The future is mobile, Tomi Ahonen tells South Africa

Tomi T Ahonen, the consultant, motivational speaker and author of 12 bestselling books on mobile, spoke in Johannesburg on November 6 at the IAB SA and MMA Morning of Mobile.

Ahonen is a big fan of the IAB and MMA worldwide, and this was his 11th visit to South Africa. He is from Finland and lives in Hong Kong.

Download a PDF copy of Ahonen’s presentation.

Here are some of the interesting facts and observations he shared:

  • There are now more mobile accounts than human beings on our planet. Nothing comes even close to mobile. After only 15 years, mobile media accounted for $236-billion in 2013.
  • The average person looks at his or her smartphone 221 times per day – once every four minutes and 18 seconds. We stare at the phone three hours per day on average, or 18.9% of the time we are awake (according to the latest survey by TechSmart).
  • A survey of 70,000 teens in the US in 2014 found that 87% used SMS, 61% were on Facebook and 55% used YouTube.
  • According to the Forrester Research 2014 survey of marketing professionals, 42% are new to mobile and have no strategy yet, or their strategy is newly launched and not even a year old. Two-thirds don’t have enough budget for mobile, and 62% don’t collect any data on their customers. Mobile is the most measurable tool there is. Of those surveyed, 41% don’t understand what customers are doing on mobile. Forrester is critical of marketers focusing on the wrong tools, like using apps where SMSing will do.
  • Companies have introduced pre-roll and mid-roll advertising into mobile gaming, with 0.5% and 1% click-through rates, respectively.
  • According to Internet Retailer, of 6,000 consumers surveyed, 96% have abandoned a mobile website because of poor experience, while 91% went to a competitor site after being disappointed. Forty percent will abandon your site if you ask them for their location information.  “Don’t annoy your customers. Don’t be creepy!” said Ahonen.
  • He also asked: have you ever wanted more ads? If you were consuming normal media on TV or at the cinema, would you ask for more ads? “Stop the movies, want more ads!” We all ask for more ads. For example, on or other e-commerce sites, we go to thumbnails for other recommendations on books, DVDs and more. Thirty percent of sales on Amazon are from recommendations (ads). “Make advertising so good it is considered content,” said Ahonen.
  • Click to buy: Sports Illustrated’s 2013 swimsuit edition had 500,000 downloads on the free version and the upgrade now costs $7.99 (it was $1.99 in 2009). The magazine has not revealed how many are now buying the premium version, but as the price is up it is likely to be a good seller.
  • Harris polled 2,000 adults in the US on their acceptance of mobile marketing in 2009, and one-quarter said yes to permission-based mobile alerts and offers. The same question is asked every year. In 2013, the number was 45%. It has gone up every year, contrary to the belief it was a fad that would decrease over time. Why? The industry is doing a good job with mobile advertising.
  • Machine-to-person messaging was launched in Britain, and British consumers have been exposed to it the longest. In a survey of 1,368 UK consumers, 89% said they would like to receive delivery notices while 84% would like appointment reminders and 68% would like SMS offers from brands they consume.
  • Expert messaging service Twilio is advising businesses to migrate messaging from basic SMS to MMS, which allows longer text messages than 160 characters and can include pictures, sounds, videos, coupons, QR codes, URLs and so on. It’s everything you want messaging to be as a brand or advertiser. The consumer does not know the difference between an MMS and an SMS – both have a read rate of 97%. The rates of interaction with and responding to MMSs are identical to those of SMSs.
  • Mobile is the seventh mass media (the sixth was the internet). It has nine unique benefits: first personal mass medium; permanently connected; always carried; built-in payment channel; available at creative impulse; most accurate audience information; captures social content of consumption; enables augmented reality; and offers a digital interface (to the real world).
  • McDonald’s in the UK launched a restaurant finder on app, the mobile web and SMS, and saw 4% more sales.
  • Price comparisons should have instant click-to-buy links and need to push more into the mobile payments space.
  • Twenty-five percent of people search via mobile while using the toilet.
  • Unilever has launched an exclusive radio channel in India for its brands. The Kan Khajura station is a free voice service on mobile phones. Users dial a “missed call”, then receive 15 minutes of voice radio entertainment such as Bollywood music and jokes, plus ads. A total of 24-million have signed up (25.5% of the target market). The station has served 2.3-milion hours of media and 70-million ads for Unilever brands.
  • Starbucks in the US has partnered with Uber: once you have ordered, Uber will drive you to Starbucks for free. Fifteen percent of Starbucks’ US revenues come from mobile payments.
  • The first viable business model for augmented reality (AR) came from Canada. Newspaper publisher Glacier Media sells AR upgrades to print ads. Asking C$99 for any AR-enhanced advertisement earned it C$7.5-million per quarter in 2013. Said Ahonen: “AR is very big in the international arena. South Africa needs to include this to compete globally and you need to do this to win awards, though it’s not mass market yet.”
  • In Dubai, Red Tomato Pizza offers a fridge magnet with GSM chip (in the shape of a pizza slice) with a hard-coded call number. Users can configure the pizza on the magnet and press a button to order, and 30 minutes later their pizza is delivered.
  • Finnair started mobile check-in late in 2001. Half of Finnair customers use the mBoarding pass. Finnair offers instant upgrades by credit card or frequent-flier miles, and 23% of customers have taken and paid for an upgrade. Ahonen said: “Now we can marry advertising and sales and do it totally automatically.”
  • Alan Moore coined the phrase “the new black gold”, saying: “Mobile user data is the new black gold for the 21st century.” In 2030, the biggest Fortune 500 companies will not drill for oil – they will mine mobile data.
  • What is the value of the new black gold?
 Qustodian revealed at Forum Oxford in 2009 that the theoretical maximum value of personal ownership of attention was 3% of global GDP, or $2.5-trillion!  This is bigger than the total automobile or armaments industry or the two combined, and the second-biggest after food.