This article is part of CMO.com’s February series about mobile. Click here for more.
Emerging technologies are amazing in their own right. Think the internet of things, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and voice. Taken one step further, their potential to breathe new life into the mobile space is huge, possibly leading to the point where, experts say, consumers might not even need a screen at all to interact with their devices.
This will have massive effects on brands’ mobile design process and strategy. It also will shift the way they interact with their on-the-go consumers.
“For marketers, the world five years from now represents both a challenge and an opportunity. New technologies will continue to lay fertile ground for more consumer engagement, but, at the same time, the proliferation of touch points will increase the complexity of delivering a coherent consumer journey,” said Carlos Sandrea, VP and head of mobile at MediaMath. “Mobile will become the predominant media channel and will be defined beyond our smartphones to include wearables, connected cars, VR-power devices, and chatbots.”
Voice will have the largest impact on mobile design, according to Tom Anderson, GM of mobile at TripleLift. Indeed, mobile voice has an advantage over other voice-enabled home devices, because the phone hardly ever leaves its owner’s side.
Location will play a big part, Anderson told CMO.com. He predicts a time when a phone will be able to understand commands based on circumstance, such as location. For example, a person standing in front of her home could say, “unlock door,” and the phone will understand this command is meant for the front door, not her car door.
“Consumers will be able to engage with thousands of IoT-connected devices through their voice-enabled phones,” Anderson said. “Ordering coffee from Starbucks, ‘One venti macchiato,’ the order will go from your phone right to the Starbucks app since your phone can tell you’re about to walk into a Starbucks. The price of the coffee is then deducted from your crypto wallet once you confirm the purchase with your voice-secured biometric password, which is as unique as your fingerprint.”
Gladys Kong, CEO of UberMedia, said she expects that the adoption of in-store chatbots and unique mobile apps will be a main driver of user interfaces that are geared more toward voice rather than typing or tapping a touch screen.
According to Bryan O’Neil Hughes, director of product management, Creative Cloud, at Adobe, mobile used to be seen as a smaller screen that had less power. “Today, it’s really getting to the point where not only is it as powerful in many ways, but when it comes to sensors and lenses enabling AR and VR, in some cases, it’s even more powerful,” he said. He expects this trend to accelerate as devices mature.
We are in a second wave of mobile innovation, MediaMath’s Sandrea added. “The revolution that started in our smartphones is now permeating other aspects of our daily lives,” he told CMO.com. “As such, mobile won’t be the same media we know today. The boundaries between the physical and virtual world will collide.”
In particular, augmented reality will power new entertainment platforms and experiences, which will redefine consumers’ expectations about brand experiences, Sandrea added. Andrew Carlson, EVP of experience design at Digitas, echoed that thought and said he believes new hardware will drive the future of mobile.
“Augmented reality glasses will move from B2B to widespread consumer use, replacing many phone interactions. Users will communicate with their glasses using voice and a paired wearable, such as a ring that lets them make basic choices silently,” Carlson told CMO.com. “The user experience will be a combination of bone conduction audio [conducting sound to the inner ear through the bones of the skull], augmented reality visuals, and haptic feedback, all orchestrated by AI.”
This is for sure, according to Rajiv Bhat, SVP, data sciences and marketplace, at InMobi: Mobile experiences will certainly become richer as a result of emerging tech, and AI will help place user customization in the context of an advertiser’s value proposition.
Facial recognition already has made its way into both Apple and Android devices and onto platforms such as Facebook, which uses the technology to, for example, suggest photo tags and protect users from strangers using their photos. While facial recognition has certainly made strides in accuracy over the years, it isn’t perfect.
But when it is, it could be a game changer in the mobile realm, UberMedia’s Kong said. She pointed to recent developments that add an element of convenience, such as the introduction of facial-recognition payments. Additionally, retailers such as Amazon and financial brands including Chase have tapped into facial recognition to streamline the sign-in process, enabling users to unlock their apps just by looking at the phone’s screen.
Another big opportunity with facial recognition, and biometrics, in general, is its ability to measure the effectiveness of content and other marketing collateral, said Ryan Steelberg, president and co-founder of Veritone, in a previous interview with CMO.com. Brands such as Coca-Cola and Unilever began testing facial coding to measure ad effectiveness back in 2013; more recent examples include 20th Century Fox and Expedia.
“Asking someone, ‘How does it make you feel?’ is just not as good as being able to observe in reality how they are feeling," Affectiva CEO Nicholas Langeveld told AdAge. "People have a really hard time articulating their feelings. And sometimes there is a subtle, fleeting little emotion that people aren’t even aware is happening."
As the computing power for mobile devices increases and battery technologies evolve, expect AI to become integrated into all experiences, MediaMath’s Sandrea said. As such, virtual assistants, powered by AI, will find their place in wearables. Also, autonomous vehicles will finally reach our streets, and connected devices will become mainstream.
“Today’s on-the-go user needs to have the content they want, literally at their fingertips,” said Greg Wester, SVP of marketing and business development at Mobile Posse. “This means that smartphones will need to use AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics to transform the age-old smartphone experience to something that serves us better.”
The goal: frictionless media experiences. By inventing new interfaces and combining them with predictive, AI-powered technologies, the way people discover and consume content will continue to shift, Wester told CMO.com. Just think of platforms such as Pandora, Netflix, Spotify, and Alexa, he said, which have already changed how people consume content. He predicts that content discovery will catch up to make customer engagement better, searching easier, discovery faster, curation more appealing, and accessibility ubiquitous.
“The ‘unlock experience’ will change to something intelligent and dynamic, understanding the user journey and delivering what users want immediately,” Wester said. “The bounce rate on smartphones [the percent of time we immediately dismiss the first screen we see] will plummet. Smartphone engagement will cater to the snackable moment, a.k.a. those minutes we have to spare as we transition between daily activities. Finally, the number of taps, types, swipes, and waits that litter our mobile journey will be almost eliminated.”
When Adobe’s Hughes thinks about the future of mobile and mobile design, he said he sees a trend toward the “software getting out of the way.” After all, what users really value in mobility is speed and quality. “That’s why the future of mobile will be further AI-enabled, allowing brands to serve consumers in such a way that doesn’t obfuscate the experience,” Hughes added.
Digitas’ Carlson said he imagines a time when apps will be dynamically and contextually discovered and served as options by AI without the need for user management. Frequency and intensity of these always-on experiences will be driven by user preference.
“Think of it as a Spotify-recommended playlist of services, actions, and information streamed into your field of vision and whispering in your ear,” Carlson said. “Old favorites will appear alongside things relevant to where you are, when it is, and what you are doing. Some will even be generated on the fly for you in that context and never appear for you [or anyone else] again.”
According to InMobi’s Bhat, as the number of devices and user engagements explode, consistency in cross-platform and cross-device experience and attribution will become critical—even more so than today. There will no doubt be an inherent complexity that comes out of this as well, but AI will save the day.
“A major marketing nightmare will disappear when multitouch attribution will be solved with AI solutions,” Bhat said. “[Additionally], as users interact with new age media, they emit even more personal data. Users will demand privacy control via fine-grained, time-bound levers that switch their data usage on and off. New tools will show where specific data is being used, and AI technologies will provide techniques to anonymize data. Information search, exploration, and advertising will merge into a seamless experience where AI will leverage context to deliver the right information, the right value proposition, at the right time.”