Mobile marketing today is at a similar point in its evolution as online advertising was at in the '90s. While the promise of Web-based marketing was large in 1996, adoption was slow until Internet access became readily accessible and affordable. Remember the days of pay-per-minute plans for Internet access? I still have a few $400 ISP bills I'd like to forget.
Thanks to developments such as the iPhone -- combined with better mobile content and services -- mobile search seemed to take some major strides during the second half of 2007. The advertising potential now resembles that of the early days of the Internet in both variety of search options available and the fragmented nature of the keyword search volume. Consumers are searching for a wide range of topics and products via their mobile devices, and they're willing to accept advertising in exchange for content and services.
As with any emerging marketing medium, advertisers should try to learn from some of the key lessons of those who were willing to blaze the online trail before us, in hopes of not making the same mistakes.
Give Consumers What They Want...When They Want It
Most U.S. mobile data users aren't on a flat-rate mobile data plan, which is helping to stall the growth of mobile search. That means consumers have to pay to access the information they're searching for. However, according to an October 2007 research study published by International Data Corporation, just over half of all U.S. adults are willing to accept an ad supported model for free access to their search services, opening up a lucrative opportunity for marketers to partly -- or completely -- subsidize the user experience.
There's already evidence that flat-rate or unlimited data plans, such as that offered with the Apple iPhone, have a significant impact to consumer mobile search activity. According to findings of a November 2007 Google study, mobile search queries from iPhone users surged at the end of 2007, eclipsing all other smart phone platforms -- even though Apple's smart phone market share is only a fraction of the other more established providers such as Palm's Treo, or RIM's BlackBerry.
Let Consumers Show You the Way
The best marketing opportunities will form around how consumers already search for information. Look at the market around you and be realistic about the advertising opportunities.
According to M:Metrics monthly benchmark survey (as reported by eMarketer, April 2008), only 10 percent of consumers actually have a Smartphone and only one out of four consumers actually have handsets that are running on 3G technology. Outside of this audience, the typical consumer handset can do the basic functions such as make and receive calls as well as some basic multimedia capabilities.
Considering these facts, it's easy to see why opportunities such as ad-supported directory assistance are being dubbed as the "Killer Mobile App." In fact, according to Nielsen Mobile, 411 Directory Assistance was the most popular mobile search format used by mobile users at the end of 2007. So take advantage of this area as an entry into mobile search.
Advertising Isn't a One-Size-Fits-All Solution
Just because it worked online doesn't mean it will work in mobile. Advertisers must understand and respect the similarities as well as the distinct differences between the different kinds of media.
Marketers must keep in mind the small screen size and technology limitations of mobile search, and plan their campaigns accordingly. Today's mobile opportunities are a blend of database feeds to ensure all of your sales outlets are listed correctly and categorized under the most appropriate key phrases or categories.
Metrics? What Metrics?
Like all advertising investments, marketers need a gauge for success. Keep in mind that if history repeats itself, the way the mobile industry starts to communicate the success of the media will inevitably become the benchmark for its value.
Today's measures are click-through rates and call-through rates, however advertisers should not lose sight of the foot traffic that mobile search can drive to their physical locations. Measuring these activities is never easy, but customer polling and recent purchaser surveys are good tools to measure response behavior.
It's no longer a matter of if the mobile search opportunity will be big, but a matter of when. Those who start early will have a lot to gain in regards to first-mover advantage, and learnings over the competition. Those who learn from lessons of other early media adopters will help ensure the forging of this trail will be less painful than it was for those who trudged before them.