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Lessons for marketers from Mobile World Congress 2013

By Mike Wehrs

Mobile World Congress is an opportunity for brands and agencies to get a sense of the technologies and trends that will shape mobile marketing over the coming 12-18 months. This year?s event was no exception.

Here are a few of MWC 2013?s most talked-about topics and why they bear watching:

Second screen ready for prime time
Smartphone penetration is higher than 50 percent in the United States, while more than one in four U.S. adults now own a tablet. Eighty-five percent of them use their device while watching television, according to a recent BI Intelligence study.

These numbers add up to an enormous opportunity for brands, agencies and programmers to transform TV viewing and advertising from a passive to an active experience.

Shows such as ?American Idol? have proven that viewers are comfortable using SMS to vote, and that is just scratching the surface.

Companies such as zeebox are pioneering another level of interactivity, enabling advertisers to sync ads so they run on both the TV and the viewer?s smartphone or tablet.

To take advantage of these kinds of opportunities, brands and agencies need to make mobile a fundamental component of marketing strategies instead of an afterthought.

For example, the content on the second-screen device should not be simply a rehash of the TV commercial. Instead, it should provide the user with the opportunity to act on the commercial?s call to action, such as ordering the advertised product or getting more information.

More mobile operating systems
Android and iOS continue to dominate in terms of market share, but they cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

BlackBerry, for example, ruled the smartphone market only a few years ago and is now in the midst of resurgence, as is Windows Mobile.

Tizen is among the emerging OSs worth keeping an eye on, if only because it is backed by household names such as Intel and Samsung.

The same goes for HTML5-based operating systems which have strong support among European wireless carriers.

HTML5 is appealing as a way to create applications and services for a wide variety of devices, which ought to sound familiar to anyone who has been in mobile long enough to remember similar claims about J2ME.

What is different, in theory, is hardware.

Today?s devices have the processing power and memory capable of delivering a good user experience with HTML5, something that was not the case with J2ME devices.

Even so, hardware still could be HTML5?s Achilles? heel because, for example, it cannot access accelerometers and other components that are the foundation of modern UI and UX design.

Thus, HTML5 risks the same lowest-common-denominator fate that held back J2ME.

NFC emphasized as catalyst for mobile commerce
Although near field communication announcements and demos abounded at MWC, it will remain a niche play this year simply because it takes time for consumers and the rest of the marketplace to adopt a new technology.

That does not mean it is too soon for merchants to begin strategizing how they can begin using NFC where it can be applied today, for example with mobile commerce.

Doing so now enables them to capitalize on the growing installed base of NFC smartphones, many of which are owned by attractive demographics such as prosumers.

NFC also complements mobile marketing tactics such as QR codes, which are used today to trigger an action that enables marketers to engage consumers when they are most interested.

THE KEY TAKEAWAY at MWC 2013 is that there are a lot of considerations when it comes to mobile marketing in the year ahead. 

The smartest move seems to be finding a balance between all the service, app and hardware options and use a combination of all the technologies to maximize campaign successes. 

Mike Wehrs is president/CEO of Scanbuy, New York. Reach him at .