The 10 most important mobile website trends for 2011

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In its annual mobile technology report, Forrester Research has outlined the trends it expects to see in mobile websites and mobile website design in the coming year. The hype around technologies like 4G and LTE, Near Field Communication (NFC), barcodes and augmented reality will continue to increase in 2011, and the use of mobile/social/location combinations will also soar, the report says. But for companies, the primary goal should still be focused be on developing mobile business cases and strategies, and not jumping on the bandwagons surrounding these types of technologies. So, what exactly does the report see as the 10 most important mobile website trends this year?

1)Mobile/Social/Local Combinations will expand dramatically, but won’t generate too much Revenue

Every business is getting into mobile/social/local services these days from Facebook to Google and Amazon to Groupon. Yet Forrester says that while the number and usage of these services will increase, it does not expect the services to generate meaningful revenue in 2011. Interestingly, there’s bad news for Foursquare buried in the report. Although Forrester doesn’t specifically name names, it says that “location-based social networks” will struggle as standalone activities because major players like Facebook integrate location into their services – like Facebook Places.

2) More people will purchase smartphones in 2011, but won’t necessarily utilise them fully

Smartphones have, and will continue to, become more affordable, thanks to handset subsidies. Yet these new users will be less engaged and active than those who adopted the smartphone from the outset. Forrester believes they’ll download fewer apps on average, but will consume more mobile media thanks to consumer education and convenience provided by the phones. Having said that, Forrester still believes the overall forecast for ‘apps’ is still promising, with revenue expected to top $15 billion in 2011.

3) The mobile fragmentation problem will continue due to multitude of operating systems

Forrester expects fragmentation issues to continue, but it isn’t simply referring to the multiple variations of a single operating system (OS). What it means is that there is increased fragmentation  because some customers have smartphones, some have feature phones, some use apps, some use SMS, plus there are multiple OS’s in existence, in multiple versions, with multiple screen sizes and there are a higher number of devices out there. Forrester believes the costs of porting, maintaining and promoting apps will remain high.

4) To ‘App’ or not to ‘App’?

Says Forrester, it’s not a question of “either/or” when it comes to a choice between apps vs. the mobile Web, but both. Business people, like bankers and financiers, will want what it calls ‘curated’ services, the Internet will remain the fallback for more occasional information and needs. Mobile developers frustrated with the high costs of building mobile apps for multiple platforms should concentrate their efforts more on building for the Web. Even if HTML5 doesn’t scale within the next 2 to 3 years, mobile browsing experiences are improving, the report notes. Targeting apps for targeted audiences, that is heavy users and gamers, are still needed.

5) The mobile marketing spend will surpass $1 billion in 2011

Marketers will begin to allocate dedicated resources to mobile in 2011. In the U.S., Forrester forecasts that marketing spend on mobile display ads and search will surpass $1 billion in 2011. Marketers will find quantifiable ROI on mobile for generating real leads, driving foot traffic, and selling products and services.

6) Mobile will increasingly prompt users to interact with their environment

In 2011, Near Field Communication will begin to matter. The market will move away from the trial stage in regions where there is NFC infrastructure in place, but barriers will still need to be removed for the technology to really take off. These barriers include consumer demand, education and business model issues. Other technologies like QR codes (a type of barcode) and augmented reality will prompt users to hold up their phones to interact with the world around them.

7) The hype surrounding 4G will vastly outweigh the impact of 4G networks

There’ll be a lot of fuss as more operators launch 4G networks in 2011, but Forrester believes it’s important to put some sort of context on this. “4G will have as little impact as 3G had when it launched in Europe and the U.S. in 2003.” It took nearly 7 years for half of mobile subscribers in those regions to have 3G capable phones, says the firm. Forrester predicts similar trends for 4G.

8 ) Companies will invest first in convenient services for consumers

Forrester says that mobile product and service professionals, particularly in the travel industry, will invest first to keep their most lucrative customers happy. And in the hierarchy of benefits that mobile offers – revenue generation, cost savings and convenience – convenience will reign during 2011.

9) Casual gaming will continue to boom

Smartphones have become powerful gaming devices for the mass market, and this trend will continue in 2011. In the premium mobile space, new business models based on subscriptions, micro-transactions and in-app billing will expand from the games category into others, like music and news.

10) “Mobile” will mean more than mobile phones

The consumer adoption of tablets, e-Readers, portable media devices and other mobile products grew in 2010 and this trend will continue in 2011. Apps and services will be required to work across devices as consumers will want ubiquitous access to content and services.  This will force service providers to sync content via the cloud to maintain a consistent experience across platforms.

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