Skyhook_logoMobile apps must continually seek new ways to differentiate in a competitive market that is only getting fiercer by the second. Brought to you by Skyhook, this post is part of a series called “Apptitude” looking at how app owners can reduce friction, boost user engagement, monetize, and get to the user’s home screen. See all the posts here.

A lot happened in the mobile world this year — especially with regard to location services. Based on what we have already seen take place in 2015, we have a few ideas on what the next year has in store for the application and adtech spaces. Let’s dive in to a few of our predictions:

1. Frictionless experiences: 2016 will be the year of “Appticipation

After a good portion of this past year has been focused around improving contextual technologies, this is the year that we will start to see it pay off. People are excited about reducing friction, and we think that the first places we will see a more streamlined experience is with retail apps, which are already only a small step away from automating these dynamic experiences.
Having the capability of understanding a user’s precise location will make a targeted experience, such as “Store Mode,” a reality — where apps will begin to deliver based on the behavior of the user, not the other way around. Additionally, with the introduction and prevalence of beacons increasing in popularity, we will start to see appticipation integrated with more sophistication.
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2. The beginnings of beacon rollout: Testing the value with the customer

With 2015 being all about selling and testing beacon technology, we think that 2016 will see the first big spike in distribution, because now companies have budgeted for them in the new year. This uptick in distribution means providing mobile user context will require indoor location, thus beacons will become even more prevalent.

Apps that put context into play — and as we have already stated, will probably begin with retail and eTail apps — will start to consider beacons, because they will be addicted to contextual insights they can gather. The applications that do macro context will want the next step, which is even more pinpointed location with beacons. Conversely, the ones doing micro context with beacons will want bigger picture, macro-insights as well with contextual location.

With the promise of beacons, we will see a focus on a lot more apps prompting turning on Bluetooth to enable the technology — the catch (and success) of this initiative will depend on the value that they promise to the visitor and whether they are able to deliver that. Whether or not 2016 will perfect this delivery may be another story.

3. User experience: The app focus on designing for place

So we’ve covered the contextual capabilities of apps. We know that beacons, if correctly integrated and rolled out, will help with these insights. But how will the developer community react to creating these new experiences? In 2015, we’ve already seen strides in the UX space, with increased focus on making apps as simple and user-friendly as possible to reduce app abandonment.

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The apps that will win in 2016 are the ones that take the extra step of understanding their user’s context, then applying the right app features most relevant to them at that time. Maybe that means geofencing venues, so that when the user enters a store, the app opens automatically and serves their payment feature, with a coupon or discount for simply having the app. Or maybe it means a music app opens, selects the right station, and just requires the user to hit “play” once they begin their morning or evening commute — simply by the app understanding user behavior and their location.

Regardless of the app or the use case, the VIP experience across these apps will increase usage and help individual apps get to the home screen. As user patience goes down and expectations go up, the most seamless and helpful apps are the ones that will survive through 2016.

4. Advertising technology — Shift in focus to experience as the new channel

Despite recent developments in ad blocking, online advertising isn’t going anywhere…sorry. But, the user-intuitive theme continues when we look at the advertising space for our predictions. We predict that experience will be the new channel by which advertisers reach consumers, as the online ad tech ecosystem will care more about getting good user location — especially with such topics as fraud and viewability being so prevalent at the end of 2015. In addition, a more streamlined focus on reaching the exact user or audience segment will increase the relevance of advertising and prompt more engagement, where casting a wide net has failed to deliver for decades.

If we see advertisers heighten their standards and deploy accurate and precise location as a tool in their buyer-segmentation and audience-development mix, this will free up the media buyer as the new creative. These people are already creative, but this will allow them to not worry so much figuring out where to target — and enable them to focus on the message and what would best resonate with their audiences.

And the bottom line — our big prediction:

5. As good location gets better, UX can get better

Good location and app UX help each other. We are predicting that online ads are going to start seeing an increase in good location signals coming in as a result of better user experiences with good location. We will also see an increase in the amount of good location that is out there, and programmatic effectiveness increases as a result, because they have better location and targeting. Adtech will then be able to focus on the ad experience.

Matt Kojalo is vice president of advertising technology products at Skyhook Wireless.

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