August 2006 - Hand Tools

Today’s advancements in PDA technology are allowing marketers to step up their mobile marketing efforts and get their messages into consumers’ hands more quickly and efficiently.

By David Lustig

Remember a couple of decades ago when personal digital assistants (PDAs) first came out? While at a restaurant, many people felt it was fashionably chic to pull out his or her PDA and check the daily schedule, perhaps pull up a telephone number or maybe jot down a note in some form of self-created shorthand that could hopefully be remembered later. Other people at your table wanted to see this little brush aluminum marvel and more than one user swore, “I don’t know how I ever did without it.”

The functionality of all this creativity could come at a steep price, but think of it! No more would we carry little notebooks or pieces of paper with smudgy entries. That was just so plebian. But with a PDA being used as your very own personal organizer, could electronic technology get any better than this?

In 2006, the evolution from the PDA’s humble beginnings is so astounding it would be like comparing a Ford Model T automobile of the early 20th century to the latest creation coming from car designers today.

Modern PDAs still allow the user all the functions of the ones from the 1980s, but now they are Internet capable, can be integrated into telephones, are capable of sending e-mail, can operate as media players and can play inter-active games. Although still loosely considered your “assistant,” today the PDA is in reality your personal digital partner that allows you to take your office with you.

It is only natural then that intelligently designed, creative and useful PDA marketing is an avenue that many marketers should consider.

“It is not only PDAs,” says Darryl Cohen, CEO of AskMeNow headquartered in Irvine, Calif., “it’s mobile marketing in general, marketing to all cell phones via SMS, e-mail and WAP.

“We have the ability to capture a great deal of information from our users. We can target by handset, device type, daypart, browser, carrier and content,” he adds. “We can target nationwide or by local geography, with 25-, 50- or 100-mile radiuses from a single zip code.”

Brent Dusing, CEO of Cellfire in San Jose, Calif., hits it right on the head when he says PDAs are the one thing in life that people don’t leave behind.

“Since wireless data networks are becoming ubiquitous and more and more high speed, we’re able to push out more and more data,” says Dusing. “We’re able to write client software that is able to do a lot more exciting things and be more [universal], because even lower end devices are able to run pretty substantial software.”

There have been significant developments in technology that can help enhance the mobile marketing message.

“Mobile visual search is an interesting new technology for marketing to PDA owners,” says Alex Cory, CEO of Neven Vision in Santa Monica, Calif.

“Since this is typically either a business user or a soccer mom, this demographic is not as easy to reach using current text driven marketing methods,” Cory explains. “Mobile visual search allows marketers to leverage existing marketing efforts-such as print images in magazines, newspapers, posters and billboards-to create an opportunity for immediate action at the moment of consumer interest and impulse.”

Bill Schacht, CEO of Stockholm, Sweden-based Aestheticom, says that in some cases, marketers can legally access more than 125 points of specific information on people. But he says using that information must be done carefully and fairly.

“As long as you play by the rules and only market to people who have opted in for promotions, etc., this sort of information can help you drill down to an optimal target group unlike ever before,” he emphasizes.

Locating your target group, says Schacht, still leaves the question of what visual is best suited for it and which will draw the best results, while maintaining the standards you need to maintain.

“Look at what good aesthetics do for cars, computers and cell phones, each of which now plays multi-media as a matter of course,” he says. “At Aestheticom, we call this ‘pervasive media,’ the natural progression from ‘pervasive computing.’”

With a plethora of available software, the next item of business to be considered is what applications might be right for your marketing efforts.
“There are many types of advertising opportunities,” says AskMeNow’s Cohen.

He explains that there are a number of technologies, including Click-to-Call, embedded telephone numbers that allow users to automatically dial an advertiser; Hot Links, hyperlinks specially created so that advertisers can show prospective customers much more about their products and services; and Reply-4-More, where advertisers can place keywords in their messages, which users can reply to get more information.

There are also Sweepstakes, the ability for a customer to reply with a number or code or click on a link to be entered into a sweepstakes, and Mobile Coupons, where advertisers can insert mobile coupons or promotional codes in their messaging to be redeemable at retail or online/virtual locations.

As good as all this sounds, there must be a reliable ability to track responses to see what campaigns are working and which might need to be tweaked for better efficiency.

“At a minimum, marketers can receive calculations of actions taken per million impressions and what these actions led to (purchase, membership, information requests, etc.),” explains Neven Vision’s Cory.

“It is possible to collect information about the location of the people doing the actions. With user approval and depending on the relationship between the user and the marketer, even more detailed information that allows follow-up marketing could be possible.”

Cellfire’s Dusing says, “You can start to correlate the number of times it [the campaign] was used and be able to provide a pretty robust picture of how well it’s doing.

“With paper, retailers are flying blind,” he continues. “If someone did 200,000 mailings, they may not know until five or six months later how many were collected back at their stores, and have no idea how many people saw the offer or when it was used. You can get that information in digital format. For a lot of consumers, using the electronic method to pay becomes an exciting value proposition.”

Looking at the demographics of PDA users, the next question that should be mulled over carefully is whom should you market to?

Image recognition technology is a handy tool that enables camera phone users to take photos of print content to initiate a product search.

“Anyone who has a cell phone who uses SMS or WAP has been receptive to this advertising,” says Cohen. “It is really just taking what people see in outdoor advertising and Internet advertising. People have been trained to see advertisements in all walks of life. We are simply adding advertising to content that a user has requested on their cell phone.”

Then there is the always-difficult choice of trying to determine which are the hot trends that marketers should be aware of.

“Interactive advertising is becoming increasingly important,” explains Cory. “The Internet is picking up share against print, radio and TV because of this. Companies using mobile visual search add interactive capabilities to print and TV ads that are immediate, intuitive and fun. Ad content is viewed so that it is presented at a time when the probability of the consumer being interested or having any intention to research or buy is highest.”

Aestheticom’s Schacht notes, “Obviously podcasting, which is one narrow avenue, or in broader terms, PDAcasting.

“Look, if people are paying to download motion graphic content, like TV shows and music videos, imagine the value of tagging onto something like that, just as sponsors have done for years with traditional outlets.

“Many of Aestheticom’s clients, Sony, Universal, EMI, etc., are in the entertainment field, so it’s not difficult for us to provide a client like Microsoft with high-end content for high-end artists when our clients are open to that,” he adds.

If you have come to the conclusion that mobile marketing via PDAs is something you can use, how do you proceed?

Cory suggests running small trials with modest budgets and low expectations to see how it will work for you.

“Think about how to leverage and build the one-to-one relationship with the mobile phone user to be of service to them when they might be interested in your products,” he explains, adding that you should think about how to build an ongoing dialogue through the mobile phone.

Cohen contends that direct response is the easiest way to get started.

“On a mobile device, a clickable 800 number is an extremely easy call to action whether on an SMS (text messaging), e-mail or WAP,” he says. “The ad can be the same amount of text as a paid search ad and then have the clickable 800 number for users to call.”

Schacht suggests seeking out another company with expertise in the field.

“Have the conversations, read the promotional materials, maybe even bring them on as consultants until you are comfortable in the field,” he says.” Make sure to check your references with the company. Since this is a new medium, it can still be a bit like the wild west out there.”

David Lustig is a contributing writer to Electronic Retailer magazine. We would appreciate your feedback. To submit comments, please e-mail the magazine at [email protected].


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