Web Marketing Tactics Won’t Work in Wireless Arena

The number of Web-enabled cellular handsets is expected to reach a 95 million in 2004, but marketers must resist imposing their Web strategy to reach these users, according to research by Jupiter Communications.

Jupiter’s research found that cellular service carriers must work to create an open platform for services, and marketers align with or support applications for the mobile medium that facilitate communications, provide instant gratification, or offer an entertaining diversion. With a strong user base of 95 million users in the US at the end of 2004 (that’s seven times the projected number of PDAs), wireless access does bring the benefit of mobility, but also a number of constraints, including a limited user interface, and an expensive narrowband network. The platform, however, will continue to grow at a rapid rate as better handsets are developed and carriers upgrade their networks, according to Jupiter.

“Businesses are justifiably afraid of missing opportunities presented by mobile access, which will be the next interactive platform with mass-market potential,” said Seamus McAteer, Jupiter’s director of wireless research. “However, the most dominant ad network solutions are focusing on providing infrastructure before the medium has barely evolved. While standards such as WAP have helped define a platform, compelling applications and services will define the nature of the mobile medium.”

For the market to reach its full potential as a marketing medium, cellular service carriers and marketers must refocus, according to Jupiter. Mobile operators must create a level playing field for application developers to encourage experimentation rather than auctioning off screen real estate to dominant Web players. Developers should, in turn, promote their services aggressively thereby building consumer interest that will benefit the mobile service carrier ultimately.

Marketers must resist utilizing Web tactics to define their mobile presence, McAteer said. He also advises advertisers to avoid relying on portal or ad network partners to lead their mobile strategy. Instead, marketers must identify and align with a new breed of applications that are optimized for the mobile market. For example, applications such as movie listings will cater to consumers’ desire for instant gratification; mobile-optimized games will provide a handy diversion during downtime. In addition, simple applications such as the ability to download new ring tones or screen logos will appeal to teens that want to make a social statement.

Research by Ovum also touched on the issue of mobile advertising and its differences from Web marketing. Ovum advised potential mobile advertisers to use a highly targeted, low-volume, high-value model where users have a strong element of control over the number, type, and timing of ads received. Data privacy concerns mean users’ cooperation in accepting advertising will be critical. This means the advertising must support services that are vulnerable on an ongoing basis to users, and it will require a trade-off.

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