Mobile marketing is on the cusp of moving markets and deserves consideration as part of the marketing mix for a wide variety of products and services. No longer the province of teenagers or a parlor trick perpetrated by nerdy early adopters, mobile media is gaining widespread use as new phones and new software make the Internet accessible everywhere. In no time we'll all be tethered to the digital grid; connected by a single multi-functional device.
Consider several recent developments:
Almost two-thirds (63%) of cell phone users have received e-mail, used text messaging or obtained news and sports information on their phones.
More than one-third (38%) of mobile phone users access the Internet from their phone. There are 40 million smart phones in use, closing in on 20 percent of the cell phones in use and the market is growing driven by iPhones and Blackberry Pearls and Curves. 130 million phones have "highly capable Internet browsers" and the IBM Institute for Business Value survey recently found that 40% of those surveyed had Internet data plans in-use and that a third of those had already watched a video on their phones.
Once you start watching video on your phone, 45% begin to do it regularly which according to Black Arrow cumes up to 800 million hours of mobile video viewing, still a tiny slice of the 389 billion hours of broadcast TV watched, but a bell weather nonetheless.
Evidently we have begun to solve the technical issues of compression, design and compatibility that bring the Internet off the desktop and out of the laptop and into our on-the-go daily lives. You can bet this trend will continue. Continuous improvements in speed, signal clarity and software integration will lead to a single compact, personalized device that becomes an indispensable tool for managing communication, interaction, commerce and most practical aspects of our lives. Dick Tracy's wrist watch video phone and the Star Trek communicator already exist. Soon we'll all be using their progeny.
Then think about the mobile applications that people we know have already come to rely on. Many people use their phones to search, get news alerts or sports scores, interact with TV shows, vote or take surveys, play games, send or view photos, get directions or communicate with other humans. Facebook access from mobile devices has grown 3X in the last year to 15 million users and who knows how many other social networks are making similar claims as we get used to the idea of telling everybody what we're doing in real time and sharing everything we find, like or do with a gang of unseen others.
The NFL streams video of games to mobile phones, Sears2Go.com allows you to buy Craftsman tools using a phone and a Disney-Verizon alliance will use cell phones to interact with kids and families while they're in the parks as early as next year. Progress in m-commerce is making the interfaces and downloads between websites and phones easier, smoother and less kluge-y day by day. Soon mobile wallet applications will allow us to use our phones to fill up parking meters, buy from vending machines, purchase movie tickets, check out quickly at retail stores and complete complex financial transactions from a phone keypad.
And while there are a few indications that consumers expect and will tolerate advertising surrounding these nifty new tricks, its not really clear how much and what kind of messaging will resonate. Therefore the prudent forward-looking professionally paranoid marketer will get started and get smarter about mobile media and marketing now, during the ascent phase while prices are low, content and merchant partners are flexible and open to experimentation and before anybody gets a lock on a killer app, game-changing technology or critical market segments.