Monday, October 17, 2011

Marketing and Mobile Technology - Increasing Benefits and Prospects for Business*

With the continuing evolution of Internet and wireless technologies, the use of mobile devices has become essential in promoting business products and services. Digital marketing expert Jeannette Kocsis aptly describes mobile as "the right way to communicate specific offers."  

New and multimedia gadgets such as cellular phones, smartphones (like Blackberry), tablet personal computers (PCs), and laptops have provided companies easier access to potential and existing clients who can choose to ignore, accept, or give feedback in response to commercial offers. Both parties have become users of technologies that comprise what Tero Ojanperä in The Future of Wireless Communications (n.d.)  refers to as "information society" where data can be retrieved (and sent) "wherever they are...will likely lead to social changes." 

Mobile marketing is important to business.
Much credit for such an expanded and improved connection between enterprises and consumers goes to people who perform mobile marketing-related work. Account executives, visual designers, product managers, business analysts, application developers, software engineers, coordinator, service agents, and virtual assistants, among others, contribute resources to make the technology-based interaction beneficial for stakeholders. 

However, the outputs of these mobile marketing jobs are not designed to eliminate traditional marketing strategies, but are aimed at supplementing and complementing these methods. Companies can adopt and integrate these approaches to collect and analyze information about the market, particularly in capturing, understanding, and sustaining consumer interest.

A Brief History of Mobile Technologies

Handy communication tools and multimedia networks facilitate business promotion and help generate mobile marketing jobs. Martin Cooper of the United States (US) and Östen Mäkitalo and Jan Uddenfeldt of Sweden are touted as the pioneers of the modern mobile telephony system that inspired modern wireless phone and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications; used to stand for Groupe Spécial Mobile) technologies. 

Cooper identifies AT&T as the inventor of cellular car telephones in the late 1960s, years after the company produced the first video phones. As a systems division manager at Motorola, he was assisted by several other colleagues in creating the first mobile phone in 1973. On the other hand, Mäkitalo labels the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) System as "the first modern telephone system, the mother of all mobile telephones." 

The NMT emerged in 1981 and was one of the first generation systems of mobile technology. A decade later, it was replaced by the GSM, a second generation system. The latter was instrumental in increasing the number of mobile users from 16 million in 1991 to 2.5 billion in 2006. The third generation or 3G pertains to Internet-related systems. These innovations were introduced years after TeliaSonera and Ericsson launched "the world's first fully automatic mobile telephone system" in 1956. Aside from these firms, the Bell Labs is also regarded as a corporate architect of the cellular communication technology, beginning with its researches on frequency in the 1920s.

The Significance of Mobile Communication Technologies in Business Marketing

Advertisers recognize that the huge impact of these mobile communication technologies in the lives of individual users can also influence business performance. Research findings by Smaato Inc. and Mobile Squared reveal that global spending on mobile ads in 2011 runs within the range of $11.4 and $20 billion. The Asian region headed by Japan, South Korea, and China spurred the highest investment in mobile advertising, as well as over 15 billion page views on mobile devices in 2010. The North American continent led by the US, as well as five states in Europe - namely: France, Germany, Italy, Spain the United Kingdom (UK) - followed next. Mobile advertising from these major markets are projected to reach over $1 billion for 2011 until 2014-2015.

Mobile devices facilitate access to markets.
Ojanperä (n.d.) notes that user behavior, services, and user devices define the "requirements for future wireless communications". Take for instance the 2010 study by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch which identifies the US as the nation with the highest minutes of use (MOU) per subscriber among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The US also has the largest number of mobile Internet users and the largest mobile data market in the world. Moreover, it has the most facilities-based competitors and the single wireless market described as not highly concentrated. 

Additionally, current figures reveal that data-capable gadgets have reached 257 million, with more than 33 producing firms and over 140 wireless operators. In contrast to the 147 available products in the United Kingdom (UK), there are more than 630 similar goods sold in the US. 
In terms of mobile devices, data collected by Our Mobile Planet reveal that the smartphone - which is capable of making calls, sending and receiving emails, and accessing the Internet, among other functions - is most often used in Singapore at 62%, followed by Australia (37%), Canada (35%) and Hong Kong (37%). Morgan Stanley foresees that this gadget will surpass PC sales in 2012, while Merrill Lynch anticipates mobile phones as "the most common Web access device by 2013." Smaato Inc. points to Symbian, Android, and Apple as the top mobile operating systems.

Africa's Quirk eMarketing and Infomastery's Mobile Marketing Trends specify some features, services, and ad campaigns with the use of mobile technologies. These include: SMS (short messaging service); MMS (multimedia messaging service); location-based marketing;  USSD (unstructured supplementary service data); online subscription; bluetooth, wireless, and infrared; mobile Internet and social media; and mobile applications. It also notes that portals, emails, news/politics, and business/finance are among "the most common mobile media content categories".

With regard to consumer behavior, Our Mobile Planet's research findings show that people who often use the smartphone to search for a product are based in Indonesia (69%), followed by those in Singapore (66%), Denmark (63%), and the US (60%). The Czech Republic and Korea have similar rates of 35% involving those who look for shopping coupons using their mobile tool. Next are shoppers based in Indonesia (32%), Hong Kong (31%), and Singapore (31%). A recent Microsoft study reveal that "86% of mobile Internet subscribers use their device while watching TV."

The Role of Mobile Marketers - What Can Be Done

Although mobile marketing has turned into a business imperative, Quirk eMarketing cites that a Nielsen Mobile 2008 report disclosed that only a little over half (51%) of the population of mobile users in the US "responded to some or other form of mobile advertising..." The company's Mobile Media International VP (vice-president), Jeff Herrmann, further stressed that “only 10% of data users say they find mobile advertising acceptable”. Thus, mobile marketers and companies should be aware of the guidelines set by organizations like the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) to avoid consumer complaints against any form of abuse in using mobile technologies for business purposes.

Thus, marketing professional and mobile marketing practitioner Russell Buckley advises that mobile marketers should be careful in choosing what mobile method to use and how the campaign or promotion will be conducted. He adds that users should be respected, and that messages should adopt "... good IDEA (information, deals, engagement, and advertainment)."

*To view references for this article, please check each highlighted link.

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