'Tis the season for top 10 lists. I guess I'm playing right into the cliché. However instead of looking back at "best of" fodder, I recently decided to partake in some forward looking speculation -- what us analysts do best (or worst).
What can we expect in mobile and local in 2012?
1. Mobile Market Growth
U.S. mobile ad revenues will grow 50 percent over 2011, reaching $1.6 billion in 2012. The dollar share attributed to location targeted ads will approach a majority. This will be driven by:
- Growth of mobile local search (now 40 percent of all Google mobile searches).
- Advertiser evolution to follow that growth (both large and small advertisers).
- Higher performance of location targeted ads which will drive premium ad rates.
2. Mobile Local Monetization
Some of the biggest leaders in mobile local user growth will start to monetize. This most notably includes Foursquare and Yelp. Both will start to charge for what they currently give businesses for free (so far to boost adoption): Management of mobile deals and profile pages.
Facebook reaches 500 million mobile users and goes public. Public investor pressure will cause it to form a mobile monetization strategy – likely involving sponsored stories rather than banner ads -- by year end.
3. Deals Go Mobile
Deal economics will fundamentally shift as they migrate to mobile. Better targeting and personalization will replace deep discounts as the user hook and relevance driver.
Greater margin share for merchants will in turn make them more attractive to different SMB segments. The same altering deal economics will cause overall deals market to grow, but at a smaller rate as it matures.
4. Mobile Payments
Among the many competing standards for mobile payments, the ones that emerge will be most similar to what Foursquare did with AMEX – tying deals to a credit card account. Deal redemption and tracking will happen through good old credit card transactions, which reduces friction for users and redemption challenges/tracking for merchants.
PayPal will also emerge as a mobile payments leader, utilizing its online momentum and the assets eBay continues to acquire to “close the local loop” (WHERE, Milo, RedLaser). NFC won’t reach critical mass in 2012.
5. The End of the Check-in as we Know it
Location check-ins will plateau in terms of eligible adopters. In order to keep early adopters engaged and to expand to more of a mainstream market, check-ins will be more automatic and based on pre-set preferences and opt-ins. This is what we’ve seen happen already with Foursquare Radar and Shopkick. These will be the new model going forward for most innovation in the check-in space.
6. Mobile Social Sharing is the New Black
The “check-in” of 2012 (popular mobile feature that everyone chases), will be social sharing. But instead of location and status updates, it will evolve to more multimedia such as photos and songs. Apps such as Instagram and Soundtracking will reach 30 million users.
7. Voice Search
Voice search engines such as Siri will end up benefiting Google and others by boosting mobile search query volume (not a “Google killer”). Siri’s true value will reach the market when Apple expands it to more partners and/or integrates it with the iOS SDK. Competitors will be driven to raise the bar with voice search integration in Android as well as auto, television, and gaming systems like the Xbox.
8. Apps v. Mobile Web
The mobile web's growth rate will accelerate and outrun that of apps. This will come about with the onset of HTML5 (better mobile websites), and resulting development that’s driven by economic reasons (cheaper and more scalable than apps). The growth and improvement of the mobile web will increase search’s share of mobile ad revenues.
9. Apple Mapping
Apple’s increasing friction with Google and its acquisition of C3 will manifest in its own local mapping and navigation standard for iOS. This will include advanced mapping features such as 3D aerial imagery. It could also be a foundation for local advertising or more mapping integration in iAd.
10. Tab Forward
The tablet market will shake out with iPad at high end (60 percent of the market), and the Kindle fire and Nook Color at the low end. Amazon’s content business frees it up to designate the Kindle Fire as a loss leader, thus disrupting and undercutting the hardware market considerably. Android based tablets won’t be able to compete on price at the low end and, and with quality at the high end. A bloodbath of Android tablets will ensue -- going the way of the netbook.
With all the things happening at the crossroads of mobile and local (not to mention social) it's hard to choose just 10. I'll be expanding these over the next few days in building a larger report. Feedback is encouraged on where I'm full of it.
Will NFC reach critical mass, or is eBay CEO John Donahoe right in calling it "Not For Commerce" ? And what about augmented reality, or QR codes. These get honorable mentions for level of innovation, even if they don’t break through in 2012.
My next Search Engine Watch column will be in the New Year. And by then, the pace of the mobile sector will likely cause at least one of the above calls to be proven out – right or wrong – in short order.
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