In the digital domain, new devices, apps, services, and trends are constantly emerging. In the last decade or so, we’ve seen early announcements of mobile payments in 2001, the collapse of Nokia’s Symbian platform, the emergence of iPhones and Android, and now all the hype about wearables (whether justified or not). So what’s next?
Apps are rapidly becoming consumers’ primary method for consuming digital services. For publishers, this means investments in developing apps are not only justified, but are critical to remaining competitive. At the same time, mobile platform fragmentation is (for the time being) limited: With only two major mobile platforms (iOS and Android), publishers have the opportunity to focus their development investments and build stronger offerings. This trend will continue throughout 2015, with publishers packaging their services into separate function-specific, audience-targeted apps (e.g. Facebook’s Messenger app strategy, or Google’s app portfolio). We expect this app-centric trend to continue in 2015, and for it to be driven by publishers with both web and mobile properties who have experience managing portfolios of media properties, and translating those segmented audiences into premium advertising dollars.
More (Expensive) Competition for App Downloads
While app store inventories and app downloads will continue to explode, only a small fraction of those downloads will convert into actual use. As the media world has long known, a consumer’s time and attention is limited and valuable. Therefore, competition for consumer attention will increase, which will further grow the cost of user acquisition through digital advertising. The desire for “quality users” will force publishers to use more sophisticated advertising strategies, which will drive demand for premium advertising, which in turn will increase CPMs. This will give publishers with a sizable existing user base, a large user acquisition budget, or sophisticated data-driven advertising strategies a significant advantage.
Evolving Form Factors for Digital Devices
In 2015, digital device form factors will be driven by two key trends: fragmentation of existing device form factors, and the interconnection of new device types into the digital arena. Form factor fragmentation is going to be driven by wider integration of touchscreens into digital devices. Smartphones are already fragmenting into new form factors e.g. phablets and camera-devices, hybrid laptops are converging with tablets, and we can expect different manufacturers to experiment with different types of touchscreen that support different form factors – including curves, ultra-thin, and many others.
We also expect that 2015 will be a year of experimentation for device manufacturers, with commercial experiments especially likely in wearable devices such as smart watches, augmented reality devices and health monitors, and the Internet of Things. We do not expect 2015 to establish any standards, but manufacturers’ experimentation will have implications for how consumers interact with digital services across multiple devices. As manufacturers interconnect an increasing variety of devices, 2015 will see the role of smartphones, computers, and tablets evolve: from smart watches to smart TVs, or from Nanny Cams to smart dishwashers, wearables and the Internet of Things will change how consumers interact with their world.
Cross-platform Content and Services
The evolution of devices and their interconnections will have significant implications for service providers and publishers. Consumers will increasingly expect content and services to be accessible across multiple devices, whether that’s on their computers, smartphones, tablets, in-car displays, smart watches or smart TVs. This accelerating trend will have significant implications for publishers, who will need to carefully consider service and content delivery across diverse platforms. Not all content and not all services will be valuable on all devices, and publishers will need to carefully consider into which platforms they wish to invest. The good news for cost-conscious publishers, however, is that these development costs will (to some extent) be inhibited by the global dominance of two mobile platforms, iOS and Android.
Competition for Talent
All of the trends discussed above will have major implications on the fight for talent. Whether we’re talking about engineers, chipset designers, UX designers, software developers, or content managers, the demand for skilled specialists will only increase. Global companies that wish to stay on the cutting edge will drive this demand, and through the application of their record-breaking cash reserves, they will likewise push salary levels in the industry higher. Smaller companies, or companies investing less aggressively may find themselves struggling to recruit and retain top-flight talent.
All in all, 2015 will be an evolutionary period in the digital arena: Innovations initially developed in 2014 will sink or swim, while trends that began years ago will continue to evolve. And it is entirely possible that in many cases, tipping points will be reached. Here at Verto, we’re excited to help our clients navigate these complex waters through the use of our data.
It’ll be an interesting year.