Somewhere Between Huge and Tiny

Across tens of thousands of miles this week, at conferences in London, Chicago and San Francisco, everyone from Oprah to the new CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association weighed in on mobile current and future. You would be hardpressed to find anyone who doesn't think mobile will be huge - at some point. As for today, there is no consensus. I look at the opinions and share my own in my weekly post for MSearchGroove. 

Is the Consumer More In Control on Mobile Than Online?

With news that advertisers are choosing to give consumers more control over the online behavioral advertising they receive, it’s timely to review whether mobile approaches subscribers differently. First off, in case you missed it, building on the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising released in July 2009, the nation's largest media and marketing associations announced this week that they are trying to put the genie back in the bottle when it comes to online marketing Mobile actually never gave the genie the chance to see the light of day. You can read my iMedia Connection blog post on the subject here

Will They Interact With Mobile Ads and Will They Buy?

Is there reason to believe that mobile subscribers are open to advertising? Is an ad on one's most personal device a "Moments of Trust" no-no? Would anyone not only respond to an ad but buy something after viewing it? Two new studies may surprise you. See what consumers told Nielsen and the Mobile Marketing Association here in my new iMedia Connection blog post. 

Mobile Industry: Think Easy Peasy

(Article first published as Today's Mobile Industry: Think Easy Peasy on Technorati) Some unsolicited advice to the mobile industry in the hours before another direction-setting CTIA conference begins. Ladies and gentlemen, every day when you come to your desks, whiteboards and assembly lines, think of just two words: Easy peasy. For those who need four, how about easy peasy lemon squeezie? Huh, you say? How about we rally around the children’s rhyme to stop the insanity of metered data plans, crazy distribution points and even crazier product line introductions? Specifically, in recent days, Verizon indicated that it is moving to tiered data pricing, following AT&T’s lead in the U.S. Has anyone stopped to think that text messaging became a mass activity (72% of all American subscribers) and super easy (if not easy peasy) when unlimited plans were produced? Now we’re going to ask mobile subscribers to count “MBs” and “GBs.” Yeah, can go to a web site or send a text and get an update, but who has the time or interest to do that? As for head-scratching distribution points, $99 netbooks flew off the shelves of retailer CVS. Wonderful, you say? Awful, I say. How can we possibly provide satisfying customer experiences when we offer low-end, less intuitive products at a drugstore? Pass the antacid. And about those wacky product lines? The other day, Dell said that it will release a “whole slew” of devices – 3, 4, 7, 10 inchers. Hopefully, they will be available in drugstores so consumers won’t have to make a separate trip for an aspirin. Just how will a consumer know which model is best? As a colleague said to me, how about we ask them to buy the whole set?

Global Need For Simple Buying & User Experiences

While there are vast differences in mobile adoption and behavior throughout the world, common is the need to simplify the buying and user experience. I focus on Dell’s head-scratching decision to sell 3, 4, 7 and 10-inch wireless devices in the first of a new weekly column for MSearchGroove, a popular and well-read technology site developed by highly-regarded Peggy Anne Salz. From the column: “Just how will a consumer know which (Dell) model is best? As a colleague said to me: ‘How about we ask them to buy the whole set?’” You can read the rest of the piece here

4G or Not, Not So Fast For Mobile Banking

On the heels of the Chase iPhone app that is cool but nothing I’ve ever seriously considered using comes news that PayPal will have a similar “solution” any day now. According to PayPal, iPhone users will be able to take a picture of the front and back of a check, then deposit the funds through MMS. Just the way we’ve seen it work in the Chase TV spots. In a KPMG study unrelated to today’s announcement, U.S. respondents who said they were comfortable using their mobile devices for financial transactions grew to 16 percent, a six percent increase from the last survey. Respondents not comfortable with such usage declined to 55 percent, an 11 percent drop from the last survey. While U.S. consumers have become more comfortable using their mobile devices for financial transactions, KPMG said, they still trail much of the world in this regard. In fact, about one-third of consumers globally in the new survey said they were comfortable making financial transactions on a mobile device. Among all U.S. respondents who have not conducted banking through a mobile device, 52 percent cited security and privacy as the primary reason. Consistent with many technology advances, younger consumers are more likely to participate at least in the early days. And as is the case in Europe and elsewhere, Americans will likely gain more confidence at the Moment of Trust by being able to cap total purchases to prevent large-scale fraud. As bullish as I am on personal technology, capping would get me closer to trial. What about you?

Should a Brand Reach The Same Consumer Via Mobile and Email?

How much is too much? On first pass, one might think that sending an email and a mobile message to an opted-in consumer is pushing it. In some cases that is true, but there are many times when someone will welcome the one-two. Mobile is ideal for sending short messages, often via text, with an offer or small piece of information. Email provides an ability to add graphics and many more details that a consumer might want to read when he or she has more time. Think about an airline that might send an opted-in subcriber news of a fare sale via mobile, then follow it up with an email with more on the destination. If you missed my webinar the other day on this topic, you can review it here

Technology Gap or Gap In View of Big Picture?

Forrester says that there is a widening gap between generations when it comes to use of personal technology. Call me a disbeliever. On the contrary, I see a breakdown in the barriers to technology use due to better user experiences, price decreases, and the interest from all age groups in staying connected to family members. A sound bite from a recent presentation is here. jeffhasen From the Forrester report: "The digital attitudes and behaviors that Gen Y and Gen X are cultivating now will follow them as they age and will only be multiplied in the generations that follow them," said Forrester Research Consumer Insights Analyst Jacqueline Anderson. "Gen Y in particular is living and breathing a digital social life. In almost every online or mobile behavior, Gen Y leads the adoption curve. About two-thirds update or maintain a profile on a social networking site, which for them is a way to facilitate all social aspects of their lives." "On the other hand, Gen X is the master of maximizing the functional benefits of technology. In many activities, Gen Xers closely rival Gen Yers in adoption. For example, both spend about 17 hours online a week. But Gen Xers have mastered the art of using digital tools in a more functional manner, especially if it supports their family's needs," said Anderson. Is that so? I’m betting that my 81-year-old mother-in-law read the report on her Kindle – or at the very least via Wi-Fi on her notebook.

Buyer Beware or Buyer Was Warned?

Before most of us were born, the auto manufacturers decided that they would change out the showroom once a year with enhanced models. Of course, consumers knew this and decided often by date whether they would pay full price, wait until the dealers would look to move cars off the lot with closeout sales, or hold out for the next model year. The same can't be said for personal technology. You buy an iPad or a Droid today and there is no way of knowing if your product will be outdated in days, weeks, months or more. Is this fair?   When is the right time to purchase a mobile device? Do you envision pushback by consumers that will bite the mobile operators and manufacturers like Apple? Is this a breakdown at the Moments of Trust?

Moment To Get Started In Mobile

Mobile marketing has proven to be one of the best ways to not only reach customers and prospects, but to also engage them, thereby increasing sales and customer loyalty. However, many brands don't know where to begin. The first step is selecting the best agency partner for you, and, afterwards, getting the most out of the relationship. When selecting a firm, some areas of probing are obvious and involve traditional agency-client queries such as chemistry and bandwidth. But given mobile's relative nascency, others are more subtle yet just as important. Some questions to get you started are in my new iMedia Connection feature -

Confusing Route To New Wireless Router

(Article first published as Confusing Route To New Wireless Router on Technorati) Akin to wearing an Italian suit with Buster Brown shoes, I’ve paired my new MacBook Pro with a wireless router I bought in 2005. It isn’t that I’ve run out of money, though have you ever priced a 15-inch Pro with “aluminum uni-body enclosure, advanced longer-lasting battery, and brilliant LED-backlit display”? Wireless routers are as confusing to consumers as chemistry class is to seventh graders. I.P. addresses, port forwarding, D.N.S. servers, 802.11b/g/n. Alphabet soup that all adds up to a disconnect. According to David Pogue of the New York Times, 65 percent of homes in the U.S. have high-speed Internet service, but only half of those have gone wireless. Further, according to Pogue, 25 percent of routers are returned because they prove to be too complicated to set up. I’m frozen in fear, content to run my new laptop and the other computers in the house with a NETGEAR model that I know is outdated. Well, not content, but willing to keep the status quo to ensure connectivity and to maintain the health of my marriage. My options have included the hiring of an “expert” (that has proven in the past to be a disaster), asking those in my network for recommendations (my informal poll has already produced mixed results), and buying a router and hoping for the best (what a way to ruin a Sunday). I’ve long considered wireless routers one of personal technology’s great deals. Routers aren’t overly expensive and you pay once (how come the Internet providers never stuck us with monthly charges for the privilege of having wireless throughout the house?). Further complicating matters are questions of whether I need a repeater (presumably for stronger coverage in far-reaching areas) or a particular router to create a home network. Recent improvements by router makers have brought 24-hour customer service and promises of a positive user experience. But no one has solved the problem. My old router may not be broken but I can hardly say the same for the process of replacing it.

Mobile and the Holidays

Mobile's prospects in the upcoming holiday shopping season can be summed up in two words - Great Expectations. So how are we going to get it right? Once you get a mobile subscriber to a site or application, remember that it’s all about the experience. Consumers expect simplicity, speed, product information, competitive prices and the ability to purchase.
  • Entertainment is important but on such a day as Black Friday, shoppers more want to get in and get out
  • Simple is especially important given the wide disparity in mobile device capabilities
  • You want to ensure you are delivering a brand-worthy experience regardless of whether your customer is on a feature phone or smartphone. It should just work

Smartphones, Netbooks & Aspirin

Because turnabout is fair play, I figure the consumer electronics shop can sell Aspirin if the drugstore can sell netbooks. Crazy idea? Crazier than asking the consumer, or heaven forbid, the stockboy to be informed about products being introduced virtually every hour in the Technology-on-Steroids era? According to an InformationWeek article, CVS began selling a $99 Sylvania netbook over the Labor Day weekend – and quickly sold out in many locations. The 7-inch-display netbook features 128 MB of internal memory and 2 GB of NAND flash. The computer runs Internet Explorer on Windows CE 6.0. Let us pause here. If you walked down the street, or into your CVS – otherwise known as your consumer electronics destination of choice – do you think more than three in 100 could tell you the upside and downside of 128MB of memory and 2GB of NAND Flash? What the heck is NAND Flash anyway? Consumers were driven to CVS by Sunday circulars that proclaimed the "New Netbook ... Wow! $99.99". InformationWeek reported that “several users said they hoped to find a way to eventually download some Android apps to the netbook.” Yeah, you get all sorts of flexibility for $99. Other users said they bought the netbook for their children while others said they would give the machines as holiday presents. Should this treatment of children not be illegal? The netbook cannot run Microsoft Office 2007 but gives lucky buyers Wordpad, docviewer, pdfviewer and xlsviewer. Not to mention the headache that can be treated by that Aspirin.

Smartphone. Feature phone.

I call them all megaphones. And, as brand marketers, they are tools to hurt us – or make us. According to eMarketer, social networks are becoming the primary way mobile users exchange information. As of summer 2010, 63 percent of Twitter users posted via a mobile device. They instantly – and undoubtedly impulsively -- told us when a car salesperson pulled a bait and switch. And that their friends should get to the store quickly before the “must have” sold out. And that there was a cockroach crawling up the restaurant wall and you would be insane to ever go there. And don’t forget to tell your friends. This is a blog about the intersection between personal technology and what I call Moments of Trust, those critical touchpoints between a brand and a consumer that make or break businesses and impact sales and loyalty. We’ll examine the importance of customer service and integrity in business. We’ll salute some brands and chastise others for taking Moments of Trust for granted. It used to be that you could lose the battle for public opinion in two hours. Now it takes two minutes in an era where, according to comScore, 65 percent of the nearly 300 million mobile subscribers in the United States use text messaging. Without even making a call, those voices are being heard. This blog is intended to create a dialogue. Your megaphone is likely no more than four feet away at any time day or night. Use it. And hang on - my 80-year-old mother-in-law reads on a Kindle and she is eying my iPhone. The corner drug store is soon to carry a netbook and e-reader. Interactions with brands have never been so interesting.