James Wu | October 6, 2010
China’s mobile Internet users have reached 277 million in mid 2010, which is almost the same number of Internet users for the second half of 2008. While mobile phone Internet users rose to 66 percent, mobile ad volume represents only a small part of total digital advertising expenditure (display + event + search + mobile). Why does this gap exist? Are advertisers resisting mobile advertising or have we not found an appropriate approach yet?
Perhaps mobile cannot compete with computers in terms of screen display, even though there are many 4-inch screen mobile phones in the market (iPhone is only a 3.5-inch screen). Compared with the PC, mobile still has a long way to go in terms of visual impact and depth of content. Although 3G will pave the way to advance the content issue, 3G coverage and popularity are emerging from infancy (more people use 3G internet cards in their PCs in China). Mobile advertising solutions face a difficult situation: the application and visual impact cannot be compared with the PC, and there is no major reach advantage at this stage (mass SMS doesn’t count). So it’s difficult to persuade advertisers and agencies to go beyond just small scale testing of mobile advertising in its current state.
Fortunately, emerging technologies are generating more interest in the space.
First of all, augmented reality (AR) granted mobile an opportunity in cross-media marketing and retail integration. With this kind of technology, a traditional concept could be adapted to become more interactive, overlaid with real-world scenarios using the camera and even to deliver 3D. Compared to QR codes, this enables an entirely new level of engagement. Major auto and beer advertisers have already noticed the potential of AR and this may be the future of 3D experiences in retail and press.
Second: location-based services (LBS). Let’s park the hot privacy issues for now. These services provide advertisers the possibility of delivering the ‘last mile’ to retail and connecting the purchase funnel. Before, the model was ‘you can reach me (product or service) here’. Now the model is changing to ‘I will be at your side wherever you are’. Location-based services allow you to tailor messages to any number of scenarios, including but not limited to retail locations, weather, vicinity of friends, and transport routes.
Overseas, social networks like Foursquare have gathered momentum off the back of LBS technology. In China, there is also jiepang.com and play4f.cn that provide similar services. The premise is you can share with your friends where you are and what you are doing through the GPS function of your phone. They could also link with popular micro blogs and pushed to the Web. Foursquare already contains a considerable amount of data about locations such as for bars and restaurants, known as ‘tips’, that recommend what other users should do or try at that location. Right now, most people are just sharing their location rather than commenting and elaborating on it but it does have huge potential in the future.
How to Apply Location-Based Services Technology in Your Media Plan
The future of mobile marketing should not rely solely on technological innovation (which is also the challenge for all digital communications), but rather it should integrate with other media to achieve the best results. Marketers want and expect this. In the past, digital media was so independent and had little connection with other media and mobile could well be the missing link to integration.
Here are some points advertisers can consider when planning to include mobile in your communications:
- How do I optimise the unique characteristics of mobile advertising (prompt, in time, personalised, concise)?
- How will my consumers benefit from mobile marketing? What type of mobile technologies should I use and why? QR code for promotion, cross media information through AR, consumer loyalty of social networking services or geographic function of LBS. How can we integrate with traditional media? How do we enrich the format and content? In short, will consumers like your brand or product being presented this way? Is this not only showing off?
- How to set up metrics for evaluation? We might have the usual metrics like reach, clicks, click ratio, and cost per click. But the quality of consumer engagement is much more important. One active participant who is willing to share is much more persuasive than ten people that only register without any interaction with others or the brand. Also look at how you can link the metrics to retail sales.
We must tap the advantages of mobile as a platform: the ability to provide exact information at any time and any place, prompt and immediate feedback, and emerging technologies. These all need to be combined with the marketing objectives and explore how to unlock its potential to ultimately attract marketer’s attention and budgets. Simply replicating what you do on the PC on a mobile device will not move the market along, or the budgets over. Consumers already have strong immunity toward traditional messaging so focus on content, added value and leveraging emerging technologies. If you can employ these successfully, it may well surpass any other media channel.
So are you ready for the challenge?