Mobile Marketing: Trend Report from CTIA
The wireless industry association, CTIA, held its annual convention last week in Orlando, Fla.. Shabbir Safdar, chief technology officer at Mindshare Interactive Campaigns, attended the show and gathered information on the top trends shaping the mobile marketing industry. Mindshare Interactive Campaigns is an interactive communications agency, headquartered in Washington, D.C., that works with HP, eBay, American Rivers and U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
Here are the three key trends affecting mobile’s near future according to Safdar, as well as his thoughts as to what these concerns mean to you and your approach to this promising channel.
Trend #1: If you have any doubt that the Web is going mobile, let go of it.
“Both Yahoo! and Google are racing to get their software and search sites on every single phone,” Safdar reports. Yahoo! announced its giant oneSearch application, which is a mobile phone-enabled Web search that enables search not just on phones with QWERTY keyboards, but also on those with 12-key keyboards. “Somewhere between one in nine and one in 11 people have used their phone to do something Web-like,” he says, explaining that critical mass for mobile search is approaching.
On the Google front, he notes, the search leader announced a deal with LG, which makes a large variety of cell phones. At least 10 new phones are coming out that will have Gmail, Google Maps and a blogging client built in at the factory.
“They are so focused on getting this device, which 235 million Americans carry every day, to display their banner ads and their text ads that they are not going to miss this opportunity,” Safdar predicts.
What it means to you: This development will open up new advertising and marketing options on mobile search. So far, Safdar is seeing companies experimenting with brand advertising in the mobile search arena, which he finds fascinating to anticipate what influence that will have on consumers and their behaviors. But the application that has driven Google’s revenue so far and has great import for the future of mobile, he emphasizes, is local search. “Everyone who has a reason to be involved with local search on the Web has a reason to be involved with mobile search in the next 12 months.”
He adds that “because people aren’t going to browse a lot of Web sites on their phones, I actually think that mobile advertising is going to become really important. Because it’s going to be optimized for the cell phone in ways that normal Web advertising is not. The ability to put a tiny mobile banner ad on the search results page and then allow [people] to click through to a brief synopsis of what you do and then, in an easy way, to contact you is going to be key. You can optimize your search engine results so your listing comes in at the top of a list for ‘pizza,’ but your pizza Web site is probably not easily viewable on a cell phone. That means the mobile banner ad or text ad is going to be that much more important, because it’s probably going to go to a page that is optimized for the cell phone.”
Trend #2: The battle over mobile payment is heating up.
“Someone [at the show] described this as the ‘industry knife fight’ over mobile payments,” Safdar laughs.
There are a couple of different parties in this fight, he notes. The wireless carriers still are in it, asking for 40 percent and 45 percent of every payment, which he says marketers are not happy about. Then there are the e-commerce companies, such as VeriSign and PayPal, who are proposing that you set up an electronic “wallet.” PayPal is the company to beat in that space, says Safdar. It has the largest share of the market, he explains, but it’s not enough to enable major mobile commerce yet.
A new player has announced it will be on the scene within the next year: VISA and handset companies, like Kyocera. He explains that the two firms—and others likely will follow—are starting to embed RFID chips in phones, which will enable proximity payment like a mobile SpeedPass. “That really has nothing to do with a phone,” Safdar laughs. “It’s literally an RFID chip stuck to a phone, which is the same as if I stuck it to my shoe and then waved my shoe at the point-of-sale terminal. But [payment solutions firms] clearly are not happy with the carriers’ lock-down on mobile commerce and have decided to try their own route.”
What it means to you: This issue will not be resolved in the next year, he states. “We’ll see the players pursue their own route, and when someone looks they’re going to be a competitive threat, the other parties will sit down and talk.”
He adds that, “All marketers will see on this front for the next 12 months is a lot of confusion. I do not recommend spending a lot of time trying to figure it out, meaning not trying to capture payment through the mobile channel” unless you have a product that is information-based and can be best delivered via cell phone, such as sports scores.
Trend #3: Adopt a crawl-walk-run approach.
Momentum is gaining in the development of this channel as a marketing and advertising tool. And where commerce builds, new companies with fancy, complicated technology-based products will follow. For example, numerous vendors are trying to develop solutions that will perfect couponing via mobile phones, but not all of these offerings are easy to implement.
What it means to you: Much of the hype that surrounds a new business trend is not likely to result in long-term solutions. Remember the initial CRM craze? The biggest focus for marketers, Safdar says, should be on building an opt-in text messaging list of their current customers and prospects to communicate with them via cell phone, because you’re never going to be able to rent a list of mobile consumers.
And like the CRM build-up, success in this channel is not as much about the technology as it is the marketing communications strategy. The crux of mobile marketing, Safdar explains, is a conversation with the customer. “Organizations that haven’t made the leap to conversational marketing cannot make the leap to mobile. Because if you don’t understand why a customer may have a long-term relationship, i.e., a conversation with you across multiple channels, you’re not going to understand why you would want to say something to them once every two weeks over mobile,” he states.
While the shakeout of standards and best practices for mobile commerce is more than a year out, the channel continues to develop every day. “The ability of the Red Cross or UNICEF to announce a disaster somewhere in the world and ask you to go to a Web site to donate … the idea that you can reach a lot of people without having to have access to their e-mail is quite powerful. Eventually, when everybody else catches up and realizes that the Red Cross already has a 50,000-person head start, they’ll understand what value [mobile] has.”