationship with a merchant, both interactional and transactional, driven through our mobile devices (Not yet that is).

With more than 8 trillion text messages sent last year around the world, and the U.S. alone seeing more than a fourth of those messages, messaging is the most predominant use for our mobile device. Research suggests messaging is still growing and arguably this won’t change for the foreseeable future. What if texting wasn’t just meant for communication, but also designed for transaction? It has been estimated that worldwide mobile payments (m-payments) will be over US$1 trillion by 2015. That is one BIG market if I have ever seen one.  And a market any serious digital media company should be focused on.

So if mobile is only going to be more important as time goes on, if our real world identities are tied to our mobile device and if transactions are the most valuable market in the world, it would make sense the next war for supremacy lies right where those three battlefields intersect.

Anyone want to suggest what Facebook has in store in the coming years to deliver returns for their shareholders? If their goal really is to fundamentally rewire the way the world works, from interpersonal interactions to commerce to even government, they need to do more than just show us ads in our news feed.

The advantages to going public at $100 billion is everyone who was a shareholder “before” the IPO will make a nice return on their investments – both time and money. The downfall of going public valued at $100 billion is that for anyone who is a shareholder “after” the IPO is going to need to see that valuation increase drastically to achieve a positive return. How is Facebook going to do that? The multi-trillion dollar worldwide market of physical world payments is probably Facebook’s best bet at making those returns come true.

Your virtual identity is arguably still up for grabs but at this point the front runner is Facebook with almost 1 billion users worldwide. The question is who will own your real world identity?

Even more interesting is wondering if we can fight for our real world identity or will we succumb to the greatest virtual social network on earth overtaking our physical world as well?

If Facebook And Twitter Are Today, Is This Tomorrow?

Real time communications are increasingly seeping into our world and the era of ubiquitous web is upon us.  Twitter allows us to disseminate comments and links at the speed of bits, creating a whole new way of discovering information.  Facebook keeps friends and family updated with the latest thoughts and images from our life.  Yes, even the use of email is changing.   We still send emails and that will not change for a while, but how many times do you engage in an “instant email” conversation with a friend or co-worker.

This begs the question:  What will we be using tomorrow?  What new types of technologies will disrupt new industries to create unthought ways in which we will use the our devices?  Here is my quick thinking on four emerging ideas as I gaze into the web tonight.

Real Time Local Information Platform

Imagine a twitter like experience, including relevant informational updates from around your local city/town/village, from people and places you chose to stay connected to, delivered to your mobile device in real time.  This will happen sooner than you think…  Some might say “well Nick, that sounds a lot like Twitter, I don’t believe another platform will replace Twitter.”  Great, me neither.

I think Twitter will continue to grow and mature into a different set of protocols and essentially replace certain information hubs we still use today.  But Twitter cannot be ubiquitous worldwide and at the same time incredibly strong on a local level.  What I think will be different is exactly how the “local” community uses technology to disseminate information.  I am hedging my bet on it not being Twitter proper as we use it today.  I believe a new player will emerge with specific value propositions set for the local merchant/community/consumer.

Social Search and Discovery

I have written extensively on the concept of Social Search, you can find them here on Business Insider.  My main theory is around the fact that in the not-so-distant future we will discover and find relevant information not from a traditional Google search but from leveraging our network of contacts.  Think about how much information your network of twitter followers, Facebook friends, and linkedIn contacts interact with on a daily basis.  I believe new platforms will be built to collect, organize and disseminate this information to you exactly when you need it.  No more 10 links per page with 1,000,000 results crap.  If you think about it, why do  search engines even tell you about a million results anyway?  That doesn’t mean anything to us as users.  Whatever….  My point is the forefront of social search and discovery will come from some surpassing players, no doubt.

Mobile Commerce

In less than 5 years, there is no doubt your commercial experience – especially around your local community – will be tremendously different than it is today.  Paying with cash… gone.  Calling in an order on the phone… forget it, so last century.  Waiting in lines to be seated… a thing of the past.  Being called Sir or Madam from the restaurant owner…. probably not any more when they now can identify you.  With the use of new mobile commerce technologies, all this will be unified within a local commercial network, encompassing orders, payments, communications, social sharing opportunities, offers, marketing messages, etc… and all this will be personalized to the individual so no two people have the same experience.  It will be amazing and all driven through your mobile device of choice. Someone should be work on this…

Auto-web

What if cars could talk?  No, not to us… to each other.   Web enabled cars will fundamentally transform our world.  I am not referring to cars having internet screens in them, which some do today and will in the future as a standard feature. More specifically, Google is not too crazy to be working on a self driving car.  If an automobile is connected to the web and in constant communications with all the other “devices” on the grid, theoretically there shouldn’t be any more accidents or fatalities due to automobiles.  Each car would travel at a certain speed, maintain a certain distance from another, roll along on a set route and never veer from the predetermined destination.  It will be transportation 2.0.  I believe that day is not too far off the radar and would be a great time to invent or invest in this area.

These are just a few of the things I thought of tonight when I asked myself… man, if Facebook and Twitter are today, what is tomorrow?

@jnickhughes

This Get’s the Creative Juices Flowing

Trendwatching.com sends out a monthly briefing on emerging trends.  It’s awesome.  Here’s the latest mini-consumer trends they highlight in their latest edition, “Innovation Extravaganza” .  Read the briefing to get the details.

The both scary and celebratory part? Wherever you live, whatever it is you do, you have absolutely no excuse to be unaware of innovations originating in Australia, in the Netherlands, in the US, in Argentina, in Turkey, in Singapore, in South Africa … It’s all out there, reported 24/7 by numerous sources dedicated to trends and new business ideas.

I Hear the Future

And it’s a Daily Deal Nearby!

Loopt has partnered with Groupon to push their users notifications about nearby daily deals.  Currently, I am not sure how I feel about my phone buzzing every minute as I walk down the street to notify me about deals, regardless if I am interested or not.  This might change, but that is how I feel right now.  What do you think?

Mobile Commerce Will Be HUGE

Mobile commerce is starting to show its legs.  Groupon just announced it will be seeing half of revenue coming from mobile devices sometime in the next two years.  This coincides with what Mary Meeker has been saying for so many years – the mobile web will be HUGE.  Look at the chart below, you can see it is predicted global mobile users will overtake desktop users within the next 5 years.  Think about that for a second.

According to Mary Meeker:

“the world is currently in the midst of the fifth major technology cycle of the past half a century. The previous four were the mainframe era of the 1950s and 60s, the mini-computer era of the 1970s and the desktop Internet era of the 80s. The current cycle is the era of the mobile Internet, she says — predicting that within the next five years “more users will connect to the Internet over mobile devices than desktop PCs.”

This shift has major implications for consumers as well a businesses.  Shopkick, a mobile app initially created for in-store shopping experiences, now allows users to create a custom area for their favorite retailers.  Remember how you throw away most of the advertisements and mailers you receive each day.  This is the opposite.  It’s all the best deals right in front of your face.

If you are a local business, your customers are theoretically always connected to you and your products or services.  Think: how can you add value to them on a daily basis.  If you are a consumer, odds are you carry a device in which pretty much anything (or anyone) in the world is just a few taps away.  Think: what new place/thing can I discover in my city today.

As a consumer, in what ways do you use your mobile to interact with your local community?  And what do you wish you could do?  In today’s world, you might just get what you ask for…