Research in Motion, maker of the Blackberry series of phones, announced the creation of the Blackberry App World, a mobile application which allows Blackberry users to easily download special applications and software for their devices. This is only the latest entry into a growing list of companies trying to provide venues for both paid and free applications for mobile phones.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal had a great article about whether small businesses should invest in a mobile website (see article). In it, the author, Roger Cheng, suggested that the business pay attention to their customers – and if the customer experience could be improved by doing so, to go ahead and consider it. In much the same way, I would encourage small businesses to also think about mobile phone applications.
Ask yourself: Will my target consumer have reason to interact with me while they are on the go? I’m online all day at work, and have access at home – so it’s not often that I want to conduct research or order products via my phone. Rather, it’s when I’m in transit, or stuck on the train – or, as happens often, waiting for a meeting to begin, that I find myself playing on the phone. During those juncture moments, are your target customers going to want to interact with your business? Facebook, Twitter, AIM (all social networking companies) are perfect examples of great mobile applications that target activities I’m most prone to want to conduct in those brief down moments on the go.
Ask yourself: What information can I provide them quickly and easily that would be beneficial on a phone? Addresses, hours, directions and some other ‘critical’ information usually provides me with enough detail to get through 90% of my needs for most businesses. However, special circumstances do indeed warrant more in-depth information. When purchasing /renting a home, attempting to make dinner reservations, or finding out bar specials and entertainment offerings – obtaining more information while on the go becomes a defacto must have. For Rent Magazine has identified that their users need apartment information and specs on their mobile devices; MGM Grand realized that their consumers (travelers) wanted to interact with their entertainment, dining and other services while on location (and thus, not near a computer) at their facility.
As Cheng points out, the answers to your consumers questions will define your need to invest in either a mobile WAP site or a mobile application. There are additional considerations to think through, as the multitude of mobile platforms makes designing an application for all phones extremely expensive. However, if you again apply consumer logic to the decision process – it’ll guide you to the right mix of features, functionality, and platform.
A CTIA panel recently proclaimed that per message fees are killing the mobile marketing industry. David Oberholzer is the Vice President of Limbo, the largest non-premium mobile entertainment community. In an article for Mobile Marketer on April 1, 2009, he proclaimed that’s for advertising-supported SMS, the net revenue per message is $0.004, and it’s unrealistic to think the CPMs we’ll be able to charge will go up dramatically, so it’s unrealistic for carriers trying to impose these types of per-message fees. While ad supported mobile marketing may be an effective on some level,Â I think it misses the real point and benefit: the personal and targeted messaging that happens directly between client and consumer.
Oberholzer refers to the idea of reaching a mass, general audience with a message on behalf of a paying advertiser. The model is popular with radio station, newspaper and broadcast television groups, as well as consumer focused media websites. They aggregate a large audience into their mobile club, and then insert advertiser messages into their content.Â Sports scores, weather alerts, traffic updates and the like are examples of content typically provided. Typically these advertiser messages are limited to 15-20 characters at the tail end of the provided content. I’m not an advertiser, but it’s not surprising to me that a generic audience would only command net revenue of tenths of a penny.
However, Oberholzer and the like apply a traditional media mentality to a very personal form of media. SMS is’t designed to reach large general audiences in the same way television, newspaper or radio would. Advertisers would need to purchase or build a television station/radio station/newspaper in every market of the country in order to have a personal relationship with the audience. It made economic sense for a media company to make that infrastructure investment, as well as investment in content, aggregate an audience and then broker out slices of that audience to paying advertisers. Broadcast television and radio still work exceptionally well at reaching large swaths of people and getting the message out regarding a new product or service.
Contrary to those traditional media forms, no such infrastructure investment is needed to begin communicating via SMS, and Brand X will own that consumer relationship in perpetuity. SMS is exceptional at directly connecting advertisers to consumers. It’s a two way communication in which consumers can request and receive information, receive coupons, and participate in promotions and contests. That communication is instantaneous, and reaches end users wherever they are (on the train, at home or at work).
Why, I ask, would advertisers want to allow a third party to filter their messages when they can talk directly to the consumer? Sure, a media campaign must be launched to create awareness and drive membership to the mobile club and I’ll add, that media spend is best played out in those traditional media outlets we spoke of before.
Marketers regularly spend significantly to produce a direct-mail piece. They pay list providers several dollars each for a “hot lead”. One only look at the Google Adwords model to understand what a interaction with a potential client is worth. Why would several cents per message, with no real production costs, even be a cause for pause?
Per message fees, when viewed in the context of general, mass market advertising is probably a negative ROI for most advertisers. However, when you look at the personal interactions developed by direct advertiser-end user communications, the ROI is well in the positive category.
As I look at our customers business, one common phrase underlines each of our clients campaigns: stndrd txt msg rates aply (which translates in English to ‘standard text message rates apply’). Many end users confuse this to mean that Cellit, or the message sender, will impose some fee for receiving the marketing messages that are being sent out – a subscription fee, if you will. Rather, it refers to the various fees carriers charge each of their mobile customers for sending and receiving text messages (regardless of who they come from). Since I have a comprehensive plan (including all data, SMS and cell phone calls) – I rarely think about how many text messages I send or receive. However, many end users have limited SMS plans or pay on a per-text basis.
I recognize that a limited plan, or a per-text plan, would significantly alter my behavior patterns and does alter the behavior patterns of those end users I speak of. I would be more selective about which mobile clubs I subscribed to and how often they communicated with me, reserving the bulk of my available text messages for those critical 156 character blurbs of wisdom from friends and family.
There are two ways to solve this problem. First, encourage the carriers to include unlimited text messaging as a standard feature on all of their cell phone plans, or second – a concept called FTEU. Free to the End User (FTEU) refers to the sending company bearing the full cost of any associated fees. FTEU is a common practice in the European Union, as their revenue model has always relied on the sender (whether an individual or company) to bear the cost of the message. However, in the US, the sender and the receiver jointly bear that cost – which makes for some tricky accounting on the part of the carriers, and thus – delayed adoption of FTEU.
Market forces will eventually force carriers to bundle unlimited text messaging into all of their service offerings in much the same way we’ve seen data limits on internet access disappear from the landscape (remember those great AOL CD’s that offered 160mb of free data downloads for only $19.95/month!). I’m not worried about that, as I can’t control the speed at which the market adopts this mentality.
However, I’ve begun to engage the carriers on the issue of making FTEU easier for individual companies to implement. This I can impact. Imagine how many more end users would engage our mobile marketing messages and subscribe to our clubs if they knew that 100% of the cost was being born by someone other than themselves? While we wait for unlimited text messaging to become universal, FTEU offers a solution wherein marketers can benefit from the end result in the here and now. Sure – there’s cost associated with it, but I think it is great business practice, and eliminates one potential barrier for consumers to opt-in to your marketing messages.
(CHICAGO) — Cellit announced today an agreement to provide mobile marketing for Space Center Houston, the official visitors center for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Mobile marketing refers to marketing conducted via a mobile phone, and can include text-for-information, mobile coupons, mobile contesting, mobile WAP sites, downloadable ringtones and wallpapers.
“This is a great example of how Cellit is able to partner with clients to use mobile technology in a fun environment,” stated Jarrett Klein, Vice President of Sales – Western Region. “Space Center Houston chronicles how NASA has been the worldwide emblem of America’s pursuit of scientific exploration for decades, and we’re pleased that Space Center Houston has chosen Cellit to help them push their mobile marketing and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) activities in a similar fashion.”
The Cellit Studio platform allows Space Center Houston to send special offers and discounts to visitors and mobile club members that include a unique redemption code, which is then verified and checked in real time using the Cellit Redemption Widgit. The Redemption Widgit operates in tandem with any Windows based Point-of-Sale system, and installs easily on both keyboard and touchscreen systems. Cellit Studio’s mobile couponing engine provides a robust system for delivering unique coupon codes to each customer, enabling completely track-able offers and a high level of offer targeting.
“The Space Center Houston has started offering a 50% off admission special to drive visitor traffic during the all important Spring Break season,” remarked Kathryne Courville, New Media Specialist with Space Center Houston. “We’re excited that we can communicate with our constituents in a new way, and immediately see and track results from our efforts. Text SPACE to 30364 to receive our current and future offers!”
The Redemption Widgit was installed on the Space Center Houston’s Windows based POS system within a few minutes. For clients requiring a higher level of integration with their POS and business processes, Cellit also offers a complete programming API.
Green Global Messaging served as a consultant to Space Center Houston on the project, and was instrumental in the implementation of this campaign. Green Global specializes in providing effective marketing solutions that have a zero carbon footprint, most notably in the permission based email marketing and SMS arena.
About Cellit, LLC
Headquartered in Chicago, Cellit was founded on the premise that mobile technology can be accessible to all by combining engineering expertise with world-class customer service and marketing support. Cellit develops innovative and cost-effective self-service solutions for mobile marketing, as well as custom mobile solutions for some of the world’s largest brands. With clients including Hearst Corp., HSBC, and GPS Insight, Cellit has a reputation for delivering groundbreaking custom mobile applications in record time.