Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Where is the Growth in Location-Based Mobile Marketing?

Technologists are experimenting with ways of leveraging a mobile device's geo-spatial awareness to provide money-making opportunities for marketers. Some propose solutions which send text messages on behalf of physical storefronts to individuals who happen to be passing by. Others propose solutions which display Internet search results containing physical storefronts that are within a proximity to the individuals. The former solutions are push-oriented and the latter are pull-oriented. The former solutions involve SMS (a.k.a. text messaging); the latter solutions involve location-aware search engines. Two different solutions using two different technologies with the same objective: to make money leveraging where a individual happens to be at any moment in time. In my opinion, there is more growth in pull-oriented location-based marketing services than there are in push-based. The reason is less about the technology and more about good ol' human nature.

Push-oriented location-based text messaging is all about impulse buying. When we are out and about, we are typically going from Point A to Point B and on to Point C after that. We have specific places in mind that we are going to, and typically we have more on our itinerary of Places To Go than we have allotted time. We are rushing along at 30 to 40 miles per hour. Pushing a text message clear out of the blue to a person who is whizzing by at that speed assumes that the marketer's message/offer is compelling enough and that the individual is impulsive enough to (a) tolerate the interruption, and (b) to immediately act upon that interruption - not an easy thing to succeed at given the normal human reaction time and the speed the person is moving at. Meandering slowly down the Champs Elysees is just not a reality for the most of us. We simply don't have time for interruptions and that's exactly what push-oriented location-based messaging is all about.

There's only one place where impulse shopping is effective - the grocery store. Merchandisers have it down to an exact science knowing precisely what product to put at what height on each aisle, and also what items to place at the check out counter. Department stores implement the same exact science too. All this to get us to buy things that we didn't originally come into the store to buy. So logically, the only real growth that I see for push-oriented location-based marketing is within the grocery store, its cousin the department store, and its distant mega-cousin the shopping mall.

Research shows that grocery stores are the places where coupon redemption is highest. Grocery stores are also places where people do slow down and mill about the aisles - enough to have both the time and the tendency to react to interruptions. It is within these confines that push-oriented location-based messaging works best. Consumer Packaged Goods brands can send mobile coupons to their opt-in subscribers. CPGs know which outlets carry their brands. It's easy to match up a subscriber's geo-spatial positioning with those of their outlets. Is there a match at any moment in time? Trigger the send!

Shopping malls are other places that are experimenting with push-oriented location-based text messaging. Now, the malls are REALLY places where people do mill around. So naturally preliminary results of their experiments are proving to be encouraging.

As I said before, I believe that the real growth is in pull-oriented location-based mobile marketing. We want to be in control of our shopping experience - that's what the social computing revolution is all about. We want to be in control of our information - what we want and when we want it. We prefer to walk into a store and select our perfumes and colognes ourselves rather than to run the gauntlet of reps shoving scented sample cards in our faces. When we are out and about, it's because we have a specific purpose in mind. We are either heading toward a specific destination, or we are looking for a specific product or service. We're going to whip out our mobile devices and do an Internet search for sushi, gas stations, banks, theaters, etc.

The barrier to entry for pull-oriented location-based marketing is much lower for marketers than it is for push-oriented marketing. The reason is that search engine marketing is a heck of a lot easier to set up than is SMS messsaging. There are already a number of services that provide location-based search not the least of which includes Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Jumptap, and others.

Regardless of approaches, geo-spatial positioning of people facilitated through their mobile devices presents intriguing new opportunities for technologists, sociologists, and marketers.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Twitter: RSS For The Rest of Us

I don't normally comment about items taking place in social media, but an interesting article forwarded to me by a colleague has really intrigued me. (Not to say that I don't find social media interesting. I know that social media is one of the hottest topics in popular culture today. However, I just choose to focus on the hottest topics taking place in the mobile world.)

But I digress...

The well-publicized race to a million Twitter followers between CNN and Ashton Kutcher as well as reports of Twitter's meteoric growth rate seem to give the impression that "everyone's doin' it!"

But as Sysomos' In-Depth Look Inside the Twitter World shows us, there is a yawning chasm wider than the Grand Canyon between perception and reality. Sysomos analyzed data from over 11.5 million Twitter accounts and discovered some interesting highlights:

- 93.6% of users have less than 100 followers, while 92.4% follow less than 100 people

- 0.94% of Twitter users follow more than 1,000 people and only 0.68% have more than 1,000 followers

- 85.3% of all Twitter users post less than one update/day

- 1.13% Twitter users update more than average of 10 times a day

- 5% of users account for 75% of all activity

- 50.4% of Twitter users haven't updated their status in the last seven days

So what are all these 11.5 million people doing on Twitter? Apparently not much. Most people probably signed up just because they were curious but haven't thought much about it since. There are others too, perhaps that are active on Twitter, but in a passive way.

Twitter in many respects is like RSS for the rest of us. RSS has been around for a long time, but it's adoption has been minimal - mainly because the need to use RSS feed readers discourages the average person. On the other hand, Twitter automatically provides rivers of feeds. True, RSS provides a richer experience than does the 140 characters of Twitter. But let's face it. Most of us use RSS just to scan headlines and click links through to a web page. Isn't that what Twitter is too?

What about these 5% of hyperactive users? Sysomos did a follow-up analysis of these folks.

- Of the most active Twitter users updating more than 150 times/day, nearly all of them are bots operated by sources such as hotels, regional and national news services, regional weather services, the top news within Digg, games, anim services, tags within and financial aggregators.

- Who tweets the most, and why ?!

- Who is @moooris and can anyone who reads Japanese tell me what the heck is so compelling in this individual's life that he feels compelled to tweet an average of 108.64 tweets a day, or one tweet every 10 minutes of his waking life (assuming he gets by on 7 hours of sleep).

- ReTweets among the most active users accounted for 5.06% of their activity - about 20% higher than overall users which is 4.02%.

This latter point is very interesting, however. It confirms two of my suspicions:
(1) Hyperactive tweeters remain as impervious to anything anybody else is saying as the rest of us, and
(2) There really isn't a whole lot of stuff people are saying that's worth repeating.

So there you have it: an insight look at the world of Twitter. I look forward for Sysomos' next report on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mobile Marketing Checklist

Marketing campaigns via text messaging (a.k.a. "mobile marketing") presents new opportunities to engage with your customers. One benefit of certain types of mobile marketing is that it allows the customer to initiate the engagement by texting in a keyword to receive a coupon, more info, directions, or to opt-in to a subscription-based campaign. But know this: there is a lot of up-front work that you need to budget for both in terms of time and money. Here's a simple checklist to help you get all your ducks in a row.

Step One: Decide where in the world you want to focus your mobile marketing campaign
There is a logistical nuance to this point - mainly because it impacts your decision for Step Two.

Step Two: Procure a common short code ... or a long code
If the decision from Step One is the United States, then you'll be getting one type of common short code. If the decision is Canada, then you'll need to get another type of code. If the decision is Europe, and/or Asia-Pacific, then you'll need yet a different code. Each of the codes are managed by different registrars and each have their own pricing structure. You'll be leasing the use of a 5-digit or 6-digit code - kinda like leasing domain names in the web world. But unlike domain names, you'll only be leasing it for 3, 6, or 12 months at a time. The cost will be also be much higher - anywhere between $250 to $1000 per month.

For example, if you are going to run your mobile marketing campaign in the United States, then whether you get it yourself or the agency you've contracted gets it for you, it will still be Neustar that will be allocating the code to you. If your focus is Canada, then you'll need to go through the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). If you want to focus on Europe or perhaps Asia-Pacific, then there are other 3rd parties that you'll need to work with.

If you are just starting off with mobile messaging, may I recommend that you start off with a single short code. There is still a lot of work to do, so keeping it simple in the beginning will help you from getting too overwhelmed.

When you request your short code, you'll now be required to provide an overview of your campaign. The registrars will be loading this information into a searchable database that carriers can access. The intent is to speed up the campaign approval process by requiring more information up front.

Some registrars (like Neustar) will let you request your short code before you submit the campaign summary. This lets you know what your short code is so that you can incorporate it into any print, broadcast or other media while in parallel you work out the details of the campaign.

Step Three: Watch your legalese
Make sure that you have worked out your privacy policy and your terms and conditions. You'll need to have this information ready to present to the carriers when they review your campaign brief. Your agency that you are working with will have its own privacy policy and T&C that could cover your marketing program. But you'll still need to make sure that you have one of your own - even if you are a sandwich shop that lets your customers text in their orders.

Step Four: Speaking of campaign briefs...
Yup. Once you've procured your short (or long) code, you'll now need to get it provisioned on the carriers' networks. You'll need to explain to the carriers what your campaign is all about. If you've ever been a teenager before, it will sound all too familiar. "Where are you going? Who are you going out with? Who else will be with you? How can I reach you? Are you going out dressed like that?!"

Here's typically the information that you'll need to provide to the carriers:
  1. Your contact info and your technical person's contact info
  2. The short code (or long code if in Europe or Asia-Pac) that you'll be using. You'll need to provide proof that you have the right to use the short code in the form of a purchase receipt.
  3. Will you be charging your message recipients anything to receive the message or to download anything? If so, how much?
  4. When do you intend to start your campaign and when do you intend to finish it
  5. The URL to your terms and conditions
  6. The URL to your web-hosted opt-in page (if you are allowing people to opt-in from the web)
  7. A summary of your program
  8. The name of your program
  9. Whether you'll be sending transactional (triggered alerts) or subscription (regularly-sent) messages
  10. Keywords that you'll be using to enable people to opt-in to your program.
  11. A step-by-step user experience for your program. The carriers will follow the steps that you detail to test your campaign prior to launch and while it is in process.

    WARNING: any discrepancy between what you say should happen and what actually happens could result in the carrier delaying or suspending your campaign on its network.

    Define how the customer will interact with your campaign for opt-ins, obtaining help, opt-outs, and examples of messaging from your campaign.
Whew! That's a heck of a lot of information, isn't it? Fortunately, you don't have to go to each carrier yourself. Your agency (or SMS aggregator, if you are directly working with one) will be submitting it to the carriers on your behalf.

Step Five: Refine, Revise
Don't be discouraged if your campaign is rejected. Sometimes carriers reject a campaign due to insufficient information. Make sure that you allocate time to rework your campaign brief after its been submitted.

Step Six: Lock and Load
Once the carriers have approved your campaign, let 'er rip. Have fun and enjoy the benefits of this emerging and engaging channel.