Apple launched the first generation of iPhones in the summer of 2007, ushering the smartphone era into the mainstream. The App Store became a reality a year later and the rest, as they say, is history. Nearly every year since has been labeled ‘the year of mobile’ – a testament to just how transformative these devices have been over a relatively short amount of time. Marketers will surely be hearing that label again throughout 2015 and thinking through how to make sure their companies adopt a mobile-first approach.
From a consumer perspective this shift has largely already happened: many activities, from communication to shopping to media consumption have already made the switch to a predominantly mobile world — a conservative report from eMarketer notes that US adults spent more than 23% of their media consumption time on mobile devices this year, while other non-mobile channels saw less time devoted to them.
A few telling stats on the state of mobile:
- In the US, the number of mobile device subscribers now exceeds the population. (iab, CTIA)
- Internationally, mobile ad spending doubled in 2013 over the previous year. (eMarketer)
- User time on mobile already exceeds desktop by about 60 percent. (comScore)
We can only expect these trends to continue. Yet with all of mobile’s promise, today the industry seems to be smack in the middle of those awkward teenage years.
Mobile marketers inherited many formats, measurement standards and success metrics from the web world that are clearly not meant for mobile screens and tapping fingers, but better alternatives haven’t quite yet taken root. In spite of this, mobile already commands a rich jargon and technical nuances that one must be mindful of when considering a sound mobile strategy.
So where does one go to build a foundation for a new medium?
This is the question that those of us on the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Data Council set out to answer. We started by cataloging the most common applications of mobile data in digital advertising and where and how this data is collected, stored, and made actionable. We then wanted to map out how data flows through the mobile advertising ecosystem, and how it’s handled from technology and privacy perspectives by each of the ecosystem players. Finally, we wanted to share some industry best practices regarding the use and handling of mobile data sets. During this process, we tackled everything from what defines a mobile device (and whether we should treat smartphones and tablets differently), to the implications of mobile wallets, to my hands-down favorite: should a car be considered a mobile device?
An Industry Standard for Mobile Data and Analytics
The end result of this cross-industry effort is captured in the Mobile Data Usage & Control Primer that you can download here: https://www.iab.net/media/file/IAB_MobileDataPrimerFinal.pdf
I trust it will be a useful baseline for many in our ecosystem to build on and create better consumer experiences on mobile.
IAB’s experts note at least three major trends in mobile data:
- The rise of specialized apps—think Google, Google Plus, and Google Maps, all from one company. Specialized apps allow for highly focused functionality, while the company gains additional data to power its advertising business.
- The mobile ecosystem is seeking out alternatives to cookies, as companies try to profile customers who are increasingly using mobile apps.
- Smaller companies are gaining mobile data by having their users log in via big networks like Facebook or Amazon, which act as portals to the mobile web.
One thing is certain: with the rate of innovation in mobile, we’ll likely need to revisit and extend this primer in the next couple of years, perhaps more frequently than our earlier similar non-mobile-specific efforts. It’s taken a short eight years to get to a world that is hard to imagine without mobile devices. Let’s see what the next eight years of innovation have in store.