In the coming year, mobile will continue to strengthen its hold on the industry, smart data will outshine big data, and real-time marketing will become an achievable goal.

With just a few weeks left in 2014, it’s time for some of my annual digital marketing predictions for the upcoming year.

1. App Downloads Will Surpass Facebook Friend and Twitter Followers for Most Brands
It’s already happening, but will happen at an accelerated rate in 2015, as brands invest more dollars in their apps to increase their utility and value to customers. Just this past month we saw Toys “R” Us and Target add store maps to their apps in an effort to help users find the products they are searching for this holiday season – easier and faster. Brands across all vertical markets will make the mind shift in 2015 from evaluating their app success based on a frequency of use perspective to the utility, value, and loyalty their app has with its user base. As a result, more apps will find and keep their place on our phones, tablets, cars, and gaming devices as the number of app users soars past any given brand’s Facebook likes or Twitter followers.

2. Mobile Departments and Leaders Emerge
Who owns mobile within the company is a big question. Look for mobile departments and leaders to emerge in 2015, much as they did for social five years ago. The mobile department will be focused on the mobile customer journey and experience. In addition, they will increasingly make key technology and marketing decisions as they emerge from innovation and digital departments to drive positive customer experiences and marketing return on investment (ROI). Look for dramatic increases in this department’s size, budget, influence, and power as mobile continues to play a growing role in media mix.

3. Mobile and Location Advertising Will Continue to Accelerate
As was the case last year, mobile advertising will continue to accelerate rapidly in 2015 as apps’ numbers increase and access to critical data, such as location and the IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers), becomes accessible as a matching key across large mobile ad networks. While several mobile advertising networks were acquired over the last several year, look for location-based ad platforms to be the target of M&A efforts in 2015 and beyond.

4. Mobile Campaign Management and Platforms Take Hold
First-generation point solutions for SMS, push notifications, and mobile advertising will continue to prosper, but next-generation mobile platforms will emerge to offer marketers the ability to connect and communicate with mobile customers throughout the purchase process and across channels.

5. CRM, Social Data Combines With Mobile Signals to Drive Better Experiences
I was recently at a mobile investment conference and heard a few push notification vendors talk about CRM. Few had any real experience with CRM data and their definition of such data was narrow in scope to say the least. Look for advances in tag management and data capabilities that enable brands to connect app users to the wealth of data they already have on those users beyond the app. Mobile cloud solutions and decisioning engines will help marketers make better, smarter decisions in real-time, taking real-time, relevant mobile messaging to the next level.

6. M-Commerce and Mobile Payments Accelerate, Then Grow and EvolveAccording to Digi Capital, m-commerce is expected to grow from $133 billion in 2013 to more than $516 billion by 2017. 2015 will be an exciting year for mobile payments as the battle for consumer digital IDs and information heats up in a highly fragmented industry. Most experts predict Apple Pay will continue to be the leader in mobile wallets as Google Wallet continues its growth through Google Play, but rises more slowly as a payment system at point of sale. Additional payment systems and financial products will emerge as more venture capital flows into this burgeoning market. However, with many retailers upgrading their payment terminals by October to accept EMV debit and credit cards that include chips that encrypt transaction data to reduce fraud, the market opportunity to integrate contactless payment alternatives at the same time will likely accelerate adoption.

7. The Gap Between Digital and Physical Experiences Closes
Advances in tag management, data management, payment solutions, and real-time processing will narrow the gap between digital and physical marketing. Armed with new tools, brands will be able to seamlessly connect and sense and respond to customer needs throughout the customer journey and across both physical and digital channels.

8. Content Strategy and Optimization Continue to Be Crucial Focus
As the Internet of Things proliferates, content strategy and optimization will rise in importance. “Smart rendering” by device will become a necessity in order to create a positive multi-channel user experience.

9. “Smart” Data Overshadows Big Data
You can’t have a conversation about mobile, social, and local in the age of the Internet of Things and marketing orchestration without recognizing the role of data and analytics. While the volume of data will increase, the focus will shift to “smart data” through robust analytics that allow brands to better understand consumer events and behaviors, and respond to future needs. Look for additional investments to be made in Hadoop-like systems to better manage big data from cross-channel interactions that also include unstructured social data. Smart data will also incorporate strong privacy and consumer controls to create great experiences and head off government intervention.

10. Real-Time Becomes an Official Goal/Benchmark
Latency is the great killer of performance. The growth of apps, and proliferation of beacons/Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, will place a huge spotlight on systems that can facilitate real-time, hyper-relevant marketing communications. Whether you are arriving at the airport two hours before your trip or spending 90 minutes at the mall, the consumer expectation to get any information they need at their precise moment of need on their device of choice will require marketers interested in push to re-examine their systems. Marketing platforms that can not only take in critical signals, but combine them with existing knowledge about the consumer to build and execute hyper-relevant communications in real-time, will be the new benchmark.
There you have it, my top 10 predictions for the coming year. Have a great holiday and very happy and prosperous new year!

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