Video and contactless commerce two big winners with Apple annoucements say experts

Apple’s launch of two new phones and a smart watch today open up new possibilites for marketers, according to digital experts, with larger screens, near field communication technology and payment system all part of the new offerings as the company looks to stay competitive with rivals.

Two larger iPhones – one 4.7 inches and the other 5.5 inches – were unveiled at an event in California this morning, along with the Apple Watch, while a new mobile wallet, called Apple Pay, also formed part of the launch that will enable people to use their phone to buy goods.

While competitors already have such technology, Apple insisted it will take the experience to a new level and keep it at the forefront of innovation.

Blonde3 founder Nic Hodges said the increased screen sizes could hail the end of tablets, former Commonwealth Bank marketer Andy Lark said Apple Wallet is a “profound, behavioural and economic hurdles not withstanding”, whilst Hardhat Digital’s Dan Monheit said the watch was probably a last throw of the dice for a tethered wrist-worn device.

Reaction to the launch was mixed with some claiming Apple is now simply playing catch-up with competitors and reacting to market trends rather than setting and leading them. The large screens formats – “Phablets” – has been led by Samsung while the wearables in the form of watches are also already available in the market, as is NFC – Near Field Communication – technology.

But the developments still represent opportunities for brands and marketers – particularly in Australia where Apple remains dominant.

Blonde 3 founder Nic Hodges, formerly MediaCom’s head of innovation and technology, said the larger screens will effectively replace tablets which have failed to make a significant impact on e-commerce. It was now “critical” for brands to get their offering right for the iPhone, he said.

“From a large screen point of view, mobiles increasingly are where we are going to be spending  the majority of non-work screen time,” he said. “That offers a huge opportunity for video.

“Video is an important channel for brands to be communicating in and they need to be creating content that is interesting and that consumers will want to watch verses simply injecting into a pre roll before a video,” he said. “It is critical for brands to understand how people are experiencing all the digital assets that they have, whether a website or an app.”

He said app companies will be having a “small party because they get to re-factor all the apps for Apple”.

Hodges said the tablet experience for brands, marketers and publishers has been “substandard”, and cited analysis which suggested tablets have reached their peak.

“There is now no divide between the tablet and large screen phones so brands need to start looking at how they are creating experiences for these larger screen “phablet” sizes,” he said. ” I have been using a 5.5 inch mobile that has 1080p screen and when I sat it next to my iPad mini, which I love, you wonder why I would need both. We are now starting to move from mobile phones and tablet to just a large mobile phone.

“Tablets are essentially a very expensive toy for children. You haven’t seen the e-commerce as we have with mobile, particularly with things like fashion and travel.”

He said brands and publishers have never made the most of tablets but said they have an opportunity to do so with the larger mobile screens.

“Most of the top 10 or 20 publisher sites have a desktop experience which is really not optimised for tablet, or they have gone and bought technology from a third party that automatically reflows and reformats content to tablet screen. But it is usually quite ugly and loses a lot of feel of the actual brand,” he said.

“I think the screen size is a benefit in terms of creating better user experiences on mobile. The onus is on publishers creating really good advertising formats that provide good revenues for them, really attractive advertising for brands and good user experiences. I think that is now possible and we can stop having tiny little banners at the bottom of mobile websites.

“It also ups the importance of video which is probably the most crucial and most important formats for mobile.”

On the downside, Hodges said the larger iPhone screens bring additional complexities for brands and advertisers. “It is fragmenting even more the number of screens and the size of screens and the number of experiences they need to be creating,” he said.

Hardhat Digital’s director of strategy Dan Monheit said the anticipation usually associated with an Apple launch had dissipated after so much information had already leaked. But he said some of the announcements remained “genuinely exciting”.

“There are definitely some good things in there,” he said. “The high screen resolution is great and the MH chip which is the barometer to track your running, cycling, walking or going up and down the stairs is great.

“And there are some nice bits around the edge. What they have done from a security perspective, with the finger print activation, where you pay with touch so it doesn’t send the information, that solves an existing problem in a very elegant way where you currently disclose all your credit card information to every retailer that you intact with.”

But Monheit said Apple was essentially playing catch up, with many of the developments surrounding products and technology already existing. It represents a marked shift from the days when Apple led the field, he said.

“So wow, we have NFC payments, like great. Apple has been the one that’s been digging their heels in over the last two years and saying we are not going to comply, we are not going to do this, while every Android manufacturer, all the major bank and credit cards companies are say we are going to roll with this stuff.

“That said, Apple have partnered with hundreds of retailers and they have got 80 per cent of credit card transactions covered based on their partnerships with banks, Amex, Visa and Mastercard. So it’s got the infrastructure in place. We’ve all got paywave credit cards and terminals inside retailers seems to have exploded and become standard very quickly so it’s a pretty easy path.”

Monheit also claimed Apple was adamant that the last phone it introduced was the largest screen size consumers could use comfortably.

“But the market is now leading what Apple is doing which is a very interesting turn of event from five or six years,” he said, adding that it was debatable that the Apple Watch would take off after similar technology has failed to be a hit for competitors.

“But Apple has taken a different tack. For Pebble and Samsung it has been a technology product but Apple, from the way they designed it, have taken a fashion angle so maybe it will work.

“I was an early adopter myself and was on the list for Pebble for eight or nine months. But when I got it, I charged it up, used if for 45 mins and decided it was overkill. It’s been in my desk draw since. I hit a point that I didn’t think existed, which was that I was too connected. Everytime I got a message my phone, ipad, laptop went off and then my wrist was vibrating. It was almost seizure inducing.

“But they have integrated the watch with the payment system which is nice. If Apple can’t do it I am not holding my breath for anyone.”

Former Commonwealth Bank chief marketer Andy Lark labelled Apple Pay as “profound, behavioural and economic hurdles not withstanding” and represented the “dawn of a new era in payments, marketing, and customer data.”

“And that screen on your wrist is going to be a new, albeit small battleground,” he told Mumbrella.

He rejected the thought the screen was too small, insisting it will provide an ideal channel for marketers to push simple offers and alerts to users. “It is new territory for brands,” Lark said.

NFC will also open up opportunities for marketers, he said, enabling brands to recognise and reward buying behaviour and loyalty.

Lark also said bigger screens for Apple were also “long-overdue”.

Meanwhile, the number of Australians intending to buy or upgrade their mobile phone has fallen for the first time, while the growth in iPhone use has also slowed, according to new research.

The Roy Morgan study found that 8.045 million people plan to buy or upgrade their mobile, of whom 2.67m will choose an iPhone. But both numbers have slipped, from 8.15m and 2.75m respectively.

The number of people owning an iPhone, while growing, has also slowed. During the three years from 2010 to 2013 the number of Aussies with an iPhone increased between 1.2m and 1.4m but grew by only 700,000 from June 2013 to June 2014.

“While it is too early to know whether iPhone ownership is starting to plateau in Australia, it may be significant for sales of the new model,” the research concluded.

Roy Morgan general manager, media, Tim  Martin said the decline could reflect the fact that there are fewer first-time mobile users in Australia. But the lack of a wow factor when the iPhone 5S and 5C were launched could also be responsible.

“One possibility is that Apple’s recent handset releases didn’t impress current owners enough for them to upgrade, resulting in the slight decline in intention year on year. No doubt Apple is hoping the iPhone will rectify this situation possessing enough new and improved features to inspire current iPhone owners into upgrading and possibly even convincing owners of other handsets to think about switching.”

Steve Jones


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