Robert Forbes, Product Analyst

Smartphone use and ownership continues to increase daily throughout the nation. According to Pew Research, over 174 million people in the United States own smartphones and by next year smartphones are expected to make up 90% of the mobile market. The vast majority of these smartphones will be used to obtain information in real time about their location. A previous blog on the Convergent Mobile website addressed the subject of Geo-Fencing. More specifically, it focused on the ease of a company including these features in an app or as part of opt-in user service, to take advantage of location based services. Such services present the ability to include physical location and to store additional data-points in order to advertise to customers more relevantly and effectively. However, this is only one of several ascendant technological changes our society is rapidly embracing. The increasing penetration of smartphones worldwide and their ability to access information in real-time is leading to the development of new technologies that you and your business should be familiar with in order to remain at the top of your game and ahead of your competitors.

Speech Recognition Software and Digital Personal Assistants

Sherpa, Siri, Cortona, Google Now and Android Voice Commands all use speech recognition to parse your words into questions. From there, these questions are then sent to highly powered and intricately designed servers at their respective headquarters, in order to reply with an appropriate response or recommendation. These speech recognition programs are extremely important for local businesses due to their use of search platforms and Google maps for results to the questions asked by their users. Some may wonder why this is any different from an actual human performing the searches. Voice command software such as Siri, actually bypasses traditional search processes and compares location based data with companies like Yelp to find the most relevant local listing. Optimizing your rankings on sites like Google Places, Yelp, Foursquare and Trip Advisor is just as important as it is to ensure your company's website is SEO'ed. It is also imperative that your company name, address and phone number (NAP) are consistent across the various online directories in order to show voice command software that your company is a trusted, legitimate business.

New Payment Technologies

Bill Gates predicts a future where by the year 2030, 2 billion people worldwide will be using their phones to store money and make payments. In his vision, mobile money providers will offer the full range of financial services currently being presented by banks. At the risk of sounding clichӊ, it is an opportune moment to say, the future is now!, or rather the foundation upon which Bill Gates vision was imagined is here now and rapidly becoming a staple of modern society. Google Wallet utilizes a unique technology known as Near Field Communication (NFC). This technology allows customers to link their debit or credits cards to their Google accounts and pay entirely by using their smartphones. Currently, this service is only available to a select group of smartphone users, but should be made accessible to a wider crowd in the coming year. There are numerous examples of other mobile wallets; the LifeLock Wallet, Apple's Passbook and Softcard to name but a few. Credit and debit cards are not going anywhere, but their importance at the point of sale may be declining. Of course, no single company has offered a product that will allow consumers to ditch all of their credit, debit and loyalty cards just yet, but it may very well be happening in the near future.

Bonus: If the use of mobile wallets interest you, look up Snapcash, a new service by Square which allows Snapchat users to store debit card information and send money to friends.

Advances in Customer Relationship Management

In today's world, there is a growing expectation that service businesses will allow consumers to do things via mobile or online, with the same set of ease that they buy things on EBay or Amazon (Say 2014). Consumers increasingly no longer want to pick up the phone to make appointments or payments. The creation of personal relationships between business and consumer through direct digital service is exponentially increasing in importance. This is due to the fact that there is a growing expectation for successful companies to use SMS or MMS to interact with customers. These interactions can range anywhere from scheduling, advertising and special offers to payments and even leaving reminders. Furthermore, if a company does not respond personally to an individual's review within a specific timeframe, it can be seen as disinterest on behalf of the firm. Tools are being created, such as the Google My Business app, to tie various review sites together in order to allow business owners to respond to a customer review from their smartphone as soon as these reviews are posted (Perez, 2015). While physical interaction between customers and businesses may be declining, creating and maintaining a good rapport with clients in the virtual world is vital. Without a developed relationship on behalf of the business, there is no trust on the end of the consumer.

Micro Targeting and Customer Segmentation

Websites are progressively expanding on their ability to pass along customer information to their owners by gathering only a few attributes. Such factors include a user's physical location, the device type being used to access the website, what pages of the site were viewed etc. A consumer's browsing habits provide windows into their mindset and can be used to target niche groups and create personalized advertisements for that specific group. Creating advertisements based upon a potential customer's online behavior is going to become secondary to getting customers to opt-in to marketing plans that involve their mobile devices. The most rudimentary of opt-in marketing plans can give companies an important starting point for gathering data by identifying what kind of mobile devices the consumer uses. From there, they can gain access to the consumer's physical location data to implement location-based advertising. More importantly, opt-in marketing plans give a company a greater ability to personalize advertisements on a customer-by-customer basis. This allows companies to concentrate their resources on those consumers most likely to provide a greater ROI. For example, based on Monetate and Statista data, it has been proven that Apple users spend more money online than their Android using counterparts. Mobile-based advertising is becoming easier to manage and allows a level of intimacy and personalization that cannot be matched by desktop advertising and email campaigns.

Mobile marketing technology will continue to evolve, more quickly than most companies are prepared for. By adopting new features and capabilities of such marketing, you can set your company ahead of the competition by always being one step above. The ideas and expansion of these technologies in the future aren't so far fetched and may be closer than we realize. The sooner your business learns the benefits and can recognize the value in the evolution of mobile marketing technologies, the more prepared you will be.