It IS a Small World, After All

I’ve been away from the office for the last couple of weeks, speaking at various industry conferences in California and Europe. I made a similar round about this same time last year, but there have been some interesting developments since then.

The most striking thing I’ve learned in my travels is that, for the most part, there are few striking differences anymore between the tactics used by U.S. and European email marketers. Seems both sides of the Atlantic are on solid ground as far as possessing an in-depth knowledge of what it takes to create a successful campaign.

That is definitely the case with the Netherlands and Germany, where my engagements took me most recently. Based on discussions with folks there, I’ve come to the conclusion that if a gap ever existed between how our respective countries have been marketing with email, then it is quickly closing. It may have even slammed shut since last week. (Things are happening that fast.)

First, there seems to be no shortage of opt-in list opportunities. (However, the concept of “opt-in” is an entirely different ball game in Europe since online privacy is a much more sacred issue there than it is in the States, believe it or not.) Despite that fact, however, European marketers are still prospecting with email.

Additionally, it seems that HTML has definitely become the format of choice for most active email marketers in Europe. And given some of the samples I saw, these HTML promos rival the best of what’s out there.

And marketers are taking advantage of technology to deploy customized messaging to house databases with the help of both U.S. and European software and solutions providers. One-to-one email marketing is the goal that Americans and Europeans alike are striving to optimize.

Here’s the kicker, though. There IS a big difference when it comes to the wireless world. And guess which country is lagging behind?

That point was driven home at NetEvents’ Email Marketing conference in D|sseldorf, where fellow speaker Arjen van Blokland of wireless content developer and enabler gave an exciting presentation on the latest wireless application protocol (WAP) happenings in Japan and how they are quickly transitioning to Europe. (Does everyone know that Japan is way ahead of the game in this area of cyberspace and cybermarketing and that Europe is not far behind?)

And a VERY cool game it is. It will definitely have an impact on future marketing strategies, both in the States and in Europe. First, half of Japan’s mobile phone users subscribe to wireless Internet services. Not only is Japan’s version highly useful and advanced, but it’s inexpensive to boot. (Base fees are the equivalent of US$2 per month.)

And get this: Mobile phones are getting BIGGER instead of smaller (as opposed to what’s happening here in the States). Why? Because of all the fun and useful, not to mention colorful and convenient, content that is so easily served through these phones. For instance, content includes not only the tried-and-true weather, sports, and shopping centers but also some other nifty items as well. Links to horoscopes, special events, gourmet cooking tips, and even things such as personalized basal body charts for women trying to conceive. These phones really are little browsers in a box.

Where does advertising fit in? Dedicated email messaging, for sure, and also banner-like ads that are served up on popular pages, emails, and even some of the standard cell phone pages, such as the one that comes up when you plug in “What’s new?”

These ads are a completely mainstream part of these phones. And they get top response for the advertisers.

Users can respond to these ads by:

  1. Phone. No numbers need to be punched in because the ad does all the dialing.
  2. Web. All the user has to do is click through to a mini-Web site.
  3. Email. A quick click will take the user directly to an email message, ready to go to the advertising company’s Webmaster or service rep.

From a marketer’s perspective, some of the best technology that the combination of Web and wireless has to offer can be found on a Japanese cell phone. Picture this: You’re visiting a new city and want to find a great steak house within a three-block area of your hotel. All you have to do is call up the easily accessible network of restaurants in City X and plug in your location. You’ll not only get a listing but also automatic links to each restaurant’s Web site and email address, if available, as well as a telephone-number link feature that will allow you to go from lookup to dial-up within a matter of seconds.

Advertisers who want to be part of the network pay a nominal annual charge, equal to US$100. (OK, where do I sign up?)

Wireless advertising works in Japan because it’s cost-effective for the advertiser and creates convenience for the user. A true win-win situation.

Of course, this is just the beginning. And email marketing is certain to play a huge part in what’s to come once half of our mobile phone population is tapped into the Internet.

It really is a small world. And when this type of technology becomes mainstream worldwide, it will get smaller still. Stay tuned — THAT type of connectivity is just around the bend.

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