2010 – Review of the Year

As is traditional on New Years Eve, we are delighted to offer you a look back at the year in mobile marketing. So sit back and enjoy the highlights of another incredible 12 months…

The year got off to a flying start, as Apple responded to Google’s decision to buy AdMob by snapping up rival mobile ad network Quattro Wireless, followed hot on the heels by Amobee Media Systems, which announced that it was buying mobile media firm RingRing Media. January also saw Google unveil its first Google-branded phone, the Nexus One, developed in conjunction with HTC, while Apple took the wraps off something called the iPad, which turned out to be reasonably popular. And Orange UK launched its opt-in advertising service, Orange Shots.

February saw the industry decamp en masse to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, where 24 telcos announced that they had come together to create the Wholesale Applications Community, an alliance to build an open platform that delivers apps to all mobile phone users. The move was designed to address the app industry’s fragmentation problem, and challenge Apple’s dominance in the sector, though WAC has not broken too many records in the 10 months since.

Away from MWC, the GSM Association (GSMA) and comScore, in partnership with operators O2, Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and 3UK, announced the official UK launch of GSMA Mobile Media Metrics (MMM), a census-level solution for mobile media reporting. In the same month, mobile analytics and payments firm Bango revealed that traffic to mobile websites had grown by 600 per cent over the past 12 months. And mobile discovery provider Shazam made its first move beyond music with the launch of the Shazam Audio Recognition Advertising (SARA) program, which allows brands and broadcasters to extend the reach and depth of their advertising campaigns to mobile. The SARA program lets brand advertisers directly reach, influence and interact with target audiences using Shazam’s music recognition technology to tag a TV commercial.

March saw T-Mobile and Orange given the OK to proceed with their merger by the European Commission, after the operators agreed to give up some of their spectrum. The combined company, known as Everything Everywhere, has a customer base of around 29.5m. There were more deals, as ad agency M&C Saatchi snapped up mobile marketing firm, Inside Mobile, Nokia announced that it was buying Novarra, which provides a mobile browser and service platform, and Amdocs, which provides customer experience systems, snapped up mobile payments and messaging aggregator MX Telecom for $104m (£69m) in cash. When the deal went through, MX Telecom became part of Amdocs’ OpenMarket business.

April saw the publication of figures from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers, showing that the UK mobile advertising market had grown by 32 per cent in 2009 to reach £37.6m. Mobile search was the fastest growing category, up 41 per cent to £20.2m and a market share of 54 per cent, compared to 50 per cent in 2008.

Still on stats, Apple revealed that it had sold 300,000 iPads in to stores and customers who had pre-ordered on its first day alone. Apple CEO Steve Jobs still found time to publish an open letter in which he detailed all the things Apple doesn’t like about Adobe’s Flash platform, including battery drain, security issues, and the proprietary nature of the platform. Jobs concluded that: “The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content.” Wonder if that Christmas card from Flash ever made it to Apple HQ…

Mobile Interactive Group (MIG), revealed that it was behind a mobile donation campaign that had contributed £3.4m of the £31.6m raised to that point by Sport Relief 2010 in the UK. All text donations of £1, £5 and £10  made by the public benefitted from 100 per cent out-payments, thanks to mobile network operators waiving their usual fees.

And there was no let-up on the deals front, as HP announced that it was buying Palm for around $1.2bn (£785m), and WIN plc revealed that it was in discussions with IMImobile which could lead to a recommended cash offer by IMI for the company at a proposed price of 141p per WIN ordinary share.

May saw the launch of the iPad in the UK and several other territories. Apple also revealed that it had sold 2m of the devices since the US launch on 3 April. It was a good month for Google too, as it was given the green light by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to complete its acquisition of AdMob, with the regulator citing Apple’s entry into the market, through its purchase of Quattro Wireless, as a factor in its decision.

Marks & Spencer (M&S) became the first major UK retailer to launch a permanent mobile website. The site offers over 24,000 products – including clothing, home and furniture, technology and gifts. Other retailers, including John Lewis and ASOS, would follow suit later in the year.

And handset maker LG released a report which estimated that mobile phone users in the UK spend £422.2m on mobile applications each year. Despite this, the report revealed that the most popular apps are those offering money off products and services.

Apple was in the news again in June, but for all the wrong reasons. Things started well enough, as CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone 4 to the world. A couple of weeks later, the device went on sale in several countries, including the US and the UK. But then the ‘Antennagate’ scandal broke, as it emerged that if you hold the phone in a certain way, you lose the signal, something to do with the steel band round the edge of the phone that acts as the antenna. Despite this hiccup, Apple still managed to sell 1.7m iPhone 4s in the first three days after its launch.

But the iPhone didn’t grab all the headlines, as comScore reported that sales of Android handsets had risen by no less than 2,429 per cent in the past year. There were plenty of deals too, as Velti bought Media Cannon, IMImobile completed its purchase of WIN plc, Broadcom acquired NFC specialist Innovision for £32m, and Mobile Interactive Group (MIG) bought Manchester-based Piri.

July saw the Antennagate scandal gathering steam. At the start of the month, Apple revealed that it had got to the bottom of the problem. The issue, it said, was not that the phone loses signal when held in a certain way; rather, it was not displaying the signal strength correctly in the first place. But as the pressure built over the next couple of weeks, including a class action lawsuit filed against Apple and US network AT&T by a group of iPhone 4 users, Apple changed tack, admitting that there was a problem, and offering a free bumper case to iPhone 4 owners, in addition to the previously-announced software update to fix the signal strength display issue. Even then, however, Apple was in combative mood, as CEO Steve Jobs used the press conference called to announce the fix to claim that Antennagate was not unique to the iPhone. Jobs showed videos of the BlackBerry Bold 9700 and HTC Droid apparently experiencing a similar problem, prompting the expected outraged response from Blackberry-maker RIM.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the publicity, bad though it was, seemed to do Apple little damage, as it posted record revenues for the quarter of $15.7bn (£10.26bn), and net quarterly profits of $3.25bn. By contrast, Nokia released its second quarter results, which revealed a 40 per cent slump in profits to €227m (£192m), compared to €380m the previous year. On a brighter note, Amazon revealed that its customers had ordered more than $1bn worth of goods from Amazon using a mobile device in the past 12 months.

August saw more good news for Google, as research firm Nielsen released a report showing that sales of Android handsets in the US had overtaken the iPhone for the first time. A few days later, Google CEO Eric Schmidt revealed that Android handsets were selling at the rate of 200,000 a day. 

Premium mobile ad agency 4th Screen Advertising opened its doors in the US, with Shazam as its foundation client, while Buongiorno entered into a partnership with Telefónica O2 Germany to launch O2’s new service ‘Prepaid Überraschung – Aufladen und Gewinnen” (‘Prepaid Surprise – Top-up and Win’) for prepaid mobile customers. And A&N Media selected Velti to supply a mobile CRM platform for a number of its publications and websites, including the Daily Mail, Metro, Evening Standard, Jobsite, Findaproperty, Teletext and Northcliffe Regional Newspapers.

September saw the release of figures from the Internet Advertising Bureau and the Direct Marketing Association revealing that 74 per cent of people who have not yet opted in to a mobile marketing database would do so if they were given the right incentive. 41 per cent of respondents said they would be more likely to opt in to a mobile marketing database if they could control the kind of advertising that came to their mobile, and 39 per cent if they could control which types of brands contacted them.

Staying with stats, European transport group Arriva announced that its m-ticketing service had seen over 300,000 journeys made by customers using their mobile phones to buy their bus tickets in the first six months of operation. The successful deployment of the payment solution on 4,500 buses on over 1,000 routes nationwide (excluding London), makes the system one of the largest deployments of its kind in the world. And staying with travel, Quno.com, a web-based rail search and booking service announced its arrival in the UK with the launch of the UK’s first location-based mobile games at major UK rail stations. The games were developed in partnership with SCVNGR (Scavenger), a popular US mobile social gaming platform that rewards users with points for going places and doing things.

October saw the release of figures from Openwave Systems showing that 70 per cent of mobile operator data traffic is down to the mobile usage patterns of just 2.5 per cent of all mobile users. This tiny minority of extreme users is characterised by its use of bandwidth-heavy content, such as video. And behind nearly every case of extreme usage is an unlimited data plan and a high-end smartphone consuming an average of 50.4MB of data per day.

Tesco revealed that its grocery shopping app for the iPhone and Nokia phones, developed in conjunction with Ribot, had achieved 400,000 downloads since its launch, with new downloads running at the rate of around 50,000 a week. The retailer also revealed that 4 per cent of Tesco.com’s orders were “touched” by the app, meaning that 4 per cent of orders placed online had had at least one item added to the basket via the app, which enables customers to add in the odd item when they have a few spare minutes.

Still on apps, Thetrainline.com launched its updated iPhone app that enables travellers to buy train tickets on the go from their mobile handset, and collect them from any of over 900 stations. And Informa Telecoms & Media released a report revealing that global mobile advertising revenues will hit $3.5bn (£2.2bn) in 2010, rising to around $24bn in 2015. Informa also forecast that during this period, the share of mobile advertising revenues going to network operators will fall from around 26 per cent in 2010, to around 20 per cent in 2015.

November saw Facebook revamp its Messaging system to enable users to decide how to talk to their friends – via SMS, Instant Messaging (IM), email or Facebook chat – and then routing the message into a single conversation stream, irrespective of the medium used to send it. Ringback tone (RBT) specialist Muzicall teamed up with three UK mobile operators – Orange, Virgin and 3UK – media companies and a number of mobile advertising networks, to produce and promote a charity ringback tone for BBC Children in Need 2010. Mobile users with participating operators were able to support BBC Children in Need by buying the ringback tone, with prices starting at £2.50. 100 per cent of the revenue generated (excluding VAT) was be donated to BBC Children in Need by participating mobile operators.

Sportswear outlet JD Sports became the latest UK high street retailer to launch a mobile-optimised website, in response to high volumes of mobile traffic hitting its website. The site was created by Usablenet, which has also tailored mobile sites for Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and Debenhams.

Orange’s eco-mobile phone charging prototype, the Orange Power Wellies, were honoured by Time magazine as one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2010. Created in collaboration with renewable energy firm GotWind, the Orange Power Wellies use a unique power generating sole that converts heat from the user’s feet into an electrical current. 12 hours of walking charges a mobile phone for an hour. The prototype was showcased onsite at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, where Orange is the Official Communications Partner.

And mobile app developer TouchType revealed that its SwiftKey language prediction app for Android phones, had clocked up half a million downloads since its launch four months ago.

December saw Mobile Marketing reveal the winners of the Effective Mobile Marketing Awards 2010. Marks & Spencer enjoyed a double triumph, taking the award for Most Effective Mobile Site, created by Mobile Interactive Group (MIG), and for Most Effective Mobile CRM/Enterprise Messaging Campaign, in partnership with Incentivated. Other winners included Sky Sports/Procter & Gamble, NAVTEQ Media Solutions, and Upstream Systems.

Point of Sale specialist DigiPoS launched what it described as an “mCommerce ecosystem”, called MobileShopper. It takes the form of an app, currently available for iPhone, with Android and BlackBerry versions due soon, which is free for consumers to download, but for which the retailer for whom the app has been tailored pays £1 per download. DigiPoS will tailor the app for individual retailers, who would then encourage their customers to download the app to make their in-store shopping experience easier. For each copy of the app downloaded, the retailer pays DigiPoS £1.
Absolute Radio revealed an all time high in its figures for mobile streaming, with users accessing 353,000 hours’ worth of content via mobile in November 2010, an increase of 305 per cent on the corresponding month last year. 

Mobile transaction network mBlox released the findings of a study that revealed that has UK banks and credit card providers are falling short in the mobile services they offer to consumers. mBlox analysed the mobile activities of 50 UK banks and credit card providers in September 2010. It found that 84 per cent of UK banks and credit card providers do not offer SMS transactions or balance alerts as part of their customer service offering. A further 34 per cent do not have a mobile website, and 76 per cent do not yet have a mobile application, with only 16 per cent offering an iOS mobile app, 8 per cent an Android app and 2 per cent, a BlackBerry app.

Airlines were also in the firing line, as research from mobile internet firm Volantis revealed that in spite of offering a slew of mobile apps and websites, many of the airlines affected by the current adverse weather conditions are failing to provide up-to-date customer information as part of their mobile presence. Having looked at the mobile offerings of 13 major international airline operators, Volantis found that, while 11 of them offered a mobile site accessible on all web-enabled devices, and eight offered some form of smartphone app, just five offered up-to-date flight news and information which could help stranded passengers at airports across the UK, US and Europe, via their mobile apps or mobile websites.

But we end this round-up of the year on another stat. This one comes from mobile search firm, Mobile Commerce, and reveals that  ‘Facebook’ is the most searched term from the 40m mobile searches the company deals with each month. Facebook also comes in fifth (www.facebook.com) and seventh (Facebook.com). Social network terms, in fact, take six of the top 10 places, along with email and search provider terms ‘Hotmail’ ‘Google’ and ‘Yahoo’, giving a clear indication of how the mobile internet in the UK is currently being used.

That trend looks likely to continue during 2011, but what other trends will emerge is something we hardly dare hazard a guess at, given the pace of change in this constantly-evolving industry. Whatever does happen though, we’ll be here to bring you all the news throughout the year. And remember, if you want a weekly round-up of the top stories delivered to your inbox each Wednesday, just take a couple of minutes to register using the link towards the top right-hand side of the site.

In the meantime, we wish you all a Happy and Prosperous 2011.

David Murphy