Study: Mobile Messaging Could be Effective Tool for Marketers

Wireless text messaging can prove an effective, inexpensive tool for cross-media marketers, according to a new study by interactive agency Viant and the London Business School.

But, the study’s authors — Rajiv Advani and Khaled Choudhury of Viant, and Patrick Barwise, an LBS professor — say that companies are unlikely to discover this, since they’re hesitant about increasing their spending on wireless products.

The cause for such reluctance?

“WAP-lash,” say the researchers, referring to over-aggressive expectations for the medium when it was just in its infancy, according to the study, which interviewed a handful of European business and marketing executives.

“We argue that the case against B2C wireless has swung too far, and that most firms are now being too cautions,” wrote the authors. “In particular, firms should start developing ‘killer experiences’ using wireless, rather than waiting for a single application to save the day. Meanwhile, firms should look for ‘quick wins’ that exploit the particular strengths of wireless in relationship marketing.”

According to the study, wireless marketing efforts need to be integrated with other online and offline marketing to be successful.

“Numerous retailers have created multi-channel models based on a combination of stores, direct mail and call centers, for example,” write Advani, Choudhury and Barwise. “The most successful integrated models have a number of characteristics that are equally pertinent to wireless.”

In the airline industry, for example, an implementation that includes mobile channels might feature wireless booking and purchasing, check-in and SMS customer service — such flight, ticket or baggage claim data.

And such applications should appeal to businesses because, when properly implemented, they can increase the profitability of cross-selling and upselling; extend customer life (by increasing satisfaction and providing wireless promotions); and expand the customer base through word-of-mouth referrals.

But the most compelling aspect of a text messaging program is that in many cases, the technology already exists.

“Many of these developments can be implemented successfully using currently existing or soon, using 2.5G technology,” write the authors. “This is especially true for low-bandwidth and/or developments of applications serving time-based customer needs. Only those involving rich content or accurate location sensing will require more advanced technologies.”

Additionally, wireless marketing is likely to fare better than online marketing, since mobile phones are already popular in geographic and demographic sectors that the PC has taken much longer to penetrate. Also, mobile phones provide ubiquitous contact and connectivity, unlike PCs.

And, Viant said surveys it performed showed that wireless offers and connectivity could even become a major sought-after feature by consumers. A study of users of Fidelity U.S. bank’s wireless access services showed that 50 to 70 percent of users that would consider leaving if the service wasn’t offered.

But the news, however optimistic for the fledgling industry, still comes amid serious concerns over whether wireless messaging will see similar consumer appeal in the U.S. as it has abroad.

For one, Cahners In-Stat Group reported earlier this month that they believed SMS messaging would, quite simply, never experience widespread adoption domestically.

Meanwhile, a Strategy Analytics study released Thursday found that less than 10 percent of U.S. wireless users ranked WAP and SMS services as a major value-added service, compared to 73 percent of Europeans.

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