This past week, India experienced one of the worst terrorist attacks in its history. (WSJ has a full recap of the terrorist attacks) As a member of the mobile industry, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by an aspect of the story: the prominence that mobile played as the story unfolded.
It has been widely reported that the terrorists themselves used Blackberry’s to both communicate with each other, as well as monitor world reaction to their attack while also obtaining clues as to the activities of the Indian Commando response teams. This small, portable and contained window to the world provided all the information and access that 5 years ago would have required a laptop, at the very least.
The flip side to the story are the incredible stories of survivors who kept in touch with family and authorities. From the Australian business woman who used her cell phone to communicate, in silence, with her daughter as the terrorists roamed the hallway outside of her room to the Chicago couple who spoke with a CNN reporter by text, and eventually orchestrated their rescue by the Indian Army by text.
As telephone lines, basic utilities and television signals were cut off or destroyed the one common infrastructure element that both sides relied on was their mobile phones. We’ve long known that mobile penetration was growing, but the interesting point in the story was the use of data services (text messaging and mobile internet).
Unfortunately, this incident is a turning point in our history, and in some ways not a positive one. In closing, it may be important to think, in the event of a crisis, (hopefully not a terrorist crisis), would your customers have the ability to get the information they need from your company on their phones?
Saying it had the right to block “controversial or unsavory” text messages, Verizon Wireless last week rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon’s mobile network available for a text-message program.
But the company reversed course this morning, saying it had made a mistake.
“The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident,” Jeffrey Nelson, a company spokesman, said in a statement.
“It was an incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy,” Mr. Nelson said. “That policy, developed before text messaging protections such as spam filters adequately protected customers from unwanted messages, was designed to ward against communications such as anonymous hate messaging and adult materials sent to children.”
The other leading wireless carriers had accepted the Naral program, but legal experts said private companies like Verizon probably have the legal right to decide which messages to carry. The laws that forbid common carriers from interfering with voice transmissions on ordinary phone lines do not apply to text messages.
“This is right at the heart of the problem,” said Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at the law school, referring to the treatment of text messages. “The fact that wireless companies can choose to discriminate is very troubling.”
Nancy Keenan, Naral’s president, said Verizon’s initial decision interfered with political speech and activism.
“No company should be allowed to censor the message we want to send to people who have asked us to send it to them,” Ms. Keenan said. “Regardless of people’s political views, Verizon customers should decide what action to take on their phones. Why does Verizon get to make that choice for them?”
Text messaging programs based on five- and six-digit short codes are a popular way to receive updates on news, sports, weather and entertainment. Several of the leading Democratic presidential candidates have used them, as have the Republican National Committee, Save Darfur and Amnesty International.
Texting has proved to be an extraordinarily effective political tool. According to a study released this month by researchers at Princeton and the University of Michigan, young people who received text messages reminding them to vote in November 2006 were more likely to go to the polls. 59% said that the text reminder was beneficial and voter turnout increased by 4% within the test group. The cost per vote generated, the study said, was much smaller than other sorts of get-out-the-vote efforts.
Texting has become one of the easiest and most cost effective ways of reaching large groups of people while simultaneously being able to track the success of individual campaigns. The popularity of SMS has caused even the biggest carriers to limit their interference when it comes to content, and if the current trends continue, that interference will soon disappear. The cost per consumer has become significantly less than traditional marketing methods, and the use of trackable codes has resulted in a level of transparency and accountability that wasn’t possible before. Thus, a well-planned mobile marketing campaign is one of the most efficient and least risky strategies currently available to companies both large and small.
(LAS VEGAS) — Cellit announced today the launch of their stand-alone coupon redemption Widgit® at the In-Store Marketing Institute Expo. This new Widgit enables retailers and QSR brands the ability to redeem and track mobile coupons in real-time directly through their Windows-based point of sale system, without costly integration.
“We have had significant interest in a way to quickly track coupons delivered to the mobile phone,” said David Wachs, President of Cellit. “While we have been delivering mobile coupons for years now, our new Widgit enables a higher level of integration with our clients, virtually eliminating the need for them to change their business processes to accept mobile coupons. The Widgit provides the flexibility to work on multiple POS systems without any significant technical installation and can be set up within minutes on most systems.”
The system is already in use across several Cellit clients, ranging from lodging and casino installations, to franchised food outlets. Running in the background behind the POS system, the Widgit can be quickly activated to enter redemption codes before or during the customer checkout process. The Widgit is tied into Cellit’s real-time database to ensure accurate reporting and redemption information.
“It’s another way that we are trying to create powerful, yet simple-to-use solutions to meet the precise needs of our clients,” Wachs said. “We are thrilled by the immediate interest in the system from our existing client base and are proud to unveil the system to the public at the In-Store Marketing Expo.”
The Widgit complements the Cellit Studio platform, a web-based system for managing mobile marketing campaigns and CRM initiatives. Through Cellit Studio, Cellit clients can create and deploy campaigns ranging from text-to-vote and text-to-win to alerts and surveys. 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.
“Cellit Studio was designed from the start to provide uniquely track-able coupon codes within each offer”, continued Wachs. “Now, the store clerk no longer has to log on to the Cellit Studio web site to redeem the coupons and ensure their validity. The user simply presses a hotkey from within their POS and the Widgit appears. It is a simple solution to the complex problem of mobile coupon redemptions.”
The Widgit can be installed within a few minutes on any point of sale system connected to the internet, running Windows 95 or above. For clients requiring a higher level of integration with their POS and business processes, Cellit also offers a complete programming API.
The In-Store Marketing Expo is being held at the Las Vegas Convention Center November 12-14th, 2008, where Cellit is an exhibitor at Booth #484.
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.
Although most in the wireless industry thought it was inevitable, it is still significant that, according to new data from NPD Group, the iPhone has already become the top-selling handset in the United States. This achievement is all the more remarkable when you consider that Motorola’s Razr, the handset that the iPhone displaced at the top in the third quarter of 2008, has held the top spot for 3 years straight.
NPD analyst Ross Rubin called the ascension of the iPhone over the Razr “a watershed shift.”
While the mobile internet had been a feature that most consumers could live without until recently, it has clearly become such an essential tool for mobile subscribers, along with text messaging and other advanced data features, that even phones as expensive as the iPhone are selling in record numbers.
“Four of the five best-selling handsets in the third quarter were optimized for messaging and other advanced Internet features,” said Rubin.
The analyst said he discerned a growing divide in the handset market between voice-centric phones and those optimized for data and Internet usage. Fully 30% sought a device with a QWERTY keypad, up from 11% in the prior year. U.S. carriers combined now offer 50 models of smartphones, while in Europe that number is nearly 250 models.
Cellit is heeding the call for robust mobile campaigns which incorporate consumer’s new thirst for more interactive mobile experiences. While text-messaging remains the backbone of Cellit’s suite of services, new features, such as WAP sites and custom iPhone apps have been added to their repertoire to engage the consumer in ways that simply weren’t possible until smartphones and other data-enabled devices appeared.