2018 could be the year when mobile element becomes the dominant aspect of marketing in China and beyond. Here are our top mobile marketing predictions as the industry is likely to evolve in 2018 going forward.
WeChat, Chinese mobile “super app” by Asia most valuable company Tencent, is perfectly positioned to consolidate and strengthen its dominance over China’s mobile marketing landscape in 2018. Having reached one billion active users in 2017, the app is used by practically everyone in China as the primary social media channel as well as shopping and entertainment outlet. When it comes to mobile marketing, whatever direction Tencent takes will determine its development.
Based on what we have seen so far and the technological innovation already introduced, here are our top four mobile marketing predictions for China in 2018:
#1 Accurate location based triggers for serving mobile ads
One of the most underutilized mobile marketing potential capabilities is location based targeting. Thanks to WeChat’s popularity with users in China and the fact that it is only used on mobile phones, the app always “knows” the current location of its users. Therefore, it is possible serving highly targeted ads based on users’ real-time location. In such scenario, when a user is in the proximity of a point of sale of a specific product, he/she would get a special offer like a discount coupon or another incentive to visit a store.
Moreover, more shopping outlets and even individual stores can now track visitors with extremely high precision via apps or mobile floor guides. For example, many modern shopping malls in China encourage users to connect to a floor guide via WeChat allowing them to track those users throughout the mall. Serving them the most relevant ads based on the accurate location and time holds a huge potential for businesses.
So far, WeChat hasn’t taken full advantage of this possibility, although it is certainly within Tencent’s technical capabilities to implement. Location based triggers advertising adds another dimension to mobile marketing and it is likely that Tencent is working on ways to capitalize on such technology in near future.
#2 AI based big data processing
Tracking users online generates enormous amounts of data for marketers. In case of mobile, adding a location dimension creates even more information that can be extremely useful. The challenge lies primarily in analyzing huge amounts of data and automating the whole process. AI holds a lot of promise in meeting those challenges. Big industry players have been heavily investing in AI, driving the field’s rapid development in the last couple of years. Once again, Chinese companies like Baidu and Tencent, with the government support, have been on the forefront of innovation in AI.
Being able to efficiently process vast amounts of data generated by mobile devices will further advance targeting capabilities of mobile marketing and this is what AI is very likely to be able to accomplish for those companies in the next year going forward.
#3 Individual user targeting
Marketing efficiency is, essentially, all about targeting accuracy and market segmentation is the way to make such targeting more precise. Creating a persona representing each segment allows marketers to design a specific approach that would be most suited for the members of each group. The smaller the segment – the better it can be defined.
Unfortunately, it also makes marketing much more complex, and, in many cases, unmanageable. This is all about to change with the introduction of AI based data processing and analysis when segmentation can potentially become even more granular, all the way down to individual level. This would potentially allow marketers to tailor the message targeting each individual rather than a segment. When this become possible, mobile devices will be a natural channel to reach users on that level.
Our next mobile marketing prediction: we are going to see more of such highly personalized marketing in 2018.
#4 Facial recognition
Facial recognition is another maturing technology that is likely to get widely adopted by marketers in 2018. Although not without a controversy, facial recognition adds new level to personalized marketing that can be delivered via mobile. The advantage of facial recognition vs. other tracking and identification methods lies in its non-intrusive nature because it can be done without close physical contact with users. For better or worse, facial tracking doesn’t require users’ consent (at least not now), so people can be tracked remotely and even matched with their public social media profiles.
For example, when a visitor to a physical store expresses interest in a product but, ultimately, decides to pass on a purchase, facial recognition would allow finding out who that person is, and then retarget them via other channels by offering a similar product or a discount on the original one.
It is very likely that regulators and consumers groups will start campaigning against such methods, citing privacy concerns, however, it is reasonable to assume that the technology is here to stay regardless. When it develops further, perhaps it will even become possible to identify and record shopper’s facial expressions to figure out the overall sentiment towards a brand or a product. This would represent the next frontier in mobile marketing.