Mobile the Next Frontier for Consumer Marketing

By Jay Henderson, Director of Product Marketing, Unica

The tremendous success and media buzz around Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android have marketers paying a lot more attention to mobile marketing.  With new devices, faster networks and new location-aware technologies, mobile is the next frontier for marketing.  Mobile marketing presents a distinct and unique way to create interactive dialogues with customers; and it’s personal, always on and comes with an integrated response mechanism.

But despite the hype and anticipation, actual adoption of mobile marketing is still small as marketers get the lay of the land.  A little more than one third of marketers (36%) in Europe and North America conducts some type of mobile marketing now with an additional 40% of marketers indicating plans to incorporate mobile marketing. The tactics are still nascent, success is elusive, devices are fragmented, connection costs vary and technology limitations still exist.

For mobile marketing to have a significant impact, companies will have to change their approach – moving away from ad-hoc and one-off mobile projects to developing a more strategic and integrated approach.


Mobile messaging, and in particular SMS, is the foundation for most mobile strategies today. While other mobile channels have more sizzle, SMS is the most pervasive medium.  That’s because 76% of all mobile phone subscribers worldwide use SMS text messaging, offering marketers the greatest reach to these hundreds of millions of mobile users through a simple 160-character message.

The dizzying array of mobile screen sizes, varied content rendering, conflicting standards and numerous protocols often force mobile marketing to be a device-and technology-centric medium. Other messaging channels, like WAP Push for embedding browser links and MMS for delivering rich messaging content, complement SMS, but are not as ubiquitous across devices and therefore have a more limited reach.  Other mobile channels require consumers to own a more advanced device, like a smartphone (iPhone, Android, etc).  Smartphone penetration can vary significantly by geography; in most developed countries, only 10–20% of mobile users have these devices, but these numbers are growing fast.

Some advanced marketers are leveraging smartphone technology through geo-targeting.  With geo-targeting, marketers can send smartphone users promotional offers based upon their physical location. So, a consumer with a smartphone may get a text with discounts and promotions when they approach a retailer’s store based on signals emitted by their phone. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter allow users to share their locations, presenting further opportunities for marketers looking to target consumers via location.

Apple’s iPhone App Store continues to drive mainstream awareness of mobile applications and create high-profile examples of mobile marketing success.  Mobile applications provide the richest user experience, which leads to more engaged and loyal users.  However, this rich experience requires both users to own the most advanced devices and marketers to commit to development for each device.

To summarize, mobile devices present marketers with an unprecedented opportunity to reach consumers anywhere, anytime.  And as mobile devices continue their advancement and evolution, so will the ways marketers target consumers — and the most successful mobile marketers will be the ones who understand their audience and are willing to take risks. Mobile marketing may not be for everyone, but in the retail industry, it’s safe to say that targeting consumers via their cell phones will become a big part of all marketing strategies

Jay is a director on the Product Management and Product Marketing team at Unica. He is responsible for Unica’s market analysis, customer insight, and industry marketing functions. He has over fifteen years experience in marketing at both early-stage and well-established companies. Prior to joining Unica, Jay ran marketing at text mining innovator ClearForest, whose technology, after being acquired by Thomson Reuters, now powers the Open Calais semantic web initiative.Jay was also senior product manager at data mining and predictive analytics leader SPSS (now part of IBM). Jay joined SPSS as part of their acquisition of NetGenesis, a web analytics pioneer. He has also held positions at Cambridge Technology Group, 3Com, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Jay holds a BS from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and an advanced degree from the Sorbonne (Paris IV).

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