We all know that the mobile eco-system is one of the fastest growing sectors today. We all have our eyes on this 2bn user market, thinking of ways to ride the wave for our own growth.
Between native startups that have emerged from within the sphere and traditional companies looking to capitalize, competition is fierce. As a result, the field is ripe with innovation and novel opportunities for marketers on the lookout for creative and original techniques. I’m focusing in this article on five burgeoning trends that have strong future potential.
Playable advertisements are the next generation of user acquisition channels on mobile. Voxel and mNectar spearhead this field. They stream play sessions of mobile games inside other apps through the cloud, using virtualization software. After a short time, the ad freezes and promotes an install. Similar tailor-made solutions can also be developed with HTML5. For games, it lets users sample the exact product rather than judging it on screenshots or video.
Brands should also take notice of this burgeoning trend. An interactive ad that requires some action and feedback from the user is more meaningful and memorable than a commercial you only view passively.
For those that are already making so-called advergames, this could be a great way to extend their reach. For those who are pondering whether advergaming is the right avenue, this is an affordable way to test the waters. Building a one-level demo that plays for only one or two minutes is a less complicated affair than building a whole game. At the end of the demo, the call to action could technically lead to a landing page instead of an app install.
For those with bigger budgets, a good idea could be to pick an established hit mobile game, re-brand a level with sponsored content, and use that as a vehicle across playable ad networks.
Cross-App Loyalty Programs
Since 2012, lots of start-ups have emerged to build so-called loyalty platforms. Their focus is on delivering substantial rewards and coupons from brands and advertisers to mobile gamers at the emotionally positive moment when they unlock an in-game achievement. It is a form of disguised advertising. But it is so well disguised and so aptly placed that end-users welcome it, according to multiple surveys on this topic.
For participating app publishers, these networks bring in an incremental revenue source and have also been proven to increase user retention metrics, as the better a player becomes at the game, the greater are the rewards they can claim.
For advertisers and brands, this is a great way to put your products and services in front of the millions of eyeballs that mobile gaming gets every day, without being too intrusive or in-your-face. You offer a valuable reward at a positive moment of the game, when the user experiences both joy and pride. You are essentially blended into the design as a form of positive feedback, where interstitial and video clips that interrupt the gameplay experience are usually perceived by gamers as a chore to get through.
The current leaders in the field would be Kiip in the US, with 70m connected users, and thousands of games and apps integrating its offerings, and Beintoo in China. Competitors worth mentioning include Lootsie, PocketChange and GimmieWorld.
Physical, Meet Digital. Digital, Meet Physical.
The digital sphere has grown so rapidly and so immensely that it is attracting legacy industries that want to stay current. Meanwhile, digital startups are all craving some real world exposure and something their customers can touch. Technological advancements of recent years now allow these two worlds to intertwine seamlessly. The marriage is inevitable.
Skylanders, Nintendo Amiibo line and Hasbro Telepods, as seen in Angry Birds Star Wars or Angry Birds Transformers, are new generation action toys that, once placed onto a device, bring the purchased characters inside the game as well. The gimmick works around basic mini-QR codes and lenses but to the eyes of a child, it just seems like magic. From a business perspective, the game and the toys are part of a universe, there is no disconnect between the main product and the merchandise around it. Plus, an action figure has a higher perceived value and can be sold for a higher price than an in-app purchase.
With the maturing of 3-D printing, things can also go the other way, with digital characters popping out of a virtual universe and being produced physically just for you. Sculpteo has struck major deals with Adobe to let you order a physical production of any 3-D file you create in Photoshop. Shapeways has entered agreements with Hasbro to a run a SuperFanArt initiative, through which fans can create and even sell 3-D print designs based on the My Little Pony franchise. Cut the Rope and a few other mobile games already allow their players to make personalized 3-D printed items based on in-game characters, avatars and virtual pets and get them delivered to their doorstep.
Going forward, customization of physical goods will not stay limited to toys. Now, with the new ChefJet 3D Printer from 3D Systems, another possibility is 3-D printing of computer-designed desserts and candies, thereby adding edible marketing into the mix. Metal is coming next.
Near Field Communication, low-cost Beacon Emitters, Augmented Reality, GPS-tracking, the current technological options open up all sorts of possibilities for creative marketers. As we all know, timing is everything in marketing. Geo-targeted marketing enables us to offer the most relevant content at the exact moment the user might need it, based on where they presently are.
The most aggressive (and effective) technique I’ve seen leverage this opportunity comes from Guatemala, where boutique sneaker store Meat Pack has a discount-finder app out called “Hijack”, which starts the sale in a competing outlet. Whenever you enter a sneaker store in the same mall, Hijack pushes out a discount promotion on your smartphone for sneakers of the same brand. The discount deal starts off at 99%. It goes down one percent per second. The faster you can get from where you are to the Meat Pack shop to redeem, the better deal you get. More than 600 customers were hijacked from the competitors within a week.
As demonstrated by the recent partnership between rewarded discovery platform Viggle and beacon specialist InMarket, or by Shazam’s expansion into partnerships with retail chains, this is another area where physical and digital worlds are bound to increasingly blend together.
The campaign that McDonald’s China and Rovio have run jointly for Angry Birds in China is a fantastic example of how to merge a digital universe with the real world based on geo data. A geo-location-based system was set up inside the iOS version of the game, in order to detect whether the players were near one of the 1,800 restaurants that McDonald’s owns in China. When a user approached one of the flagged spots, the game alerted him that there was something special inside McDonald’s. When they were standing at the right GPS coordinates, Angry Birds loaded a special game mode “courtesy of McDonald’s.”
Leveraging Chat Messaging Apps
By any Key Performance Indicator you measure, chat messaging apps have been on a fast rise and have now become a dominant trend on mobile. Be it WhatsApp capitalizing on the fact that SMS is not free in Europe, SnapChat growing on the promise of secrecy in the US, LINE in Japan and South East Asia, Kakao Talk in Korea, WeChat in China and global contenders such as Tango, Kik or Viber, these services have managed to attract subscribers in the hundreds of millions.
Throughout 2014, all these apps have shown their intent to evolve into real social networks, opening new services such as social gaming, taxi hailing, grocery shopping, professional groups or e-payments to name but a few. It’s only natural that marketers have turned their attention to the phenomenon.
The eco-system is still shaping up, but there are more and more attempts to tap into these vibrant communities. Content marketing techniques can be applied, like this Finnish newspaper running a daily newsletter on WhatsApp. Some of these networks can also be added to your sharing options, as proven by Quora with WhatsApp again, or by the gaming video service Kamcord that allows uploads to WeChat and LINE among its options, in addition to the usual suspects that are YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Email.
More and more TV shows and YouTube Stars have started to share their SnapChat QR code on air, and many of the bigger players in sport, cinema or TV are trying to be creative on the platform that teens love so much, toying around with the options that the ‘Discover’ section offers.
Going forward, I wouldn’t be surprised if some or all of these networks rolled out pro accounts with web-based ticket tracking tools that would allow customer service to take place on these very channels that the new generation feels most inclined to use first for communication.