There is a strange nexus emerging which just a few years ago would have been so unthinkable that people would have given you funny looks just for mentioning it. On the one hand we have the rise of in-app purchases, which, according to research firm IHS accounted for $970 million in sales last year, and which they predict will grow to $5.6 billion by 2015. This represents 64 percent of the market. On the other hand we have the rise of mobile device use in physical shops and a return to physical shopping. Thus the nexus.
IBM has developed a personal shopper for mobile devices. Once in a store, you download the app, put in your preferences and away you and your trolley go. You point your device at the cereals and the device will tell you which brands fit your criteria (low fat, biodegradable packaging, no nuts, cheap). There is, of course, the opportunity for the store to offer you coupons, discounts or even free coffee while you fiddle about building your preference list. While all this is happening, you are probably being advertised at (I use the term advisedly). Juniper Research has said that in-app advertising will hit $2.4 billion by the end of 2012 and that, by 2015, that figure will rise to $7.1 billion.
Meanwhile big brands are experimenting with the power and personal nature of mobile. NFC tags and barcodes are being used to make taxis into store, promoting the theory that shops can be anywhere, even in your living room. Other elements, too, will add to the confusion or excitement, depending on your outlook. Social gifting is the Next Big Thing for some, possibly those sitting in the café figuring out their preference list.
One conclusion that we might draw from this lava lamp picture of collision or collusion is that the winners in the payments space will truly understand the nature of shopping – and that big brands already do.