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Which mobile channel will be the breakout star in 2012?

Industry experts agree that the mobile Web will be the breakout mobile channel in 2012. 

More than 90 percent of mobile phones shipped today have access to the mobile Web through a browser. HTML5 specifically, gives brands a lot to work with, in terms of the capabilities that can be built into a mobile site.

?[The 2012 breakout mobile channel] won't be a shiny object,? said Jeff Hasen, chief marketing of Hipcricket, Kirkland, WA. ?The newest innovation will get the buzz but won't be widely adopted immediately if ever. 

?My bet for breakout star is the mobile Web,? he said. ?Black Friday and Cyber Monday have produced a tripling of activity and shows that we're out of the early adopter phase. 

?With more capable devices in more hands, the mobile Web becomes indispensable for commerce, entertainment, information and more. Brands that missed the boat this year have no time to lick their wounds ? get busy planning now.?

To Mr. Hasen?s point regarding mobile usage on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the results were astonishing. 

According to PayPal, global mobile payment volume increased 516 percent on Black Friday and 552 percent on Cyber Monday, indicating that not only are consumers accessing the mobile Web more, but they are more inclined this year than last to make purchases on mobile Web sites.

The debate goes on
There has been an ongoing debate regarding HTML5 versus mobile applications. 

Marci Troutman, CEO of Siteminis, Atlanta, believes that the opportunity for brands on the mobile Web surpasses that of mobile apps.

?I believe that the mobile Web will be the breakout mobile channel in 2012,? Ms. Troutman said. ?Businesses are realizing that apps are for their dedicated customers and need to be more personal than just having an app that does the same functions as the mobile Web.  

?The abilities through the mobile Web are amazing, and can capture, in most cases, 85 percent or more of what an app can accomplish,? she said. ?For instance, we can deliver augmented reality on the mobile Web.  

?As phones get smarter, mobile strategies change to accommodate and the mobile Web becomes what the Internet became in the 90?s, the standard for anyone doing business. There is no reason to pay an up charge to an app store, or pay for app store marketing to ensure you are in the top 10 of a search when you can utilize the search buys that are already being spent on the Internet (PC browsers) for the mobile browsers.?

Besides the opportunities for mobile Web development, HTML5 enables open, cross-platform rich-media standards that help brands? and agencies? display advertising achieve the creative and reach across various mobile devices.

In June, The Financial Times decided to take a different route to drive mobile subscriptions and launched a browser-based application instead of making the content available via Apple's App Store.

The Financial Times Web app was built using HTML5 technology, which is helping the company reduce costs and increase efficiency by designing one app that can be rolled out across multiple devices and that does not need to be downloaded from an app store.

Expect to see more brands, publishers and retailers take the same route in 2012, especially when it is a question of budget and it is either one or the other ? mobile Web or apps. 

?Two years ago, the thought for some was, if customers didn?t have a phone that allowed them to have apps then it wasn?t worth the time to reach these customers, and businesses delivered up a degrading text/links scenario that was less than ideal just to check a box,? Ms. Troutman said. 

?Today, worldwide the ability to deliver an app experience on the mobile Web is a game changer, and businesses are more interested in creating a solid foundation for their entire mobile strategy with a robust mobile web app,? she said. 

However, it is important to note that a complete, 360-degree mobile strategy that includes the mobile Web and an app meant for existing loyal customers is a business' best bet. 

The mobile Web is a good acquisition tool, while apps are more for cultivating existing, loyal customers. 

?Use internal data to justify the investment ? if your PC site is getting 6 percent or more engagements form a mobile device currently, you better have a plan in place to satisfy those customers with a reasonable brand experience,? said Steve Timpson, president of Siteminis, Atlanta. 

?If the engagement is 10 percent or greater right now, you better run to exploit that customer and quickly, because the consumer will make the choice and vote with their dollar and if you don?t take care of them in mobile cyber space, guess what ? someone else will ? retail 101,? he said.