Mobile marketing isn’t optional any more…

This is an outstanding article about where eCommerce is headed and how the web is converging from desktop to mobile phone… Oh the possiblities…

By Mitch Joel, Vancouver Sun January 16, 2009

A long while back, I made a decision to make the switch from marketing on the Internet to the amazing and unchartered world of mobile. Slowly, the adoption of people using their phones on the go was becoming more commonplace. The devices no longer looked like someone was screaming into a cream-coloured brick, and the idea of sending short text messages via these devices was taking off with a new wave of communications in places like Japan and Korea. It was starting to no longer be frowned upon or considered rude when a telephone was ringing during a romantic dinner at a restaurant. Can you remember the good ole’ days when someone was considered a crazy person if they were seen talking to themselves in a car?

Now, our entire society is mobile. If these devices could be subdermally implanted, I’m sure we all know a couple of people who would be first in line for the procedure (can you see my arm being raised?). We once marveled at Star Trek’s James Kirk as he would flip his communicator open and be able to talk to his crew from anywhere in the universe without a long cord connecting the two. Even mobile flip phones seem passe these days.

But what does all of this mobility and connectivity mean to business? Some of the bigger hurdles to being mobile have been overcome (for a long while you could only use SMS text messaging with people who were on the same wireless carrier as you were, now SMS is interoperable between all carriers), some of the bigger hurdles are still ahead (most devices have different size screens, the carriers all use different kinds of back-end technologies, and the overall speed of delivering mobile content is still not that great in North America). Most businesses weigh the adoption rate (how many people in the general mass population are really using these devices and applications) and then figure out if the market is there for them to pursue. For most, they think it’s not, and this should be of grave concern.

Here’s a common scenario: You’re out for dinner with a friend and decide to check out what movies are playing. With a quick flick of some buttons on your mobile, you can not only find out what movies are playing, but how close and soon the next showing is. Beyond that, if you move into the realm of smartphones (Apple’s iPhone, a BlackBerry or similar devices), you can now see movie trailers and robust reviews. Let’s say that you have a couple of hours to kill before catching the flick, and you want to know what time Indigo closes, and if any cool new books have come out this week, you should be able to do a quick search and have that information at your fingertips as well.

But most companies don’t have a mobile version of their website. Do you?

Having a simple and easy-to-navigate mini-version of your website for the mobile platform is not going to be an option anymore. It is (and should be) as basic as having a website. Everyday, more and more people are using their mobile devices (not their desktop or laptop computers) to find out information about your brands, products and services. It’s also going well beyond the basics of who, what, when, where and why of information. At the end of 2008, Sears launched a mobile e-commerce platform in the U.S. titled, Sears2Go. In a news item that appeared in BtoB Online titled, Sears explores the mobile commerce frontier with its new Sears2go site. Ravi Acharya, director of e-commerce at Sears Holdings, explained the rationale:

“It’s a lot of the same customers who do research online and then go into a store to buy. We see people looking through catalogs, and then they call the call centre to purchase or go online … or into a store. Adding mobile as another convenient channel is a good fit for us.”

The usability and functionality is still primitive due to the limitations of the mobile device, but Sears2Go allows consumers to research and buy stuff like electronics, jewelry, tools, toys and more. You can even buy it from your mobile device and pick up the merchandise at the store.

The truth is, Sears does not have a choice. Amazon.com created an amazing application for the iPhone where you can take a picture of anything you see in a store, and it will recognize what the picture is and return to you a set of search results for where you can get that exact same product cheapest. You can also scan reviews and, if Amazon sells the product, you can buy it right from your iPhone. This is not something that’s coming in the future — this is an application you can download right now, for free … and it works.

Combine with this the built-in GPS capabilities of your mobile device, and the possibilities become endless. Urbanspoon — another iPhone or iPod Touch Application — figures out where you are and will recommend a restaurant to you based on types of food, neighbourhood and price. Shake the device and the interface spins like a slot machine, delivering a slew of creative results. As if that were not enough, you can read reviews, it links to Google Maps to give you exact directions, and you can even make reservations.

The obvious question is: Why did I make the switch back from mobile marketing to the Web in terms of my own professional career? I didn’t. Those two worlds are now intrinsically connected. While we may not have full convergence between mobile and Web platforms, we are getting ever-closer by the day. Anyone trying to understand the Web and what it means to their business needs to also understand the implications of a world where we are accessing information, buying stuff, and doing anything and everything we’re doing online on our mobile devices too.

This is not about marketers blasting your mobile devices with offers when you are in a particular hot spot, or about inundating your mobile browsing experience with banners ads and contests. This is about creating more value and chances to connect and stay connected with brands that consumers are actively engaged with. The bigger question is this: How connected is your brand?

Mitch Joel is president of digital marketing and communications agency, Twist Image. He was recently named Canada’s “most influential male in social media.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.