M-commerce will work…for Gen Y…for now.

In the next 12 to 18 months analysts predict that m-commerce revenues will reach a half a billion dollars.  Pairing that with almost 300 million wireless customers, “someone” is going to be buying something through their wireless device. The question is who is that person? Is it the Baby boomer? No, they are just becoming comfortable with their computers and shopping online. Is it the Gen X’ers? No not yet, although they will follow pretty quickly as soon as the cool and the perceptive ease of use factors rises to a palatable level.

The answer my friend lies in your Gen Y users. The 15-29 users who just so happen to be your biggest social network users as well. This is, by no means coincidental. It makes complete sense on a lot of levels but here it is in its simplest terms. This generation is so technologically saavy that buying “things” using their mobile phones is nothing more than another viable option for spending money, communicating with their friends and being in the NOW.  It’s just another way to simplify their overly simplified “Me generation” entitled lives. It is a mere blip on the landscape that is their socialized technified world.

Not to sound bitter, and if I do it’s only because this generation can embrace a new technology so easily and so seamlessley that the projections for what kind of money might be generated might be underestimating the puchasing power of this group. The only way the numbers get pushed down is by overestimating the mobile purchasing power of a 15-19 year old who might not have a credit card to complete the transaction.

Gen Y users have 2 things working in their favor as well. 1) they account for almost a 100% ownership of cell phones and 2) have a purchasing power of almost $200 billion.  Add to this the fact that this group has no problem accessing the mobile web with relative ease, and couple it with their comfort level in regards to their expectation that mobile web sites meet their demands, and you have volatile mixture of a captive audience ready to buy with expendable cash.

In the next 12-24 months, marketers, consumers and advertisers will need to look to Gen Y to call the shots in regards to usage numbers, trends, and expectations. As soon as Gen X and the Boomers see how well it works for Gen Y. Look for M-commerce to explode. Look no further than Japan for a classic example, where in the last year e-tailers rang up almost $10 billion in revenue from M-commerce sales.

7 Social Media/Tech Trends to look for in 2008

By now I’m sure everyone is accutely aware of the social networking/media phenomenon that has transformed everyone’s  old school web experience into a transparent user generated virtual world. Look for that to evolve even more in the coming months and year(s) The more that social media works its way into the fabric of our everyday lives, look for more far reaching and useful applications that hopefully have more significant value and meaning then posting pics of the drunkfest you went to over the weekend

 So having said that, the first term to wrap your arms around in the new year is:

User Generated Content– Look for this to be dumbed down(see simplified) even more, to the extent that eventually everyone will have a web bio/resume/personal page devoted to who they are, what they are about, and all the gritty little details of their life. Almost like a web based  drivers license. Our lives will be even more transparent than they already are, thanks to the tools that social networks will be providing.

Quest for Cool-The demographic of 12-24 year olds will push itself into more social relevence than it has at any other time in the history of pop culture. Because of the ease in which content can be pushed out to the masses, this demo, which otherwise would normally go through these years unnoticed, now can grab the status, the fame, recognition, and justification for social relevence that now accompany social networks. The quest for Me branding has never been more prevalent.

Individualistic Saturation– One of the offshoots of this “20 megs of stardom” instead of 15 minutes of fame, will be that we as a digital society will grow weary of tired content, quickly. In other words, as quickly as someone can rocket to digital stardom, they can, equally as fast, fall back to earth and fade into “Bolivian”-to quote Mike Tyson. This can be attributed to our homgenization of all things related to media. We need our content quick and to the point; and the minute we think it’s bogging us down, has grown tiresome, or has ceased to be entertaining, we are off to find the next great big thing.–>See William Hung.

The Age of Reinvention and Redefinition-With so many ways in which one can create alt-personas, we will hurdle faster towards an age in which there is the digital persona, the off-line persona and the “real-you”. What social media has done has given us a completely new set of “friends” that one can hang with and thus, this is the pack that people will be running with when they are online. Because of the intense focus of all things media driven, this will lead to people who will extend and break the boundaries and barriers of social acceptance. This will ultimately cause us as a society to redefine the terms,”social acceptance, social values, social morals,  and social ettiquite.

The EIAV Phenomenon– The Everyone is a Videographer phenomenon has changed the landscape of acceptable video content. What used to be taboo now has it’s own portal. What used to be objectionable is now made into a low budget high grossing movie released on 120 screens nationwide.  Everyone is capable of filming anything and uploading it to social sites worldwide in a matter of minutes. This cottage industry will continue to boom as it is  now easier for someone to film something and upload it versus writing about it. This has also led to the drive for fame through one doing something so mundane as filming oneself doing absolutely nothing.

MOSO- Mobile Social-Look for the boom of social networks tied to mobile networks. As it has slowly started to happen, watch for the big players to  rapidly start to crank out  more user friendly interfaces and applications on mobile devices that will  converge with high speed networks, resulting in keeping social media freaks engaged with their social networks at all times. An advertisers dream, this will further solidify the mobile device as the most important devleopment since..well the internet!

Search Explodes– As Google continues to swallow up all aspects of what drives the user expereince online, look for search to become more integrated into how one conducts or initiates any type of online endeavor. What has happened and will continue to happen is that the re-emergance of the portal will become relevant again.  As we get closer to the launch of the “G-phone”, be prepared for a massive push towards a mobile-social-search environment that will redefine portability and world wide exposure to all things global.

I said 7 but one more merits mentioning:

S-Commerce– As social networks continue to expand and grow at exponential rates, look for their to be more creative ways for users and advertisers to push products that are niche like in their importance and acceptance to the users. I have written about this before, so for reference, look to Lemonade.com

There is certainly more to discuss in the coming months but, for now  lets work off of these 7 and see what else is under the hood. Is there a glaring omission here? Please feel free to contribute your thoughts. Certainly, we should not igonore how we as a digital culture need to address the oil shortage, creating a more eco-friendly environment, homelessness, world hunger, genocide, corrupt politicians and Britney Spears, but for now we will continue to focus on the biggest sea change in the online world since the advent of… well the internet.

Social Networks cutting deals left and right with mobile carriers

As was previously stated in earlier entries, something had to give in the wonderfully bloated world of social networks. It actually has been in play for awhile but, lo and behold, mobile carriers are realizing that the next big thing for their continued world dominance will be the melding of social networks with mobile carriers. Thus the following news doesn’t really surprise me:

 MySpace Mobile to be Packaged with Sprint

Fox Interactive Media and Sprint have hooked up to offer MySpace and other FIM properties to mobile customers. Under the deal, MySpace will come as a default option on Sprint’s mobile portal, meaning that the site can be accessed directly as opposed to typing in a URL (in this case, mobile.myspace.com).

sprintCurrently in beta, MySpace Mobile will launch officially early next year. Other FIM properties included in the deal are IGN, FOXSports, Photobucket, Rotten Tomattoes, and AskMen.

Why is this important? Because the users of social networks use something even more frequently than their respective social network. Namely, their cell phone.  So the thinking is; If you can pair the 2 digital beasts, then you have a match made in marketing heaven. A captive audience 24/7/365. Now this comes on the heels of the announcement in October that:

O2 Partners with MySpace and Facebook for Mobile access in the UK

o2_logo.gif

O2, the UK mobile operator,  announced partnerships with MySpace and Facebook, giving its users access to these social networks from their mobile devices.

This partnership provides  MySpace and Facebook users, access to their profiles pages for viewing and editing via their cell phone or hand held device. Granting mobile access to the major social networks is another way in which consumers, especially in the teen and college demographic can stay engaged with not only their social groups but also with advertisers and marketers. Virgin, Nokia and Sprint have all gone this route as well.  O2 already has a deal with Apple for exclusive sales of the iPhone in the UK.

And this comes in from the vapor trail of a July announcement in which:

Sprint Nextel had announced two new services  which enabled users to access social networking sites, and let customers locate each other using GPS technology.

Providing better browsing options for access to social networking sites such as Xanga, Rabble and LiveJournal meant that users would now have more reason to use mobile browsing and stay better connected with friends.  Partnering with Loopt, Sprint Nextel is also allowing users to geo-locate one another via GPS, within another private network of friends.

The only sticking point with all of these announcements is that there is still the speed issue that all of the carriers and the respective social networks seem to be ignoring. Granted the iphone seems to have all the speed you need with their Safari browser, but not everyone can go out and afford an iphone. Having said that, what is the 15-18 year old supposed to do with the free phone their parents got them that can only text 50 times a month, supposed to do?

It’s too soon to tell, but don’t think that we’re the only ones who have mentioned it, or have thought about it. The bottom line is this: That the social networks know that a key to their survival will be extending the social network beyond the confines of the home/bedroom. Until they do that, like I said, They’ll all eventually end up standing around staring at each other saying, “Now what?”

Mobile Marketing by the numbers

As if you needed a reason to pull your head out of the sand other than to breathe, you might want to consider what will be happening with mobile marketing within the next 4 years. According to a recent study by the Kelsey Group, the US mobile ad market will grow from it’s current level of $32 million to $1.4 billion. That’s Billion.

This can be attributed to some obvious trends that swirl in, out and around the online world as we know it right now. In other words, there will come a point where online ad spending will become saturated to the point that it levels off and marketers and advertisers will be looking ( as if they have not already targeted) new ways to reach consumers. Look no further than the next frontier. Mobile devices. Picture if you will Vegas, about 50 years ago.  Now look at Vegas today. Now, multiply the speed of growth of the mobile marketing industry and compartmentalize that into 4 years.

Additionally, advertisers and marketers can look to the mobile universe as a place where they can see growth exponentially. Why? where else can they grab their dempgraphic, know everything there is to know about them and then target an ad directly to them based on the data? Why? because mobile and search will be walking down this aisle hand in hand. Believe me, Google knows this, Microsoft knows this and they are doing everything they can to prepare for it. If you don’t believe me just look towards the G phone. A Google phone. What does Google do best? Search.  How does Google make money? Paid search. So now they will have a phone thats best feature will be it’s ability to search. And what will you see while searching? Paid advertising. Thank you.

So if you’re asking who the players will be in the next 4 years, you don’t have to look any further than Google, Microsoft and Apple for obvious reasons and the usual players in the carrier industry. If you want to see this burgeoning new market in play right now, then all you have to do is look to Japan. Japan is in play. If a marketer wants to get their feet wet and prepare themselves for what will happen here in the US as well as the UK, then Japan would be a good test since they are accustomed to mobile marketing as an accepted form of advertising.

So is this an emerging market? No. We are beyond that. It has emerged, just not here, not yet. In the same breath, we are behind as well.  Hard to believe I know, but watch what happens within the next 4 years. You will see the emergence and convergence of devices and media like you have never seen before.

A Word to Mobile Marketers: Dumb it Down.

 By 2010, over 300 million people  will be using mobile phones and PDA’s. The five big verticals of mobile marketing and search will be : Consumer Package Goods, Fast Food, Entertainment, Travel, and Financial. Two other  industries not to ignore however, are gaming and adult.  In all of these market segments though, there will always be a need to vomit the information to the consumer, if you will.

Graphic analogies aside, what marketers need to have, to steal a line from “Top Gun”. Is a “need for speed”. having said that, internet marketers and web designers have to build their mobile sites in a completely different way for mobile users. Below is a short list of things that will need to be done in order for the experience to be a positive one for mobile users.

1) Keep the layout simple and compliant to the device(more on this later)

2) Small URL’s. At some point, someone will have to type in your mobile URL into their device.

3) No Forms. Why you would want forms on a mobile site escapes me, but if you stay in the business long enough, you tend to see it all.

4) Make the naviagtion simplistic and linear. Keep the user going down  a logical path.

5) Be specific in the content, so that the user finds what they are looking for quickly. Bear in mind that mobile users have an immediate need and reason for surfing mobile content, give them a quick result.

6)  Limit the number of clicks and drill downs for the user to get their information.

7)  Refrain from using graphics and ads. They will only cloud the page and the result and slow the results to a crawl.

8)  No scripting, no plugines and no tables.

9) Try and develop a page that can be navigated using one hand. I know it’s virtually impossible but, put yourself in the users place.

10) Make the content accessible regardless of device and regardless of bandwidth needs.

11) Keep the following specs in mind as well:

  • 120 pixel screen width
  • Use XHTML
  • Use UTF-8 character encoding
  • Use JPEG’s and GIF’s
  • Page size should be 20Kb’s
  • Color: 256 min.
  • No scripting
  • Css1 style sheets
  • Http/1.0
  • No image maps
  • Limit Links

You’ll save yourself a lot of grief and headaches if you, wanting to cash in on mobile marketing, subscribe to certain design constraints when building your mobile ready websites. I know there are others that still need to be discussed, but the above should help in at least giving you a small checklist to utilize in your quest to be part of the next great marketing boom. Remember KISS! (Keep it simple, stupid.)

Mobile Marketing, Are you ready?

The thing that you grab along with your keys, your purse or your wallet, what is it? It goes wherever you go.  The quick and obvious answer: Your phone. Mobile marketers salivate at this Personal Digital Advertising Device or PDAD. You as a captive audience waiting to be pounced upon by advertisers and marketers is like a 12 ounce steak to a chained up Bull Dog. And why not, you are carrying around your constanly changing, always updating bulletin board/commercial/ad, right there in the palm of your hand.

Before I go any further, chew on this. 16 million children under the age of 17 have cell phones. Ever wonder why Google wants to be a player in the cell phone market? Why not? Every one has one. I will go on record to say that over 70% of the people in the US over the age of 17 have a cell phone. Given that challenge, wouldn’t it make sense for an advertiser to want to tap into that potential?

According to Accuracast a  London based SEM company, “Mobile search engine marketing seems poised to be the next big thing in the world of search.” That would be a safe statement if there ever were one.  Recently Google Mobile launched its first advertising program targeted at mobile phone Internet users in Japan. Given that Japan is one of the largest wifi/ internet users in the world,  this seemed to be just a test market, and indeed it was. It no doubt, served notice to the world that a new era in search engine marketing was upon us.

As well, Microsoft has aggressively been developing and pushing their own mobile platform for the past few years now, and it is just a matter of time before they will announce their own mobile advertising service. Wasn’t it not too long ago when all we talked about was, What is Microsoft going to do next?

Furthermore, T-Mobile and Google formed a partnership last year, which ensured that Google would be the home page for all T-Mobile customers browsing the web on their mobile handsets.

Couple this with Google’s pending launch of their phone and you can see the writing on the wall. Mobile search and Mobile marketing will be huge. The question is, How do you, as a marketer tap into this, with the same relative ease that people have been accustomed to when using traditional online marketing methods and techniques?

Yes it’s true that mobile marketing is still in its infancy at present, but growing rapidly.  It might not be the most effective medium for all businesses to market their products and services. But as a business owner, when exploring new ways to acquire customers, foolish is the one who ignores the pink elephant in the room. When evaluating a company’s future sales and marketing strategy you have to think about the audience, and when they might use their mobile phone or PDA, if at all, to search for  products or services. The reason being is because of the latency with some mobile browsers, the patience of mobile users is not where it needs to be for effective mobile search.

But in other situations, mobile search is a perfect fit.  The wait for the mobile internet market to mature and become a more established medium will not be as long as you think.  cCouple this with the subsequent maturation  of advertising and marketing on mobile search engines, and you will see a convergence rivaled only by the advent of online search as a knee jerk reaction to all things done as it pertains to a computer.

Google is pioneering the way to reach Wifi browsers through the technology it knows best – search. Mobile marketing through SMS is too restrictive to be a resounding home run. A lot of companies still use it very effectively, especially to promote mobile games, ring tones,  and events such as American Idol voting . However, the reach and effectiveness of such advertising is limited by the same factors that limit bulk emails – lack of targeting.  You just don’t know enough about the person behind that phone number.

Mobile search  advertising on the other hand, allows businesses to reach potential consumers who are looking for their services, anywhere, even far away from a PC or a wired network connection.

Like all new channels, the mobile search advertising medium needs to be tested carefully, to avoid alienating users and continuing to provide useful data services on the go while maintaining profitability through delivery of relevant ads.  Measuring the effectiveness of this medium will be the most crucial aspect.

Google Mobile Japan for instance, currently displays ads on the top and bottom of their search results. Only time will tell if this is the most effective placement strategy for them. Mobile search marketers need to realize that a) the real estate is not the same as 800×600 for instance and b) the message has to be entirely different. The call to action is framed differently on a mobile device. Because of this, traditional electronic means will need to be altered, tweaked, tested and evaluated before marketers flock to a platform that works. And they will. In the online world, imitation is the mantra of all that occurs on the Wild wild web.

So the question is are you willing to go along for the ride? or do you want to build your own vehicle? The potential is as ripe as ever for a market segment that has yet to reach anything close to critical mass.

Mobile Marketing won’t work until…

I just took part in a poll on LinkedIn in which we were all asked how often we used our mobile device as a browser. The answers were generally that the screen was too small, the load was too slow, and it was entirely too difficult.  Now a portion of the respondents did say that using the Safari browser on their iphones did make it easier, but that was on the iphone only. Which leaves the other 95% of mobile users out in the cold.

Which leads us to all of the wireless carriers right now who are touting their phones access to the web as being so easy to use and how fun it is to connect to get the latest scores, the latest news etc etc.  The problem is website capability suited to mobile devices, Wifi speed compatible to mobile devices and mobile devices compatible to the web in regards to connection speed.

If we look at what has happened within the last 2 years we can see that we are moving there quickly. But right now, the general consensus is that most people do not surf the web using their mobile device simply because the expereince is a pain in the ass.

Let’s also not forget the hidden charge that most wireless carriers tack on above and beyond what you are charged to use your phone as…. a phone.

Here is a typical but more technical explanation of why most people do not use their phones as browsers:

iPhone browser is good, but still needs work. I do use it quite a bit, but it can sometimes be frustrating because its easy to miss links (maybe my phone has an offset issue?) and some sites just put too many images up. EDGE is definitely too slow to be useful for browsing so a wireless connection is a must. And Safari’s support of Javascript seems to be limited so some AJAX type sites don’t work well. The embedded applications like weather, stock-quotes and google maps work great.”

What I like though, is this comment from Greg Harris, CEO of Mobile Visions:

I am not a typical mobile user since I am in the mobile industry, so I will comment on when I use it as a consumer.On my iPhone, I use the browser 90% of the time that I use the actual phone. It has changed mobile web browsing completely, and will produce a major shift in how we view the mobile web going forward. They have set a new standard for manufacturers. I mostly use our iPhone RSS reader to catch up on my blogs and news.

I do not use the phone, the email & sms suck, and I rarely use the iPod.

A better indication would be my Blackberry. While still mostly a phone, and email device, I use the browser about 20% of the time I am using it. Many people don’t use the browsers because they do not know of useful, fast loading mobile web sites that they can access. (We’re working on that.)

There is no question that mobile web browsing is moving beyond the “emergency” stage. Admobs is serving billions of ad impressions. Social networks are appearing every day, and useful mobile web applications are being developed. 

As the bandwidth and handset capabilities improve, and the quality and availability of the content grows, there will continue to be a major shift.

So we know where it’s heading we just need the carriers and the sales people and the marketers to be straight up with the consumers and let them know that yes you can surf the web but it’s not going to be the same as on your pc. And that flip phone we just sold you for free, won’t work nearly as well as this $500 Treo or Blackberry. Even then, We are also going to charge you an additional fee to surf the web and not all of your favorite web sites will be available on your 2×2 or 3×3 screen as well. It might also take some time to load so be patient. 

Do you think the message is mixed to consumers? Are mobile devices primed for public use of the internet or are we still in the infant stages? Is it fair to tell consumers that they can surf the web to their hearts content, when it really might not be the case? Is it fair to charge for a service that really does not work well on the majority of phones? How should social networks be used on a mobile device?

Alot of questions, but the reality is we are going there whether we like it or not. The laptop will be transformed shortly to the kneetop. And the cellphone will be a complete extension of who and what we are, it will be our connection to everything that we know.

The Convergence of Mobile Marketing

Lets face it, the cell phone is an extension of who you are. Back in the day, it used to be that your car was how we determined your social status. The bigger and flashier the car, the “more important” you seemed to be.  To that end, the bigger and badder your cell phone is, the bigger and badder you are, right? Wrong.

To the mobile marketer, all cell phones are created equal. The space that they are most interested in, is the 2×2 real estate above your key pad. More importantly is your demographic, not the type of phone you have, but where do you as a ptential customer reside.  Because, to the mobile marketer, your 2×2 real estate is the beach head to marketing nirvana. You and your phone, which are inseperable, are what they want.

eMarketer projects that the global budget devoted to mobile brand advertising will rise to $3.5 billion in 2011, up from $123 million in 2006.  Thats less than 4 years from now. Are you as a marketer prepared for this? As a consumer are you prepared for the onslaught of potential mobile marketing intrusions?

According to eMarketer’s forecast:

  • During the forecast period, mobile direct marketing is projected to grow from $1.5 billion in 2006 to $16 billion.
  • In 2007, mobile brand marketing spend – $277 million – is expected to constitute just 10 percent of total mobile ad spending, which is projected to reach nearly $2.8 billion.
  • By the end of the forecast period, mobile brand ad spend – nearly $3.6 billion – is expected to make up 22 percent of total mobile ad spend.
  • Total mobile ad spending is projected to grow from nearly $2.8 billion in 2007 to nearly $5.0 billion in 2008 (79 percent year-over-year [YOY] growth) and $7.5 billion in 2009 (51 percent YOY growth).

Factors driving the growth:

  1. Mobile text messaging has become more or less a mass-market service worldwide
  2. Mobile music is climbing the rungs of the mass-market ladder
  3. There are mobile-centric tribes of users in both advanced and developing economies, where the mobile screen is the first place where marketers can reach them, according to eMarketer.

But mobile marketing campaigns need to be relevant and hiccup-free so that they don’t turn off consumers sensitive to ad exposure, Nearly two-thirds of respondents to a Maritz Research survey of Gen Y consumers said they were unlikely or definitely unlikely to subscribe to text retail offers sent to their handsets. Moreover, a full 84 percent of mobile users in an Ingenio survey conducted by Harris Interactive said text messages sent by companies would be unacceptable:

So that means, that although the numbers are certainly going to spike and escalate over the next 4 years, marketers are still unsure as to what means will work in marketing to people via their mobile device. The technology is virtually in place, but users need to trust the ad and marketer. They need to trust the brand.

To that end, there is potential in the industry, provided marketers don’t drive the consumer away before they have even begun. What do you think should happen? What do you think might happen? How can marketers utilize social networks to better achieve their mobile marketing goals?