Context-aware services, social networking and search are among the key trends to watch as brands increasingly shift their marketing budget to the mobile channel, according to Gartner.
Mobile applications are expected to generate $15.9 billion-worth of consumer spending in 2012, but will also drive increased levels of advertising expenditure, leading many organisations to experiment with cutting-edge services in a bid to cash in.
Sandy Shen, a research director at Gartner, said: "Mobile applications will be a highly competitive marketplace that attracts the interests of many stakeholders. Increasingly, mobile applications will define the user experience on high-end devices."
The fastest growing mobile category is social networking. In terms of trends, while platform providers are already offering portals, transit hubs and cloud storage to cater to rising amounts of messaging, email, videos, photos, games and ecommerce, they are now also starting to team with third parties in order to provide a broader range of services.
This means that they are likely to end up as "infrastructure providers acting as data warehouses and providing user data and access to the more consumer-facing brands", Shen said.
Another important move is towards context-aware services. Such offerings take information about an individual’s interests, intentions, history, environment, activities, schedule, priorities, connections and preferences in order to anticipate their requirements and proactively deliver the most appropriate content, product or service.
Location is considered to be a key enabler of context-aware-based applications and, as a result, Gartner expects 1.4 billion consumers to directly employ location-based services by 2014.
Next on the list is mobile search, which often includes a visual element, to enable shoppers to check product information and compare prices. In future, however, consumers will be able to take action such as making a reservation, buying a ticket or placing an order based on their search results.
Within the next year or so, meanwhile, Gartner also predicts that phones will have more processing capabilities and new sensors, including beefed up cameras. This will enable specialised mobile applications to recognise users’ surroundings and specific objects of interest. These capabilities should enhance the search function still further and enable a raft of new entertainment and productivity services.
But the mobile commerce world is also mutating. Although to date m-commerce has differed little from e-commerce beyond employing a smaller form factor and offering a more streamlined experience, over the next 24 months, Gartner expects to see the emergence of a raft of unique functions.
These will include enabling consumers to ‘check in’ to a store to alert retailers to their presence and the ability to add items to a shopping cart simply by photographing the item or its bar code in a physical store.