Readers, if you’ve been with us all year you will know what a breathtaking 12 months it’s been in the mobile marketing world, and now that it’s all but over, it’s time for us to look back on the highlights in our regular month-by-month, end of year review, compiled by David Murphy, Alex Spencer and Tim Maytom.
There was good news for mobile watchers from the off as figures from John Lewis revealed that three quarters of its website traffic on Christmas Day came from mobiles and tablets. A couple of months earlier, the retailer had named 5pm on Christmas Day as the moment when mobile traffic to its website would overtake desktop for the first time. More figures from Flurry revealed that app downloads on Christmas Day were 91 per cent higher than an average day in the first three weeks of December.
The obsession with mobile continued into the New Year, with figures from O2 showing
a 62 per cent increase in data usage over the new year period compared to the previous year, with a 70 per cent increase in average daily data use. New Year’s Day 2014 saw a 58 per cent increase in data usage compared to New Year’s Day 2013, while O2 customers also sent more than 385m text messages, and made over 200m phone calls, over the new year period.
Apple confirmed that December 2013 was the most successful month in the history of its App Store, with $1bn (£635m) in revenues and almost 3bn downloads. It also revealed that total spend in the App Store in 2013 added up to $10bn.
Keeping things in perspective, however, the analyst Gartner cautioned that less than 0.01 per cent of consumer mobile apps will be considered a financial success by their developers between now and the end of 2018. It also pointed out that around 90 per cent of paid-for apps receive less than 500 downloads, and less than $1,250 in revenues, each day. The analyst predicted that, by 2017, free apps would account for 94.5 per cent of downloads.
And Apple was itself ordered to refund American parents ‘at least’ $32.5m (£19.8m) for in-app purchases made by their children without their ‘informed consent’. ‘Tens of thousands’ of complaints had been levelled at the company since early 2011, the Federal Trade Commission said, with many claiming thousands of dollars in charges they didn’t know about. One consumer said her daughter had spent $2,600 in the app Tap Pet Hotel.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Electronics Show kicked off in Las Vegas, with even more of a mobile feel to it than the previous year, when tablets dominated proceedings. This time round, it was all about wearables, with Sony and Epson launching smart wristbands (the SmartBand and Pulsense respectively) while Epson also pitched in with some smart glasses, the Moverio BT-200, and Pebble brought its much-hyped Pebble Steel smartwatch to market, announcing app tie-ups with Pandora, ESPN and Mercedes-Benz in the process.
Google got the 2014 buying spree underway with its $3.2bn acquisition of Nest, best known for its smart thermostat. If anyone out there didn’t believe the Internet of Things (IoT) was going to be a big deal, this deal confirmed that it is.
On the same day, Facebook crossed Branch Media off its shopping list as it bought the social product creator for an undisclosed sum rumoured to be round the $15m mark. And still on the same day, Qualcomm snapped up visual recognition company Kooaba to strengthen its Vuforia image recognition and augmented reality platform. Later in the month, Google went shopping again, this time spending a reported $500m to acquire Artificial Intelligence company, DeepMind.
Sky launched its AdSmart, targeted TV advertising service which delivers ads based on viewers’ location and profile. AdSmart stores a library of ads on the Sky+ set-top box which are inserted into live ad breaks based on the household’s postcode and demographic information from third-party data providers.
And the gloves came off in the taxi wars as GetTaxi pointed the finger at rival service Uber as being behind a denial-of-service attack on its taxi booking app in New York the previous week.
According to GetTaxi – which operates as Gett in New York – it saw nearly two hundred fake bookings, which were cancelled once the driver was dispatched or had arrived to make a pickup, from around a dozen people, whom it believes are Uber employees. After the bookings were cancelled, the involved drivers received a SMS message from Uber to leave Gett and join its service instead.
And as the month drew to a close, Facebook launched its Custom Audiences offering, enabling Facebook advertisers to retarget ads based on online or in-app activity to reach users who looked at their site or app but never got as far as purchase.
The company also released its Q4 2013 results, which revealed that mobile ads accounted for 53 per cent of total ad revenues during the quarter. Overall, mobile ads generated $1.25bn for Facebook, the company’s first billion-dollar mobile quarter. To celebrate, Facebook also revealed that its CEO Mark Zuckerberg would make his Mobile World Congress debut, delivering a keynote at the event in February.
Google also enjoyed a decent quarter, reporting net profits for its Q3 2013 of $3.38bn, 17 per cent up year-on-year. The company also announced plans to sell its Motorola handset division to Lenovo, for $2.9bn, something of a write-down on the $12.5bn it had paid for it just two years earlier…
IPOs were in the news as first, digital ad exchange Rubicon Project filed for a $100m IPO, while Candy Crush developer King Digital Entertainment also filed for its own IPO. King’s stock eventually started trading on 26 March, priced at $22.50, with the offering raising just under $500m.
Cancer Research UK launched its Play to Cure: Genes in Space, mobile game, which enables those playing it to help find a cure for cancer by plotting a course through a graph based on real genetic data, and then guiding a virtual spaceship through a level generated from this data. The gameplay identifies areas for Cancer Research’s scientists to focus on. The game went on to win an Award in the 2014 Effective Mobile Marketing Awards.
Microsoft named Satya Nadella as its new CEO following Steve Ballmer’s departure, while Twitter announced Q4 2013 revenues of $243m, more than twice the year-ago quarter. Ad revenues accounted for $220m of the total, of which 75 per cent, or $165, came from mobile ads.
NET-A-PORTER rolled out a women’s print magazine that enables readers to scan clothes using the company’s app and then buy them direct from the fashion website, while budget airline Ryanair said it would allow its passengers to use tablets, smartphones and other electronic devices at all times while on board its planes, as long as they are in flight mode.
Staying with the airline theme, Virgin Atlantic launched a Google Glass trial at Heathrow Airport. Passengers flying from Heathrow with the airline’s Upper Class service were greeted and checked in by staff wearing the device as part of an attempt to provide a more personalised service. Glass was used to provide updates on the customer’s flight, as well as local weather and events at their destination, and to enable staff to automatically translate any foreign-language information.
Trials were also on the menu at EAT, which was unveiled as the launch partner for Weve’s location-based loyalty platform Pouch, which went live in a closed beta trial on Android on 17 February. The coffee shop tested the Pouch app, which uses bluetooth beacons to send opted-in push notifications with offers and product-related content, in three stores across London. The small-scale test with 100 participants grew to include 10,000 people by the end of April.
Japanese eCommerce firm Rakuten bought OTT service Viber, which offers free messaging and VOIP calls through its apps, for $900m. But if that looked like a good day at the office for Viber, imagine how the team at WhatsApp must have felt a couple of weeks later when they were bought by Facebook for a cool $16bn, rising to $19bn when additional stock options are factored in.
WhatsApp’s founders pledged that the app would remain app free and so far, they’ve been true to their word. The logic behind the deal – and specifically the price – was hard for many to fathom, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed to the fact that the app was on track to hit a billion users, and, given that WhatsApp is particularly popular in developing markets, the acquisition would help Facebook in its Internet.org project to deliver internet access to the two thirds of the world currently without it. Surely that’s worth $19bn of anyone’s money…
If mobile operators were feeling slightly uneasy about the Facebook/WhatsApp tie up, things were about to get a whole lot worse when at Mobile World Congress, WhatsApp CEO and co-founder Jan Koum revealed the company’s plan to launch voice calls. Originally slated for Q2 2014, the launch was eventually put back to Q1 2015.
Also at MWC, Zuckerberg gave his keynote address, telling delegates that WhatsApp was worth more than the $19bn Facebook was paying for it, and also hinting that Facebook was not eyeing up any further acquisitions. “After buying a company for $16bn, you’re probably done for a while,” he said.
And amid all the other noise coming out of Barcelona, Dutch start-up EAZE introduced its ‘Nod To Pay’ service- a Bitcoin enabled wallet that works on Google Glass. To activate Nod To Pay, a Google Glass user gives the command “OK Glass, make a payment”. Glass then scans the QR code of any Bitcoin-enabled Point Of Sale (POS) application. The transaction details appear on the Glass display. The user then nods twice to confirm the payment. You couldn’t make it up…
Apple took the wraps off its in-car version of iOS, CarPlay, at the Geneva Motor Show, unveiling Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo as the first three car manufacturers to premiere CarPlay, with a raft of others set to follow. CarPlay enables iPhone users to make calls, use Maps, listen to music and access messages via Siri voice control or touch.
Later in the month, Google would have OS news of its own, as it launched the developer preview of Android Wear, a version of its OS designed specifically for wearable devices. The OS enables users to control wearable devices with voice commands, and receive notifications from paired smartphones.
Figures from Gartner revealed a 68 per cent year-on-year increase in global tablet sales in 2013, hitting a total of 195.4m units. Gartner said the growth was driven by the low-end, smaller-screen tablet market. Most significantly, Android took the majority market share for the first time, with devices running Google’s OS accounting for 61.9 per cent of all tablets sold. iPad’s market share fell from 54.8 per cent in 2012, to 36 per cent in 2013.
John Lewis became the latest High Street brand to tap into the tech start-up scene as it launched its JLAB technology incubator project, as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations. JLAB, launched in partnership with tech entrepreneur Stuart Marks, with the aim of finding five start-ups with ideas that could ‘shape the shopping experience of the future’. Those five turned out to be Localz, Musaic, Space Designed, Tap2Connect and Viewsy, with Localz unveiled in September as the winner of a £100,000 investment and the chance to trial its tech with the retailer.
Gambling operator Paddy Power reported mobile revenues of £175m for 2013, 73 per cent up on the previous year. Mobile accounted for 45 per cent of total online revenues and 28 per cent of revenues overall. Meanwhile, Argos revealed that mobile transactions were responsible for 18 per cent of its total sales, and Twitter was also singing the praises of mobile as it reported a year-on-year increase in ad revenues to $594.5m, with mobile accounting for over 75 per cent of the total. There was also positive news from Instagram, as it signed its first advertising deal, pulling in a reported $100m from Omnicom Media Group. Later the same month, Omnicom would acquire mobile marketing firm Mobile5.
The Payments Council unveiled its Paym mobile money service in the UK, enabling customers of participating banks to transfer money using nothing more than the recipient’s mobile number. The service launched with nine banks and building societies signed up, and more due to follow by the end of the year.
Less encouragingly for the finance sector, an IAB study revealed that 12 of the UK’s top 50 finance brands lacked any mobile presence. 26 of the 50 had an app, while 34 had a mobile-optimised site. The IAB picked out NatWest, Bupa, and Hiscox as top performers – each had a mobile-optimised site as well as separate mobile and tablet apps for both iOS and Android.
The Swan Centre in Eastleigh, Hampshire, became the UK’s first shopping centre to deploy beacons to track footfall and deliver offers. The tech was provided by TagPoints, since acquired by SmartFocus. Meanwhile, another company with designs on the future of retail, mobile marketing firm 2ergo, sold its mobile coupon and loyalty business to Eagle Eye Solutions for £4.5m after failing to successfully commercialise its podifi mobile wallet offering. Following the sale, 2ergo would change its name to that of one of its subsidiaries, Broca and become an investment business, with an initial focus on the TMT (Technology, Mobile, Telecoms) sector.
Staying with cutting-edge tech, Tesco became the first retailer to experiment with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. Tesco worked with virtual reality specialist Figure Digital to create a version of its store on the Oculus platform. That news would pale into insignificance just two days later, however, when we revealed that Oculus had sold to Facebook for a cool $2bn, perhaps the start of an attempt by the social networking giant to create a world where you can actually live your whole life on Facebook.
And while the Facebook bandwagon rolled on, for the once-mighty Microsoft, there was a reality check as it ended the month by launching a version of its Office software suite for the iPad, after coming in for much criticism for not doing so previously. The pent-up demand was evidenced by download figures of 12m in the first week.
But maybe Microsoft was learning from its past mistakes, because as April kicked off, it spent between $100m and $150m buying up 80 patents for wearable tech from Osterhout Design Group (ODG). The patents related to augmented reality, head-mounted displays and wearable computing.
Facebook, meanwhile, revealed the extent to which it had become a mobile-first company with the news that 47 per cent of its UK users are mobile-only, let alone mobile-first, while WhatsApp revealed that it had processed a record 64bn messages in one day, perhaps helping to explain Facebook’s decision to spend so much money buying the company.
Later in the month, Facebook would reveal that its mobile Monthly Active Users (MAUs) had passed the 1bn mark for the first time at 1.01bn. The news came as Facebook unveiled Q1 revenues of $2.5bn, a 72 per cent year-on-year increase. Of this, $2.27bn came from advertising, with mobile accounting for 59 per cent of that figure, compared to just 30 per cent in Q1 2013. Later still, it bought the fitness and activity tracking app Moves for an undisclosed sum.
There was good news for everyone addicted to Facebook, WhatsApp and mobile apps in general, but who find themselves terrified to switch their phone on when they venture abroad, as the European Commission voted to end roaming charges in Europe by Christmas 2015. As of 15 December next year, it will cost EU mobile users the same to make a call, send a text or use data services in any European country as it does in their home European country. To no one’s great surprise, the lobbying group ETNO, which represents Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and Telefonica, said the vote was a step in the wrong direction…
And more good news came from the IAB and PwC, as they reported their 2013 UK mobile ad spend figures. And decent figures they were too, as mobile ad spend broke the billion pound mark, hitting £1.03bn, 93 per cent up on the 2012 total of £529m. The figures means that mobile accounted for 16 per cent of all UK digital ad spend, compared to 10 per cent in 2012.
A few days later, the IAB and PwC delivered the equivalent figures for the US, and they were equally encouraging, with mobile ad spend hitting $7.1bn, 110 per cent, up from the 2012 figure of $3.4bn.
Google continued to expand its horizons through acquisitions, buying drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace, to work as part of its Project Loon initiative to deploy high-altitude balloons to improve internet and network coverage in emerging markets.
It was a busy month for Twitter too, as it first announced a partnership with Sky for a pilot service called #WatchOnSky that enables its customers to watch or record Sky programmes by clicking icons contained within a tweet. It also acquired social data firm Gnip, which aggregates and analyses every public tweet for a variety of purposes, most notably gauging public sentiment and spotting trends, for clients in industries including business intelligence, marketing and PR.
Not content with that, it also launched app install and app engagement ad units on Twitter itself, and via the MoPub mobile ad exchange which it acquired the previous September. And finally, it rolled out programmatic native ads for all MoPub publishers, following a four-month test period with a small number of mobile app developers. The move allowed any publisher to use MoPub’s native ads platform to serve direct-sold or in-house native ads, and auction inventory on the MoPub Marketplace.
Google responded by announcing plans for its own targeted app install and re-engagement ads on its mobile search and YouTube channels, enabling advertisers using Google’s AdMob network to target app install ads at users based on the apps they use, the frequency of use and the types of in-app purchases they make.
Meanwhile, Apple announced quarterly revenues of $45.6bn and net profits of $10.2bn for its fiscal 2014 second quarter, with sales of iPhones up 17 per cent year-on-year at 43.7m for the quarter. iPad sales fared less well, however, dropping 19.6 per cent year-on-year to 16.3m in the quarter.
Closer to home, London’s riverboat service, Thames Clippers signed a five year contract with mobile ticketing and payments firm Masabi to bring mobile ticketing to its River Bus service on the Thames with the mobile tickets going live a few weeks later. And TfL Transport for London revealed plans for a contactless trial that would enable passengers to pay for their travel using NFC payment capabilities built into their smartphones.
But the month ended with Facebook in the news again, as it officially launched its Audience Network at its f8 developer conference in Sam Francisco, enabling advertisers to reach Facebook users outside of the social network’s own properties, with the ad targeting based on the data Facebook holds on its users. Nice.
While Facebook and Twitter worked to incorporate ‘buy’ buttons into their social networks, Amazon took a big step forward with the launch of #AmazonCart, a way of directly adding products to basket from Twitter. Users can reply to any tweet featuring an Amazon link and add the hashtag to save products for purchase at a later date.
In a landmark case, The European Union Court of Justice ruled against Google, making search engine operators responsible for personal data listed on third party sites and introducing the ‘right to be forgotten’ in Europe. Two weeks later, Google made it possible for European citizens to request the removal of links containing objectionable material about themselves from Google searches.
Over in the US, a letter sent by Google to the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission was uncovered, stating that the company anticipated serving ads to a variety of devices, including smart homes, cars, glasses and watches, in the coming years. Unsurprisingly, many people’s thoughts immediately turned to the freshly acquired Nest Labs, leading to a hurried statement from CEO and founder Tony Fadell clarifying that ads won’t be appearing on its smart thermostats or alarms.
PubMatic acquired mobile ad server Mocean Mobile for a rumoured $15.5m, integrating Mocean’s technology into its existing mobile offering to create an end-to-end mobile solution for publishers that combines traditional direct sales, programmatic direct sales, and mediation.
Apple announced its acquisition of Beats Electronics, leaving many commentators scratching their heads. The $3bn acquisition is Apple’s most expensive ever, and a manufacturer best known for its headphones and speakers didn’t look like a natural fit for the company.
The two explanations that were most widely accepted in the weeks following were that Apple was most interested either in the Beats Music streaming service – which will come pre-installed as part of iOS starting next year – or in Beats’ famous founders, hip-hop star Dr Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine, both of whom joined the company as part of the deal.
June was dominated by one big announcement – iOS 8. The latest iteration of Apple’s mobile software promised to be “the biggest release since the launch of the App Store”.
The headline features were HealthKit – which gathers information from a multitude health and fitness apps and devices into a single overview – and HomeKit – which plugs iOS directly into smart home devices. The update also started to open up Apple’s OS to third parties a little more, finally introducing support for both third-party keyboard apps and virtual currencies in-app.
Following the $7.5m fine issued in May by the US Federal Communications Commission to telco Sprint for failing to honour customers’ requests to opt out of marketing communications via SMS and telemarketing calls – the largest settlement of its type ever seen – UK department store John Lewis came under fire for sending unsolicited spam email, with thousands of consumers eligible to claim damages from the retailer.
Less successfully, Amazon unveiled its first smartphone, the Fire. Sold on its 3D ‘Dynamic Perspective’ screen, the device’s most interesting, and most marketing friendly, feature was Firefly, which uses the Fire’s camera to recognise over 100m objects, then serve up information on the scanned item – or even take the user to its product listing on Amazon. Unlike Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet, however, consumer adoption of the Fire has failed to take off, seemingly hampered by a high price point.
July was a big month for ad acquisitions in the social space. Facebook bought LiveRail to bolster its video ad offering; Twitter paid a reported $100m for TapCommerce, a startup specialising in mobile retargeting; and LinkedIn acquired B2B marketing company Bizo for $175m.
Following its own acquisition of Nokia earlier in the year, Microsoft announced that it would be cutting as many as 18,000 jobs from its workforce – 12,500 of whom would be Nokia staff.
Nearly two years after the UK’s three biggest mobile operators – EE, O2 and Vodafone – were given the green light for their mobile marketing joint venture, Weve, the company finally launched its display advertising service. Weve’s selling point was the wealth of first-party data drawn from the operators’ subscriber bases, totalling 22m people.
Google also changed the way it presented freemium apps on the Google Play Store, following pressure from the European Commission, and stopped referring to apps which feature any in-app purchases as ‘free’.
However, the month did see the release of the IAB’s annual mobile ad spend figures, which showed a global 92 per cent growth between 2012 and 2013. Spending on mobile ads hit €14.6bn (£11.6bn) last year, according to the figures, with display ads growing the fastest at 123.4 per cent year-on-year.
There were also another couple of major acquisitions, with Samsung following Google’s lead and buying a connected home company of its own, SmartThings, for a reported $200m. Meanwhile, Amazon made the largest acquisition in its history, spending $970m in cash to acquire game live-streaming service Twitch.
As we headed into September, all eyes were on Apple’s annual event, where the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, along with the hotly anticipated Apple Watch were unveiled. A slow trickle of leaks meant that the reveal was hardly a surprise, but this didn’t stop CEO Tim Cook calling the launch “the biggest advancement in the history of the iPhone”.
While the launch saw Apple making headlines for its phablet-esque oversized smartphones and long-awaited entry into the world of wearables, the launch was soon dogged with reports of bending iPhones and demands to remove the U2 album Apple had automatically downloaded onto iTunes users’ phones.
The rollout of Apple’s iOS 8 also saw problems, with its HealthKit software, which could connect with the Apple Watch and other wearables to bring data from various mHealth apps together, delayed due to a bug. As more problems emerged, software updates were swiftly deployed and withdrawn while the company worked on a solution.
However, it was the announcement of Apple Pay, the company’s NFC-based mobile wallet system, which was to have the biggest impact, with many calling it a turning point for both NFC technology and the mobile payments market.
Apple certainly weren’t the only ones pushing innovation in the mobile payments sector in September, as McDonald’s introduced an NFC-based system to their stores and Wembley Stadium announced plans to achieve over 50 per cent contactless payments by 2017, powered by its sponsorship deal with EE. The stadium also introduced an arch lighting system that responded to social media sentiment, and an app that enabled attendees to send messages to be displayed on its big screens.
Mobile payments also came to the London Underground, with EE’s ‘Cash on Tap’ contactless solution deployed across the tube, tram, DLR, Overground and National Rail services. The rollout followed the service’s launch on TfL’s bus network in August, making the entirety of London’s transport system navigable using only a smartphone.
With Apple Pay bringing mobile payments to the attention of the wider world, the Merchant Customer Exchange took it as an opportunity to unveil its CurrentC mobile payment network. The MCX, which was formed by several leading US merchants with the aim of developing a customer-centric mCommerce solution, was one of several rivals to Apple Pay to emerge as mobile payments became a new battleground.
It wasn’t just mobile payments that made headlines during September though. After a two year absence, eBay revealed that it would be reintroducing advertising onto its app, reopening an audience of over 149m active users to ad buyers. The company emphasised both the ‘native experience’ it could offer with ads seamlessly integrated into the app’s design aesthetic, and the benefits its single universal login could offer to cross-device tracking and retargeting.
Facebook-owned Instagram also launched UK ads in September, following a successful rollout in the US. The photo sharing app had been deliberately tentative in its entry into the ad world, wary of alienating its users with intrusive ad content. Among the initial brands to advertise through the app were Channel 4, Starbucks, Rimmel London and Waitrose.
Facebook had cause to celebrate in September, as it hit 1bn installs with its Android app, the first non-Google app to do so since the operating system’s launch, and ahead of popular services including Google’s Chrome browser and Search app. Facebook’s standalone Messenger app also reached 500m downloads, despite its controversial launch earlier in the year.
There was good news for mobile overall, with figures showing that global smartphone shipments were expected to hit 1.2bn in 2014, an increase of 19 per cent on 2013’s figures, thanks largely to a surge in economy model sales. Meanwhile, mobile traffic to retail websites overtook desktop for the first time, with mCommerce accounting for 36 per cent of all UK eCommerce sales.
However, not everyone had a great month. Taxi booking app Uber was banned in Frankfurt when a court issued a temporary injunction against it due to its drivers lacking proper commercial licences. Google also faced bad news when it was forced to pay out $19m (£12m) to US parents after their children were able to make unauthorised in-app purchased via Google Play, while new figures revealed it had dropped to 83 per cent market share of mobile search, its lowest since September 2013, as Bing and Yahoo continued to make gradual gains.
In financial news, Chinese eCommerce group Alibaba broke records in September with its $21.8bn IPO, the largest offering of any company in US history. When share prices spiked from the initial $62 to over $93, bankers exercised an option to issue a further 48m shares, pushing the total value to $25bn.
Later in the month, mobile ad platform Millennial Media acquired Nexage, the supply-side platform and ad exchange for $107.5m in cash and stock, enabling Millennial to offer data and audience buying, as well as programmatic buying for impressions. The uptake in programmatic buying continued, as AOL Canada revealed it was shifting all of its ad inventory, including video, mobile and premium formats, to programmatic platforms, mirroring similar moves made by the company in the UK and US.
The month ended with the announcement by eBay that it was to spin-off its PayPal business unit into a separate publicly traded company in the second half of 2015. The move followed months of campaigning by several notable investors who had become concerned that PayPal’s growth was being held back by eBay’s slowing marketplace business and the fact rival companies did not wish to partner with the payments unit. The spin-off should provide PayPal with more autonomy to compete in the rapidly-growing payments market, essential in the aftermath of Apple Pay’s launch.
October began with Microsoft unveiling its Windows 10 cross-device operating system that would unit mobile, desktop, Xbox, IoT devices and more. The company chose to skip over Windows 9, seemingly in an effort to distance itself from the much-maligned Windows 8.
Later in the month, the software giant continued its efforts to unite its various units by phasing out the Nokia name on its smartphones, rebranding them as ‘Microsoft Lumia’. When Microsoft first acquired Nokia, the deal included an agreement that Microsoft could use the Nokia name on mobile products for 10 years, but Microsoft elected to cut that short and focus on the Lumia brand.
Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi hit the headlines when new figures revealed that it had become the third largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, responsible for shipping over 16m devices in Q3 2014 alone, all without leaving the Asian market, or marketing itself excessively outside China. Industry experts pointed to Xiaomi’s economy handsets and innovative online marketing as the key to its success, as well as China’s fast-growing number of mobile consumers.
It was a good month for mobile devices of all kinds, with Fitbit unveiling three new models for its fitness and activity tracking wearables range. The new devices included the Fitbit Charge, an economy model aimed at first-time buyers that retailed for only $130, and ‘fitness super watch’, the Fitbit Surge, which includes continuous heart rate monitoring, GPS and a week-long battery life.
While fitness trackers remain the most popular wearable category, the launch of the Apple Watch propelled smartwatches into the public consciousness, and a report from Juniper Research predicted that by 2019, 100m smartwatches would be in use worldwide. Largely driven by premium brands launching products over the next 18 months, the high functionality of the smartwatch means prices are likely to remain high for the next five years, but the report predicted this would not hold adoption back too much.
Watches weren’t the only objects receiving an upgrade for the digital age in October – Carlsberg rolled out a collection of ‘digital beermats’ to pubs and bars in its native Denmark, using a combination of NFC, Bluetooth and QR codes to promote its Crowdit nightlife app and offer consumers the opportunity to claim a free beer. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola and BT partnered to place wi-fi enabled Coke machines in isolated communities in South Africa, enabling local residents and businesses to access the internet for free.
Not all of these innovations were welcome, however. Out-of-home ad firm Titan faced criticism when it was discovered it had placed 500 Bluetooth beacons in payphones around New York City. While the installations were approved by the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, concerns were raised about the lack of both a public approval process and transparency from the city’s agency.
There were several notable acquisitions in October. Mobile marketing firm IMImobile purchased messaging specialist Textlocal for £11m, aiming to integrate the company’s self-service mobile messaging solution into its own offering, while Matomy Media Group acquired MobFox, the mobile programmatic ad platform, with the hope of boosting Matomy’s mobile activity revenues using programmatic buying to complement its performance-based ad capabilities.
Real-time ad company Quantcast picked up Struq, a London-based firm, adding the firm’s dynamic creative optimisation and retargeting abilities to its own big data technology platform, while mobile payment providers Zapp announced partnerships with a wide range of retail businesses including Asda, Sainsbury’s, House of Fraser and Thomas Cook, as well as a selection of utilities providers.
Programmatic platform Pubmatic also revealed a new wave of partnerships with publishers in the US and UK as it completed its relocation to the historic New York Times building. In the US, it announced relationships with Live Journal, Bustle.com, Escalate Media and Bonnier, publishers of Popular Science, Outdoor Life and Saveur, while in the UK it added The Economist, Vice, talkSport Radio and ESI Media, who publish the Independent and London Evening Standard, to its programmatic platform.
Pubmatic also partnered with location specialist xAd to launch a location-enabled private marketplace for premium mobile ad inventory, which will serve tens of billions of monthly impressions in a variety of categories, with the majority going to location aware, rich media-enabled apps.
Mobile ad spend was a hot topic in October, as data from the IAB revealed that mobile accounted for 20 per cent of all digital ad spend in the UK in the first half of 2014, marking growth of 68 per cent from the same period in 2013, and hitting a new record of £707m. Meanwhile, other figures predicted that online display ad spending would grow by €4bn between now and 2019 in Europe, reaching €11.9bn per year, while the Advertising Association announced that ad spending in the UK was growing at the fastest rate in three years, increasing 8.5 per cent in Q2 2014.
Facebook was among those taking advantage of this growth, as it opened up its Audience Network to marketers across the globe, enabling campaigns to be extended beyond Facebook and into other mobile apps that used its social login features. The social network also disclosed figures from its first Premium Video ad in the UK, revealing that 90 per cent of views for the campaign run by Comparethemarket.com had come from mobile.
There were also glimpses of Facebook’s future spotted this month, as code uncovered by a student in the company’s iOS Messenger app seemed to hold the capability for users to send funds to Facebook friends in the same way they currently share photos or videos, transforming the messaging service into a peer-to-peer payment service. Meanwhile, one of Facebook’s many rivals, Snapchat, announced that it was planning on adding ads to its Stories feature, representing the first monetisation of the self-destructing photo-sharing app.
Apple had a comparatively quiet October after its launch-heavy September, but still found time to unveil the most recent versions of its tablet, the iPad Mini 3 and iPad Air 2, which claimed to be the ‘world’s thinnest tablet’. At the same event, the company confirmed the launch of its Apple Pay mobile payments system, but were hit with more bad publicity shortly after the rollout when a glitch caused around 1,000 Bank of America transactions made using the solution to duplicate, charging customers twice.
With November came the start of brand’s festive ad campaigns, and John Lewis decided to support its own with a tech-driven in-store experience at its Oxford Street branch, partnering with Microsoft to create a 3D interactive experience that brought toys to life, and Google Cardboard AR headsets to enable children to enter a 360-degree virtual world.
Later in the month, the retailer cannily used Shazam to hijack its rivals Christmas video campaigns, serving ads to people who searched for the music featured in M&S or Debenhams adverts.
The festive season also saw retailers both online and off prepping for ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ sales, with the American tradition gaining more and more traction in Europe and beyond. Early reports predicted that over half of online shopping during the Black Friday period would be carried out via mobile, while big US retailers prepped mobile solutions to enhance shoppers’ experience at the start of the Christmas sales.
Department store Macy’s elected to use a QR code based in-store promotion that enabled shoppers to use its app to receive digital gift codes and other prizes, while Target rolled out a series of improvements to its app in time for Black Friday, including in-store navigation that guided shoppers to the items they were searching for.
In the UK, Sainsbury’s announced it was trialling a similar app that would also enable customers to scan and pay for items via their phone, with no need to queue at the end of their shop. As mobile becomes more integrated into consumer’s day-to-day lives, the Broadband Stakeholder Group announced that out-of-home internet use had hit 35 petabytes a month in the UK, roughly equivalent to 8m full DVDs. With data usage rising and rising, the UK Government announced plans to work with mobile network operators to improve mobile coverage in isolated communities, with national roaming floated as one solution.
Facebook will certainly be first in line for improved mobile networks if a prediction made by CEO Mark Zuckerberg turns out to be true. Speaking at the company’s first community town hall meeting, Zuckerberg claimed that within five years, video content will dominate the social network. Facebook also revealed it is working on a new work-based social network that will aim to rival LinkedIn while also providing users with collaborative working tools.
It was another big month for acquisitions, as Yahoo picked up photo app maker Cooliris, which enables users to browse photos across various media platforms, and paid out $640m for programmatic video ad platform Brightroll in an effort to “dramatically strengthen” its own video ad offerings.
Ad agency Publicis Groupe was also looking to bolster its online and mobile capabilities, acquiring digital marketing firm Sapient, revealing plans to create a platform called Publicis.Sapient that would focus on “digital transformation”. Meanwhile, mobile agency Fetch was bought by the Dentsu Aegis Network for around £30m, but will retain its brand identity, working collaboratively with Dentsu Aegis’ brand, media and communications businesses to accelerate the network’s mobile offerings.
Rubicon Project, the advertising automation company, had two acquisitions in November, picking up ad tech companies iSocket and Shiny Ads with the aim of expanding its direct order automation technology, but its most significant deal was a partnership with Apple to bring programmatic buying to the company’s struggling iAd platform, which had previously been direct buy only.
Twitter was also expanding its advertising capabilities in November, launching Twitter Offers, a feature which enables advertisers to create in-store deals which can then be shared as a promoted tweet, pushing the social networks’ move towards integrated shopping. However, the company faced criticism when it revealed it had begun tracking iOS users’ app usage, apparently in order to build a “more tailored experience” and improve the relevance of promoted content.
Google’s YouTube service took a step away from ads and towards more direct monetisation with the launch of a paid music subscription service, YouTube Music Key. The service initially launched as a free beta offered to YouTube’s “biggest music fans” but will begin charging in Q2 2015 when it is rolled out to the wider public. Avoiding ads probably seemed like a wise decision towards the middle of the month when Google’s DoubleClick ad server crashed for several hours, bringing much of the internet to a standstill and costing the digital economy an estimated $1m an hour.
Microsoft’s ad services also had a bad month, with the vast majority of its global advertising sales team let go as part of the job cuts announced in July. The team, who were responsible for selling inventory on MSN, Skype, Bing and other services, was dramatically scaled back, with almost everyone made redundant with the exception of the executive team.
Still, there was positive news for mobile in general, with Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report showing that within the next six years, 90 per cent of the world’s population will own a mobile phone thanks to strong growth in adoption in emerging markets. The Internet of Things also continued to grow, with forecasts by Gartner showing that by the end of 2015, 4.9bn connected devices will be in use, largely in the consumer sector.
The month drew to a close with BT confirming that it was hoping to re-enter the mobile market, starting talks with both O2, the mobile brand it sold to Telefónica in 2005, and Deutsche Telekom and Orange-owned operator EE. Speculation was rife over which network the telecom would make an offer for, but an answer wouldn’t arrive until December.
While most industry experts expected BT to make a bid for its former subsidary O2, it was EE who received the £12.5bn bid by the telecom. Negotiations for the deal, which is still in the early stages, are expected to last several weeks while both companies complete due diligence and nail down a definitive agreement, so it’s unlikely a final deal will be reached until 2015.
EE also made the news in December when it shocked many by announcing it was bringing its long-running ‘Orange Wednesday’ cinema and restaurant promotion to an end in 2015. Arguably the best-known mobile marketing campaign in the world, the deal’s popularity has seen it replicated around the world.
In more positive news for the network, EE also revealed plans to establish a series of micro-networks across the UK that would connect isolated rural communities that have struggled to receive mobile and broadband internet. The plans formed part of the Government’s initiative, first announced in November, to bring voice and text coverage to 90 per cent of the UK by 2017, which were formalised in December, with all four major UK MNOs agreeing to invest £5bn in improving infrastructure.
The extra investment will surely be welcomed by marketers with the revelation that in 2015, the UK will be the first country where over half of all ad spending will be digital, according to figures from media management firm GroupM. Video, social and mobile were all pointed to as drivers of this growth in digital spending, which was confirmed by a separate report that indicated that mobile ad spend was growing six times faster than desktop globally.
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday over, marketers were given a chance to pore over the data from the festive rush, with figures showing that almost half of US Black Friday online traffic came from mobile, an increase of 24.2 per cent from last year, while mobile sales increased a similar amount. Cyber Monday proved an even bigger boon for mobile, with mobile revenue up 76 per cent on 2013, outpacing the increase in page views as average order size also grew. This growth supported a report by Juniper Research which suggested that by 2019, there will be almost 200bn mCommerce transactions a year, with contactless payments and digital goods expected to drive the majority of this growth.
Along with the festive retail rush, December also brings ‘end of the year’ stories. Google revealed that Robin Williams, the 2014 World Cup and the West African Ebola crisis had topped search terms globally, with the iPhone 6 as the most searched consumer electronic item, while Instagram unveiled the most popular hashtags (#love), locations (Disneyland in California) and photos of the year (Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding snap). Instagram also had cause to celebrate this month, having reached 300m monthly active users. The milestone marked a growth of 50 per cent in the past nine months, and meant the photo sharing app was more widely used that Twitter.
Instagram wasn’t the only service overtaking Twitter in December – eMarketer forecasts also suggested that Yahoo’s mobile ad revenues in the US would surpass Twitter’s in 2015, making it the third largest mobile marketing platform. Those figures are likely to be boosted by Yahoo-owned social blogging platform Tumblr introducing a ‘buy’ button onto its sponsored posts, taking users who click on it to retail landing pages.
Google was also exploring the possibility of a ‘buy’ button, it was revealed this month, as part of its efforts to transform its Shopping search function into a more effective rival to Amazon. The search giant also removed Amazon’s app from its Google Play Store, following an update to the service’s Developer Distribution Agreement that meant Amazon could be classed as a competitor.
While Google and Amazon struggled to play nicely together, historical rivals Apple and IBM rolled out the first wave of enterprise apps developed in partnership by the two businesses, which aimed to combine IBM’s big data and analytics services with Apple’s focus on user experience and product design. BlackBerry also took another swing at the enterprise market, releasing the BlackBerry Classic, complete with physical Qwerty keyboard, and a slew of enterprise app bundles in the hope of attracting business customers back to the struggling brand.
Uber faced a fresh round of controversy in December as further legal challenges hit its ride-sharing and taxi-booking app. UberPop, its ride-share service, was banned in France over licensing and insurance issues, with the legal action no doubt accelerated by French taxi drivers protesting its use, while in Delhi, a rape allegation against a driver led to the company being banned and blacklisted in the city due to its background check policy.
The biggest tech story in December, however, was the massive hack of Sony Entertainment and consequent leak of documents onto the internet. While the revelations largely focused on movie star pseudonyms and Sony’s future slate of films, emails from Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment and board member at SnapChat, did confirm the company had rejected a $3bn acquisition offer from Facebook and made a number of the company’s own acquisitions public.
So, that was 2014. It was a packed year, we’re sure you’ll agree. But tomorrow, 2015 begins, and it looks set to be even bigger for mobile marketing. So keep your eyes peeled to the site – we’ll be back Friday 2 January with all the latest news.