Why Consumer Brands Need Mobile Strategies - Especially In Asia

Julie Ask

I just returned home from a trip to Bangkok and Bhutan. Civil unrest in Bangkok kept me from wandering as much as I would have liked. I had a lot of opportunity in Bhutan, however, to wander about and talk to people. As a bit of a background, Bhutan is a land-locked country bordered mostly by India to the south and China to the north. Much of the northern portion where we traveled is covered by mountains, so wireless is the primary infrastructure for communications. The average annual income is about $1,300, so they are not a wealthy nation. They've only been allowed access to TV and the Internet for about 10 years.

A consumer brand might argue that in a country where the annual income is only $1,300 and little infrastructure exists for the import of goods, there isn't much point in marketing -- let alone a digital marketing strategy that includes mobile. Countries like these are opening up, however, and their wealth is growing. Personal care products and Coca-Cola was on the shelves in most of the small shops we passed. In a country where cell phones certainly outnumber PCs and cellular connections (even if prepaid) must outnumber fixed, mobile has to be part of the mix.

Teenagers had cell phones. One of my guides had a Nokia N73 and the other had a Nokia Xpress Music. These aren't dumb or cheap text-only phones. They have high-resolution screens and are capable of music, videos and Internet. (My guide was checking and posting to Facebook DAILY.) Monks had cell phones. Women selling vegetables in open-air markets had cell phones.

Here are a few pictures from my trip:

Senior monk with his cell phone

Teenagers checking out the latest message

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KIN Studio - A Great Means Of Sharing Events

Julie Ask

I was the photographer at a wedding this weekend. We used the KIN phone to take photos throughout the course of the day - hair styling, make-up, and the event. We also exchanged a lot of messages: "We're running late! Someone else has to go pick up the cake," etc. Here's a quick snapshot of the Web page below.

We saw Nokia do this with with their Lifeblog a number of years ago. The KIN Studio has similarities. I would have to say I was sitting on the fence a bit re the dictated cloud services approach to the KIN photos. Over the weekend, I was happy that I didn't have to say "ok, now sync" or upload them one at a time - I liked that it just happened. Would have been fun for everyone at the event to have one of these phones.

 

Microsoft's KIN -- Adding Fun To My Microsoft Phone

Julie Ask

I've just had the chance in the past few hours to really play with the device. I find myself smiling each time a new SMS bubble pops up. I love it. I also like seeing my friends' faces on my phone. I love being able to navigate my content and messages via my friends. Loved how easy it was to set up my email, Facebook, and Twitter. Packaging rocks ... and is recyclable. What is subtle in this device, in my opinion, is how intuitive the UI is. The UI looks and feels similar to others I have seen, but I was able to pick up this phone and use it without reading the instructions.

My colleague Charles Golvin will provide a more in-depth analysis of the device itself.

From a social networking/media perspective, the KIN is a good start, but I hope to see more with upcoming releases, especially around helping people build their social graph. I don't put this burden on Microsoft alone, but on the industry and all handset manufacturers. The content we create needs more meta data or labels. We need logic to mesh this content together and navigate through it. It's great that I can navigate to my friends' status and messages through my contacts (and KIN's UI is a lot of fun). I also want to navigate through my photos and location. Location should be table stakes for photo/status/review (restaurant/bar) content and the logic shouldn't flow in just one direction. Based on my location (simple location or map), I want to see who is nearby or what restaurants my friends liked. Navigating through my friends, I want to see what restaurants they liked. I want to group photos by location. I want to group photos by friends. These are just a few examples. With every product and service developed, one can't have everything. There are cost, time and design trade-offs. I completely understand that the KIN and DROID and others couldn't get everything done in v1.0. I look forward to the next version.

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EU Commerce Changes In Regulations Impacting eCommerce

Patti Freeman Evans

Last week the European Commission redrafted guidelines, many of which relate to regulations around distance selling. The revised guidelines had been adopted 10 years ago and the new ones are to be in place beginning in May for the coming 10 years.

There continue to be many restrictions allowed but the overall set of guidelines pull back on some types of restrictions suppliers can put in distribution contracts. For example, suppliers can no longer prohibit authorized sellers to sell on the Internet.

In addition, suppliers can no longer prevent online sellers from taking a sale from across borders including within a distribution system such as exclusive distribution or selective distribution. For example, a retailer in the UK can accept and ship an order to a buyer in France even if they are not authorized to sell physically in that market. The retailer cannot proactively market to that customer, but they may accept an order if it comes to them passively.  

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Microsoft's KIN - Catching Up With the Mobile Social Networking Competition

Julie Ask

I had the opportunity to go to the KIN launch today. My colleague Charles Golvin has a full take here.

I loved the social networking features on the phone (and the graphical interface with the "spot" though I'd need a change-up on noises). This isn't the first phone we've seen where  the experience is centered on my friends and my contacts, but they keep getting better. We argued (see report) long ago as many did that the cell phone should be the hub of one's social graph and not simply an application on the handset. The KIN comes close and does many things well including:

- Offers status updates inside of my contact profiles which are "live" on my homescreen
- Allows the user to post photos directly from the phone
- Tags photos with location
- Allows me to choose one of many communication channels within profile (many options, but not my full list)
- Builds an online journal of my photos, videos, messages and contacts (looks to me a lot like the concept Nokia tried with their life blog application a while back)

What it is missing, but I suspect is in development:

- Tags (meta data) that allow me to build a richer social graph by tagging my photos with contacts, groups, trips, etc.
- Ability to help me find my friends
- Location tags integrated into maps that connect me to my friends' favorite restaurants, bookstores, etc. - or more generally their content - could also be photos, videos and posts

 

Raising The Bar on Mobile Advertising: Apple's OS 4

Julie Ask

Apple announced iAd today as part of their OS 4 program today. I speculated in this post on why they purchased Quattro Wireless a few months ago, but now we have more details. This post is on iAd only - my colleague Charles Golvin has a more complete analysis in his post.

First, looks like Apple will leverage Quattro's business model and use their sales force to sell ads. This should work early on for large buys.

They are continuing to be very supportive of their developer community with 60% of the ad revenue going to the developers. Not a lot of details now, but this could be generous. Part of the revenue needs to go to the sales team as well. There will be less leftover for Apple. Models such as Admob's have more of a self-serve model that have the potential to be more cost-effective especially with smaller buys. The types of companies that will have the budgets to develop interactive ads that take full advantage of the platform - accelerometer and location plus rich media - will have the budget to spend on media as well - not just on the creative.

Beyond developers, Apple is continuing their focus on the consumer experience. They are looking to protect the quality of the user experience by controlling the ad experience. Steve has raised the bar on quality of mobile ads by keeping consumers within their existing application or experience. He anticipates that the ads will be engaging enough to be considered entertainment.

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Why are folks so interested in Apple's ad inventory?

Julie Ask

It has the potential to be more valuable than inventory on many phones.

Why?

People who own smartphone devices are more active on their cell phones than your typical cell phone owner. For simpler tasks like SMS, they are moderately more active. For more complex tasks such as shopping, using maps, banking or doing product research they are significantly more active. iPhone users are some of the most active smartphone users when it comes to commerce-related activities.

Advertisers have held back on spending more on mobile marketing for many reasons. One of the primary reasons has been their inability to demonstrate the effectiveness of the medium or calculate an ROI. It gets a lot easier to calculate the ROI when consumers are buying items or using services such has mobile banking to deposit checks. Consumers are spending real money. My colleague Sucharita Mulpuru will be working on a mobile commerce forecast later this year. Anecdotally, we saw consumers spend in the hundreds of thousands of dollars with individual merchants/hotels/restaurants in 2009. We're likely to see run rates in the low millions for a few companies within a few industries by the end of this year.

The more consumers spend, the more advertisers will be motivated to spend. Consumer product and service companies will invest in mobile services such as "find the nearest," consumer reviews, available inventory, etc. to support commerce-related activities. The greater the supply of services (of great services), the more adoption and usage we'll see among consumers. Then consumers will spend more because the experiences will be convenient - it'll be easy to buy books or toothpaste.

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Where US online retailers are operating in Asia

Zia Daniell Wigder

Over the past few months, we’ve fielded multiple requests related to the online shopping market in Asia. Retailers and vendors alike are looking to position themselves for long-term success given the rapid online growth rates in the region:  By 2013, for example, close to half of the global online population will live in Asia, with some 17% of the global total coming from China alone. To see how US online retailers are taking advantage of this shift, we took a look at the top 50 online retailers on the Internet Retailer Top 500 list and mapped their transactional sites in Asia. A few observations follow.

Japan tops the list, especially for companies with only one web site in Asia. What was interesting as we worked through the list was that relatively few of leading online retailers in the US operate transactional sites in Asia, and far fewer operate in multiple countries. Several top online apparel retailers, for example, operate a web site for Japan only: Lands’ End, L.L. Bean and Cabela’s have all taken this approach.

Consumer technology companies have the broadest regional reach. By contrast, online retailers in the consumer technology arena tend to have a broader regional presence. Dell, Apple and SonyStyle operate in multiple Asian markets, with Dell and Apple having the most transactional web sites in the region despite Sony's Asian roots. Office Depot also has a strong commitment to the region with eCommerce sites in Japan and China, as well as in South Korea.

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eBusiness Leaders are Optimistic about 2010

Carrie Johnson

No one that manages a P&L will ever look back at 2009 and say "what a fun year!" eBusiness executives are certainly glad to have 2009 behind them and report to us that 2010 is not as fraught with economic concerns. We just published the results of our most recent survey of 100 eBusiness and Channel Strategy executives and found that although overall budgets for eBusiness aren't increasing that dramatically, our respondents aren't feeling the heat to cut back like they were last year. 

Even better, our survey respondents are increasing their budget for new innovation and technology. In 2010, the percentage of the online budget dedicated to new investment and innovation is expected to increase or significantly increase at 52% of firms. Hooray! It's a battle cry for all eBusiness execs to step up their games, and for senior executives in their firms to step up their commitment to and support of the channel. Spending (by our respondents) will focus on analytics and then ratings and review platforms.

Analytics have been a constant in our surveys, and ratings and reviews don't surprise us. Social media is hard for eBusiness execs to get their heads around because many social efforts clearly drive marketing objectives like brand engagement, but the impact on actual sales and conversion is fuzzier. Ratings and reviews are a clearer conversion tool for retailers in particular. My colleague Brad Strothkamp wrote a blog post though about the use of ratings and reviews in financial services, which is not nearly as black and white an issue. 

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Mobile Coupons - What about them?

Julie Ask

This is probably one of the top 10 inquiries I get from clients. Should I have a mobile coupon offering? If so, what form of mobile technology should I use? Our new report, "Mobile Coupons: Gold Rush or Fool's Gold?" addresses this question in more detail. This question was especially important in 2009 with the poor economy as consumers sought savings and deals.

Do consumers use mobile coupons today? A few do. Our surveys show that a few percent have at least trialed mobile coupons. There have been some usability issues - how to opt in to programs, download a coupon application, breadth of offers available - as well as demand. Heavy users of mobile coupons are not necessarily heavy users of mobile data services. My grandmother cuts more coupons than anyone else I know. She has a prepaid 100 minute per month voice plan. Will she ever use mobile coupons? Probably not. She turns 90 this summer. A lot could change in 10 years, but until her arthritis is so bad that she can use scissors, I think she'll still be clipping coupons from the newspaper. I see more opportunities in luring young mobile-savvy cell phone users into opting in for programs.

That said, I'm optimistic. The main reason ... every grocery store and many retailers that I know are using mobile coupons. Target launched a few weeks ago. Target takes providing an amazing guest experience very seriously. When you ask, "are mobile coupons ready for primetime?" Target adopting and rolling them out is a clear "yes" for a leading US brand. Safeway. Best Buy. Krogers. JC Penney. These are just a handful of the companies rolling out mobile coupons. With their marketing power and ability to drive awareness and motivate adoption, I expect we'll see a significant jump in adoption and usage this year.

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