m-pulse video showWill 2012 be the year of mobile commerce? If this is indeed a momentous year for mobile retail and transactions of all kinds, then what will happen to the mix of payment options and players currently jockeying for position? Should we expect a showdown between credit card companies, carriers, banks, aggregators and the likes of PayPal? In the midst of all the massive growth and disruption will we see mega-acquisitions, or are all the companies that could achieve $10 billion+ price tags in the first place taken?

This week’s m-pulse catches up with Chetan Sharma, independent consultant and well-known industry authority, to discuss mobile mega-trends and deep-dive into the results of the 2012 Mobile Industry Predictions Survey. Each year Chetan asks us —the mobile industry — to weigh in on the most newsworthy events and companies, as well as vote for the breakthrough categories, developments and technologies sure to define 2012.

Rob and I also discuss our pick of hot mobile news and data points. I rant about the disconnect between the mobile and retail readiness of luxury brands (lacking to say the least!) and our willingness (even requirement) to interact with luxury brands via our mobile phones and tablets.

Rob directs our attention to  Shopkick —hailed as the largest location-based shopping app in the U.S. —and its announcement that it has helped drive more than $110 million in-store revenue for partner retailers and brands in 2011, and is poised to do even more in 2012.

Finally, we raise our ‘Goblet of Rock’ (a toast to those who rock)to Scoopshot, a super-cool mobile crowdsourcing app with a built in ecosystem that allows media companies to produce fresh content by connecting with a community of people who have the app, take the pictures and want to cash in on the opportunity to earn money for the news photos they capture (and still return their intellectual property rights).

[Editor’s note: More in our exclusive interview with CEO Niko Ruokosuo here on MobileGroove tomorrow.]

Who, what, where, when & how?

chetan sharmaChetan is a long-time industry veteran accustomed to asking the tough questions (and giving us some insightful answers). In his interview with m-pulse Chetan runs through the 20 questions that made up his 2012 predictions survey and the surprising responses he got from the some 150+ industry experts and execs that offered their insights.

  • Tablets: Who will dominate the tablet platform in the next 2 years? Android and Apple iOS lead the pack, a response Chetan notes spells especially bad news for Microsoft. “This means that even in two years people are not placing their bets on Windows.” This may not come as a huge surprise, but it does confirm a profound shift in the marketplace that transcends single platforms and products. “Apple is demolishing its rivals left and right, and it’s so far ahead in terms of profitability that no one can come close to Apple at this point.” Tablets were also named the ‘most successful non-mobile phone category in 2012,” a development Chetan reads as a clear indication that tablets will “change the commerce landscape dramatically.”
  • Mobile commerce: It dominates several sections of the survey. What will be the breakthrough category in 2012? For the second year in a row mobile payments and mobile commerce take the top two spots on a long list — ahead of mobile health, mobile coupons, mobile VoIP, mobile advertising and LBS. What will be the most popular consumer application in 2012? Again, mobile payments and mobile commerce come have the lead, beaten out only by messaging. Chetan’s take: messaging and commerce are the focus for the developing regions of the world; developed nations are likely to gravitate toward commerce (again!) and location-based services. And finally, which industry segment will mobile impact the most? Retail leads the pack — again driving home the point that this may be the year retail must reinvent itself, or miss the mobile wave (accelerated by the rise of mobile payments and commerce). As Chetan puts it: “The pace of change is fast and furious and lots of companies will be surprised by commerce.”
  • Mobile showdowns: According to the survey, Microsoft is the one to watch. It was named as the company likely to make the biggest mobile acquisition. What company could/should Microsoft buy to bolster its position in mobile? We debate this key question, as well as the fate of Nokia. Lumia is off to a good start, so what should the next move be? Chetan has some solid advice: If AT&T and T-Mobile inject marketing dollars into the launch, then Lumia could see a similar growth trajectory to the one that catapulted Android Droid (via Verizon Wireless) into the center of the action.

As Rob puts it, our interview with Chetan is 30 minutes of pure mobile goodness. Listen in and find out why by viewing the latest episode at the end of this post.

Luxury opportunity

The advent of the smartphone and, in particular, Apple’s high-end devices (also tablets) have opened up new opportunities for the luxury sector. The question is: Do they ‘get’ it?

While some case studies stand out from the crowd (such as BMW) a recent study (the Prestige 100 Mobile IQ report released in January by L2 Think Tank, part of the New York University Stern School of Business, should have alarms bells ringing.

The report ranks the mobile offerings of prestige brands in across several sectors (beauty/skincare, fashion, hospitality, retail, and watches/jewelry) looking at how effective their mobile apps are — that is, if they have apps at all (!).

Topping the list of the mobile-savvy brands are Sephora (whose mobile site features product videos organized by content type and filterable by brand, as well as a GPS-based store locator, shopping list creator, order history/tracking, and a section for mobile-exclusive offers).

Sephora also gets points for ‘cool’ with an iPad app that lets users look at themselves on one side of the screen while watching how-to videos on applying makeup on the other.

But being cool is only half the battle. The report reminds us that, while seven out of 10 luxury brands on the list have set up mobile apps for Apple iOS-powered devices such as iPhones and iPads, less than a third let users shop using their mobile devices.

So are luxury brands falling down when it comes to mobile and retail readiness? Are companies leaving money on the table by not letting us shop till we drop? Tough questions, but the data I am collecting for a client research project confirms a dangerous disconnect between brand approach and audience demographics.

For one, the report states that 20 percent of individuals with $1 million or more in investable assets own a tablet and spend 50 percent more time on the device than on their smartphone. Good reason for brands to be present on these platforms with mobile optimized sites and offers.

Additionally, a landmark report on the retail sector by Millennial Media, a leading independent mobile advertising and data company, and consumer research conducted by comScore, confirms the massive mobile marketing (and commerce) opportunities for prestige brands.

millennial retail research

Specifically, it found that the vast majority of mobile retail users are tech-savvy digital natives between the ages of 18 and 35 for whom the mobile phone has become an indispensable part of their daily routine. However, these Millennials are not just more sophisticated; they also tend to be more affluent. The data, which breaks down mobile retail users by income, shows that the percentage of mobile retail users is higher than the total audience in several income brackets. Interestingly, mobile retail users lead in the +$100,000 annual income bracket, providing retail advertisers — particularly those selling luxury goods — a significant audience that is likely to appreciate and respond to a mobile call to action.

My take: Given the demographics of mobile users and mobile retail users it’s amazing that so few luxury brands are serious about mobile (not to mention tablets).

Check out episode #3 of m-pulse

Look for m-pulse for your weekly dose of what matters most in mobile. We thank you for your positive feedback, shout outs and RTs. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or my co-host Rob Woodbridge, founder and owner of UNTETHER.tv, with your good ideas and great companies.

In February we celebrate the ‘Year of the Ear’ — to borrow an observation from Mary Meeker’s invaluable trends presentation. Our topic is mobile voice, and our guest next week is Bill Meisel, independent consultant and the industry go-to guy for all things voice-enabled.