Mobile World Congress (MWC) is right around the corner, which means members of the technology industry will soon gather in Barcelona, Spain to provide an essential, in-depth snapshot of the mobile industry. Running from February 27 to March 2, MWC will welcome more than 100,000 attendees and 2,200 exhibitors. Keynote speakers include Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, and John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, Inc. Both companies made headlines over the past year for innovating and attracting new audiences—the former through original TV content, the latter through the popular app Pokémon Go.

 

Mobile content is no longer considered a new frontier, which means that companies are looking for industry leaders to push the status quo. For that reason, the theme for the event is “The Next Element.” Mobile is still developing and changing, unable to be pinned down, explain event organizers. To better understand the upcoming trends we’ll be seeing in mobile technology, Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Analyst Relations team conducted interviews with prominent analysts representing Gartner, IDC, and Forrester. Below are four areas of uncertainty in mobile and their marketing implications expected at MWC 2017.

  1. Mobile is winning on the digital battleground

Mobile came and conquered. In many industries, mobile trumps the PC in number of devices, audience, traffic, and transactions, both in number and monetary value. In 2016, it evolved from a standalone channel to a baseline for all branded digital experiences. Mobile continues to elevate customer expectations as it transforms even non-digital experiences, such as getting coffee with Starbucks’ “order-ahead” functionality. There is no question that mobile moments—defined by Forrester as, “the moments in which a person pulls out a mobile device to get what he or she wants, immediately and in context”—are the battleground to win, serve, and retain customers.

According to analysts, app usage as we know it has peaked. In 2017, single-purpose apps are beginning to take on monolithic, multipurpose  apps to offer more convenient mobile experiences. Ecosystems like Amazon Alexa, Apple iMessage or Siri, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat offer convenient access to content and services — increasingly through conversational interfaces. As consumers spend more time within mobile-enabled experiences and ecosystems, these platforms dominate mobile moment ownership. For marketers, capitalizing on these mobile moments means providing extremely tailored results when consumers reach for a mobile device or, better yet, anticipating the questions people might have before they choose a mobile resource and proactively providing answers. Especially as one-to-one messaging apps grow in popularity, there are continuing opportunities for marketers to utilize these apps.

  1. Retail in a digital world 

Make no mistake — in 2017, retailers must go on the offensive to defend and grow their position from voracious competitors. The retail landscape isn’t easy: Amazon continues to drive retailer agendas from its site and user interface (UI) to its marketplace and logistics, and the bar keeps rising for what constitutes a great—i.e., personalized—experience both in-store and online. Social media platforms are also getting in on e-commerce, incorporating marketplace opportunities for users. All the more reason for brands continue investing in and refining their digital offerings and skill sets. Brands must strive to emulate the ease and convenience of Amazon’s business model, as well as learn from their customers’ behavior, to reach online shoppers.

  1. Personal devices get personal

The device market is in flux, with new types of wearables emerging, driving new business opportunities in health and wellness. Though it’s unclear which new wearables will dominate the tech landscape, we predict that by 2019, 100 percent of fitness trackers will include predictive and prescriptive data, giving users specific suggestions on what to do to live a healthier life. To fully utilize the wealth of data collected by these popular devices, using big data and analytics, the fitness tracker will likely go beyond simple reminders to provide smart, tailored suggestions to live a healthier lifestyle in the future. Whether it’s a change of diet or markers for disease, next generation devices have a great deal of potential as technology companies look to expand the fitness tracker’s utility. Analysts expect personal devices to evolve significantly in the coming years, which leaves room for additional marketing opportunities for cross-industry health partnerships ranging from nutrition to medical services.

Technology product management leaders inside and outside of the fitness realm need to analyze these opportunities for growth and create products that are part of broader solutions, instead of a point solution/device that doesn’t address related issues.

  1. The next phase of VR Interface

Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC and Valve’s Vive, and Sony’s PlayStation VR platforms currently dominate the VR marketplace. However, the devices lack a developed market segment. By the end of 2018, analysts expect that to change. Analysts anticipate that high-compute VR head-mounted devices (HMDs) will be in regular use by consumers and there will be widespread use of VR in gaming by 2018. Mainstream adoption doesn’t end at gaming. Three hundred and sixty-degree videos, another use for VR interfaces, are already in the works from a number of leading movie and TV show production companies, and with the advent of affordable 360-degree cameras, we will likely see an influx of amateur 360-degree videos. YouTube, vr.gopro.com, and many other sites are likely to host tens of thousands of hours’ worth of high-quality 360-degree videos by 2018, and the emergence of pay-per-view live streaming services is inevitable as the high-compute VR HMD installed base grows. Expect this VR push to make headlines at MWC and beyond.

What does mainstream use of VR mean for brands? There will be new outlets to immerse consumers into a branded world; AdAge explains marketing in VR as “consumer placement” rather than product placement. VR could provide exponential new opportunities for extreme consumer engagement.

No matter what trends at MCW on Monday, the event comes at a time when the mobile prepares to take its next step forward in a number of exciting industries (VR, AR) while at the same time celebrating advances in its staple technologies (smartphones).