Tailor Wireless Offers Carefully

We love our wireless devices — more than 1 billion mobile phones are in use worldwide, and the number is growing rapidly. But marketing products and services through promotional advertising to mobile devices can generate impressive new opportunities and related responsibilities.

Imagine wireless advertising as everyone having his own personal, interactive, portable communications device that can deliver promotional offers that are interactive, pre-selected and customized by product categories, brands, retailers and demographic details.

Marketing to wireless devices becomes strategically effective when the end-user doesn’t think of it as advertising because the information and messages are relevant, useful and prioritized to immediate consumer needs. Consumers can be motivated to make an immediate purchase when you deliver a requested personalized special offer to their mobile phones at the right time and the right location.

Companies are looking for ways to use mobile advertising to build brand awareness and preference for their products and services. Retailers are searching for new ways to build customer loyalty and drive traffic to their stores. The niche is to provide consumers with information they need immediately via their mobile devices.

Wireless consumers have little incentive to want any ordinary, nonurgent, not-requested advertising. Your wireless message has to be compelling, concise, timely and offering exceptional value. You want to create a wireless promotion that is unique and perceived as “wow” by your targeted audience. But you may not want to use wireless advertising when the customer is getting a generic offer, a message that could have waited or a message that doesn’t work most effectively when delivered to a mobile device.

So how do you use advertising to add value to the mobile phone user? We know that mobile Internet and m-commerce is not growing as fast as everyone hoped based on technology, consumer preference and business decisions. Companies and advertisers want to know the best ways to profit from new mobile advertising while integrating their current marketing activities. Marketing to the mobile consumer means new ways to target consumers and creative promotions.

Permission marketing is the basis for all successful mobile service marketing. Wireless advertising begins with a commitment to customer privacy and control. Asking customers how, when and for what type of information they want to be contacted honors this relationship. It also gives the marketer more targeted information about the customer’s preferences.

Creative and profitable wireless advertising options are developing first in Europe. Wireless marketers are offering value and gaining mind share among chosen demographic groups. The personalized nature of two-way interactive alerts allows for effective and engaging wireless advertising. Consumers provide requested information, demographics, purchasing details, and communication preferences via a Web site or by submitting a response card at a retail location.

A marketing trial in the United Kingdom using wireless, location-based-alerting shopping messages shows great promise for targeted offers to the 18-34 age market. Wireless content provider ZagMe began a trial nine months ago at two of the largest shopping malls outside London. Using an opt-in, location-based system, ZagMe sends cell phones a variety of short-text message service alerts for special retail deals and free merchandise while shoppers are at participating malls. The alert “coupons” and special promotions can be redeemed at more than 75 participating stores.

Consumers initially have to opt in with their profile information and opt in again when they want to get promotional alerts while mall shopping. Consumers who are receptive to this type of advertising can request wireless alerts to their cell phones anytime there is news about limited-time or limited-quantity offers for products and services that meet their identified interests. For example, consumers can request more frequent mobile wireless alerts during selected peak shopping times, such as before holidays, back-to-school season or for seasonal new merchandise.

ZagMe members have grown from 2,000 to more than 80,000. The average retail transaction targeted to each wireless promotional message averages $15 to $75 with up to a 20 percent redemption rate per alert (high compared with average direct marketing or Internet advertising response rates).

The use of two-way, interactive, just-in-time retail alerting gives potential customers the chance to respond immediately — leading to direct and measurable sales. It also gives consumers an option of sending an alert message so a store will hold a limited-supply item or a special discount for a set period. Wireless alerts can create increased awareness and publicity for a brand and retailer. For example, an offer for free running shoes for the first person to get to a store with that promotional alert on their cell phone generated more than 50 people running through a shoe retailer’s entrance in a spirited under-four-minute race to be first for the prize.

Customers want to interact with valued information. They are looking for simple but meaningful solutions for their problems and needs. That’s what the right combination of technology and targeted marketing is about. Interactive alerting (text or voice messages to wireless devices, any regular phone, personal digital assistant, pager, fax or e-mail) is a promotional tool that has a track record for increasing sales and building greater customer loyalty.

We need to respect and value consumers’ need for privacy and discretion when getting promotional alerts and other for

ms of wireless advertising. That means not reaching them with unrequested advertising or offers that don’t make sense for a mobile situation. Can wireless ads change immediate behavior to generate sales? Yes, if consumers are in the right mind-set – they have to be reached at the right time and location to respond to your offer. Think about this: If you got an ad on your cell phone to save 50 cents on a cup of coffee if purchased within the next two hours, are you motivated to change your travel pattern, schedule and retailer to claim that deal?

Some people will try anything once when initiating wireless advertising. Marketers have offered free cellular minutes in return for consumers agreeing to get ads on cell phones. (Opt in, yes, but targeted in a brand or strategic consumer focus — questionable) Remember the old Internet mantra “get the eyeballs — the advertising and sales revenue will flow”? This didn’t work in most cases for the Web. So will marketers try it again for wireless advertising?

The examples that are emerging as wireless promotion successes are more like direct marketing and don’t follow the typical brand advertising model. Personalized alert messages that are time-specific and refer to an exact location with a call-to-action will generate new and increased sales while supporting the decision to use wireless advertising.

Mobile phone users will support marketing efforts when you give them control to opt in or opt out of wireless promotional messages. Most people appreciate a great deal or special offer if it is genuine and relates to their interests. Targeted wireless advertising for driving traffic to stores offers unlimited opportunity when integrated with inventory, seasonal opportunities, customer preferences and overall marketing, retail and brand development. You may even be inspired to expand your alerting options to include interactive voice alerts that reach customers who prefer using regular telephones.

Companies that develop new ways to add value to the customer relationship will have a competitive advantage. Focus your mobile advertising on applications, consumers, products and services that will drive profitability and give you an advantage today.

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