No time for a wait-and-see approach on mobile – Three key lessons from Web Summit 2015

At Web Summit, earlier this month, 30,000 people saw over 1,000 speakers highlight key trends in various sectors of the industry. Many of the key discussion points – predictably perhaps – centred on mobile. 

Mobile publishing, social media, new mobile tech, mobile payments, mobile fraud and mobile security were all discussed at length, whether on stage or by delegates at and around the conference.

For me, there were three key trends in the mobile space that stood out, and will come in useful to businesses planning for mobile looking ahead to 2016.

1. We’re fast approaching peak mobile

People have been saying “this year is the year of mobile” for a number of years and one of the reasons we aren’t seeing predictions that 2016 is set to be ‘the year of mobile’ is that it looks like we might already be there.

At Web Summit Benedict Evans from a16z in Silicon Valley highlighted research showing that 80 per cent of adults across the entire planet are predicted to have smartphones by 2020.

He also shared with delegates that mobile apps are encroaching on more traditional methods of communication – with 7.2tn WhatsApp messages a year coming close to overtaking the 7.5tn SMS messages being sent. 

85 per cent of consumers’ time on smartphones is now spent in apps. Facebook might also agree that this has been the ‘year of mobile’, announcing at the summit that they’ve seen 72 per cent year-on-year growth in mobile advertising to $3.3bn.

When you factor in that 2015 has been the year Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay launched, with providers set to roll-out the services to more countries in the next few months, there’s no doubt that increasingly sophisticated consumers are using their phones in increasingly sophisticated ways. 

The challenge to businesses is to stay ahead of the curve on mobile, offering new, useful functionalities which consumers need.

2. Companies with a mobile-first approach have huge amounts to gain

It was great to see so many start-ups at the summit showcasing how they are improving consumers’ lives on mobile. Apps like Wineist – a subscription-based wine sampling app –help educate consumers about what wine they like.

Also at Web Summit was a Dubai-based app called Ub-cool, which enables people to book amazing experiences through their mobile, such as white-water rafting, climbing experiences or even crossing a desert.

There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg argument around the huge surge in smartphone use and the development of useful apps. When companies like Uber create mobile-first solutions – with top class user experience – to everyday problems, it’s no surprise that people download and use these apps regularly.

This is a lesson that many of the startups at Web Summit seem to have grasped, but it still amazes me how many larger businesses haven’t got their heads switched on when it comes to mobile.

3. Tackling mobile security and fraud is increasingly important to businesses

One of the biggest things I took from Web Summit is that the entire mobile industry is focussed on security and fraud.

Facebook’s security chief Alex Stamos wasn’t alone when he raised specific concerns about Android.

Many side conversations and table talks from outstanding fraud leaders around the world demonstrated the threat of not understanding the security around mobile apps – from downloading them through to the whole cycle of transaction.

From my perspective, one thing I keep seeing is a proliferation of early stage companies who are innovating in financial services in particular.

At a round table in which the Judo team participated, it was disheartening (but conformational) to see that the large banks admitted to putting major barriers in letting startups launch.

If the energy of the banks is put towards suppressing innovation then more and more customers will switch providers, damaging the reputation of banks further.

A panel in Money X – a gathering of some of the leading payments innovators in the industry – discussed in great detail how are we are not far from machines paying for us. 

For example, a machine knowing that I order milk every Sunday and placing the order for me based on my availability in the calendar. A major role will be played by the machines in our pockets – our smartphones – to do this.

I might be a little biased, working in the mobile space myself, but there was no avoiding the fact that mobile has never been more widely discussed in the industry – and for good reason. We’ve reached a critical point in the mobile revolution, where companies getting it right on mobile are starting to reap the benefits, but many are still taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach, which with each new stat around growing mobile adoption and use, looks increasingly risky.

Dennis Jones is CEO at Judo Payments

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