What Wireless Offers Global Marketers

How is working in new digital media like running naked in the dark? You know what you’re doing (or think you do), but not many others do. For a digital technology that’s not yet running marketing applications on a large scale, wireless has plenty of scary buzzwords and jargon — from GSM (global system for mobile communications) to PDC (personal digital cellular) and CDMA (code division multiple access) — for marketers and techno geeks alike. Add the complexity of globalization into the mix, and you’ve got a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Enough already! Let’s demystify wireless and take a look at its global marketing potential.

The Promise of a Better World

New wireless technologies — from cell phones and handhelds to music players and electronic books — show great marketing potential. With wireless, advertisers can reach consumers with pinpoint accuracy, giving them relevant content, advertising, and commerce anytime and anywhere.

The promise is that consumers on the move will want on-demand access to interactive content and messaging through their various wireless appliances. Thus the wireless industry faces the challenge of delivering engaging and interactive multimedia experiences and services to consumers today without having to endure the limitations of current-generation transmission standards. In anticipation of new broadband-access networks, major players are unleashing new wireless devices from which consumers can retrieve information and respond to targeted offers. With wireless devices equipped with audio/video capabilities that offer a more satisfying experience to consumers, advertisers will soon be able to go beyond the capabilities of today’s Internet PCs and Web-enabled broadcast TV appliances.

But how long until we see solid global commercial applications? (Patience is hardly a virtue in the new economy!)

Global Challenges in a Global Economy

Along with its promise, wireless brings a new set of challenges to worldwide advertisers. Whether you are planning to use wireless messaging for new product offerings, customer retention, increasing brand awareness, or simply to offer a new response mechanism to traditional media, you will face much the same challenges. Different technologies — GSM, CDMA, PDC — and different protocols — WAP (wireless application protocol), SMS (short message service), iMode. Significant cultural differences in wireless usage. Device constraints and limitations in some countries. The quick obsolescence of existing technologies. A lack of reliability and scalability of wireless networks in developing countries.

Yet the most serious challenges lie in consumer-related issues. First, critical market mass in m-commerce or m-advertising adoption has not yet been reached. Slow adoption has been related to difficult text entry, small and low-resolution displays, costly airtime, lack of incentives, and unclear opt-in/opt-out policies. All of these to varying degrees manifest themselves on a worldwide basis.

Second, user privacy and transaction security issues have not been successfully resolved in Europe and the U.S. Furthermore, global standards will be required for the deployment of risk-free cross-border marketing campaigns.

Finally, current bandwidth limitations must be overcome to offer features comparable to those offered by traditional PC-based Web access and ultimately to guarantee a more enjoyable consumer experience.

Walking the Talk: A Lack of Tangible Examples

Like messages delivered via other digital media, wireless commercial messages can be used effectively for both direct response and branding. Marketing applications can take many forms, including brand building, notification of sales and other timely information, location-based discounts, and one-click access to phone operators and content browsing, to cite just a few examples. With not many exceptions, email marketing principles can be easily leveraged in wireless messaging campaigns. As a result, marketers such as Nancy Whiteman and Brady Brewer propose relevant guidelines for launching targeted marketing campaigns on wireless devices.

So why is the wireless industry still lacking solid case studies and best-practice examples? As you may recall, wireless marketing firm SkyGo is particularly well known for its controversial pilot program that concluded that “push” advertising such as WAP alerts is perceived as a value-added service to consumers and generates response and a positive brand experience. Study findings also suggest that “consumers are eager to respond to opt-in ads and make purchases from their wireless device.”

But what’s actually happening in real-life scenarios? Tell me if you actually walked the talk and what you learned from it.

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