Reaping Business Benefits From the World of Wireless

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Do you have a wireless phone? Do your customers and employees have wireless phones? Then get ready to perform these tasks with it:

• Start your car from your bathroom while brushing your teeth.

• Access an inventory order form directly from the handset and check product availability real time.

• Update your calendar, to do list, or phone directory real time.

• Market your products and services, such as restaurants, retail outlets and traffic reports, all based on the customers' location.

If you think these activities sound impossible, think again. As we move into an increasingly hi-tech society, the business possibilities associated with wireless phones are endless. In the world of marketing, we see tremendous possibilities for reaching current and potential customers in a new way. We also realize the necessity and value in using this technology as a business tool to make us accessible to our clients, associates and families.

Wireless technology goes mainstream. With new technologies emerging daily, the challenge becomes how to use these applications in our daily lives. For instance, devices are being developed that could allow for all household appliances to be connected wirelessly by emitting and receiving radio waves. This would make it possible for your computer or wireless phone to communicate with your fax machine, printer, microwave, sprinkler system, vending machine or coffee maker wirelessly. The underlying technology is being coined "telemetry," or, simply, devices talking to other devices.

The same technology would provide families with the means to turn on or off their home security system, air conditioning or automobile from any point inside or directly outside the home with the same ease and manner that a wireless voice call moves from a caller to a call destination.

Making wireless clear and simple: issues of utility. We all know someone who has the latest PC, complete with the newest technology and software to make life easier and more efficient. This person knows how to turn on the computer and perform basic functions; however, he may be intimidated by learning how to develop an integrated customer database or designing a slide presentation for use on a laptop.

As with the PC market, the same can be true of innovations in wireless technology. In the process of providing hi-tech products and services, our challenge remains to offer a clear, simple-to-use mix of features and applications that add value to everyday lives. With this in mind, the wireless industry will see issues of utility becoming even greater factors in the evolution of new phones and service offerings. The majority of features introduced in the next few years will likely be related to enhancing everyday lifestyles, both business and personal.

In the year 2000, we'll continue to see significant advances in battery life, along with expanded wireless Web offerings such as location-based services and two-way transactional shopping, business and corporate intranet services. While these applications are very hi-tech, they make sense for the customer who wants access to business or personal information virtually anytime, anywhere.

Targeting customers on the wireless Web. The wireless Web is becoming more common because of new advanced services by wireless telecommunications carriers. This provides a huge opportunity for customers and the businesses that market to them. It also necessitates a shift in the way we think about Internet marketing and the messages we use. For example, if a customer wants to purchase a product from an online retailer, such as, via the mini-browser built into his wireless phone, he needs clear and concise information. With an 11-line display or smaller on most wireless phones, the goal is to find text-based information quickly and efficiently. For this reason, you could argue that the wireless Web contains more valuable, targeted information than the wired Web.

Similarly, in the area of location-based services on wireless phones, messages will have to be extremely brief to catch a user's attention. For instance, a department store will be able to reach all mall shoppers with a wireless phone within a specific distance of the store simply by sending a location-based short message. The challenge, however, will be to offer a brief, yet compelling message to customers who have previously indicated they are willing to receive special advertisements and offers that will drive traffic to the store and create sales. While location-based technology is not common to wireless services on the market now, it is sure to be used by all carriers within the next few years.

A phone in every pocket. The number of wireless phone users continues to explode, totaling more than 85 million U.S. subscribers and an estimated 200 million users globally. Such spectacular growth is evidence that wireless phones are no longer reserved for specific demographic segments, income levels or occupations.

Equipped with those numbers, marketers should embrace wireless technology for their own professional efficiency as well as consider these palm-sized tools as an increasingly important method for reaching key customers.

As wireless marketers our goal is to offer more than just the most cutting-edge wireless products and services, because if no one is interested in using them and they don't bring real value to our customers, such innovations simply don't make good business sense. The same should be true across all industries. After all, wireless phones will provide an anytime, anywhere direct link into the pocket of our target audiences, allowing us to redefine what direct marketing is all about.

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