By Michele Turner
Last year saw great developments in the mobile sphere; Gartner, for example, found that 428 million mobile communication devices were sold worldwide in the first quarter of 2011 while, according to IDC, this same timeframe saw the global mobile phone market grow by 19.8%. Today there are roughly 4.6 billion mobile users, many of whom are purchasing goods via their devices. What’s more, comprehensive 3G and the proliferation of quality Wi-Fi is improving the user experience – providing better connectivity than ever before. The result is a golden opportunity: businesses and brands can tap into a new audience that has grown up with mobile technology and has a day-to-day dependency on it.
Creating new marketing opportunities
There are several key factors driving this change and truly impacting the mobile industry. Smartphone technology, for example, has taken off rapidly, while it is predicted that global tablet shipments will increase from 16.1 million units in 2010 to 147.2 million units in 2015 (Infinite Research). The proliferation of smartphones and tablets is providing new data and new functionality to those on the move, allowing the consumer to carry out more tasks with greater ease and efficiency and brands to interact on a personal level that’s unprecedented in advertising.
Location Based Services (LBS) is one feature that these new capabilities are enabling on a wider scale. There’s now a whole host of device information (battery life, access to Wi-Fi, signal strength) that can be used to ensure that engagement only takes place when the situation is exactly right for the consumer. Imagine having an offer appear on your mobile for 50% off a latte at your favourite coffee house, just down the road from where you happen to be at a given moment. From a marketing perspective it’s a hugely exciting opportunity: a brand, once it has full permission to connect with a consumer via their mobile, can deliver services and offerings tailored to individual preferences and anticipated behaviour in a way never previously possible.
A rapidly changing environment
In order to make the most of the increasing capabilities of mobile technology, an awareness of some of the challenges is needed. LBS, for example, offer the potential for smart, location-based promotions and offers tailored for customers as they pass their favourite stores. However, with unreliable GPS, a user travelling via the underground could arrive at their destination in central London with an out of synch device that still registers their location as further afield, at the start of their journey. The end result is that the consumer will likely miss out on great deals because the device hasn’t updated and kept up with his/her movements, although new advancements such as mobile content caching are starting to address these limitations.
Another area to be wary of is in the translation of websites to mobile phones. Poor mobile web implementations can result in compatibility problems and declining levels of service and satisfaction, causing consumers to take their business elsewhere. Reassuringly, advancements in technology, such as HTML5, are enabling developers to make websites more compatible with the mobile format with greater ease – delivering a higher quality, consistent user experience across these devices.
New opportunities, new responsibilities
Mobile engagement enables a new level of connection between the brand and the consumer, and this requires a greater level of responsibility on behalf of the brand. Just because a consumer has arrived at a particular area and has a location-enabled device that can receive content, doesn’t mean they want to be bombarded with offers. Many consumers have not yet become accustomed to receiving brand updates and offers on their personal devices. Offering an “opt in” option, where the customer grants permission for a business to obtain and use their transaction and location information, is crucial. What’s more, new privacy legislation in the EU and US may require consumers to opt-in. This could result in companies that have not actively requested permission from the user having to remove these customers from their database and start fresh, which could prove to be very costly. Getting this right is essential in delivering a modern mobile strategy, one that helps establish a brand’s reputation in a tough market where consumers rarely allow second chances.
Eyes wide open
For companies approaching the mobile opportunity with their eyes open to the possible challenges, the revenue potential is exciting. These tailored, granular levels of interaction are solely enabled by mobile, driving an entirely new form of marketing and means of business. With an understanding of the ethical and legal concerns of interacting with users on their personal devices, combined with intelligent, targeted marketing strategies and the right technology to build services and applications better and quicker, the mobile opportunity is out there for companies to grasp in 2012. Once these elements are in place, there’s no reason why businesses and brands can’t capitalize on the movement towards offering a truly personal and relevant purchasing experience being enabled by the ongoing mobile revolution. This is an exciting time in this space, and savvy businesses will be keeping a very close eye on the developments we’ll see throughout 2012.
About the author
Michele Turner is Chief Marketing Officer at mBlox. Prior to mBlox, Michele was the Executive Vice President of Products at Cooliris, a venture-backed company building the next generation in personal media communications. Before this, she was Vice President of the Platform Business Unit at Adobe Systems, where she was responsible for product management, product marketing, and developer relations for the Adobe Flash Platform. At Adobe, Michele’s team was charged with advancing the company’s rich Internet application (RIA) technology platform for the creation and delivery of engaging applications and content to across desktops, operating systems and devices. Michele has more than 20 years’ experience in high-tech product marketing, product development and business management. She joined Adobe in 2006 following two years as a Principal at Strategic Instinct consulting where she worked with several Web 2.0 and search startups, including Kaboodle, Kosmix, KnowNow and Wink. Before moving into consulting, she served as Vice President of Product Marketing and Design at Netflix and Senior Vice President for Product Marketing at AOL.
About the company
mBlox is a mobile interaction and payment specialist that provides enterprises and solution providers with a way to engage with their customers on mobile devices without compromising on security. mBlox delivers a combination of software and services that allow businesses and solution providers to create mobile solutions with the greatest possible reach. Backed by venture capital firms, mBlox offers a network of more than 800 operators in over 180 countries, covering over 90% of the world’s population.