Convenience communication: Why Apple, Facebook and marketers are taking emoji seriously

Apple's latest update brings more new emoji

With the unveiling of iOS9 yesterday, Apple has introduced a whole new range of emoji complete with tacos, burritos, popcorn and even unicorns. This development follows the recent news that Facebook will be trialling reaction emoji, so it seems that we can safely say that emoji have taken the world by storm this year.

New ones are being developed and released as soon as the latest updates have been revealed. Furthermore, many brands are jumping on the bandwagon and creating their own to engage with consumers. Earlier this year Dominos allowed peckish people in the US to make their order via Twitter using the pizza emoji. It was the epitome of convenience, making the order process much quicker – no more than five seconds – and allowing hungry individuals to interact with the brand in a far more user-friendly and visually led way. In this environment of convenience, even social platforms like Facebook are evolving rapidly to reflect the way that people are communicating.

As a nation we are at the top of a wave of a shift towards a more visually-led existence, craving speed in the way we share and receive information. It’s the reason platforms like Snapchat have become so popular in recent years, now sending two billion videos and images through the network every day. Emoji are perfectly suited to mobile devices which are now universally linked to our everyday existence. Indeed our own research shows that in 2014 mobile internet consumption increased by 60 per cent on the previous year, and is predicted to grow by another 30 per cent this year in 2015. This would bring the average time people in the UK spend consuming mobile internet media every day to over an hour.

At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June this year new algorithms were unveiled for emoji to show how they can be optimised across devices. This isn’t just because they’re a fun craze, but because developers realise that mobile is indeed the future. Our Mobile Imperative Report found that young people across the world’s largest advertising markets will spend more time accessing the internet via mobile than via all other devices combined by 2018. This is corroborated by figures from the Pew Research Centre which found that nearly a quarter of teenagers are constantly online as their lives become ever more swallowed up by their mobiles. Deloitte's 2015 Mobile Consumer Report also found that 53 per cent of smartphone users check their phones within five minutes of waking.

Mobile really is becoming the media platform of choice and emoji are perfectly adapted for it. They can convey more than just words: they allow consumers to put across a real emotion at quite literally the touch of a button. The saying goes that a picture tells a thousand words, and Apple’s latest emoji buttons have enabled users to share their thoughts in a much more visually led and convenient way.

Consumers are clearly demanding ever increasing levels of speed and convenience in their lives and mobile and emoji have made communicating as quick as possible. It’s no surprise then to hear that Facebook is jumping on the bandwagon and trialling emoji reaction buttons too. The same report by Pew Research Centre found that nine in 10 teenagers go online on their phones every day as they are unable to resist the lure of Facebook. Aside from preventing inappropriate use of a potential ‘dislike’ button, this development should then also set up Facebook to ensure that it maintains popularity and continues to attract consumers as mobile takes the lead in future.

Of course, emoji is not the first picture-based language to sweep the earth; hieroglyphics graced our planet centuries ago and cave drawings before that. However, with mobile set to become the dominant media platform in the next three years, it would seem that we are certainly entering a new era of communication. Now that’s worth a yellow circle smiley face.

James Hudson is head of digital UK at ZenithOptimedia

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