As mobile devices continue to become more sophisticated, the cell phone experience keeps getting better for marketers and consumers alike. At last week’s CTIA show in Las Vegas, online giants including Amazon.com, Yahoo and AOL came out with their latest in mobile offerings, making it easier to interact with the brands via the wireless device.
Amazon.com has expanded its mobile offering beyond its mobile WAP site. It has introduced a new service that lets consumers use text messages to search and shop on its site, called TextBuyIt.
“Our goal is to allow customers to shop Amazon.com no matter where they are, be it from the PC or mobile device,” said Heather Huntoon, a spokesperson for Amazon.com, in an e-mail. “We have a lot of customers who use text messaging extensively. This is how they want to communicate and consume things.”
Consumers can search for a product they are looking for and complete a purchase using TextBuyIt. To search for a product, consumers can send a text message to “Amazon” (262966) with the name of the product, search term or a UPC or ISBN code. Amazon will reply immediately with the product and prices. To buy, customers reply to the text message by entering a single digit number next to the desired product. Amazon will then call so buyers can hear order details, and confirm or cancel.
However, analysts aren’t quite ready to declare victory for mobile marketing. “The end-user experience has to be drastically improved upon in order for people to come to this channel,” said Vidya L. Drego, analyst at Forrester Research. “I believe that these new offerings are baby steps in this direction. But people still use their phones primarily for text and talking, and Amazon and the others have to build platforms that fit what users are doing, instead of making promises about what could be.”
Yahoo and AOL have also come out with new offerings, to make searching the mobile Web more intuitive to users out in the world.
Yahoo’s OneSearch 2.0 helps distinguish what a user would be searching for on the go to make the results easier to sift through. For example, a Web search for “French restaurants” would include information such as addresses and phone numbers. The new mobile platform would also include information from restaurant booking companies displaying the number of available reservations. A search for “Paris” may include Metro schedules with arrival and departure information that a consumer on the go might be searching for.
On AOL’s end, its Mobile Search combines content from the Web and mobile Web, with information from Moviefone, MapQuest, AOL CityGuide and other AOL services. The online company also has a new beta version of AOL MyMobile, an application designed to give users easy access to popular AOL services through their mobile devices.
The boom in innovation in this area should come as no surprise. CTIA recently reported that as of December 2007 there were more than 255 million wireless users. This represents a year-over-year increase of more than 22 million subscribers. The same research also found wireless customers are using more than 2 trillion minutes in 2007, up nearly 18% over 2006.