13 Feb Wireless wizardry coming to the small screen
Stop the talking, and start the browsing, game playing, searching, texting, and buying. If you haven’t done it yet, you will soon, as marketers try to engage and connect with you via your cell phone.
With an estimated 2.5 billion mobile phones in use in over 210 countries worldwide, according to research by Wireless Intelligence for the GSM Association, marketers see a big opportunity to connect with customers on the small screen. This installed base represents a six-fold increase from the 400 million cell phone subscribers in 1999 (Fortune, Oct 25, 1999). Last year alone, an estimated 1.02 billion mobile phones were shipped, according to IDC.
In the United States, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) reports that there are more than 229 million subscribers. These subscribers are starting to drop their landline phones, to upgrade their cellular service and equipment, to modify their phone usage patterns, and to explore accessing and interacting with data services.
Forrester Research estimates that 76 percent of mobile phone users 18 to 24 are using messaging, with smaller but growing numbers among older segments. With over 75 percent of cell phones currently sold in the U.S. deemed as “web ready,” there’s a big potential given that only 19 percent of users had web access, according to comScore Networks. Globally, Informa Telecom & Media now estimates that just under half of cell phone subscribers will browse the Internet by 2011.
The telecommunications industry is looking for ways to monetize data transmission as cell phone penetration increases, voice communication matures, and landline penetration declines. They are slowly opening up their proprietary interfaces to help jump start the wireless web while still carving out a means to control customer access and resulting revenues.
All of these factors are leading into a rush to provide services for what Dr. William Webb, author of a new book, Wireless Communications: The Future, calls “the remote control of life.” This renewed optimism follows a less successful period in the early 2000s, when companies like Citikey, according to a June 2001 Business Week story titled “Wireless Web Woes,” burned through millions of dollars trying to launch mobile phone city guides throughout Europe.
At the time, the technology wasn’t up to speed and consumers complained that “getting information through mobile phones was too darn slow, expensive, and confusing.” Today, with third-generation (3G) wireless networks rolling out around the world, these “woes” are being transformed into “wins” for consumers and marketers alike.
The race is on to connect with customers where they are, when they want, and with the services they like – using enhanced mobile technology. Some of the latest developments include:
• Mobile advertising – Yahoo launched Yahoo Go 2.0 in early January and has successfully signed up a broad range of advertisers to display small ads on the mobile web portal. They also have announced plans to launch mobile ads in 18 countries around the world.
• Content – From streaming movies and video to search results, start ups and well-funded giants are scrambling to come up with a slew of content offerings that will be accessed on a subscription basis through advertiser-supported delivery or as part of an ongoing content distribution strategy.
• dotMobi Name – ICANN has created the .mobi domain name for mobile sites. From mid 2006, when the name opened for registrations, through the end of the year, over 330,000 .mobi domain names were registered, according to MobileMonday.
• mCommerce – Beyond direct purchases from mobile commerce websites, mobile phones are being used for a variety of point-of-sale transactions, including purchasing items from vending machines, transit tickets, and tickets to entertainment and sporting events. These purchases, referenced by the acronym Near Field Communication (NFC), provide buyers with a bar code to scan though a reader to complete the transaction.
• Mobile instant messaging – Technology intermediaries and iInstant messaging (IM) vendors, alike, are scrambling to IM-enable cellular phones. Among the players that are working in this area are Blue Pulse, Agile Messenger, MobilGlu, and SMS Text Messaging, according to Kolabora.
• Money transfers – MasterCard announced at the GSM Association annual trade show that it will be launching mobile money transfers targeting immigrants. The concept is that recipients would receive a text message indicating that a transfer had taken place that they in turn could convert into MasterCard prepaid cards.
• Music – Cell phones are converging with stand-alone music players to offer users access to music. Consumers also love downloading personalized ring tones and ring-back tones. Gartner Dataquest research estimates that mobile phone users around the world will spend $13.7 billion for these types of music purchases, second in dollar value only to short message service (SMS) or text messaging.
• Sweepstakes – Mobile campaigns have been launched that offer subscribers a promotional code to try their luck at sweepstake events. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, we’re seeing these campaigns targeting older audiences, including one by Redbook magazine developed in conjunction with Limbo 41414, a mobile entertainment firm.
• Social networks – Companies like Dodgeball (available in 22 cities, including Madison) and Loopt have taken social networks one step further, using the mobility inherent in cell phones and using global positioning capabilities to connect subscribers in real time with “social mapping.”
• User-generated content – With rapidly improving digital cameras becoming ubiquitous in cell phones, consumers will be generating and uploading more and more video and still shots from their cell phones.
All of these initiatives and experiments are helping marketers link in with their customers in an effort to generate or transfer their loyalties to the small screen.
As you look at your business and marketing strategies, ask yourself how can – and should – wireless technology become part of your organization’s strategy for delivering the customer experience. If you’d like to learn more about some of the trends and companies shaping the present and future in the wireless and mobile marketing, take a look at: Fast Company Mobile Resource Guide, MobileMonday, Mobile Herald, MoCoNews, Mobile Marketing News, or the Mobile Marketing Association.
Previous articles by Paul Gibler
• Paul Gibler: Podcasts – time, place, and player shifted media
• Paul Gibler: Virtual communities make online connections
• Paul Gibler: Lights, cameras, action: The state of online video
• Paul Gibler: Joining the wiki wacki world
• Paul Gibler: Would you like your music (and data) mashed?
• Paul Gibler: Cutting through the blog fog
• Paul Gibler: No RSS feed? You’re fired!
• Paul Gibler: Social computing in the Web 2.0 era
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.
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