In 2000, there was a lot of empty hype over the potential benefits of WAP (define) mobile technology in Europe. BT exhorted consumers to "Surf the Mobile Internet," despite a lack of capable handsets or network capacity. Now, consumer use of WAP is becoming a concrete reality. As is marketer interest in the channel, for customer acquisition, retention, and development are growing rapidly.
With the mobile telephony landscape across Europe growing ever more sophisticated, multifunctional, high-speed consumers are learning to do so much more with their phones than simple voice communications. As a consequence, the volume of mobile Internet traffic for information and entertainment objectives burgeons. O2 recently announced over 1 billion pages of mobile Internet content were accessed through its U.K. portal in Q4 2004 alone.
Most traffic today is still directed to the mobile operator portals of Vodafone, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, and others, who offer walled-garden content areas and limited ad opportunities. Yet a growing proportion is being driven to newly created, independent, off-portal WAP sites.
More marketers are recognizing the benefits WAP offers for increased mobile content and application delivery, richer creativity, and deeper consumer interaction (and, therefore, data capture). Features that go way beyond SMS (define) and even MMS (define) remain largely underutilized. For evidence, Minick, the mobile content and service developer, worked on fewer than 12 WAP portals in 2004. It has over 100 in development today.
The key to mobile marketing is offering consumers a reward for their interaction, so content-heavy WAP sites are looking ever-more appealing in a marketing setting. Rich functionality, on top of consumers' acceptance of the medium and mass-market penetration of color phones, is likely to lead to brands launching a rash of WAP sites this year.
So who's using WAP sites in Europe at present? How? And why?
Not surprisingly, we're seeing content owners and distributors as the early movers in the space, naturally extending their assets into the new mobile channel:
Big brand advertising are also developing in this new emergent channel:
As consumers become increasingly comfortable and confident surfing the mobile Internet, facilitated by the latest mobile technology, the time is coming when marketers can no longer ignore the WAP channel. Forget your Web site; starting thinking about your WAP site!
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Julian Smith conducts research and analysis on the European interactive marketing and advertising arena as an analyst with Jupiter Research, which shares a parent company with ClickZ.
His areas of expertise cover all aspects of the online advertising industry, e-mail marketing, mobile (SMS/MMS) marketing, search engine marketing, eCRM, online branding and Web site design. His particular area of interest is in the use of digital media for the acquisition, retention and development of customers.
Prior to joining Jupiter Research, Julian spent over six years working in a variety of interactive marketing agencies in London. These included Razorfish, Euro RSCG Interaction and TBWA/GGT where he worked in strategy and client service roles helping develop online solutions for leading blue chip clients. Most recently he assisted in the integrated marketing launch of 3, the new 3G video mobile phone, one of the largest new product launches in the UK in 2003.
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