Handheld devices and wearables are the dominant force in the rapidly evolving landscape of digital marketing. A report by Statista claims that 41% of the world will be using a smartphone by 2020. That’s over 2.87 billion people, up from an already staggering 2.32 billion today. With so many eyes glued to these handheld devices, it’s no surprise that brands are going all in on the mobile marketing channel, and mobile advertising investment is expected to exceed $40 billion this year in the US alone.

This runaway growth has many marketers wondering how they can stay on top of such a fast moving channel, but despite a long list of exciting new developments, many of the fundamental tactics remain the same. We’ll help you get a handle on the biggest trends for 2017 and keep your mobile strategy grounded in what works.

Top Trends for Mobile Marketing in 2017

Mobile Push remains the best way to engage with users

Push Messaging has steadily become the defacto way of engaging with your customers via mobile devices. Due to the “low commitment, low intrusion” nature of the experience, users are more willing to opt in for push messaging. The tradeoff is that sometimes brands get less personal data about their users as a result. But even with minimal or no user data, push messaging can still deliver promotional and transactional notifications to the user and capture behavioral data.

According to Crazy Egg, brands that sent 2 push messages a day saw app usage increase by 15X and conversion rates (buying a product or subscribing to a service) increase by 6%.

And it’s about to get more interesting. With Android and iOS opening the doors to interactive push messaging, people can now reply, snooze or decide to act upon the notification as per their comfort level, all this without opening the app at all.

Mobile interaction is moving away from an app-based ecosystem.

Many brands and app developers have realized that one of the best ways to combat app churn is to think beyond app-based interactions. We’re still very much in an app-based world, but there is a shift occurring. This involves a number of strategies, including more interaction via push messages as mentioned above. It also involves more collaboration with the device and operating system developers to further lower the barrier to engagement through chatbots, virtual/voice assistants, and web-based applications.

Two especially interesting projects in this vein are Google’s AMP and Android Instant Apps. With these platforms, Android phone users can actually have app-like experiences without ever downloading an app. Basically, when a user searches for something and Google identifies an app that is relevant, a chunk of that app’s functionality can start running instantaneously while the user searches. The user’s experience of the content is seamless and the user never has to download anything.

Check out the video below for more info about Android’s Instant App feature:

Google’s AMP, on the other hand, are articles and web pages that are basically stripped down version of traditional mobile websites that allows faster and easier mobile access to content over (potentially) lower-bandwidth connections. Google AMP is still nascent but most brands are eager to jumping onboard as soon as possible. It’s important to note that AMP compatible content ranks higher in Google searches than non-AMP content, so there’s another incentive to participate. Click here for the complete story behind AMP and its impact on Google rankings.

AI will play a major role in mobile marketing

In the past year, AI has gone mainstream, becoming a crucial part of the mobile ecosystem. Whether we know it or not, most of us are interacting with AI engines on a daily basis.

It can be overt, like in the case of talking to an AI assistant like Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. Or, it could be more indirectly, as when browsing recommended content from services like Netflix and Spotify. Sometimes it’s even more subtle, as a marketing automation platform employs machine learning technology to identify optimal content and send times for a notification.

Mobile devices and operating systems are already incorporating the same AI and machine learning technologies. AI assistants are the most prominent feature, (The new Samsung Galaxy S8 will have a dedicated button for their AI assistant, Bixby), but they may be just the beginning.

In 2017, more apps will use AI to monitor and engage with users. We’ve already seen companies like Amazon and Spotify boost their conversion rates using AI engines behind the scenes.

Mobile engagement adapts to user behavior

Top Mobile brands have shifted their focus from a one-to-many to a one-to-one user experience. Brands like Etsy, Apple Music, and Flipboard are investing heavily in user personalization, and Uber is making a big push towards individualized experiences in 2017.

The growing use of 3rd party AI and Machine Learning technologies like Boomtrain have further accelerated this process, and as we see more and more specialized AI service providers, we can expect to see more and more applications take advantage of their potential.

AR and VR are set to gain momentum

With the success of Pokemon Go and it’s imitators, the release of AR based phones like Project Tango, and affordable VR accessories like Samsung’s Gear VR, it’s clear that device manufacturers are betting heavily on AR and VR.

Ambitious projects like test driving a car in VR, shopping by using AR and VR, and more are already being tested out by companies like Google and Microsoft.

According to IDC, It’s estimated that the number of mobile virtual reality users will reach 171 million by 2018 as the mobile VR headsets become more accessible and cheaper than computer VR headsets. In terms of revenue, the VR/AR industry is expected to hit $5.2 billion this year and jump to $162 billion by 2020.

Final Thoughts

With the Mobile market showing no indication of slowing, marketers should are smart to focus heavily on the mobile channel. While investments in mobile marketing can provide an immediate boost, the numbers show that now is the time to invest in the infrastructure that will enable you to take full advantage of these trends. By 2020, it may be too late.

For more information on how modern marketing platforms can help you up your Mobile Marketing game, be sure to drop by our Demo page.

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