In 2013, we saw a continued uptick in the number of consumers using mobile devices -- smart phones and tablets -- to research and compare products and score deals, often right in the store. And many analysts and experts predict that 2014 will be an even bigger year for mobile, with people not only researching and comparing products on their mobile devices but purchasing them from their smart phones and tablets, too.
So what will be the big mobile marketing trends of 2014? CIO.com asked dozens of mobile marketing experts and business executives to find out. Following are the six trends they say will dominate mobile marketing in the new year (many of which were around in 2013 but will continue to take hold in 2014).
1. Increased Personalization and Customization of Messages
"This is a trend we saw in 2013 and will continue through next year," says Steve Cole, CMO, Gladson, a provider of product images, product content and related services for the U.S. consumer packaged goods industry. "Mobile commerce hasn't fully caught on with consumers, but we do know they're heavily researching products via mobile," he says.
"To convert searchers into buyers both on mobile and in store, marketers must present personalized offers," Cole says. "For example, if a consumer searches for green bean casserole recipes on a grocer's mobile app, offer coupons for mushroom soup and green beans to give the consumer an extra nudge."
"With the recent introduction of Apple's iBeacon, the opportunities for mobile marketers to personalize and transform the shopping experience in 2014 will be endless," says Bob Kennedy, vice president of Strategic Services, Compuware Professional Services.
"A shopper will step into a department store and his shopping list will transform into an interactive map that guides him through the store to relevant items and personalized deals," Kennedy says. "Smart marketers will utilize the new tech to augment -- and increase -- sales."
2. Location-Based Marketing (Geo-Targeting)
"Targeting consumers with relevant products to purchase while they are in the location will make mobile marketing more relevant and less intrusive, changing the way mobile marketing is executed," says Stacey Tozer, marketing director, MappedIn.
"As we move into 2014, real-time location based marketing will become a more important marketing strategy," agrees Atri Chatterjee, CMO, Act-On Software, a provider of cloud-based integrated marketing automation software.
"Geo-targeted promotions and notifications will be added to the marketing mix as companies begin to see the benefit of real-time marketing based on GPS location -- and customer targeting based on physical location to stores, restaurants and events," Chatterjee says.
In addition, social media networks will be "the main channel for real-time location based marketing, [providing] the key advertising platforms for businesses looking to target customers with location based offers," he says.
We will also see more in-store, micro-location-based marketing in 2014.
"Using mobile iBeacons from Apple or a similar Bluetooth low energy device, [retailers will be able to] send signals to the smartphones of customers who have downloaded the required app," says Alex Bratton, CEO and chief geek at enterprise application developer Lextech. "For example, the signal will show if a customer is in the electronics department, enabling retailers to send specific messages to the customer's mobile device, such as discounts and product comparisons," he says. That "same technology [can also] capture customer data so when a VIP walks in the door, he can receive preferential treatment."
"In 2014, we'll [also] see more retailers integrate features like 'find in store' or 'check inventory' into their mobile presence," says Cole. "For example, a consumer in a store could specify what product she is looking for using a retailer's mobile platform; then the app pinpoints the location of that product in the store."
"Narrowcasting is the counterpoint to the broader reach of major social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and an emerging trend in mobile marketing," says Mark Sawyier, founder and CEO, Bonfyre, the developer of a private photo sharing app and group texting app.
Narrowcasting gives brands "the ability to target fewer individuals who are significantly more qualified, usually based around events and shared experiences," he explains. For example, "if 95 percent of your social media followers won't attend a concert in Philadelphia, why pay to promote it broadly when you can create customized content for actual attendees before, during and after the event?" Sawyier asks. "With organic reach waning on broader social media channels, content with context has never been more important."
4. Multimedia Messaging Service and Rich Media Messaging
"For some time now, SMS [Short Message Service] has been the dominant medium for text message marketing, but that will change in 2014," says James Citron, founder, Mogreet, which provides mobile messaging and marketing solutions for brands. "MMS is about to explode, with marketers currently witnessing about a 40 percent year-on-year growth rate."
Similarly, RMM, "with open rates over 99 percent and double the conversion rates of SMS, will explode in 2014," predicts Cezar Kolodziej, president and CEO, Iris Mobile. That's because "RMM adapts to the specific type of device receiving it," he says. So Android users, for example, no longer will need to be concerned (or pissed off) about receiving iPhone content they can't open. With RMM, mobile users "receive messages designed for their specific phones-with coupons/images/video that perfectly fit the screen."
Another advantage of RMM: "RMM delivers detailed phone demographic information to marketers, which can help them craft future mobile campaigns," says Kolodziej.
"Video accounts for 50 percent of all mobile data," says Phillip Clement, director of Sales and Marketing at SDL Mobile. Marketers that create content "that detects the device and delivers the right size and style of video will see huge growth."
5. Even Shorter Content (Micro-Content)
"Content will continue to get shorter," to better appeal to mobile viewers, predicts Informatica CMO Marge Breya. In addition to the increased use of services such as Vine, a video looping app with a maximum length of six seconds, we will see brands create "a three-second video or a Snapchat photo that lasts on your device no longer than 24 hours," she says.
6. The Gamification of Mobile Ads Will Continue
People are competitive by nature and enjoy "acquiring points or badges, unlocking content and competing with friends," explains Jason Ginsburg, director of Interactive Branding, Brandemix. As a result, he predicts that "more mobile ads, whether in browsers or apps, will use gamification to compel users to click on them."
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to CIO.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees and partners.