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The biggest mobile marketing wins and losses of 2015

Mobile marketing amassed an impressive list of wins in 2015, from $30 billion in ad spend to surpassing desktop in search queries and television in time spent, with the biggest loss a lack of marketing opportunities tied to technology advances. 

On a more granular level, 2015 saw mobile become more deeply entrenched in consumers? lives, such as with the pairing of on-demand drivers and food delivery in UberEats and the introduction of accessible virtual reality via Google Cardboard. The inability of beacons to live up to the hype and limited marketing opportunities with live-streaming apps count among the biggest losses. 

?The biggest win for mobile marketing in 2015 is that it far exceeded its own lofty expectations,? said Jeremy Sigel, director of mobile for North America at Essence Digital. ?Four years ago, in 2011, eMarketer aggressively projected that mobile ad spend in the U.S. would quadruple from $1.2 billion to $4.4 billion by 2015. 

?In actuality, mobile ad spend this year was $30.4 billion, exceeding that projection by seven times, and surpassing desktop ad spend for the first time,? he said. 

?This was also the year Google confirmed that more search queries now take place on mobile devices than desktop. To punctuate a landmark year, mobile-only Internet users exceeded desktop-only users and according to Flurry, time spent in mobile apps surpassed TV watching - 198 minutes per day compared to 168.?
Mobile culture
One of the biggest stories of the year was the growth in mobile ordering, with Starbucks quickly scaling up here and other restaurant chains following suit. However, Uber?s ability to combine its on-demand ride-sharing infrastructure with food delivery ? which is available in a number of cities ? could be the bigger win for mobile. 

?UberEats wins in my book,? said Lindsay Williams, vice president of media and analytics at Rokkan. ?It leverages an existing behavior for many people today, coupled with a lower-commitment way to try new restaurants and items ? all from a highly curated menu. 

?It?s a successful mash up of on-demand service, location-based data and our Yelp/Instagram food culture,? she said. 

This was also the year that virtual reality became usable by a significantly wider group of consumers, opening up significant marketing opportunities.

Google and Facebook are both getting behind 360 video in a big way and brands such as Mini, New York Times, GE and Dewar?s are noticing. 

?Google Cardboard gave us an easy and more accessible way to experience virtual reality using our phones, rather than needing an expensive and cumbersome headset and system,? said Matt Rednor, CEO and co-founder of Decoded Advertising.

?VR brings a sense of wonder and excitement back to storytelling, letting people experience content in a whole new way, that brands should consider as a way to let people experience their product or offer before they buy,? he said. 

First screen
Mobile advertising spend also continues to grow significantly, making this another important win this year. 
?In 2015, mobile moved from the second screen to the first screen for many consumers,? said Jim Rudden, chief marketing officer of Spredfast

?Take Facebook's ad revenue for example,? he said. ?In the first nine months of 2015, all of the company's growth came from ads on tablets and smartphones. Mobile ad revenue accounts for 78 percent of Facebook's ad revenue and 74 percent of total revenue. 

?If you're not thinking ?mobile-first? then you're behind. Mobile isn't a just channel - it's a way of life.?

Missed opportunities
However, not all mobile marketing developments lived up to their potential this year. 

Earlier this fall, Instagram looked like it might have been headed toward a prominent place on the list of the biggest losses with slow uptake for its advertising offering. However, once the ads became more broadly available in October, more retailers are jumping on board and advertisers will be keeping a close eye on the results to see if they should be joining in. 

Expectations were high for beacons this year. However, by fall it was clear that some retailers were struggling to figure out how best to leverage beacons. 

?Beacons were a hot topic last year and were supposed to revolutionize retail,? Decoded Advertising?s Mr. Rednor said. ?But spotty tech and a lack of creativity in the space ended up making the experience spammy with push notifications that relied on app downloads.?

Also disappointing this year were live-streaming apps Meerkat and Periscope, which debuted with significant fanfare in the spring but were quickly relegated to a niche opportunity by brands because of their lack of scale and creative controls. 

?The biggest mobile marketing loss in 2015 is the continuing story of marketing and ad products falling behind advances in technology,? Essence Digital?s Mr. Sigel said. ?The advent of 3D Touch on the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus created a powerful new dimension for app developers, but the technology is not yet available for the advertising community. 

?Likewise, live-streaming apps Meerkat and Periscope made headlines in 2015, but neither offer a formal ad product, making it challenging for brands to capitalize,? he said. 

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York