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A mobile future

There’s no denying the impact Google has had on the mobile industry in the last few years. The web giant has its fingers in many pies that at one point constituted large parts of the operators’ lunch. At Google’s second annual Think Mobile event, held in London in June, Ian Carrington, mobile advertising sales director at Google, talked us through present and future opportunities the firm sees in the mobile space.

Carrington opened with a quip originally made by Eric Schmidt, then Google’s CEO, who said: “If you don’t have a mobile strategy, you don’t have a future strategy.” Although Carrington said this is not absolutely true of every single business, it is true for most of them, as the future is using mobile to engage with your brand.

“Lots of people are failing to capitalise on mobile, and the mobile market is succeeding in spite of itself. There are still lots of opportunities left to capture,” he said. Carrington highlighted the famous prediction, made in the first quarter of 2010, by Mary Meeker—tech futurist, venture capitalist and ex-Wall Street securities analyst, known to many as “Queen of the Net”. Meeker predicted that in two years’ time, the first quarter of 2012, mobile phone sales would surpass PC sales. The surprise wasn’t in the prediction itself, which came to pass, the surprise was in how far out Meeker’s forecast was in terms of timeline. Mobile phone sales surpassed PC sales for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2010, just nine months after Meeker made her statement.

“This epitomises the pace of change. Very soon over 50 per cent of UK users will have a smartphone,” said Carrington. “And this is something they have with them, and use constantly. The vast majority of mobile usage is incremental. Mobile usage peaks in the morning then at lunch then in the evening.” Carrington highlighted Google’s own UK research, which found that 44 per cent of UK users go to bed with mobile phone at their side and 53 per cent are ‘dual screening’ at home—using a mobile device and watching TV at the same time. This phenomenon lends credence to Carrington’s recommendation that advertisers have an integrated campaign across all forms of media.

“Google sees 12 per cent of all its search queries coming from the mobile phone, and there is some great data that can be gleaned from Adwords or Google Analytics about what’s happening, but few people are looking at this data,” he said.

“A mobile optimised site removes a big barrier on one enabling device between you and users. So develop and integrate you mobile strategy, incorporating both apps and the web. Often the big disconnect is that there is no mobile optimised website. Brands need to make it easy to by stuff.”

Google’s research shows the green shoots of opportunity in this space. According to the firm, 28 per cent of UK mobile phone owners have used the mobile to buy goods or service, while 13 per cent of all mobile search queries are retail related.

Google, of course, has made a big splash in this area, unveiling in May a plan for NFC mobile payments via the handset. Google Wallet is in the field trial phase and won’t become a commercial reality until later in the summer, but at that point is supported by the Nexus S 4G (WiMAX) handset on the Sprint network in the US, with the 3G version of the Nexus S, also sporting an NFC chip, expected to follow soon after.

Citi, MasterCard and First Data are the launch partners, supporting two payment solutions: a PayPass eligible Citi MasterCard and a virtual Google Prepaid card. The retail side will be based on the MasterCard PayPass network—a merchant point of sale service covering more than 124,000 PayPass-enabled merchants nationally and more than 311,000 globally. The first Google Wallet field tests are focused in New York and San Francisco, where many retailers, Coca-Cola vending machines and even taxis are PayPass-enabled, including major outlets such as CVS, Jack in the Box, Sports Authority and Sunoco.

Google, naturally, will also be involved in the delivery of relevant deals, promotions and loyalty rewards as it steps up its presence in the buoyant coupons and vouchers space. “We’re seeing an eight per cent year on year increase in the usage of mobile coupons,” Carrington added.

At present, entertainment is the biggest vertical the web giant deals with on the mobile. Over 40 per cent of all tweets are made via mobile and there are 200 million mobile views on YouTube every day, accounting for 10 per cent of the site’s total traffic. Meanwhile, travel is the fastest growth sector. Around 65 per cent of UK respondents use a mobile phone to aid them on their journey while travelling.

But does an integrated marketing strategy mean apps, mobile web, or both? According to Carrington, people using apps and the mobile web for different things. Brands should be using apps to drive customer retention and loyalty: consider that Apple App Store downloads have rocketed to 14 billion from five billion last year. While Android has gone to 4.5 billion downloads, a four fold increase in 12 months. “The last billion took 60 days, the first billion took four months,” Carrington said of Android. “But the mobile web, via a mobile optimised site, is all about customer acquisition and commerce,” he said.


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