April 15, 2013

Mobile Everything Everywhere

There is nothing dumber than a magazine with a vision. And there's no kind of magazine with a vision dumber than a trade magazine with a vision. And there's no kind of trade magazine dumber than an advertising trade magazine.

So today we are going to discuss an article that wins the triple crown of dumbness -- an article with a vision of the future, from a trade magazine, in the advertising field.

The article is called: "MasterCard's Vision for a Cashless, Cardless, World" and it appeared in Ad Age last week.

Like all these pieces it takes the flavor of the week, in this case "mobile," applies no perspective, and elevates it to the status of earth-shaker. The guy who is peddling this nonsense escapes from the article unchallenged, and we are left with the impression that sometime in the near future we will be living in a "cashless, cardless world."

Perhaps you are old enough to remember the 1980s when we anointed the "paperless society." That was a real winner. In 2012 the U.S. Postal Service alone handled 160 billion pieces of mail.

Then in the 1990's the visionary geniuses announced disintermediation -- brick and mortar retailing was dead. All our retail transactions would be done online, directly with the manufacturer. Just one problem. According to the latest U.S. Dep't of Commerce report, about 95% of all retail spending is still done in stores.

The newest breed of hysterical futurists are the mobile maniacs. You can't swing a dead QR code without hitting a dozen articles about how "mobile" is going to "change everything." 

A headline on c/net's website recently screamed that "Shopping via mobile devices increased 81 percent in 2012." Ohmygod, 81%! 

Let's see exactly what this means.

Mobile devices accounted for 11% of all online purchases last year. And online purchases accounted for 5.2% of all retail sales.  So mobile purchases accounted for a whopping .57% of retail sales -- not even 1%. If that represents an 81% increase from the previous year, then it rose from .32% to .57%. Stop the freakin' presses!

(I have edited out a paragraph here which is offensive in light of the horrible events that occurred in Boston after this was posted.)

So now mobile devices are going to make money and credit cards disappear and we're going to have a "cashless, cardless world." 

Yeah, when monkeys fly out of my butt.


Kumara S Raghavendra said...

Without exaggerations like these, Ad Age sales will account for a whopping .57% of what it is now.

Jason Hartley said...

Mobile devices (phones, not tablets) are being used not to buy things but as a price-comparison tool in stores. This affects more than .57% of sales, though it's hard to put a number on it at this time. It doesn't "change everything" because nothing does that, but it does add another layer of complexity to getting people to buy stuff. There is a lot of overheated rhetoric about mobile, for sure, but then again, there's a lot of overheated rhetoric on this blog! (Which is why I read it religiously and enjoy it enormously.)

geoff said...

You're making a mistake.
You're counting all brick-n-mortar sales lumped together. And that includes food, drugstore items and the like. These will most likely never be significantly impacted by online sales or "disintermediation." Some companies have tried, but the vast majority of folks in the "online world" aren't after this massive slice.

The impact on other sales categories - electronics, books, etc., is massive.

The impact on items like shoes and clothes, even eyeglasses, is growing extremely fast.

Subtract groceries, toiletpaper and toothpaste from your online-vs-local purchasing numbers, and you can't make that particular part of your argument.

Riki said...

any numbers on that? or are "massive" and "extremely fast" numbers? (sorry, not a native speaker). and a definition of "impact" would be great as well. and a corellation between "impact" and "sale" sounds interesting. and the isolation of mobile "impact" vs all other "impacts" - god I'd like to see those.

disclaimer: people visiting stores to check the items you mentioned (books, shoes, clothes, even sunglasses...) than going online simple to make a purchase doesn't count as a mobile "impact". it counts as the plain old-fashioned brick-and-mortar "impact". all ears.

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The Old Soldering Gunslinger said...

Such "Fuzzy" math has in the past predicted the demise of broadcast radio, the demise of broadcast TV, the demise of wireline (POTS) telephones, HAM radio, personal computers, etc. ad nauseum.
If I were you, I wouldn't go out and get any Preparation H in preparation for those flying monkeys.
I remain,
The Old Soldering Gunslinger

John Chatelain said...

Thank you. The "swinging a dead QR code" line is the funniest thing I've read all week.

Jeffrey Summers said...

Except tablet numbers are being thrown in by everyone and his brother in calculating mobile anything.