Mobile Startegy - The New Corporate Imperative

Date:   Tuesday , June 03, 2008

Mobile is a new paradigm for businesses, as it emerges as a powerful sales channel and marketing medium which these businesses must strategize and plan for. With the proliferation of data services, the mobile is slowly going to take on bigger roles in all aspects of businesses and also inevitably the consumersí lives the world over. One is slowly reaching a point where developing a viable mobile strategy is becoming an imperative for small and large businesses for their long-term growth and sustenance.

Mobile Marketing and Messaging
Firms need to develop a powerful branding in the mobile arena. They need to clearly state how their business is relevant to the mobile usersí world and how they can leverage the latest marketing channel, the mobile device, to reach their customers, partners, and suppliers. Mobile advertisement is a new and exciting domain, which firms or businesses must master. Firms need to determine a strategy to use the mobile as a powerful advertisement medium. The mobile is penetrating a large section of the population in every country, and it is overtaking the Internet in terms of reach and scale. It is fast becoming the best way to reach a mass audience for messaging about and marketing of a firmís products and services.

Multi-pronged approach to Mobile Marketing
Mass mobile marketing: Using SMS based marketing. In countries in the APAC region, the SMS remains the killer mobile application and businesses can leverage this to send out marketing messages to a large number of people. However, this approach has the danger that people might question unsolicited messages as spam, leading to lack of trust and efforts to prevent such marketing communication from marketers.

Permission-based marketing: In this case, customers actually sign up for receiving SMS based messaging. This signup can happen over the internet on the firmís website, via postal solicitations, or via opt-in mobile messages.

Proximity marketing: This is a unique marketing technique which allows location sensitive marketing communication to the users. This involves development of Bluetooth or NFC (Near Field Communication) networks at consumer points of presence like shopping malls and tourist spots and sending out ads to Bluetooth/ NFC-enabled devices present in the area.

Each of these marketing techniques requires unique software and device infrastructure, definition of the customer profile, data acquisition, and customer segmentation. Mobile marketing offers a compelling new medium for corporations to communicate with the customer where the customer wants, when the customer wants, and how the customer wants.

Mobile Commerce
The mobile commerce is expected to shoot up from $2 billion worldwide business in 2007 to $21 billion business in 2011. This will take away a substantial portion of revenue from the traditional brick and mortar and even online commerce avenues and move that revenue to the mobile world. Firms need to decide if their products and services can be marketed and sold via the mobile commerce channels. Once they pin down the need for mobile commerce and the particular products and services which need to be sold via mobile channels, firms must choose a mobile commerce solution. This could include standard mobile portals like Amazon Mobile, Ebay Mobile, or others. It could also mean a custom homegrown mobile commerce website for the firm.

Mobile commerce enablers can help firms create custom mobile-optimized commerce websites. Firms can implement mobile coupon solutions using a variety of technology providers. If firms do not plan and strategize for mobile commerce options, they risk loosing out to more nimble competitors who adopt this new channel faster. As it stands today, it is possible that mobile commerce will prove to be a disruptive channel in consumer shopping arena, and will quite likely create the impact which the Internet created on consumer buying patterns. The focus is always the consumer, who wants control over the timing, content, and format of shopping. The mobile opens up these aspects of shopping and empowers the consumer to make decisions in real time, anytime, and anywhere.

With the proliferation of consumer oriented devices like iPhone and the entry of Google Android operating system, a proliferation of mobile commerce websites is a natural phenomenon, which one expects in near future. Just as in the case of an e-commerce shopping web-front, each company needs to develop a mobile storefront. The technology and device variance, which exists in mobiles, presents a challenge to any firm trying to develop a mobile storefront. Firms must account for the myriad variety of presently available mobile devices and mobile operating systems which may access the mobile storefronts as well as those that are in the offing.

Mobile Banking and Contactless Payment Solutions
This is a huge area for mobile business. This facilitates use of the mobile devices as banking front ends for executing all sorts of banking and payment transactions, not only from managing oneís checking and savings accounts but also interacting with ones brokerage to indulge in stock trading anytime, anywhere. Bill payments over the mobile phone is another compelling idea here and consumers can manage their financial life on the go, thereby conserving precious time for doing more in life.

Contactless payments are a compelling retail possibility wherein the mobile phone becomes the credit card of the customer and counter payments are mediated over the mobile phone. A mobile wallet concept emerges. It is absolutely possible to receive payment request over oneís phone at the checkout booth of a store and be able to pay directly from the mobile wallet account. This is a huge cost saver as the retailer faces reduced paperwork for processing of checks, credit cards and cash. In addition, this method offers security (no need to handle cash or checks), protection from identity theft (viz. paperwork loss), and quick gratification to the retailer as money reaches the secure account of the retailer immediately.

Mobile System Integration
Firms need to recognize which of their business segments are amenable to the mobile world. This could include all aspects of a firm, like marketing, advertisement, sales force automation, customer care, sales and support, etc. Having determined which segments need a mobile strategy, the firms need to decide on the particular solutions needed which will provide a robust and fit mobile strategy for each segment.

Firms must integrate their IT and business infrastructure with the mobile technology domains. This could mean development of custom mobile websites or integration with off-the-shelf mobile portals like Yahoo Mobile, MSN Mobile, Google Mobile and others. For mobile commerce, it could mean use of mobile payment solutions and mobile banking solutions.

Mobile Workforce
Firms may find it useful to mobile-enable their workforce. This could mean selecting mobile offerings from various carriers for various business units in a firm. It would also mean selecting the right mobile solutions for particular workforce units. The idea is to increase the efficiency, reach, and productivity of the workforce and provide them mobile tools to do a more effective job.

Mobile email, mobile sales force automation, mobile inventory, the list goes on. A mobile work force is more able to operate in real time, fulfill customer needs in peak and off-peak hours, and provide and get business support where and when it is needed.

Mobile Carrier Agreements and Technology Platform
Mobile strategy inevitably involves figuring out which wireless carriers fit your needs in the mobile arena. With the alpha-soup of mobile terminology starting with GSM, GPRS, CDMA, UMTS, 2G, and 3G and proliferation of device types like Nokia, Motorola, Smartphones, Palm, BlackBerry and Apple iPhones, firms are bound to be confused as to what works best for their particular mobile strategy needs.

One of the major obstacles in the companiesí adoption and inclusion of mobile technology into their overall business strategy is the lack of expertise in mobile space, lack of business model understanding, and inability of the traditional IT departments in corporations to understand the rapidly evolving mobile landscape, mobile technology, and mobile devices.

The author is VP - Marketing, CellStrat