The year 2014 is lining up to be the year of explosive growth in mobile technology, with hundreds of new products designed to attract an enlarged audience of eager users of anything that can be pocketed or worn out the door he go. If there were ever any doubts, a visit to the recent International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas put that doubt to rest. Perhaps the hottest buzz this year centered on “wearables”, those trendy devices that have yet to fully become understood in the marketplace. Some estimate that “wearables” will become a billion-dollar industry this year. And to keep all those new mobile, wireless, wearables charged-up, 2014 will definitely be a big year for wireless charging. There are over 60 different phones that have Qi wireless charging (the inductive charging standard) built in today – and 40 million of them have been sold – and because it’s a standard, you can put your phone down on any Qi charging surface and it will just start grabbing power. But the tech sector that is worn on the wrist made a huge impression in Las Vegas.
From the Razer Nabu to LG Lifeband Touch to the Sony Core, the options are rising for users to essentially pick whatever fitness tracker fits their needs. The same goes for smartwatches. With the newest iteration of Pebble in the form of Steel, it seems this time piece gang is finally figuring out that in addition to functionality, aesthetics are important for consumers. Companies big and small are diving into the tech, consumers are no longer limited to a select few, and this sector is poised to get even bigger in the coming years. Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich touted his company’s vision for the wearable market, showing off a voice-recognition headset and unveiling the capabilities for the company’s new super-small “Edison” chip, which can be easily embedded into clothing.
The interest in mobile is not limited to the consumer but also extends to retailers who are interested in how mobile technology will help them connect with their customer. When retailers discuss the latest shopping trends at the 2014 National Retail Federation Annual Convention, a big topic will be how mobile devices enhance the customer experience inside stores. According to a recent study from the Google Shopper Council, a growing number of mobile shoppers use smartphones as they shop inside a physical store to find more information about products and compare prices. Using a mobile device on the spot to make informed decisions has never been easier as customers’ devices now act as mobile concierges that provide online reviews, price comparisons, and a quick way to pay through mobile payment systems such as ISIS Mobile Wallet. Savvy retailers see the opportunities and are channeling customers through location-based mobile advertising with the use of apps like shopkick and Foursquare. These and other reward-based apps offer exclusive deals, gift cards or coupons for checking in at a retail location, while building brand loyalty.
Technology, however, is also helping consumers feel better about what they buy. Marketing tech provider Vibes recently found that “among consumers who either texted or scanned a QR code to get more information on a special in-store deal, 42 percent said doing so made them feel better about the purchases they made.”
What’s more, shoppers are benefiting from better customer service as stores are adopting the use of tablets to answer customer questions and speed the checkout process. Vista Retail Support, an IT support company, reported that almost half of the merchants it surveyed are using handheld technology in their stores today.
One consumer sub-segment that promises to utilize mobile more generously in the coming year is mom market. Brianne Manz, founder of Stroller in the City and regular contributor to MomTrends, is a mom of three who understands the benefits of using technology to manage family life. While blogging daily about city living, kids, fashion and all things mommy, she is also running around town with her kids, so it’s essential for her to stay connected when in transit. “I basically use my mobile device for everything,” she said. “The only time I am able to sit in front of my computer is at night while working on my blog. Everything else, from booking appointments to corresponding with my children’s teachers on email, is all done on my mobile device.” For moms who snap hundreds of pictures of their growing kids, Manz recommends PicTapGo, a “phonetography” app that helps improve the quality of pictures taken with iOS7, as well as photo-editing app Afterlight to add a creative flair to family memories. For moms who are constantly on the go and juggling family and career, utilizing mobile technology can make all the difference in the world.
Yahoo, who recently eclipsed 400 million monthly mobile users, is throwing its chips into the mobile game. By 2017, the company expects 3.8 billion connected devices worldwide. Instagram has over 150 million active users and has been the de facto social network of choice for the under-18 crowd. Instagram provides the most compelling visual medium for communicating brand messages and engaging with loyal customers. Brands wanting to reach younger audiences, or younger potential hires, need to find a way to connect because e-mail and phone are less viable options. With 65% of people being visual learners, social sites that focus on photo and short video sharing are going to win in the long run. With the improvements in smartphones and their ability to geo-locate and send/receive data from anywhere at any time, a whole new series of service offerings is predicted to unfold in the coming year.
It is clear that 2014 will be another big year for mobile, and while the most optimistic predictions may take some time to unfold, mobile is not only here to stay, but poised to be at the very core of how we continue to relate and function with our environment in our daily lives.