Mobile and Data Driven Services: The Third Wave of Disruption

A new wave of highly disruptive change is starting to roll through the digital economy, centred on the mass impact of new mobile devices and the data they generate. The key changes are underway in digital and mobile marketing and commerce, how people consume many products and services, and how they will work in the future.
Riding the third wave of mobile and data driven disruption
Companies and individuals will need to adapt to these changes or find themselves out-competed in the digital economy. Helping them achieve this will be a major focus for our Research and Executive Brainstorm Programmes in 2014. The agenda for OnFuture America 2014, Silicon Valley, May 2014 is now available here. We will be continuing our industry and market focused agenda with OnFuture EMEA 2014, London in June, followed by Digital Arabia, Dubai in November and Digital Asia, Bali in December.

So what’s new in mobile?

There has recently been much talk of the ‘battle for mobile’, meaning different things to different people and serving various agendas. It was back in 2010 when Google’s Eric Schmidt told the GSMA World Congress that everything was now ‘mobile first’, and he was far from first to talk up mobile.

But what is ‘mobile’ really all about now that smartphone penetration is becoming commonplace in many economies? Is it all tech hype and huff or just a statement of the obvious? Well, yes there’s certainly some of that, but we believe that a collection of factors is leading to mobile being a driver of huge and highly disruptive changes in the digital economy.

These change-enabling factors are:

  • Mobile Marketing and Commerce – an increasing momentum in the development of convenient and effective enablers to buying and selling via mobile devices (e.g. ISIS, Weve, iBeacon, NFC etc.);
  • Cloud and Big Data – a massive increase in data and availability of processing power and highly sophisticated analytics on demand, and major developments in approaches to regulation and legislation in the use of data;
  • Entertainment and Content – high familiarity with and use of mobile devices for media and content consumption (in younger generations in particular);
  • The Internet of Things – increasing availability of a broader range of connected devices (e.g. wearables, connected scales, health monitors, etc.);
  • Enterprise Mobility – Increasing availability of comprehensive and integrated mobile enterprise applications to improve productivity;
  • Telco 2.0 Transformation – significant strategic activation in telcos and other industries to transform and deliver new digital services.

Sum of the Parts = Disruption

We believe that these trends are collectively changing the digital economy in profound ways that that are inter-related and reach beyond any single factor. Bringing these insights to bear for strategists and decision makers in an actionable way is a core objective for our Research and Executive Brainstorm Programmes in 2014.

Our latest research Digital Commerce 2.0: New $50bn Disruptive Opportunities for Telcos, Banks and Technology Players shows that mobile marketing and commerce need to be seen in a very different way than the traditional ‘siloed’ perspectives on ‘mobile advertising’, ‘big data’ and ‘M-Commerce’. We see these as component parts of the ‘wheel of digital commerce’.

Digital commerce wheel chart 2013

Source: STL Partners Digital Commerce Report


We’re also delighted to be in partnership with mCordis, specialists in mobile marketing, in the design and delivery of our 2014 Brainstorms. mCordis share our vision in this area and bring both deep knowledge of mobile marketing and extensive senior level contacts within the mobile marketing elite across the digital economy.

To reflect these insights, our OnFuture America 2014 Brainstorm in Silicon Valley will bring together 250 senior strategists and decision makers from telecoms, retail, finance, tech and media to brainstorm and work together on the following agenda.


  • Best Mobile and Digital Transformation Strategies
  • Omni-channel breakthroughs: Strategies for managing customer experience
  • Reflecting What a World of Connected Devices and the Internet of Things Means To You and Your Business
  • The Telco Transformation Index – Reviewing New Benchmarks for Future Business Models
  • Content is King: Consumer Engagement Through Content & Social Media
  • Strategies for Leveraging The Value of Data and Creating a Sustainable Competitive Advantage
  • Big Data, Personal Data, Customer Data: New ways of monetisation


  • Mobile & The New Customer Journey
  • Innovation Showcase – Demo Sessions and 1-2-1 Networking Meetings of the best in Mobile Marketing
  • Deep Dive Workshops:
  • Advertising & Marketing: Through & With Mobile
  • Mobile Commerce: On device & In Store is Driving Revenue & Customer Satisfaction
  • Measuring for Success: Creating Actionable Insight from Information
  • Customer Love: Loyalty, Service Delivery & Advocacy
  • Mobile Marketing Innovation Road Mapping

The Aftermath of The First Two Waves of Mobile and Data Led Disruption

The first wave of mobile and data centred disruption comprised the rise of the smartphones, quickly followed by the second wave of mobile applications. Both of these waves were highly visible through the magpie-eye lens of the media with its unerring taste for beguiling sparkling images of status enhancing technology, and stories of wealth creation beyond dreams for a select few.

Following these waves have been further massive changes in human and organisational behaviours which are perhaps less visible and glamorous but potentially much more profound. As a simple and well known example, mobile phones are now used far more as devices for something else (emails, social media, reading, watching films, playing games) than talking to someone. This has brought with it massive opportunities for some (e.g. social media platforms) – and also dire threats for others (e.g. ‘traditional’ media).

The initial changes were largely adaptive – people just started doing new things because the technology enabled it. They hadn’t planned out the new stuff particularly, they just played with apps and stuck with the ones they liked, and many in industry continued in adaptive mode – “let’s try a few things out and see what happens”.

Telcos for their part were focused on the land-grab of smart phone market share and accompanying ARPU, and then the realisation that the new smartphone players (particularly Apple) suddenly wielded massive power and reach in their markets. Occupying telcos’ attention was also the seesaw of anxiety and hope over the prospects of massive data growth, which was thought to lead to either massive new costs or revenues but for the most part lead to little growth, some increased network efficiency and the explosion of WiFi.

Then services like Whatsapp provided consumers with an economic reason to do something different, providing significant savings on text costs in some markets and making it worth getting a different phone and getting the app. Unfortunately for them, not all telcos reacted swiftly and effectively to this threat, and in some markets Whatsapp and other so-called ‘Over The Top’ (OTT) Services now have very high penetration and usage.
SMS Price / Text vs Penetration OTT Messaging Apps
Our recent report on The Future Value of Voice and Messaging details these dynamics in depth, and also strategies and lessons in defence against similar disruptive attacks that we will also explore further at our brainstorms and in our research that are relevant not just to telcos but to all digital players.

In the meantime, major disruptive US tech giants (such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft) have been manouvering for several years for new positions of power in the highly interlinked digital economy, and their progress and the rise and fall of other key players will also be a key feature of our analysis.

Overall though, this third wave of disruption is more complex and nuanced than what has gone before, yet in some ways less surprising. Providing, of course, you are prepared for it.