Whilst Foursquare seems to lack a decent revenue model (not that they seem to worried about it), their success with brands has led them to great Pages Gallery, a place where users can follow brand activity. The problem currently is that whilst users can follow friends, following brands is more difficult. This new initiative makes it easier for brands to boost their followers and ultimately make the monetization of Foursquare easier.
A while back, I argued that Foursquare is not social media at all, but it’s actually a game. Yes, it has the tools of social media, but when you look at how people interact with it, it’s the gaming element of becoming mayor that keeps users engaged. There’s an interesting interview with (the very geeky) CEO of SCVNGR (what have they got against vowels?) explaining the difference between what they are doing and the Gowalla/Foursquare approach. The key difference is the challenge element and making each check-in different. When you consider that this is actually what keeps the Foursquare users engaged, the it looks like SCVNGR have nailed it.
Last year (and the year before) I made a number of predictions about mobile and mobile marketing for the year ahead. 2010 was a good one for mobile marketing. Mobile advertising came of age with AdMob and Apple’s IAd. Many retailers got into mCommerce. And Foursquare showed the potential of location-based marketing with their check-in offer. That’s just a few examples. Looking at last year’s predictions is also a chance to review the year as a whole. So how did the predictions fare? See below – I’ve marked myself out of 10 for accuracy.
Predictions from 2010
2010 will be the year of mobile advertising
8/10 a number of things happened to make mobile advertising a significant channel this year. At the end of 2009 Google acquired AdMob. Big. In June, Apple announced IAd. Very Big. OK, you may say, IAd has a tiny reach, but Apple announced that they had secured a number of brands, and significantly 21% of the mobile advertising market. Add to that the operator DM channels such as O2 More and Orange shots, and you can see that there was significant marketing activity. However, there’s still a long way to go – so I drop two points for that.
Mobile payments will become more common place
8/10 this was a pretty good prediction. I’ve taken off a couple of points as in-app payments haven’t taken off as expected, although the ‘freemium’ model has taken hold. Significantly, the number of mobile retail sites grew rapidly throughout the year. At the start of 2010 no high street UK retailer had a transactional mobile site. By the end, M&S, John Lewis, Tesco Direct and Debenhams all had full mCommerce sites (not to mention Barney’s in the US), with other brands such as Argos to follow very soon. Tesco’s did a study which showed that 10% of people will use their mobile for their Xmas shopping this year. In the world of apps, the likes of Ocado established themselves fully. At the start of the year they took 5% of their orders through their mobile app. By the end of the year it was 10%. Ebay and Amazon expect mobile commerce to overtake the fixed internet within the next few years.
More commercial and branded apps
9/10 with a few notable exceptions, they’re all at it. It seemed like every brand launched an app whether their customers needed it or not!
Behavioural targeting will be on the rise
5/10 it all depends on what you count as behavioural targeting. If you look at the mobile operators, there is very little targetting going on. The direct channels are opt-in to selected sectors, rather than targeted at consumer behaviour. That’s probably a good thing, as the public are very wary of this type of advertising. Still, I drop 5 points for getting it slightly wrong. However, it is strong and growing strong in other ways. Facebook is the ultimate behavioural targeting, and their ad revenue rose significantly. IAd is also a form of targeting, although it is through the apps they use rather than their actual behaviour online.
10/10 it’s an issue that won’t go away. Facebook came into major conflict with their users over changes in their privacy policies. There was the Openbook controversy, which showed how much people allow the world to see, and not forgetting the Foursquare inspired, Pleaserobme.com. Although Facebook seem to have placated most of their users for now, it will run and run. Then there was Google’s legal problems over their storing of personal WiFi data … I could go on! When it comes to mobile in particular, the personal-ness of the device will always require careful consideration on the part of brands.
Android will become a major player in mobile OS
10/10 Easy! It’s strange to think that 12 months ago Android was nowhere. By Q3 it had overtaken the iPhone and BlackBerry to become the second biggest mobile OS. Much of that came not from Google’s phone, but a couple of excellent handsets from the likes of HTC and Samsung.
Mobile content and social media aggregation
7/10 I was correct in the intent – we want our social media and our content in one place. However the results weren’t quite as expected (hence the 3 point drop). For example, Vodafone’s 360 was poorly executed and even more poorly advertised. By the end of the year they had quietly dropped it. What happened was that the aggregation went on in the places that the users were already in. The main place is Facebook. With the addition of their email, Facebook are telling people ‘why go anywhere else?’
Apps will still grow – the mobile web cannot replace them
9/10 apps have grown massively this year in large part through Nokia’s OviStore, Blackberry World and Android Market. The mobile web has not replaced apps at that level. What has happened is that the mobile web offers a different user and brand experience. Many brands are developing both web and apps.
Augmented Reality and Image Recognition will not significantly take off
8/10 arguably it’s easy to predict things that won’t happen, but there was a lot of talk about these two in 2009. We’ve seen some great stuff with Layar on the AR side and Google Goggles on the IR side (hence the two points I’ve taken off). However, they are far from mass market. Most mobile AR apps are little more than location services. There were a couple of exceptions, such as the excellent Berlin Wall project. These show the direction it could go to make AR more exciting. Google’s Goggles is a great concept – image based search – but have you tried it? It simply doesn’t work very well. Whilst the possibilities are there, Forrester predicted that it would be some years before AR takes off on mobile.
Mobile social networks will not go it alone
10/10 yes we saw Foursquare and Gowalla, as(almost) pure mobile social networks, but Facebook is THE place for mobile. In the UK 50% of status updates come from mobile phones, and over 150 million of their users update via mobile. Foursquare, on the other hand has a tiny number of users, not only that but it has had to allow status updates straight into Facebook. And anyway, Foursquare isn’t social media, it’s a game. So yes, 10 out of 10 for the prediction!
It has been widely reported that McDonald’s Foursquare campaign in April saw a 33% increase in footfall at their restaurants. However, as is often the case with digital media, and mobile marketing especially, the metrics are a little bit loose. It turns out from Wion, the company that ran the campaign for McDonalds, that they measured check-ins. It would be pretty hard to measure actual visitors to the stores, especially as the staff at many of them didn’t know much (or even anything) about the campaign. They could have measured voucher redemptions for sure, but maybe that casued problems again for the staff. What they did instead was to measure the increase in check-ins on the day of the offer against previous ones.
A spokesperson for Wion explained:
“During the pilot program we saw a 33% increase in check-ins from people visiting our restaurants. We measured this by indexing the amount of check-ins across all McDonald’s restaurants in the days leading up to the pilot and then on the pilot day itself. While a check-in isn’t the same thing as foot traffic or sales, it does show an increased level of engagement with our brand and that social media can be used to drive folks into our restaurants.”
There’s nothing wrong with brand engagement, especially for someone as high profile as Mickey Ds, but it is important that this data is correctly reported. If it isn’t, agencies and brands will be naturally suspicious of mobile as a marketing channel.