The forces shaping mobile phones as new direct marketing tools?

The invisible hand is working, Adam Smith would be proud. 

Industry forces, much larger than any one company or group, are silently but diligently shaping the mobile marketing landscape. The practice of conducting marketing through the mobile channel is maturing quickly and there are a number of drivers behind this.

  • Mobile phone and feature adoption, First and foremost is the global adoption of the mobile phone and the pace at which it is being adopted.  There are 3 billion mobile subscribers around the world today and it is estimated that there will be 4.5 billion by 2011.  The pace at which we reached this level of adoption is staggering.  It took 20 years to reach the 1st billion; 4 years to reach the 2nd; and one1 year to reach the 3rd and we’re on pace to reach the 4th billion even faster than the 3rd (Becker & Hanley, DMA 2008).  Moreover, consumers are adopting the features of the phone as well, nearly 60%~90% of consumers text now, 20% overall use the mobile Internet while 85% of iPhone users do so, etc (M:Metrics 2008).  Now that consumers have adopted the phone and are learning to use the features, marketers are able to take advantage of this, as are consumers since they gain value as well, to engage in bidirectional, value generating, communication and exchange with their audience.
  • Advancements in technology, phones and networks are getting exceedingly more capable and with these advancements come new opportunities and modes of interaction.   Key technical drivers that have significantly advanced the industry in the last few years including interoperable text messaging across carrier networks, new and consistent mobile Internet protocols, premium billing, cross-carrier short codes (see Understanding the Common Short code for more information on this), data feed technologies (RSS, XML, etc.) and others have made it possible for mobile marketing to even happen.
  • Standards, industry standards, both commercial and technical, have been established and are generally accepted by the global industry; for instance, the requiring of prior consumer consent before a marketer can engage in direct “push” mobile marketing was a HUGE step forward for the industry.  These standards are continually refined by players throughout the industry, like trade associations and government bodies.  The Mobile Marketing Association, for instance, publishes its Consumer Best Practices Guidelines every January and June, along with a myriad of other codes of conduct, practices, guidelines, and tutorials.
  • Success, the practice of mobile marketing, globally, has been in existence now for about 11 years (for only about 4 in the U.S.) and in this time we’ve developed a reservoir of successful, failed, and undetermined mobile marketing cases studies that illuminate key learnings and best practices on what works and does not work given today’s drivers
  • The dispersal of the connected consumer and the paucity of consumer attention, traditional channels are becoming less effective for mass-market consumer reach and consumers are becoming more demanding for personal attention. Moreover, they are connected, online, and mobile.  Consumers have choice, this choice gives them power, and they know it.  Today’s tools give the consumer the ability to wield this power.  Finally, there is a dearth of consumer attention. Consumers are bombarded with messages, most of which are being tuned out.  If a marketer is successful in obtaining consumer consent to allow the marketer to engage the consumer on his/her mobile phone then the attention issue is, almost, eliminated. The mobile phone/channel, is a very personal, interactive, and intimate means of engagement where both the consumer and the brand can reap significant value.
  • Settling of the spheres of the ecosystem, the tectonic plates of the mobile marketing ecosystem (Products & Services, Media & Retail, Connection, and Applications) have settled and this settle has been a boon for the growth of the industry. There is still a significant about of movement and uncertainly within and between each individual sphere, but the overall shape of the industry has been formed.  A

As the above force continuing to push and pull against each other, and as new ones emerge and old ones recede, the tinsel strength of the industry (much like steel) will harden. And, like the samurai sword, if we use the hard outside shell of the industry to protect the soft inside, more flexible, center (i.e. the entrepreneurs and innovators), I foresee we’ll see even greater rewards and value being generated in the not too distant future and in the years to come than what we’ve seen thus far.

Title Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

Managing Partner at Identity Praxis, Inc. | Website | + posts

Michael Becker is an intentionally recognized identity & personal information management solutions strategic advisor, speaker, entrepreneur, and academic. He advises companies on personal information economy business strategy, product development, business development, and sales & marketing strategies. He also represents them at leading trade groups, including the Mobile Ecosystem Forum. Michael is an advisor to Assurant, Predii, Privowny, and Phoji. He is the co-author of Mobile Marketing for Dummies and a number of other books and articles related to mobile marketing, identity, and personal information management. He is on the faculty of marketing of the Association of National Advertisers and National University. A serial entrepreneur, Michael founded Identity Praxis, co-founded mCordis and The Connected Marketer Institute, was a founding member of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), and was on the MMA board of directors for ten years and was MMA’s North American Managing Director for three years. In 2004, Michael co-founded iLoop Mobile, a leading messaging solutions provider. In 2014, Michael was awarded the 2014 Marketing EDGE Edward Mayer Education Leadership Award for his commitment to marketing education.