At this point, you may be predictioned out. But, if you can make room for one more post about what mobile marketing holds in store for 2013 (U.S. focus), I promise to make it worth your while.

Mobile has started to play a huge role in marketing over the last couple of years, and this year will be no different. In fact, I am going to be so bold as to say that this is the year that mobile finally breaks out and has that hero moment that prognosticators have been talking about for the last 10-12 years.

Before I dig into my five predictions though, it is probably worth looking at a little background data that have helped inform my thinking.

Key Mobile/Social Statistics

  • The U.S. has the second highest number of mobile subscribers in the world with 172 million (China is first with 270 million). Smart phones account for 48% of those subscriptions (Mary Meeker, Analyst at KPCB, 12/2012).
  • 29% of U.S. Adults own a tablet or eReader (like a Kindle) — up from 2% in 2009 (Mary Meeker, Analyst at KPCB, 12/2012).
  • 24% of online shopping on Black Friday 2012 in the U.S. came from mobile devices + tablets — up from 6% in 2010. Traffic from iOS (Apple devices) was 4X that of devices using the Android platform (Mary Meeker, Analyst at KPCB, 12/2012).
  • 60% of iOS users are on latest operating system, iOS6, which enables Apple Passbook (C|Net, 10/2012).
  • 74% of U.S. smartphone owners get real-time, location-based information on their phones as of February 2012, up from 55% in May 2011 (Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 5/2012).
  • 18% of U.S. smartphone owners are using geosocial services like foursquare to check in to certain places and share their location with friends, up from 12% in 2011 (Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 5/2012).
  • U.S. users of both location-aware services as well as geosocial services skew more female than male — 75% to 73%/20% to 17%. They also have higher household incomes — 79% have HH incomes of $75,000+. And more education — 79% are college grad or above  (Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 5/2012).
  • User stats for key platforms as of 1/3/2013:
    • Facebook – 1.2B users globally, 168.8M in the U.S. Of those, 54% of global users access Facebook via mobile (socialbakers, 1/2013).
    • Instagram – 45M monthly average users globally (AppData 1/2013).
    • Twitter – 500M users globally, 140M in U.S. 60% of those users access Twitter via Mobile (VentureBeat, 7/2012 | AllThingsD, 6/2012).
    • Foursquare – 25M users globally (Foursquare, 9/2012).


While metrics can all be manipulated, I’ve been tracking the numbers above for a while, so I have a pretty good feel for the shortcomings/exaggerations. With that background, here are my five predictions for 2013:

Apple Passbook Dominates As Mobile Commerce/Location-Aware Platform

As I mentioned in a recent post, I am bullish on one of Apple’s latest features released as part of iOS6 along with the iPhone 5. This feature, called Apple Passbook, allows brands to push passes, coupons, gift cards and loyalty programs into a perma-app (one that cannot be deleted) for anyone with an iPhone 4 or greater running iOS6. There are three reasons why marketers should be excited about this app:

  1. It’s Apple, and a lot of people own Apple mobile devices
  2. In addition to Passbook itself being impossible to delete, Apple has made it really hard to find the delete button for items stored in Passbook, so once the user has accepted the coupon/card, it tends to stay in their digital wallet
  3. The app itself is time- and location-aware; you can also update it/personalize it on the back end which can create text-level messaging type alerts on the phone
The reason I’m so excited about this is that Apple is finally delivering on the promise of mobile commerce and location-based marketing in an app that comes standard on a majority of phones. As I mentioned in my original post on the Passbook, getting a pass, card, coupon into the Passbook is easy to do and can be delivered via a mobile website, text message, Tweet, e-mail or Facebook update.
Facebook’s Mobile Functionality — Nearby, For Starters — Continues To Grow In Importance

It’s no secret that Facebook is huge. The nearly 170 million users in the U.S. have an average of 130 friends and spend nearly 400 minutes a month on the site. But up until now, Facebook has struggled with the unlocking the power of mobile despite nearly 60% of its users accessing the site via a mobile device.

Some of you may remember that Facebook has flirted with location-based functionality when it created Places in 2010, only to pull the plug a year later… though it really never got pulled.

They’ve also experimented with Facebook Deals — Groupon-like functionality targeted at local venues that never really took off. But with the announcement of Nearby, they may finally be cracking the code on mobile by leveraging the nearly always on state of the app/mobile website combined with the power of 1.2 billion global users who spend a heck of a lot of time feeding structured and unstructured data into the mix. What this essentially does is allow Facebook (minus the gamification) to out-foursquare, foursquare.

In addition to new functionality like Nearby, I also anticipate that Facebook will do more to tap into major (Instagram) and minor (Gowalla) acquisitions in 2013. The Instagram investment was a no-brainer given the fact that so many of us (65%) are visual learners combined with the fact that Millenials are flocking to the photo sharing site in droves.

To date, we haven’t seen many manifestations of the Gowalla acquisition (mostly a talent buy), but I assume that Josh Williams and Scott Raymond will make their presences felt by unleashing some of the elegant visuals and beautiful UI that their Gowalla app brought to the table from 2009-2012.

Mobile Analytics/Measurement Gets A Seat At The Adult Table

To date, mobile analytics have been the redheaded step child when it comes to data that CMOs care about. Like spinach, mobile data is something you know you should eat/pay attention to but don’t really take the time to or try and avoid whenever possible.

As the importance of mobile grows in 2013 (see the stat above regarding 29% of all Black Friday sales coming from a tablet/mobile device), the marketing suite will wake up and realize that understanding mobile behavior is critical to creating deeper relationships with their customers. MediaPost does a great job spelling out the five areas that will be most impacted in their mobile measurement predictions post here.

Location-Based Applications Become Passive/Always On/More Aware

My co-author, Mike Schneider, and I have long talked about the evolution of location-based services moving from an active to a passive activity. While it’s sometimes fun to pull out one’s phone, look up a location, add a picture and/or a little color commentary and check in to a venue, it’s also awkward and time consuming.

The goal for companies like foursquare was to encourage businesses to provide relevant-enough offers to encourage customers to check in regularly. Unfortunately, most didn’t (partly foursquare’s fault for not better arming their customers).

Now, the game shifts to more location-aware applications that collect data or alert a customer to something they’ve indicated is of interest. This can be as simple as reminding someone that they are in the bread aisle at the grocery store and that they need to pick up bagels. Or, it could tie into a loyalty program where every time you visit the local hardware store, you are auto-checked in and get points/cash/coupons for each visit and/or purchase.

Hand-in-hand with the location-aware trend are a new breed of applications that cropped up in early 2012, like Sonar, banjo and Highlight, that alert people when other people in their network (or friends of friends within their network) are nearby.

While there has been a lot of controversy about these applications and how they could put people at risk or breach their privacy, at the end of the day, we as the end users are always in control of who sees what. However, I’m not sure  this group will make it as stand alone apps. They will likely be acquired by the likes of Google, Twitter, Facebook in order to make their existing offerings that much stronger/smarter.

Hyper-Local Location Technology — Geofencing And Low-Energy Bluetooth Become Big With Retailers

The ability to get hyper-local — whether it be for mapping purposes, in-store targeting, etc. — exists today. In fact, many amusement parks like Seaworld use hyper-local mapping in their apps to help customers navigate their properties. Google is also providing hyper-local or indoor maps in places like Las Vegas so visitors can find their way around some of the hotels/casinos that are often a mile or two from one end to another.

This new trend should allow customers to better navigate within stores. Combined with geofencing, or virtual fences using wifi or sound waves, retailers will have the ability to know where customers are in their stores and can help them navigate better and even present real-time offers based on demographic profiles/loyalty programs.

I’ve heard recently of a few companies exploring the idea of using low-energy bluetooth technology to trigger activities on mobile devices/applications when customers are nearby. While this is likely a stop gap until Near Field Communication is ready for prime time, it’s also a solid, inexpensive way of connecting with customers. I predict that at least two or three major retailers pilot this technology in 2013.


I know that there are probably 100 things I missed in my predictions. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important, but that I needed to keep this post from running into the 1,200 word realm.

If you have a topic that you think will dramatically impact mobile in 2013, please include it in the comments. Also feel free to ping me and I will be happy to consider topics for future columns.

A tip of the hat to Chris Hershberger, David Fossas, Mike Schneider, Heather Strout and Melanie Strout for providing me fodder for this post.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Check-In Services | Facebook: Mobile | Foursquare | Google: Mobile | Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing Column | Statistics: Mobile Marketing | Twitter: Mobile | Yahoo: Mobile


About The Author: is Managing Director at W2O Group, where he co-leads marketing and is the head of the newly formed Social Commerce practice. Aaron assists clients with mobile and location-based marketing campaigns and strategy. He is also the co-author of Location-Based Marketing for Dummies (wiley) and an avid blogger, podcaster and speaker. Earlier in his career Aaron spent time as head of marketing and social media at Mzinga and Powered/Dachis Group. Before heading off into the startup/agency world, Aaron worked at Fidelity Investments for 9 years in a variety of digital marketing roles.

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  • JohnStack

    Great post Aaron! Yes, sorry you missed something – perhaps a big one: As Apple and Android platforms have matured, it is significantly easier for brands – both large and small to get apps shipped. Starting at the most basic, CSS libraries like Twitter Bootstrap, and native sharing (Twitter/FB) in iOS have helped a great deal and extending to BaaS (backends as a service like Kinvey and Parse) that provide user management, notifications, and cloud services, it is much easier and cost effective to build great apps from the ground up.

    Also, to clarify/edify about Apple Passbook: It’s great to have the “non-removable” app but there is absolutely no replacement for having an icon on the “mobile desktop.” That icon – with accompanying push messages and badges makes for excellent brand awareness – on a daily, if not hourly basis.


    Location, location, location. As more apps know where we are, better information will be served to us. The balance between privacy and being helpful is a topic we are thinking about in 2013.

  • Lucky Balaraman


    Your clairvoyant colleagues also tout augmented reality as one of the major floats in the parade of 2013 mobile marketing trends. Since superbrands are already dabbling in it, there should be no trouble finding good content for a thoughtful post on the subject.

  • Dazeinfo

    I am surprised to see such wrong figures far from reality. I am wondering over the authenticity of your source.

    You said US has 172 Million mobile subscribers…… The correct fact is only the smartphone subscribers in US stand as big as 116.5 million till Aug 2012 with 44% of Smartphone users penetration. ( / )

    Besides, China already crossed more than 1 Billion mobile subscribers in March last year. ( )

    With all due respect to your thoughts and source, I would suggest you to cross verify rest all numbers mentioned in above post or probably the source carry older stats.

  • Dazeinfo

    I am surprised to see such incorrect figures far from reality. I am wondering over the authenticity of the source.

    You said US has 172 Million mobile subscribers…… The correct fact is only the smartphone subscribers in US stand as big as 116.5 million till Aug 2012 with 44% of Smartphone users penetration. ( / )

    Besides, China already crossed more than 1 Billion mobile subscribers in March last year. ( )

    With all due respect to your thoughts and source, I would suggest you to cross verify rest all numbers mentioned in above post or probably the source carry older stats.

  • Peter Papucci

    Please mirror: The Awakening Video – Final Version I dont have the resources as you – please make a diffrence – Many blessings

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    Select the most impressive way to depict your emotions in right tone in right place with
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  • aaronstrout

    Dazeinfo – I got the numbers from Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkens. No disrespect to Daze Info but she is one of the foremost mobile experts in the world. I may be wrong but in general, I trust her stats.

  • Kimberly Reynolds

    “Now, the game shifts to more location-aware applications that collect data or alert a customer to something they’ve indicated is of interest. This can be as simple as reminding someone that they are in the bread aisle at the grocery store and that they need to pick up bagels.”

    You prediction is right on the money and I believe it is going to become incredibly important to people…and the personal cloud is going to facilitate that type of “augmented” shopping experience. Great article!!

  • Courtney Cose

    Great article Aaron; I agree location marketing can be pretty scary and infringe on people’s privacy. has created an app that allows the customer to
    control, when to be advertised to. Businesses can market to new and current
    customers in the area. Shoppers can find incentives and deals, in real time, in
    the palm of their hands, while being able to preserve their anonymity. The LocalZonely app doesn’t track the consumer it tracks the businesses. This is definitely, a better way
    to use location marketing.


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