Archive for February, 2008

gartner-mobile-shopping-research-mobilestance-2-copy.jpgStamford, Ct-based reach firm Gartner, Inc recently published a study exploring consumer attitudes regarding Mobile Shopping services – both in the U.S. and U.K. markets.

The report, entitled “M-Commerce Retail Consumer Shopping Preferences,” surveyed over “2,000 consumers in the U.S. and the U.K. to assess the likelihood that they would undertake a variety of mobile shopping activities, from price checking and product browsing to ordering and paying for a product from a mobile phone.”

Gartner claims that “few of the more-likely shopping activities that consumers will want to do on their mobile phones, such as finding stores and checking prices, will be provided by portals and price comparison engines.” The research firm also released the following “Key Findings” from the study:

  • Checking Prices and Finding Stores both popular mobile usage cases. Both “activities were in the ‘top three activities’ to be done on a mobile phone in both the U.S. and U.K.”
  • Consumers are more open to mobile “comparison shopping” verses actual mobile commerce. Twenty-four (24%) percent of U.S. consumers were “likely” use their mobile handset to “check prices”, versus twelve percent (12%) were likely to “buy on a mobile phone. U.K. consumers posted similar responses (eighteen percent check price, eleven percent buy).”
  • Consumers relatively open to receiving mobile promotional offers. “Openness to receiving promotions on a mobile phone ranked third in the U.S. and fourth in the U.K. Twenty percent (20%) of U.S. and sixteen percent (16%) of U.K. respondents stated that they would ‘be likely to want to receive promotions’ on their mobile phones.”
  • A18-27 represents current “Sweet Spot” for mobile shopping services. U.S. respondents ages 18 to 27 “were, on average, 1.98 times more likely to do mobile shopping activities than… respondents (ages 43 to 61). In the U.K. this trend is even more pronounced, with A18-27 “average 2.63 times more likely to do mobile shopping activities than their boomer counterparts.”

Analysis: For many leading and diverse business categories such as Consumer Package Goods (CPG) and Quick Service Restaurants (QSR), Mobile Shopping services (including related activities such as Mobile Couponing) represents the critical “last mile” in the evolution of Mobile Marketing.

That said, as is typical in research pieces such as the Gartner study, the publicly released research data often portrays too rosy a picture… as to not do so would limit the study’s appeal to its target customers (Venture Funds and well financed start-ups).

On its face, the data suggests that roughly one in four US consumers are “likely to” engage in mobile comparison shopping, and one in eight are “likely to” engage in mobile purchases of hard goods (interestingly enough, both data points are higher in the U.S. than in the U.K.). However, when pressed, Gartner reveals a more challenging scenario for prospective m-Commerce merchants. The research firm reveals that “the mobile phone is too complex for users to feel comfortable using them to buy physical goods”, and that “in addition to complexity, the second-biggest reason not to shop on the phone is fear of having their location tracked,” this according to Moconews.net. Both seem highly plausible – but rather conspicuously, neither of these two highly revealing insights are identified by Gartner as “Key Findings” in their press release announcing the study.

We find ourselves in agreement with Gartner’s recommendation that “M-commerce technology vendors should differentiate themselves by providing multichannel capabilities, such as enabling mobile-phone-generated orders to be picked up in a store or allowing consumers to save mobile-phone-created shopping sessions to be later continued on a Web browser.” While both evolutionary “half-measures” rely on other, legacy commerce channels (such as online or point of sale), both seem a good fit as “transitionary tactics” towards the brass ring that is the “fully fledged” m-Commerce transaction model.

ogilvyone-acision-logo-mobilestance-copy.jpg OgilvyOne, the Interactive and CRM arm of the WPP Group, and Plano, TX-based Acision, a mobile technology firm that provides the mobile messaging back-end to many Wireless Carriers worldwide, announced a “marketing alliance” to “enable mobile marketing and advertising for mobile operators and brands.” No specific mobile brand initiatives or product offerings are cited in the announcement.

Over the past few years OgilvyOne has been an active player in the US mobile marketing space, going back to their groundbreaking 2004 integrated mobile marketing campaign for Dove. Acision, who claims to “deliver more than half of the world’s text and multimedia messages and serves three quarters of all videomail users,” would seem an ideal parter for for OgilvyOne’s future direct marketing-based mobile messaging campaigns, although it is not clear what assets (other than its messaging platform) Acision would bring to a “mobile advertising” offering.

Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Chairman and CEO, OgilvyOne hints at a future carrier tie-up (or at least reveals Acison/OgilvyOne’s pitch to the carriers) by stating that “it is crystal clear that the big opportunity for telco operators is to leverage their data assets.” Rory Buckley, CEO, Acision further reinforced their strategy by asserting that “Mobile operators have been incredibly vocal about their hopes for mobile advertising… the real potential lies in the targeting and delivery of marketing communications both for the operator themselves and for third party brands… Working with OgilvyOne, we are now in a position to offer support for the complete mobile marketing value chain; from an understanding of today’s mobile subscriber, through the technology, right into the brand strategy.”

Clearly then the missing piece is a Carrier willing to sign on and allow the two to manage their mobile messaging ad inventory (or at a minimum permit the two to leverage the consumer data currently managed by Acision for mobile ad targeting purposes). While there is little doubt OgilvyOne’s expertise in CRM and brand marketing combined with Acision’s Carrier relationships and current dominant role in the mobile messaging value chain will provide a compelling offering to mobile operators worldwide – it remains to be seen which (if any) of the Carriers will decide to move forward with the Acison/OgilvyOne integrated mobile messaging-based advertising offering.

burnett-akoo-logo-mobilestance-copy.jpg In related news, Publicis’ Arc Worldwide, the marketing services arm of Leo Burnett, announced a non-exclusive alliance with Akoo International, a provider of mobile messaging and integrated display technology. The announcement makes no mention of specific brands committing to any marketing services resulting from the Arc / Akoo alliance.

Akoo’s primary offering is its “m-Venue” platform, which allows consumers to control and/or interact with video content displayed in retail locations and other out-of-home places – either via the internet or through a mobile message-based application. The solution also features a “music ID”-like feature, whereby consumers can text in to receive more information on the song that they are listening to (presumably for later purchase). The current m-Venue offering is tailor made for the labels, such as Universal Music Group and Sony BMG – the both of which are listed on the Akoo website as as either current or historical m-Venue clients.

The fit then, with Arc Worldwide, with its focus on direct-database marketing/customer relationship management, interactive marketing, promotional marketing and – most importantly – shopper marketing, is a natural one. It remains unclear if Akoo will be making a direct advertising play by aggregating a network of display spaces incorporating their m-Venue system, or if they will merely be providing the back-end technology for Arc (and other agencies and brands) to activate independent OOH display inventory.

Analysis: While both agreements provide further evidence of the accelerating activity and interest in the mobile marketing sector, it is telling that neither announcement provides any mention of actual mobile brand activity. What is clear that both Publicis and WPP anticipate mobile as an important element in the integrated marketing space, although both holding companies are playing things somewhat safe by announcing “marketing alliances,” rather than making direct investments in and/or launching Joint Ventures with either of these mobile technology firms.

 

cbs-loopt-logo-lockup-mobilestance-copy.jpgCBS Mobile will begin incorporating GPS and other cell tower-based location data supplied by Loopt, a location-aware mobile social networking service, as a targeting parameter for advertisers purchasing banner ads on its suite of mobile websites, such as CBS Sportsline Mobile (http://cbs.volantis.net/sportsline/) and CBS Mobile News (wap.cbsnews.com/news), this according to The New York Times. Loopt has stated that their deal with CBS is not exclusive, opening the door for other mobile publishers and ad networks to follow in CBS’s lead.

While the move is notable in that CBS Mobile becomes the first North American publisher to bring location-based mobile web adverting inventory to market, it should also be noted that Loopt is currently only available to Sprint Wireless (and Boost) subscribers on a limited number of handsets. Loopt, a Silicone Valley startup, recently raised $12MM in Series B funding.

Eagerly awaited by some, the concept of true, location-based mobile advertising has, overnight, moved from the realm of the hypothetical to the desert of the real. For years, it seems, we have all been nibbling at the margins of the issue, exploring and debating from a safe distance. Now, as this once academic curiosity becomes cold reality, we are forced to examine the issue from a more practical perspective.

  • Privacy. It seems that the idea of Location-Aware Mobile Advertising cannot be explored without first discussing privacy. But while previously the focus was on generic privacy issues such as transparency and security, we are now free to explore the issue in the most concrete of terms: Has Sprint / Boost / Loopt specifically secured user permission to pass (or sell) their personal location data to third parties (such as CBS or their ad server) , or is a more dubious, “opt-out” mechanism being employed? Who will be held responsible if an unthinkable security breech occurs, such as a the “hijacking” of a user’s GPS data for malevolent or even criminal purposes? Clearly none of CBS’s major brand advertisers are eager to chart this new territory themselves, as it has been reported that (as of press time) none have purchased any of CBS’s GPS-targeted mobile advertising inventory.
  • Scalability. Privacy issues aside, there will be plenty of local, regional and national advertisers saying, “Great! Where can I get some of this?” This will be good news for CBS, as their mobile inventory is likely not flying off the shelves (this assumption is based on the fact that the network currently feels the need to augment its national sales force with four mobile ad networks – Third Screen Media /AOL, Millenial Media, AdMob and Rhythm New Media – in order to begin to fill its mobile inventory). How then, will advertisers purchase the GPS inventory? How will the local ad inventory be parsed, tracked and forecasted (this, across all of CBS’s five individual sales channels no less, most if not all utilizing different (if not incompatible) ad serving platforms!).
  • Economy. From the media buyer in me: How much of a price multiple does one place on GPS targeting? Will it follow current media targeting models, and increase based on the granularity of the location-targeting? Surly some areas (say – 5th ave, between Central Park South and 46th St) should cost more than say, the outskirts of Palm Desert… but how much more? Sure, we can all agree to “let the market” decide – but this is the same market that has settled on $45 on deck CPM’s and an estimated 16% monthly inventory fill situation (sources confidential)… not exactly a trustworthy market to be sure. Where’s the self-service, auction-based play on this one? (AdMob, are you listening?)

Analysis: While on its face the Loopt / CBS deal represents a minuscule number in terms of actual audience reach (not to mention reach potential… with Loopt users probably representing less than 1% of the US pop), the marketplace affects cannot be easily overstated. We’ve finally gotten beyond relatively simple questions of if or even when a major US carrier will start utilizing GPS data to target mobile ads, and into the much more interesting realm of real world applications.

groupm-celltick-logo-lockup-mobilestance-copy.jpg Group M, the parent company of WPP media agencies (MediaCom, Mediaedge:cia and MindShare), and UK-based Celltick, a provider of mobile “Idle Screen” ad serving and inventory management technology, jointly announced a “regional cooperation agreement” today whereby the two will “develop a joint mobile advertising proposition… for the Asia Pacific region.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Celltick will “actively promote… Group M as media partner for managed service contracts; GroupM is now the preferred media partner for advertising inventory on operator platforms served by Celltick’s LiveScreen(TM) Media. In return, GroupM will present Celltick’s LiveScreen(TM) Media as its preferred idle screen advertising solution for mobile operators and promote it as an advertising channel to media agencies in the region.”

Celltick claims its LiveScreen technology currently reaches the idle screens of over 200 million mobile users on over 20 operators worldwide, including Hutch, Orange and China Unicom.

Analysis: Putting aside the inherent conflict of interest Group M will face in “favoring” a partner’s media on the basis of a partnership arrangement, the real value of Idle Screen mobile advertising inventory has yet to be demonstrated in any unbiased and/or publicly available data and/or case studies. While there is little doubt that the inactive screen “push” model will be successful as a pure branding play, in remains to be seen if users will act (i.e. click) on idle screen mobile ads in large and/or reliable numbers. Judging by the context by which most mobile phones are used (i.e. to make a call, or engage in mission-based activity such as text messaging or even mobile search), we would suspect not.

Of course, Celltick could help us become believers in their approach by publishing some (independently verified) click thru data…

mobilestance world of WAPcraft warcraft GFXThis week was marked by an extraordinary series of high profile Mobile Web developments… which, when viewed in aggregate, were seen by many as evidence that the nascent channel has finally reached an inflection point.

All three major areas of the mobile web “ecosystem” (carriers, publishers and advertisers) announced significant site launches, partnerships and traffic milestones, including several blue-chip advertisers and content publishers such as American Airlines, YouTube, Yahoo!, NBC, ABC, A&E and the New York Times.

Despite these encouraging developments, several notable marketplace events served to point out the shortcomings of the emerging mobile web space, including a reminder of a glaring limitation of the mobile web from a metrics and reporting standpoint, as well as accounts of a public tirade involving nearly the entire mobile value chain – from one of the mobile industry’s more prominent (and animated) executives.

A busy week in the World of WAPcraft to be sure… here’s some of the major highlights:

  • Carriers. Last week’s most significant Mobile Web development came from AT&T Mobility, who announced a strategic alliance with Yahoo! whereby the internet giant will begin serving ads on the carrier’s “MEdia Net” mobile portal. Under the terms of the agreement, Yahoo! and AT&T will divide up the on-deck advertising inventory for sale and/or for internal use. Additionally, AT&T ‘s yellowpages.com will now power local search on both AT&T’s Mobile and Wireline Web properties. AT&T has not yet announced when these changes will take affect.

    AT&T Mobility’s move follows earlier moves by Sprint and Verizon Wireless. Collectively, the three carriers represent approximately 78% of the US mobile market. T-Mobile, the last of the “big four” US carriers without an on-deck mobile advertising play, has tied up with Yahoo! to serve ads on its UK “Web’n’Walk”mobile portal. Clearly the announcement from AT&T Mobility would inhibit T-Mobile’s ability to expand their Yahoo! relationship here in the US.

  • Publishers. This week witnessed an abundance of mobile website launches and/or relaunches from many of the larger content providers. YouTube announced the launch of its new Mobile Web site (m.youtube.com), as well as a new J2ME application (supported on Nokia 6110, 6120, E65, N73, N95 and Sony Ericsson k800 and w880). NBC announced the launch of 40 new WAP sites (as well as 3 new mobile video channels), including dedicated mobile web sites for NBC programs such as 30 Rock, ER, Friday Night Lights and Saturday Night Live. Not to be outdone, ABC News announced that its mobile site (m.abcnews.com) would be providing “real time” US presidential election results, although Mobile Marketer reports that ABC refreshes its mobile website content [only] on an hourly basis.

    On the cable side, A&E Television announced the launch of mobile the A&E Network portal (mobile.aetv.com), as well as dedicated sites for The History Channel (mobile.history.com) and The Biography Channel (mobile.biography.com). The A&E mobile sites feature fairly standard mobile web fare, including “What’s on Tonight”, “Program Descriptions and Photos”, “Fan Polls and Trivia Games” and “Downloadable Wallpapers and Ring Tones.”

    Finally, moconews.net reported that the New York Times mobile website is now generating an average of 10MM page impressions per month, a 600% year-over-year traffic increase.

  • Advertisers. American Airlines announced the launch an extravagant new mobile web site that is sure to raise the bar for mobile websites in the airline category. The site utilizes a common URL approach (www.aa.com), which automatically redirects mobile users to device-appropriate site versions (although mobile users have the option of reverting to the full HTML site, an option that hopefully will soon become a standard feature on most mobile websites). Currently the AA.com mobile site features include the ability for users to “check in for a flight, view their itinerary, check schedules, check the status of their flights, get information on destinations, weather or airports and contact American Airlines.”

    Future AA.com mobile enhancements targeted for a Spring ’08 launch include the ability for users to “book flights, change their reservations, view fare specials, request upgrades and enroll in” American’s AAdvantage loyalty program. Additionally, the carrier states that “many pages also will be viewable in Spanish.”

  • Criticism. UK SEO provider AccuraCast cast a spotlight on Google’s inability to effectively track conversions generated from AdWords Mobile. The challenge faced by Google is that its ability to track conversions relies on either Java script (embedded on a publisher’s page) or tracking cookies – technologies not supported by most (if not all, in the case of Java) mobile web browsers. To its credit, Google acknowledges its system’s shortcomings, noting that “conversion rate, cost-per-conversion, cost-per-transaction and value/click are adjusted to reflect only those sites from which we can track conversions.”

    In lighter news, this week at the AlwaysOn Media event in New York City Cyriac Roeding, SVP of CBS mobile, unleashed a public rant against the complexity and inherent dysfunction of the mobile ecosystem. Apparently no one was spared from Teutonic executive’s assault on the mobile industry; From the carriers (there’s too many of them! lack of technology standards! too many pricing options! too many service packages! poor marketing!) to the publishers and handset manufacturers (poor usability! content poorly organized!) and even the advertisers themselves! (they don’t understand mobile or the value it brings!). While attendees reported that Mr. Reoding’s “marketplace observations” were greeted with wild applause, mobilestance finds it ironic that the current Chairman of the Mobile Marketing Association Board of Directors would choose to publicly rebuke, ridicule and embarrass nearly all of the organization’s members.

Analysis: While development of the mobile web ecosystem seems to be accelerating, it remains to be seen if a critical mass has been achieved – both in terms of users – as well as content. Still, all the major players in the space (carriers, content publishers, and advertisers) are taking the necessary steps to advance the channel towards reaching the seemingly inevitable goal of mainstream use. That said, it is clear that several prominent hurdles (most notably usability issues such as UI and network speeds, as well as the inability to cookie most mobile devices) still stand in the way of large scale consumer adoption and commercial exploitation of the mobile web.