The Challenge of ‘Push’ Technology

With all the hype surrounding wireless marketing, I shudder to remember the last time a communication medium received this level of adulation and promise of marketing possibilities.

Remember the PC “push” technology of Pointcast, Microsoft Active Desktop and Netscape Netcaster? Don’t worry about wireless push, however; it has the legs to be around for some time. Unlike with PCs, most of the value proposition behind the phone is defined by push. I carry my phone not just to make phone calls and pull information, but also to allow the people I trust to push information to me.

The demise of PC push came from technological advances in bandwidth and browsing that enabled consumers to pull their desired content more effectively rather than wait for the push. However, there is no such solution for wireless bandwidth and navigation constraints in the foreseeable future, making wireless the perfect push medium for years to come. Voice recognition and broadband wireless technologies offer promise, but they are years from being seamless additions to our wireless experience. Wireless push is here to stay.

To date, the wireless phone industry has offered real value with consumers through both push and pull — principally the convenience of consumers talking with other consumers. The success of wireless e-marketing rests in the hands of whether businesses will successfully “talk” directly with their customers (or consumers, businesses or both).

Though the reach of the wireless channel will be expansive, will customers really want to see an advertisement on their Palm Pilots or get a message on their cell phones about a discounted book? Perhaps, but what is the benefit for customers? The notion of getting a message on my cell phone advertising a nearby bookstore is irritating. Just because your customers are reachable via wireless, blasting messages through this medium will not necessarily be effective. So how will wireless brand advertising and wireless direct marketing live up to the hype?

Wireless brand advertising initiatives will need to deliver improved content, convenience and cost. Wireless access to real-time stock quotes delivers on all of these benefits because customers can get relevant information (content) when they want it (convenience) and at virtually no charge (cost). Businesses can purchase a share of this value by branding alongside the stock quotes. The onus, however, will be on marketers to use the content and available permission-based information about consumers to drive results.

The question has to be: Is my advertisement compelling and value-added to the reader? Although marketers have the reach opportunity, they must fulfill the responsibility to deliver added value to offset the intrusion on the content being sought, a proposition that is easier said than done on the tiny four- and six-line screens of today’s phones. Wireless customers, just like online customers, hold the power and control. Therefore, marketers must provide targeted opportunities that are both relevant and timely, or customers will exercise their power to turn you off, unsubscribe or simply ignore your advertising.

As for wireless direct marketing initiatives, which also will be push-based, the same rules of content, convenience and cost apply. Once again, the customers hold the power. Going back to the earlier example, having a bookstore cold call me on my cell phone as I drive by its store does take advantage of the wireless opportunity from the marketer’s perspective, but it does not necessarily deliver the customer benefits of content, convenience and cost. Consumers will only be willing to accept direct marketing on their phones from an invited and trusted source. The key will be that it is not just a message from any bookstore I’m near; it’s my bookstore, and I can trust it would not dare waste my time.

The challenge for the marketer is to live up to customers’ expectations to receive only personalized promotions, which take into account their location and proximity to buying opportunities, while saving time and money associated with searching for the best deals.

The power and potential of wireless e-marketing are thrilling, but the challenges of living up to the hype may be daunting. The cost of doing wireless push even slightly wrong is the loss of your customers’ trust and ultimately your customers’ business. With a penalty this high, it is no wonder people are pursuing the opportunity with caution. The future of wireless push, however, with delivery of quality content, at low cost and high convenience, has great promise.

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