To start off, it can’t hurt to clarify that hybrid apps combine elements of both native and web applications. In the context of mobile computing, actually most applications could be considered hybrid apps.

What they all have in common is that they are developed with cross-platform HTML5, but in a native wrapper that gives them access to native capabilities like the camera, microphone, contact list, or notification system that are off limits to the browser.

Facebook, LinkedIn, Netflix or Microsoft, for instance, have been adopting the hybrid app approach and even Adobe got prepared for the new app-centric world by acquiring PhoneGap, a company that has been an early-mover in hybrid apps. They‘ve all got the picture right. Since smartphones and tablets gain market share on a daily basis and drive the development steadily, the question of “whether” to do mobile marketing is outdated and the focus is now solely on the “how”. Due to the fact that we are facing a massive change in communications technology and interaction, the potential of mobile compared to other marketing channels is right now extremely high.

After the introduction of television in the 50s, this type of communication probably caused the biggest surge in the development of corporate communication. Although it is still difficult to quantify its capability, as we do not know how the devices will change, it is certain that through the ongoing technical development and the increasing consumer demand, the claims of target group orientation, usability and design will continue to rise. It’s important for brands to find out how they can take advantage of mobile channels while avoiding mistakes. There are still not many case studies, showing what is right and what is wrong, not to mention that consumers are still getting used to the new marketing channel.

Handling all the different operating systems on the market has become at least much easier, with hybrid apps providing a good solution by sourcing parts of their services over the Internet, such as databases, booking systems and the like. With HTML5 it should be possible over the next two years to switch (almost) completely to the browser, if it supports the standard. Optimized web pages will supersede apps by behaving like apps. These so-called “web apps” combine the benefits of the Internet in terms of distribution and maintenance with the typical look and feel of apps. Data can be stored directly on the device, so that the use of the web app is guaranteed even without a data connection. But for mobile marketing HTML5 also means a simplification of advertising in apps. Independent of the technical platforms, any iPhone, BlackBerry or Android app can be integrated on the basis of HTML5. By clicking on the banner, a uniform HTML5 web app is provided to users of all platforms - with advertising content such as games, wallpapers and videos. This tremendously reduces costs, preparation and technical arrangements for mobile campaigns. What’s crucial for mobile commerce is to keep shopping systems simple and straightforward, since the customers are on the go and not sitting comfortably at home behind the computer screen. Long loading times and inconvenient payment processes are distracting and discourage the consumer to buy the product.

Besides the phenomenon of hybrid apps, location-based services, touch screens and the deployment of these new innovationsare in my opinion influencing drivers of the mobile marketing industry this year.

Location-Based Services: On-the-Spot Marketing

Mobile marketing’s power of impact is immediacy. No other channel brings brands and products so fast and so close to the consumer as mobile phones and location-based services, bringing relevant messages to consumers to wherever they are. The principle is as simple as it is brilliant: The GPS feature of modern smartphones is used to pinpoint the exact location of the user, immediately transmitting location-based services, for example a new restaurant or targeted price discounts in the immediate vicinity. New coupon platforms, like e.g. Groupon, or Yoose, make the business with mobile discount offers look quite promising. Another advantage of mobile marketing using location-based services,lies in combining these with social media, e.g.platforms like Foursquare and Gowalla which are particularly suitable for local campaigns.

The brand Hugo Boss, for example, sent a special invitation to Foursquare members logging on in New York, for the Hugo Boss Prize for contemporary art. Members were invited to pick up for free a Hugo Boss catalog worth $45 in one of four stores and take part in an exclusive raffle. In a playful way, the German fashion label introduced their customers to their brands commitment to art sponsoring.

Mobile Future: Touch Marketing

The smartphone market is growing bigger every day, technology is becoming more and more sophisticated, anduseful applications for establishing mobile marketing are in the making. Compared to traditional communication channels such as print, TV, radio and online, mobile marketing is still young. Its explosive growth forecasts its enormous potential. Thus, the big question is how mobile marketing will develop over the next few years.

Complex online portals and microsites are assessablevia mouse click and programmed with an enormous amountof Flash data, will be a thing of the past or create a niche. This kind of digital marketing is already on the ropes and will have to make space for new creativity, streamlined content and a focus on multi-devices.

Almost all renowned mobile brands have presented their very own tablet, such as Blackberry, Palm, Android, or Asus, driven to become as successful as the iPad. Despite different screen sizes and technology platforms, they all have one thing in common: likesmartphones they are operated via touch pad. Some tablets have a phone functionbut they all are subject to the same technical limitations, and are designed for use on the go. Internet access via mobile phone or touch pad will increase exponentially in the coming years, while loweringthe use of stationary PCs. Mobile and touch-optimized pages will be at the core of the digital strategy for any internet-enabled device, be it the TV in the living room, the clock radio next to the bed or the navigation device in the car.

Will Hybrids kick out Native Apps?

Given its incredible success and momentum, the native app concept is not going away anytime soon, despite being quite expensive. Native app developers not only cost more, they are highly specialized and therefore harder to find. The lack of talents is an even bigger problem since smartphone, tablet, and consumer electronics platforms are proliferating quickly. Currently relevant app platforms include iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Nokia QT, Samsung Smart TV, LG Smart TV, Panasonic Viera Connect, and others. Platforms may come and go, but the one platform to rule them all is unlikely to emerge and leaves us with a fragmented market.

So, HTML5 is probably the future of the web, as it is filling a gap, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that native apps must fail in order for HTML5 to succeed and be the one and only solution.
Besides, platform owners like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, and Samsung are firmly in control of what comes next. They currently limit what browser-hosted HTML5 web apps can do for strategic and technical reasons. Don’t expect the potentates to act against their own self-interest and let their platforms be fully commoditized by the open web. The platform owners are allowing hybrid apps into their ecosystems because they can still control them, and that is unlikely to change.

By Daniela La Marca