US growth of mobile Web adoption has been slow, though more attractive pricing and interactive features will provide a boost.
Marketing to a US mobile audience is still in its early stages. Many marketers have experimented in the space, but advertising dollars aren't flowing in a significant way to content areas and services.
While carriers in the US maintain barriers within their walled gardens, European service provider Vodafone is now embracing a de-walled strategy, speakers at "Goin' Mobile," a Yahoo Summit Series event held in New York this week, said.
Lowering the walls, according to Frank Boulben, director of new business development at Vodafone, includes embracing mobile and PC services, where users can manage mobile preferences and programs through a Web-based dashboard. It will also stem from the creation of a Blackberry-like push mail program, and porting mainstays like instant messenger access, eBay bidding and YouTube videos to the mobile Internet.
Content applications like TV, video, music, and games; and services like SMS and MMS messages are all areas where Vodafone sees a possibility of an advertising component to control pricing and drive additional revenue.
To increase the number of regular mobile Web users, and encourage more mobile Web usage, on June 11 Vodafone plans to announce flat-fee pricing for data usage on a daily- and monthly-basis in the UK The carrier expects the new data plan pricing to double or even triple usage, which is currently around 25 percent of the wireless provider's UK customers.
Adoption of functionality beyond voice is at its lowest in the U.S. According to Yahoo research, mobile subscribers use an average of 5.5 functions on their mobile phone, versus 9.6 functions in India, nine in the UK, and 8.8 in Mexico. Yahoo's VP of audience marketing, David Riemer, said the tipping point will come when calling plans offer better data plan pricing.
"People are starting to feel comfortable using their phone for other things," said Riemer. Texting is considered an onramp to mobile Web adoption in much the same way as e-mail led to greater Internet usage on the PC.
While marketers experiment in the mobile space to find the best means of communication, Riemer noted that mobile doesn't suffer from the clutter experienced in other channels. "There are not a lot of competing messages... [the ad] stands out on the screen."
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