We’re only a few weeks into 2017, so it is natural to ponder what the new year will bring. For many industries, it’s uncertain what the future holds. For marketing, however, it is clear cut. Based on the last half of 2016, companies have shifted their focus and begun taking advantage of powerful technologies that had largely been ignored (even though customers use them every day). In 2017, mobile marketing will rise to the top.
Up until recently, mobile development was a costly endeavor far beyond the reach of most small businesses. But a new era has emerged because of three key market developments: the adoption of mobile by major brands, the increase in companies built around Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and, finally, the innovation of cost efficient platforms that allow financial feasibility.
First, major companies have begun using mobile technology as a form of marketing. While some create unique and compelling content that is entirely their own; others have partnered with major digital players to take advantage of their technology and market potential. Either way, apps are at the core of this revolution.
Second, there has been a surge in companies centered on Software-as-a-Service. While most of us use apps daily, not many realize what goes on behind the scenes. Apps are, basically, a convenient interface that allows users to remotely access software stored somewhere far away. The companies that manage this software are built around SaaS, and provide the processing power behind those little app icons on your phone. It is the SaaS infrastructure that allows apps to function. Without this framework behind them, there could be no Snapchat or Instagram.
Finally, companies have created top app makers that allow businesses to easily learn how to build an app without having to pay thousands of dollars to hire developers and designers, all while hosting the infrastructure as well. By using a simple visual interface, SMBs can design their own mobile app with virtually no coding experience and in as little as a few hours. Now that mobile development is affordable, the floodgates have been opened.
Mobile Development Languages
Mobile apps have an inherent edge to traditional websites, as they are not limited by an Internet browser’s ability to interpret code into the proper visual elements. Right now, almost all digital content is written using two different markup languages, HTML5 and CSS3. Both languages are optimized for displaying content within the framework of an Internet Browser, though each browser treats the code a little differently. Businesses are leveraging app-based software because it provides greater flexibility to capture the essence of their brand, as well as the ability to create a more consistent user experience.
In addition, SaaS-based companies have entire server rooms dedicated to processing information, and all that power is incorporated into an app that uses less than a gigabyte on your phone’s hard drive. 2017 has already started to show how apps are incorporating these superpower-like-abilities as a way of unlocking an entirely new form of marketing.
Geolocation and Location Based Services
Even if you don’t play the game yourself, I’m sure you’ve heard of Pokemon Go. This game offers an exceptional entertainment value to its audience, as well as capturing an app-only technologically that has shattered the way we perceive marketing: geolocation.
At its core, Pokemon Go is one big scavenger hunt. People physically leave their homes to catch a Pikachu, and in the process, travel to brick and mortar businesses to replenish their supplies. Niantic, the company behind the game, partnered with Starbucks for a promotion where every single Starbucks location is a special area within the game. This literally gets customers running through the door. And isn’t that the whole point of marketing?
Geolocation and geofencing offer the opportunity to act as a giant, digital billboard and creating an app is currently the only way to effectively leverage this technology. If your business doesn’t have the software development resources, reach out to a company that has already laid the groundwork - in the same way Starbucks did with Niantic.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Virtual reality is another new technology that benefits from the flexibility offered by app-based software. Virtual Reality (VR) implies a complete immersion into a digital environment. VR headsets happened to be one of the most popular gifts this holiday season. There is a market waiting for businesses to capitalize on this technology, yet now hasn’t been any major success in the field.
Augmented Reality, on the other hand, has a stronger presence due to the foundation that has already been laid. Snapchat, an app worth $25 billion, allows people to superimpose filters over the world around them. This same technology can be used by businesses to provide an experience that goes beyond anything currently in existence. For instance, imagine using an app in a retail clothing store that allows you to effortlessly try on clothes. The app could scan the price tag and project the product over a picture of the user, to give the customer a rough idea of how the garment would look on. In addition, the app could save the information and transmit the data using Near Field Communication (NFC) at checkout. This would speed up the checkout process by eliminating the need to scan each individual item, reducing the time spent in line, and allowing a business to run with a more efficient staff.
Payment Services & Push Notifications
Of all the superpowers, inherent in apps, payment services have received the largest amount of publicity. Companies like Square and Paypal have built apps that allow businesses to use smartphones that double as credit card processors. Companies like Quickbooks have used integrated mobile technology to organize your accounts the minute a transaction takes place. The problem is that these services are focusing solely on their financial value, not their marketing potential.
Payment service companies make their profit through each transaction, so incorporating your own payment service into a custom app can allow you to save money while giving you a direct line to your customers through push notifications. In the previous example, a built-in marketplace offers an additional way to add value to your customers’ experience.
Let’s say you’re having a one-weekend sale. Simply use your business’ app to send out a mass push notification, and the info will pop up on you customers’ phones just like a text message. Additionally, you can use NFC coupled with Apple Pay and Google Wallet to take advantage of your integrated customer experience. An app allows your customer to walk through your door before they ever get to your store.
2017 Will Redefine Marketing
App-based technology is the forerunner in the integration between the digital and material world. The processing power behind SaaS companies allows phones to complete tasks that would put our old desktops to shame. Combined with technologies like geolocation, augmented reality, and payment processing, apps are priming our society for an information revolution. Soon, your digital and real-world persona will blend into one. The early adopters will become the standard everyone aspires to become. Those who are resistant to change will be left in the past.