Mobile: The Next Generation

Elaine Doherty, Principal Business Consultant at Logica, examines what brands need to do in order to use the mobile channel successfully for marketing and customer relationship management

Elaine Doherty Logica
As Internet-based communities, online conversations and social networking tools continue to strengthen their positions in the communications market, it would be easy to believe that the halcyon days of mobile are truly over. However, an increasing number of announcements from well-known organisations regarding upcoming forays into the mobile space, to sit alongside their online offerings, show that the medium is, if anything, currently experiencing another surge of interest. As these businesses are proving, the key to sustainable success in the long term involves reconsidering the relative mutual exclusivity with which web and mobile have traditionally operated.
For individual users, web and mobile have enabled connectivity that has crossed boundaries of distance, time zone and even socio-economics. The advent and rise of Web 2.0 has not only made these connections possible but even facilitated conversations between the impromptu communities created by this new found connectivity. Its successor, Web 3.0, aims to provide the next logical leap i.e. to proactively build and bring together communities in a more defined and, ideally, a more beneficial way.

Commercial tool
For businesses, the Internet has remained primarily a commercial tool, opening up new markets, helping to reach new customers and changing definitions of how, where and when work is possible. Although many businesses have now started to embrace Web 2.0 tools to better understand and identify with their customers, the possibilities for Web 3.0 technologies remain largely untapped. 
If the Internet was the first great equalising force in commerce, forcing organisations across all industry sectors whether small or large to reconsider their traditional business models and operations methods, mobile must surely be the next. With over 74 million subscriptions in the UK market (according to Deloitte), there are virtually no businesses that can afford to underestimate the value of this medium for reaching their target audiences.
Nor do businesses have to enter the mobile market unwillingly. Just as the Internet did for e-commerce, so mobile can and will do for e-communication. Alongside benefits such as access to customers through their preferred medium, mobile brings with it the potential for new revenue streams that operators and advertisers cannot and should not ignore. Reaching new audiences and tapping as many revenue opportunities as possible will become especially important as the recession deepens.

Significant rewards
A highly targeted mobile campaign could reap significant rewards for a number of businesses; and provide revenue-share opportunities for a number of others. Research has shown that users perceive information that they find relevant to their own needs as ‘content’ rather than ‘advertising’ – a distinction which, naturally, leads to a preference for those who offer them value through this content, rather than those who spam them through advertising.
Similarly, as User Generated Content (UGC) becomes firmly entrenched as the favoured choice of the Web 2.0 generation, operators and vendors will find themselves under pressure to ensure that interactions with users do not seem contrived. Content or conversations that come across as manufactured or commercially driven will quickly be met with the same disdain as spam. Admittedly, it can be tricky providing users with personalised content, while still making mobile operations financially viable, but for those operators and vendors who strike the right balance, the potential for customer loyalty and business growth is immense.
As with all successful mobile campaigns, old and new, the key to ensuring user relevance lies in using the right criteria and tools to build accurate customer profiles. Fortunately, from contextual targeting to behavioural and social profiling, there are now a variety of options to help businesses build a comprehensive picture and better understanding of their potential customers. In the crowded and often competitive mobile space, operators and vendors that can optimise their profiling capabilities to maximise the perceived value of the content they provide will be the ones who make themselves heard above their competitors.

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