Last week, I was sitting with my ex-colleagues from National Instruments when we started discussing where the world is headed to in terms of new business opportunities in IT and Web technologies and more…

Interestingly hand-held, wireless devices and online portals became the key discussion topics. Though, we discussed more about how computing is moving online and how just a TCP/IP enabled platform will become a single standard for information, computing and sales (this was under the light that IPV6 standards will provide over 300 Billion static IP addresses to any mobile, wireless, wired and electronic instruments). This should be enough to take care of the 6 billion population of the world for coming 50 years, I guess.

During this discussion, I was thinking about how our behaviour changes towards technology and I recollected some memories from my college days. There was a time when I presented 2 techhnical papers on M-Commerce and Holographic storage devices. M-Commerce basically mean purchasing things on mobiles and holographic storage means storing Terra Bytes of data on 3D holograms. 7-years back the audience was more amused and intrigued on my papers. Though they might be buying their next movie ticket on mobiles today. Anyways, I am happy that my thinking 7-years back is tied well with reality today.

Now, the Future of marketing, which I see is definitely going to be Marketing through the Mobile Channel or the “Mobile Marketing”. With Blackberry’s becoming more and more common and Nokia standardizing its business phone, E-series, with Mobile content management and Mobile Value Added Services companies growing over 200% annually, with email marketing providers thrusting on the mobile friendly content, it’s not going to be long when revenue source for companies start showing “through Mobile” as a constant field in their reporting.

Mobile marketing (MM) consists of a unique, complex, mix of technologies, business skills, and marketing expertise. It is a child born of the Internet revolution, and it is critical that today’s marketers grasp its significance. It is one of the first new channels to arise in over 50 years, and will quickly become a primary means of reaching out to our customers.

The reliance on mobile phones is increasing rapidly, and considering the Indian markets which has shown enormous growth, for consumption of these services, it’s obvious that some of the world’s largest players are investing heavily in India. In fact, there are now more mobile phone subscribers in the world (2.4 billion)*, than there are landline phones subscribers. The mobile phone is becoming a primary means of communication, not only for voice but also for digital services, email, digital photos, navigation, etc. Worldwide over 350 billion text messages, also known as “SMS Messages,” are exchanged across the world’s mobile networks every month, with over 15% of these messages, according to the Yankee Group, being classified as commercial, or marketing, messages.
*GSM Association, http://www.gsmworld.com/

An interesting mobile marketing ecosystem has emerged according to MMA, aptly depicted by the image below:-

The Mobile Marketing Ecosystem is comprised of 4 interconnecting strategic spheres–Product & Services (brands, content owners and marketing agencies), Applications (discrete application providers and mobile ASPs), Connection (aggregators and wireless operators), and Media and Retail (media properties, “brick ‘n’ mortar” and virtual retail stores). Various enablers provide the foundation for each particular sphere. Players within these spheres work in concert to deliver a rich experience to consumers. The Mobile Channel Value Chain is the path by which the actual mobile communication and interactivity takes place between the Product & Services Sphere and mobile subscribers (consumers), however, consumer demand must first be established. To create this demand, products, services, events, and content programs are promoted through the Media and Retail Sphere’s various traditional channels.

An interesting report in 2005, Unfolding of the Mobile Marketing Ecosystem: A Growing Strategic Network, by Micheal Becker, CTO, iLoop Mobile explains this ecosystem very well.

Another interesting thing which you might be thinking of is how these SMS campaigns are managed? How companies like Yellow Pages is able to send instant SMSes to you with the information you requested or how while Voting for your popular candidates on a Indian Idol show gets collected by the marketeers? Or may be how your SMSes for Contests on your favourite FM channel makes you win that hamper? Well this is because of the rise of mobile Value Added Service providers eg. On Mobile, IMIMobile, One97 to name a few in India.

With competition starting to take-off in this category, more and more marketeers will be moving to these channels. Also, these VAS providers would need to gear-up for the futue of customer centric services. They will have to look much ahead of a demand to be created and will have to be Agile enough to get such demands fulfilled even before the customers ask for it. So essentially, the strategy would be to create a Think Tank or Pool of Ideas on proactive basis, to keep differentiating the offerings before the competition does.

A WIDE-OPEN eye along with a keen tap on the market movement, will help them to remain ahead in competition. With companies like Reliance, who would want to have the entire ecosystem under their nose, it would only become more and more challenging for these VAS operators to sustain. With sustenance based on VCs, its always a continuous sword on the head, to overperform and post more and more profits. Though innovation and proactive behaviour might ask for diverging away from profits in certain business quarters. Also, this can even spur another consolidation wave where we can see some more mergers and acquisitions.

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