Friday, August 23, 2013

The Rise of the Mobile Wallet

Mobile wallets are the next step in the evolution of commerce.  Society continues to benefit from the efficiencies gained from each incremental step.



In The Beginning
In the beginning, commerce was conducted on a barter system in which two parties traded goods and services with each other.  While it worked well for a long time, the problem with barter is that - well frankly - it's very inefficient.
The problem is that if I have a need for a product or a service, I have to expend a lot of time and effort trying to find not only someone who produces what I want, but also someone who is willing to trade with me for what I have.

Currency:  The First Evolutionary Step
A couple of thousand years ago, the first evolutionary step in commerce came about with the usage of common currency.
Currency made commerce transferable.  With currency, commerce became a lot easier and a lot more efficient.

But the only drawback of currency is that it is a tangible item that must literally pass from hand to hand.  Therefore, commerce between individuals has an inherent physical restriction.

Credit Cards: The Second Evolutionary Step
The invention of the credit card in the 1950's was the next evolutionary step in commerce.

Credit cards made commerce transportable.  Credit cards also laid the foundation for e-commerce, a revolution begun in the late 1990's and gave rise to an entire new way of buying and selling.  Thanks to credit cards, two individuals can transact business even though each can be on opposite sides of the earth.

Digital Wallets:  The Third Evolution Step
The third evolutionary step in commerce is the digital wallet whose birth was legitimized in September 1999 when the U.S. Patent Office awarded Amazon.com Patent No. 5,960,411 "A Method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network."  The rest of us refer to this patent as the "One-Click" patent.

The digital wallet makes commerce transparent.  By storing your credit card in Amazon's digital wallet, you no longer had to think about commerce at all.  With a single click of a button, ownership became instant.

The first true digital wallet came about circa 2000.

I'm old enough to remember when PayPal first burst into the scene.  I was working at a DotCom startup (who wasn't back in those days?) and we were all scratching our heads asking, "who is this PayPal?  Is it for real?"

Thirteen years later, it's interesting to see three things that PayPal did to revolutionize commerce:
  1. They eliminated risk of online shopping.  Back then, people were hesitant to enter their credit card information on line (I know -- right?).
  2. They enabled online shopping for people who didn't own credit cards by funding PayPal accounts directly from checking or savings accounts.
  3. They truly made commerce transparent.  If you had logged into PayPal at least once and you hadn't cleared your browser cookies, then anytime you clicked on the "pay with PayPal" link on an e-commerce site, the payment was immediate.  You didn't have to think any more about it.
The Mobile Wallet:  Sibling of the Digital Wallet
 Interest in mobile wallets is today's Hot Topic.  Everywhere you look, there's yet another initiative, yet another consortium working on developing the next Big Thing for mobile wallets.

When smartphones were being developed, forward-thinking people were looking at mobile wallets as the next revolutionary step beyond the credit card.

But, there is a problem.  You can't slide a mobile device through a slot like you can a credit card.  So these forward-thinking people started looking at a new type of wireless communication that was emerging at the time.  After all -- a cellphone is nothing more than a radio transmitter AND a radio receiver.
Near-Field Communication (NFC) allows data transfer between a transmitter and a receiver simply by touching the two devices.  NFC is the technology that was considered early on for mobile wallets.  The idea is that your smartphone has a mobile app which is your mobile wallet.  The mobile app communicates with a microchip on your NFC-enabled smartphone and the microchip manages the communication with an NFC-enabled point of sale system.  The data that gets transferred between the two devices is the same data that is normally transferred when swiping the magnetic strip of your credit card.

But there's a conundrum.
As a consumer, why bother with paying by way of NFC when there aren't that many NFC-enabled point of sale systems or NFC-enabled smartphones.

As a merchant, why bother spending all that time and money upgrading to an NFC-enabled point of sale system if there aren't that many people paying by way of NFC?

As a smartphone manufacturer, why bother spending all that time and money development and marketing an NFC-enabled device when there aren't that many NFC-enabled point of sale systems nor people willing to pay by NFC?

This problem is the main reason why digital wallets and their mobile siblings haven't really taken off for in store purchases.

Nevertheless, digital wallets are doing quite well, thank-you-very-much, online -- where it all began.

Do you like the first 30 seconds of a tune you're listening to? Touch a button and it's yours.  Do you want to read a book now?  Touch a button and you're flipping pages within seconds.  Are you in the middle of a MMO game and you need to upgrade your weaponry pronto?  Touch a button and you are instantly ready to rumble.

The key takeaway from my blog post today is an admonition to online merchants all across the globe:  the traditional online payment paradigm is actually costing you money in lost opportunity and sales.

Traditional payment methods haven't evolved much in the past 15 years since the early days when people accessed the web from their desktop computers.  Today's online payment paradigm hinders commerce via mobile devices.  As more and more people are shifting their behavior to accessing the web via their mobile devices more and more of the time, it's time to remove as many barriers to commerce as possible.

Digital wallets make commerce transparent.  Digital wallets make ownership instantaneous.  Adopt digital wallets as payment options on your e-commerce sites. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mobile Commerce is Growing: Are You Ready?

Just got back from Internet Retailer's Mobile Marketing and Commerce Forum in San Diego.  Kudos to the program team for putting together an agenda that included all the hot topics and buzzwords in mobile marketing including: Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Web, M-Commerce and T-Commerce, Showrooming, Responsive Design, HTML5, 2D Codes, Augmented Reality, and Apple's new Passbook app.

Here are my ten takeaways from what I learned:
  • Ad spending in the mobile channel is only 2% of total.  But  20% of holiday e-commerce sales are expected to be done via mobile devices.  There is huge room for improvement in mobile advertising.
  • More proof that retailers need to focus their attention on the mobile shopping experience:  the click-through-rate on mobile devices is 2X-5X higher than from desktop computers, but the conversion rate is 3x-4x lower. 
  • More indicators that shopping is going mobile:  Purchases from tablets are up 200% and purchases from smartphones are up 100% from previous year.  At the same time, purchases from desktops are down 20%.
  • 78% of smartphone owners use their devices during in-store purchases.  But most consumers don't "showroom" as their main shopping behavior.  They only do it when the in-store experience fails them.
  • 75% of first items scanned on a smartphone in-store are purchased in the same store.  Is showrooming really a problem, or it is just an urban myth?
  • Mobile apps vs. Mobile Web?  The answer is "both" not "either-or."  With space on smartphones at a premium, mobile apps are for loyal customers.  Mobile web is great for acquiring new customers.
  • A seamless and easy mobile payment experience will make or break a mobile shopping app.  Easy checkout can give 30% lift to sales made from mobile devices.
  • Augmented Reality isn't just for walking down the street and seeing where all your Facebook peeps are within eyesight.  It also provides an effective in-home shopping experience for the right products.  Some retailers are experimenting with this technology to showcase their catalog of curtains, window blinds, artwork, and furniture as they would virtually appear within the shopper's own home.
  • HTML5 and Pinterest-esque layouts are two factors that will be driving the next generation of web sites.  "Design first for the tablet - then for everything else" was one common theme.
  • Consumers aren't shy about buying from mobile devices.  Case in point: $1095 Lasik Surgery package purchased on Groupon from a mobile device.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Web - Why Not Both

Mobile Apps versus Mobile Web: which provides the better consumer experience?

Mobile Apps provide a much richer user experience, allowing the app publishers to leverage many capabilities of the mobile operating system including geo-positioning, direct in-app commerce, gyroscopic sensors, the camera, and much more.

Mobile Web provides a much richer degree of ubiquity and it's a heck of a lot cheaper. Back in the late '90s, web browsers introduced a new paradigm shift in application development in which browser-based SaaS became a better model over the native Mac vs. Windows vs. UNIX vs. SunOS challenge existing at that time. Thanks to the mobile web and upcoming HTML5, the similar challenge of native iOS vs. Android vs. RIM vs. Windows goes by the wayside.

A recent study from Nielsen indicates that retail web sites are more popular than retail apps by approximately 2 to 1, and that Amazon.com is THE most popular web site of all. 

By why does it have to be an either/or proposition? Why can't the mobile web and mobile apps coexist in a complimentary manner?

This is the very conclusion that panelists of a recent webinar co-sponsored by Mobile Marketer and Fiksu. Brands represented included JetBlue Airways, Staples, Fiksu, and ESPN.

So just how do the mobile web and mobile apps play together? Here are some tips that the panelists presented:

Advantage Mobile Web:
Here are three cases where mobile web is your better option:
  • Content that needs to be fresh and up to date - It's easier to update a web site than it is to update an app and to expect users to constantly re-install the latest version
  • Need to be easily discovered - Thanks to Google and Bing, people are going to find your mobile web app a lot easier and quicker than they are searching through the various app stores.
  • Cost and Time to market are top concerns - Developing a mobile is very expen$$$$ive. If you're developing for iOS, be ready for the headache of getting your app approved through Apple's (seemingly capricious) approval process. Developing for Android? Then expect to spent a significantly more amount of time testing for all the flavors of Android. Developing for Windows? Why in the world are you doing that? ;-)

Advantage Mobile Apps:
Here are three cases where a mobile app is your better option:
  • The Customer Is Always Right -  Let's face it. Consumers today almost expect their favorite brands to have a presence in the app stores.
  • Establish Long-Term Loyalty - Mobile apps are a thumb-touch away. If you have a compelling app, your customer are very likely to continue interacting with your brand over the long term.
  • Nothing beats a native app - Many brands have successfully duplicated their customer experience between the mobile web and the mobile app (e.g. Redbox, Amazon.com) for reasons stated at the beginning of this blog post. Nevertheless, there are other brands that are driving for a deeper, richer user experience that only a native app can provide.

So how do both mobile web and mobile app compliment each other?

For one thing, use the mobile web to promote the mobile app. As mentioned before, don't just rely on app store searches for your app to be discovered. Search algorithms on the web are light years ahead of those used in app stores

Your brand strategy probably isn't a one-sized fits all approach either. Use the mobile web when you want to offer breadth of content to your customers - especially when it needs to be constantly fresh. Then, use the mobile app to take your customers to a more focused and deeper experience.

How are you using the mobile web and mobile apps to compliment each other? Post your replies to this blog post.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mobile Loyalty Programs

Will mobile devices become the digital wallet of choice? Their always-with-me reality opens the door for this possibility for many consumers. Google, PayPal, American Express, MasterCard and many many others are pouring lots and lots of money into R&D for mobile payments.

But take a look at what's in your wallet. There's more in there than just money and credit cards, right?

Let's take loyalty cards for example. I've actually got quite a few loyalty cards and fobs in my own wallet from my local coffee shop (No, it's not Starbuck's), my local location of a national grocery store chain, and my favorite Lao-Thai restaurant.



New companies like Key Ring Technologies and CardStar are jumping in with services that let you store all your paper and plastic loyalty cards all within their branded mobile apps. You can also sign up for additional loyalty programs with brands they've partnered with - all directly from within their mobile apps.

I like the idea of consolidating all my paper and plastic loyalty cards onto my smartphone. This concept is truly bringing my smartphone one step closer to becoming my digital wallet.

But I must confess that there is one thing that bothers me about Key Ring's, CardStar's, and other similar companies' approaches. These all follow the Groupon and Living Social business model by acting as merchant aggregators. Being a marketer myself, I don't like the idea of Key Ring or CardStar or anyone else owning the relationship between me and my customer. I want to own the relationship top to bottom. Hey - Apple doesn't have a problem with this approach and neither do I.

That's why I personally am leaning more towards offerings from Punchd and In2Loyalty. Both of these companies position their products directly to the merchants - not to the consumers. This means that by using Punchd or In2Loyalty, I'm the one offering the mobile loyalty program and I get to totally own the branding and the relationship with my customers.

Both provide a self-service SaaS web application that lets merchants create and manage their mobile loyalty programs so I get direct control over my program.

The way that Punchd works is the merchant creates his own loyalty program using their web application and prints out his 2D code on a big cardboard sign. Customers are supposed to download the Punchd-branded smartphone app which includes a 2D code reader and a listing of all the other nearby Punchd-affiliated merchants. When the customers come into the store, they use the Punchd smartphone app to scan the 2D code printed on the sign that the barista brings out from behind the counter for them to scan. Voila! Their loyalty cards are then automatically punched.


My favorite is actually Australia-based start up In2Loyalty. Like Punchd, their offering is a self-service application that merchants use to create and manage their own mobile loyalty program. The main difference with their approach is who does the 2D code scanning. In the case of Punchd, customers have to install the Punchd-branded mobile app and then scan the 2D code in order for their mobile loyalty cards to get stamped. In the case of In2Loyalty, the merchant does the scanning - an approach that I personally like better. Not everyone wants to download yet another mobile app. In contrast, people are more comfortable visiting mobile web sites.

So here's how In2Loyalty works: merchants use In2Loyalty's self-service application to create their own branded mobile mini-site complete with color scheme and logos. Here's where I upload my product offering, the locations of all my stores, a Facebook/Twitter/Google+ feed (nice touch!), and the details of my loyalty program - including customizing what the stamps on the mobile loyalty card will look like.

The entire mobile mini-site is my branded experience; there's no mention of In2Loyalty at all - with the exception of the URL of the mini-site (which probably could be completely branded if I ask them nicely enough). It's all about owning the relationship with the customer. Am I paranoid because I insist on owning the relationship with my customers? I don't think so. Again. Ask Apple. Who do they want owning the relationship with their customers: them or Best Buy? You get my drift.

As the customer, I just go to the mini-site in my mobile browser and register for the loyalty program. I can create my own login ID in the customized login screen, or I can register by linking my In2Loyalty account with my Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ identity. Once I've created my account, all I have to do is bookmark the web site. Both iOS and Android smartphones let me save website bookmarks directly to my home screen for easy reach. I don't have to install yet another smartphone app. When I go into the store, all I do is open the mobile mini-site in my mobile browser and show my personalized 2D code to the barista behind the counter.


As the merchant, I've already downloaded the In2Loyalty-branded Android app with the built-in 2D code reader. (iPhone app coming soon? Unknown as of this writing.) So all I have to do is scan the 2D codes that my customers show me on their smartphones. Voila! Their loyalty cards are then automatically punched.

For something as simple as a mobile loyalty program, I prefer the mobile web approach over the mobile app. Why? Because it's quicker and cheaper than a mobile app. I'm willing to sacrifice the richer user experience of a mobile app in favor of the simplicity of a mobile mini-site. For example, if I add a new location to my coffee shop chain, all I have to do is update the mini-site using the SaaS web application. In contrast, a mobile app requires that I update the app ($$cha-ching$$), post the update on the app store and hope that my customers download the app update.

In general, if richness of user-engagement is more important, then a mobile app is the preferred choice. If timeliness and freshness of content is more important, then the mobile web is the preferred choice. Remember: it's not an either-or decision. The mobile web and the mobile app can and should compliment each other - as in the case of In2Loyalty's offering.

All four of these companies that I mention here are doing the mobile eco-system a tremendous service by advancing the usefullness and opportunities of mobile devices for commerce. I like what all of them are doing and I do have my personal favorite. You may have your personal preference and I welcome your feedback to this blog post.

Now, if my driver's license can be stored on my smartphone then THAT'S when I seriously start thinking about my smartphone becoming my true digital wallet. But that's another story for another time ...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Where No Search Has Gone Before (Or Ever Can Go)

I've had the recent opportunity to tell the story that Mobile Email Does Matter as a guest columnist to Mobile Marketer Daily and also in an interview by Internet Retailer. I'm pleased to see that many others share my excitement regarding the unique opportunities of mobile email -- and we've only just started to tap its potential.

My only hope is that marketers don't get distracted by obsessing over how an email should look in a mobile device and actually spend their time thinking of mobile email strategy: unique experiences that take advantage of the mobile context which cannot be duplicated on the desktop.

And Speaking of Unique Experiences
I'd like to introduce you to a start up company that it's been my good pleasure to speak with their founder, Vivek Sharma. His company, MovableInk, specializes in what they call "real-time content for email." They have a number of offerings in their portfolio, and the one that I like the most - from a mobile marketer's perspective - is their real-time Local Maps.

Local Maps shows points of interest on a Google Maps mashup in real-time based on where the email recipient is at the time he opens his email. Since the map is rendered in real time, the POIs that the email recipient sees within the very same email will vary depending upon where he is at the time he opens his email.

The desktop experience of Local Maps doesn't exactly excite me especially when one's desktop connection to the Internet is managed via a proxy server as many business and as some commercial ISPs do. For example, I work in Oregon and my office connection to the Internet is managed by my employer who is in Minnesota. Therefore Amazon.com, Google, and others (including Local Maps) show me information relevant to The Land of a Thousand Lakes which is no where close to where I am.

The real Match Made in Heaven is between Local Maps and Mobile Email. Mobile HTML uses the IP address of the cell tower that is handling the communication with the mobile handset. This means that regardless of who your ISP is, you'll always get a true local map on your mobile handset when you read your email whereas you may or may not on your desktop.

To be specific, look below at two screen shots of the same email. The email is from a brand that I follow, showing the places within a few miles of me that serve a particular ... ahem ... beverage that I like (more on that later).

Here's what I see when I read my email at work:


Here's what I see when I read that same email on my mobile device:


Local Search vs. MovableInk Local Maps
So let's talk mobile email strategy now. Any brand having local outlets should consider Local Maps in their mobile email programs. Local search is one of the most widely used features on mobile handsets. MovableInk's Local Maps takes the experience to a level that local search can never go. The web search experience is restricted because it cannot provide the same personalized experience that only email can. Only Local Maps can provide personalized "insider information" on points of interest that local search has no way of knowing.

Local Maps is the perfect tool to capitalize on instant gratification which is the unique advantage of the mobile opportunity. Brands having retail outlets, restaurants, and fast food outlets are the ones that typically come to mind. Being denizens of an industrialized society, we don't plan our meals ahead of time any more. We eat when we're hungry no matter where we happen to be at the moment. Most food service brands have customer loyalty programs. Marketers should send mobile emails out sometime just before the time of day our stomachs start growling. The emails should contain loyalty reward offers that can be immediately redeemed. To top it off, the mobile email should include a Local Map that shows all the nearby places the person can go to immediately redeem his loyalty reward.

CPG Brands Can Benefit Too ...
Consumer Packaged Goods brands can benefit from Local Maps by displaying local outlets that carry a particular product. For example, I'm a fan of a particular brand of vodka (NOTE: this is *not* an endorsement for the consumption of alcoholic beverages) and I like it enough to subscribe to their email newsletters. It's a hard-to-find brand of vodka so it's important enough to me that all other things being equal, the establishments serving this brand have priority of those that don't. This is where mobile email and Local Maps are the perfect solution. Local search just doesn't work - believe me, I've tried it; neither Google, Bing, nor Yahoo! can show me which local dining establishment carries this particular brand. The mobile email from this brand should contain two keys items: a two-for-one drink offer (since martinis always seem to come in pairs) and a Local Maps showing all the dining establishments near me - no matter where I happen to be at that moment - where I can redeem this offer.

... As Can Consumer Electronics ...
Consumer electronics brands have some of the most rabid group of fans, rivaling those of rock stars. Who else can get people to stand outside a store in the freezing rain just so that they can be among the first to own a game, game console, or tablet computer? Product exclusivity implies product scarcity. So here's an idea to consider. Do a special new product rollout exclusively for your most loyal customers. If your product is sold all across the nation, limit availability of the new product to fewer locations than your normal distribution places. Finally, don't automatically assume that 100% of these customers are all at home or that they all know where the exclusive distribution locations are. Do the product announcement using a mobile email and include a MovableInk Local Maps showing the "secret places" where the exclusive product is available. This will drive your rabid fans even wilder!

So there you have it. The mobile opportunity is so much beyond getting an email to look nice in a mobile device. MovableInk's Local Maps is another great way to offer instant gratification for your mobile email program.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The State of Mobile Messaging 2011

Each year the question always arises, "Is this the Year of Mobile Marketing?" The honest answer is "Yes" and "No". Each year the data about mobile marketing shows that it is maturing from an experimental medium into a mainstream medium for online marketers. And each year, the data shows that it still has a way to go before it reaches the level of mass adoption that other online channels including search, banner advertising, and email marketing enjoy.

First, let's consider the data showing the growth of mobile marketing - specifically commercial mobile messaging. Estimates put the number as high as 6.1 trillion text messages sent worldwide in 2010. Text messaging now is the preferred mode of mobile communication for many mobile subscribers. A study from Merkle showed that 18-29 year olds prefer to text rather than talk for their personal communications. With the widespread adoption of text messaging for communications, it would be a logical assumption that text messaging adoption for commercial messaging should follow. But more on that later.

Even though actual advertising dollars spent on the mobile medium still remain orders of magnitude less than the other advertising media, it remains the one having the highest growth rate. According to the DMA's Statistical Fact Book 2011 Edition, advertising dollars spent in the mobile medium grew at a whopping 63.4% over a four year period from 2006 to 2010. This was during the same time period when total advertising spend shrank by 2.5% due to dropping expenditures in the traditional media channels including direct mail (catalogs, newspaper, magazines, inserts, etc.), radio, and television. Even though social media marketing has been the darling of the press, reality is that advertising spent in this channel grew at less than a third the rate of that for mobile. The projected growth rates through 2014 for the two channels are expected to come closer together; but mobile is still expected to grow faster than social.

Now let's consider the data that indicates commercial mobile messaging still has a long way to go before it reaches the level of mass adoption. In the Merkle study I mentioned above, the same 18-29 year old age group that prefers to text rather than talk for their personal communications are absolutely loathe to accept it as the medium for commercial communications. Quite surprisingly, a definitive 74% of this age group surveyed use email as their preferred medium for receiving commercial messages.


Email is the preferred medium for commercial messages over SMS because of three important factors:

  1. There still remains a sizable population of mobile subscribers who are still paying for each text message while email is free,

  2. Unlike the ability to set up multiple email accounts, a person has only one mobile phone number.

  3. Mobile devices are highly personal. People jealously guard their SMS inbox more than they guard their email inbox.


Let's consider this latter point. Mobile devices are highly personal. People jealously guard their phone numbers from the marketers' clutches for fear of receiving spam messages that they perceive to be highly personal intrusions. For this reason successful commercial mobile messaging places an extremely high premium on trust. Only when people start trusting the integrity of the brand will SMS marketing reach mass adoption on the scale of email marketing, search, display advertising, and mobile apps.

Marketers having successful email programs are in a perfect position to have successful SMS campaigns. The hard-won foundation of trust established by the email program can now be built upon with the SMS marketing program. For this reason, if you are a marketer looking to pilot your SMS marketing programs, start with your email subscribers. Best of all, start with your "mobile responders," those that tend to read your emails on their mobile devices. These are people that are already engaging with your commercial messaging campaigns in a mobile context. The barrier of adoption for your SMS marketing campaigns is lowest with this group.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Three Unique Benefits of Mobile Email


The online marketer's message is delivered via the Internet. There is an evolutionary transformation taking place in how consumers are choosing to access the Internet. Analysts including Morgan Stanley, and Gartner Research are predicting that within the next four years, the mobile device will become the number one access point to the Internet world wide.

For the past 15 years since the commercialization of the Internet, it's all been about the Desktop Experience. But now consumers are starting to expect the Mobile Experience. If brands do not offer a mobile experience to their customers, there is the possibility that they will lose them to brands that do.

In 2009, smartphones comprised less than 18% of all cellular phones worldwide. Within just one year, smartphone sales worldwide jumped a whopping 80 percent and represented over 21% of all cellphones sold worldwide in 2010. In February of this year, ReadWriteWeb reported that more smartphones were sold worldwide than PCs for the first time ever in Q4 2010.

Research into consumers' mobile device usage patterns indicates that people are interacting with their mobile devices at all times during the day. Additional research indicates that reading email continues to be the most popular data usage across all mobile devices for both feature phones and smartphones. With the meteoric rise of smartphone adoption, email marketers who offer a mobile experience for their customers stand to reap enormous economic benefits.

Email marketers need to see beyond just mobile formatting and consider the mobile opportunity. It is a tragedy of missed opportunity to focus just on repurposing desktop content for the mobile screen all the while ignoring the uniqueness of the mobile context that the desktop cannot duplicate. Mobile devices are the enablers of instant gratification. From a single device, I can talk to anyone, anywhere in the world, anytime I want to. I can also listen to music, watch a movie or TV show, purchase just about anything, play a game, find out where my friends are and tell them where I am, search for information on any topic, read my email, my magazine, my newspaper, or my book, program my DVR and just about anything else, anytime I want to.

Send time optimization - the conundrum of the email marketer - is an artifact of the Desktop Experience because people in this context are constrained by the times and places they have access to a computer. The mobile context has no such limitations. People read their emails on their mobile devices whenever and wherever they happen to be.

Mobile email is all about the immediacy that is unique to the mobile context and cannot be matched by the desktop computer. For this reason, mobile email needs to be different from desktop email. Mobile email needs to be short and sweet. There should be only one or two images and the copy should be right to the point. The entire message should be easily understood within 10 seconds or less. The call to action must be fulfilled quickly and easily.

I'll now give you three simple examples of effective mobile emails.

Mobile emails are a must-have for brands that have made the investment of a mobile app. Promote the mobile app using the mobile email. Include a link to download the app in the body of the email. Keeping the consumer within the same device for reading the promotional email and using the app greatly increases the likelihood that the app will be downloaded and used.

Brands that require an in-venue experience benefit greatly from mobile email. For example, Hot Topic is a major retail clothier whose target market are Tweens, who, by the way, are not online buyers because they are too young to own credit cards. Fortunately, there is a strong overlap between their (and other retailers like them) target market and the persona that is highly interactive with mobile devices. Mobile emails should absolutely be used to drive in-store traffic by containing exclusive special offers and promotions that are redeemable within the store by presenting the mobile email to the sales associate at the point of sale. In the not too distant future, 2D code readers at the point of sale will enable highly personalized (and highly trackable) redeemable offers.

Finally, there is absolutely no excuse for brands in the Travel and Hospitality industry to not be using mobile email. They know when and where their customers are on vacation. People don't take their computers with them on vacation, but they definitely take their mobile devices with them. (People who DO take their computers with them on vacation - like me - only interact with them at night when they are back in the hotel room.) Therefore mobile - not desktop - email should be the communication medium. Mobile emails should include co-branded promotions and offers from those that are local to the vacationer. If the brand has a presence on a social network, the mobile email should invite the customers to post their vacation pictures on the brand's social site to enhance their social community experience.

Hopefully by reading this blog, you'll be persuaded that the time for mobile email is now. Don't get hung up on mobile formatting; by keeping your mobile email within the mobile context, it will naturally render will in a wide variety of mobile devices. Focus instead on the mobile opportunity. Take advantage of the mobile context that cannot be duplicated by desktop computers. Start by giving your customers a preference of reading their emails on a desktop computer or on a mobile device. Don't just sneak mobile email out there either; promote it. Give people a compelling reason to partake of the experience that is uniquely mobile.