2011 saw smartphone and tablet shipments outpace computer purchases for the first time and the world’s largest search engine spend over $12 billion to snatch one of the world’s largest mobile device manufacturers. We met Apple’s Siri, watched BlackBerry fall from the summit of mobile dominance, and witnessed vicious mobile-patent gamesmanship over devices and operating systems. With 20% of all searches being conducted from mobile devices, the mobile revolution is upon us.
With this in mind, let’s look ahead to what 2012 may have in store.
1. Voice Search Will Skyrocket.
If Apple’s Siri voice assistant has taught us anything, it’s that software can sell smartphones. As mobile artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, drivers will be more inclined to keep their hands where they belong -- at the wheel.
2. Google Mobile To Favor Context Over Content.
Voice-activated search not only will change the way we interact with our phones, but also the type of information we search for and the form its delivered. Mobile search strings will grow longer and more nuanced. Google’s search-results page will shed its text-swaddled skin in favor of a context-driven query (e.g., a map page, shopping-comparison page, or even a narrated results page).
3. Mobile CPCs To Increase.
Space will become a sparser commodity. As competition for these spots intensifies, Google and Bing will need to find ways to increase ad inventory. Voice-controlled search will alleviate some of this shortage, but text-based search ads will remain popular with advertisers. As a result, click costs will rise.
4. Mobile Sites Become Device Agnostic.
Mobile sites as a separate entity will go away as responsive Web design takes hold as the de facto standard.
5. Big retailers will embrace in-store mobile integration.
Retailers now recognize that smartphone users are mobile, and highly susceptible to in-store shopping incentives. Look for more apps that integrate shopping and e-payment options, as well as in-store tablet kiosks and augmented-reality offerings.
6. Google Subsidizes The Little Guy
In effort to expand its mobile advertising base, Google unveiled a free mobile site–building tool this summer and its GoMo initiative in November. Small businesses will need further incentive to shift their marketing budget to mobile devices.
7. Mobile Analytics Gets Smarter.
Google and Bing are banking on increased mobile ad revenue in 2012, but in order to get advertisers to spend a larger share of their marketing budget on mobile devices, they’ll need to provide the same robust analytics that advertisers get from search marketing online. The search giants will need to launch products that help advertisers see the value of a mobile click.
8. Microsoft Purchases A Large Mobile-Device Manufacturer.
The past year in mobile was not a good one for Microsoft. Google’s continued success in mobile puts pressure not only on Microsoft, but also on device makers like Nokia and RIM. Look for Microsoft to spend for one of these companies, to compete with Google and provide a showcase for its Windows 8 operating system and beyond.
9. E-wallets Fail To Persuade Consumers.
Although the integration of near-field communication technologies within smartphones (with the exception of Apple’s iPhone) has laid a broad foundation for mobile point-of-sale payments, the barrier to consumer acceptance remains. For many people, carrying credit-card information in their phone doesn’t feel safe. It will take time for consumers to get used to leaving their wallet at home, but e-commerce is already second nature.
10. Tablets Gain Respect.
In 2011, tablet devices assumed the role of online advertising orphans. Consumers prefer to buy with a tablet instead of a smartphone, but limited search traffic has made it difficult to pay tablets much attention. This will change as inexpensive tablet devices floods the marketplace. Expect this shift to cannibalize mobile search traffic and pressure companies to design sites for tablets. In 2011, Forrester Research estimated that mobile commerce made up just 2 percent of all e-commerce. Tablets may just provide the spark that pushes shoppers to their mobile devices.