Coming soon to a mobile near you
Technology has pushed the mobile phone to a point where it’s more than a mobile phone. What other pocket sized device allows you to surf the Internet, watch videos, download music, send and receive text messages – oh, and make phone calls?” So states Run the Red, a specialist New Zealand mobile marketing company, on its website.
We might, in fact, add to that list watch TV, email and find where you are, if you have one of the latest GPS-equipped smartphones.
Marketing to mobiles started (and in reality, largely still is) in the SMS text space. This allows both push advertising (sending texts to opted-in customers promoting special offers and events) and pull (mainly response mechanisms), usually via texting a short code to a number to respond to an offer, enter a competition or similar.
For many people this is the beginning and end of marketing to mobiles.
Todd Wackrow from POCKETvouchers, the brains behind trackable vouchers sent by text message, notes that there has been a bit of a disconnect between ‘cutting edge technology’ and market needs in recent years. “I believe for mobile marketing to grow there needs to be focus on delivering solutions that deliver real benefits rather than just tech wizardry for the sake of it.
“For example, I still believe text messaging has only just begun to be used effectively for simple things like my physio texting me two hours before my appointment, which adds a lot of value.” 
Stuart Wilson from Sonic Mobile, another mobile solutions partner, comments that “Most brands haven’t got their head around the medium yet”.
The next step for many is to have a mobile specific website (WAP). Again Wilson likens many businesses’s use of this to the early days of the Internet when people reproduced their brochure on the web. Many now just look to replicate their website as a mobile site.
However, some companies have given more thought to how people access these mobile sites, the limitations of the devices used (many still have small screens) and data costs – and so work to make the site simple and functional, with easy navigation.
Beyond mobile websites the new breed of smartphones are introducing more options but still have limited penetration to the market. And the local mobile networks still need to implement technology for services such as bulk MMS messaging and location-based services in New Zealand.
So how big is the marketing to mobiles market? We couldn’t find anyone locally brave enough to put a number on it, but according to Todd Wackrow, “Despite there being a lot of hype over the last five years around the potential of mobile marketing, I believe mobile is just about to start its growth curve. I see huge growth over the next 12 to 24 months from what is currently a tiny market.”
Many other commentators stated similar thoughts about the growth potential, especially as the percentage of phones that can work with the more sophisticated opportunities become relatively more ubiquitous. One commentator estimated that around 30 percent of current Telecom users, and 50 percent of Vodafone users, have phones that can access the Internet. Although due to actual and perceived data costs only a small fraction of them actually do this. Data costs are coming down though with Vodafone now offering a casual data plan of $1 a day for 10MB and a ‘lite’ plan of $10 a month for 100MB. Internationally a global study by ABI estimated a worldwide spend of US$16 billion by 2011 with $7.7 billion of this in the Asia Pacific region.
Understand your customers
One big concern for mobile marketing practitioners relates to the very personal nature of mobiles and the risk of turning the consumer off to either the advertiser’s brand or to mobile marketing all together through poorly executed campaigns that effectively become spam.
Ben Northrop, CEO of Run the Red, says understanding your customers is key – especially how they want to engage with you.
Sonic Mobile’s Wilson believes it would be “a foolish brand that launched into a mobile campaign with a poor offering or poor opt-in model”.
“Permission, relationship and relevance are keys to a successful push text campaign because people expect texts to be from friends and can become annoyed if it is an unexpected and unwanted message,” says Marty Verry, co-founder of mobile marketing service provider TXT2GET – adding that this is completely different for text response to ads as the consumer has initiated the text response and expects it, “and can become irate if they don’t get it”.
Certainly, using a text response mechanism to an offer in advertising, on packaging or at point of sale featured highly with most participants. This uses technology that virtually all mobile users understand and have access to, is driven by the consumer and has the potential to create near instant responses. In turn, this allows an opt-in database to be built for future campaigns and helps align the brand to the consumer.
The offer for such campaigns needs to be compelling to generate a good response. This may be provision of further information or a competition.
“Response for a competition will depend on how well the brand is known, how good the prize is and how easy it is to enter,” says Wilson.
The simplest method is to utilise short code texting that we are all familiar with – where you text a short keyword to a three digit number. Larger companies will buy their own short code (the three digit number) and can then use an array of keywords for different campaigns (they will also need a company or system to manage the short code).
For smaller businesses TXT2GET provides what is essentially a shared number, 244, and an individual keyword for a campaign – allowing them to get into this space with easy setup for a low entry cost. Once the text is received a response can be sent, this may just be a text, or a link to a mobile website, a follow up by a call centre or maybe a voucher from POCKETvouchers which can then be taken to the appropriate vendor.

“By simply putting a text keyword in their existing radio, TV, outdoor or print ads they can increase response rates by two to five times compared to using an 0800 number or website address,” says Verry. This is due to the ease of remembering a three digit short code and keyword compared to a longer phone number or web address and the fact that most people will have their phones on them when they see or hear the ad.
While writing this article we tried mobile text technology a couple of times. We tested Air New Zealand’s mpass software on our phone (which lets you manage your flight bookings and downloads a scan-able boarding pass to your mobile). Simply text mpass to 8882 and back comes the link to Air New Zealand’s mobile site (airnz/mobi ) where you can download the software and access flight information – all this from an initial, simple, text response. 
Location based advertising
Where is marketing to mobiles heading? New smartphones with quick Internet access and large screens, typified by the Internet-centric Apple iPhone, provide a raft of opportunities for marketers to devise clever ways to interact with customers.
One of the most exciting opportunities for marketers is the prospect of location-based advertising, as most smartphones (and in the near future nearly all phones) have GPS capabilities to record its location down to a few metres. Imagine walking into your store and receiving a customised special offer to your phone, or visiting your favourite bar and being sent a discount voucher for your first drink.
There are a few fish-hooks to this dream. Firstly, none of the New Zealand operators have yet invested in the technology to access this data, or addressed the privacy issues involved.
The other less-than-minor issue is that GPS reception does not work inside buildings. So large buildings would need internal repeaters.
Stuart Wilson expects it might be several years before the technology is available in New Zealand, during which time Google may well steal a march using a combination of Google Maps and their Latitude location tracking service (an existing opt-in service that tracks the user’s location using an application downloaded to his or her phone and displayed to those authorised on Google Maps).
Phones such as the iPhone also allow users to install applications which can enhance their functionality (such as mpass) and improve the advertiser-customer interaction.
Another interesting development is QR codes – rectangular graphics that contain information much like a barcode (but can contain a lot more). These can be put in ads or on packaging. A user who has downloaded QR software to their phone (text QR to 710 to get a link to download a QR reader) can then use the phone’s camera to scan the QR code which displays the information in the phone. Often this will, in turn, be a link to a mobile website, but could also be text (up to 7089 characters). The QR code provides a quick and easy way to get information from the printed page, packaging or even a computer screen into a phone.
For all ages
One common misconception is that mobile marketing is only suitable for connecting with the younger demographic. But most business people are now avid (or at least capable) ‘texters’. The teenagers who were in on the original text craze are now well into their 20s and 30s, whilst many grandparents use texting to keep in contact with grandchildren.
TXT2GET ran a campaign for Spicers for a PIE investment product, definitely aimed at a more mature market, and offering response via 0800, web and text. Text got three times the responses of the 0800 number and twice that of the web, making up over half the total responses.
The choice for marketers is mind boggling and the fish hooks are many. All of the practitioners we spoke to recommend getting professional advice to ensure you steer a safe course through the potential rocks. Whilst many traditional agencies offer services in the ‘mobile sphere’ they are often not specialists in this area (although some partner with specialist companies).
The advice is to start at the simpler end of the spectrum, probably with a pull style text campaign to get to grips with the medium and only then look to branch out to the more exotic options – which will cost more and have a much more limited market as less phones will be accessible.
Above all, make sure your campaign is appropriate to the market and that you take due care of privacy issues and don’t overdo it – sending too many messages is a sure way to increase the opt-out rate.
“There is no point just using mobile just for the sake of it or because you “think” you should, says Todd Wackrow. “It needs to be based on a real consumer pain point that mobile can help solve.”













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