By Jenn Riggle
There’s been a lot of talk about whether mobile applications like Foursquare and Gowalla are going to be the “next big thing.” But let’s be realistic — it’s going to take years before either of these gain widespread acceptance.
Instead, let’s talk about what’s happening in mobile now.
When mobile phones first came out in the 1980s, these brick-sized phones were expensive and hard to find. Today, people of all ages and from all walks of life have mobile phones and their high-tech cousin, the smartphone. They’ve become more than a communications tool – they’ve become a fashion accessory.
So how are smartphones changing how organizations market their services? Here are some thoughts:
People are accessing social media sites from their phones: While people use their mobile phones to talk and text, new research from comScore shows that nearly 31 percent of smartphone users access social network sites via their phones. By the same token, the number of people using mobile devices to access Facebook and Twitter has grown 112 percent and 347 percent, respectively. This means that organizations need to develop mobile-friendly sites to take advantage of this trend.
Websites need to be “smarter:” With more people using smartphones and geo-location applications, marketers should think about developing smarter Websites that will recognize when people access the site with their smartphone to deliver more specific, personalized and local content.
Press releases should be written for the 3-inch screen: With more people accessing information via smartphones, organizations need to write press releases so they’re easier to view via a smaller screen. This means they should be shorter, use more bullets and store images on the Web instead of posting them in a document.
Businesses need to prepare for mobile commerce: New research from online research firm Compete shows that 37 percent of smartphone owners purchased merchandise via their phones in 2009. Of the tasks they perform on their phones, 40 percent researched sales prices at different locations and 30 percent accessed customer reviews. Companies need to design their Websites to optimize the mobile shopping experience so people don’t become frustrated and abandon their purchases.
Organizations need to find new uses for mobile apps: While mobile marketers want to “reach out and touch someone,” it’s important they bring more than just advertisements to people’s phones. For example, the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition’s Text4Baby program is a free mobile education program that provides pregnant women and new moms with health information. Pregnant women text “BABY” to 511411 to sign up for three text reminders a week on prenatal care and other health issues important to expectant mothers. The great thing is that AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have agreed to waive all fees for receiving the texts and that the texts are available in English and Spanish.
People are using their phones to make a difference: People are familiar with using their mobile phones to vote for their favorite contestant on “American Idol” or “Dancing With the Stars.” But they’re also using their phone to make a difference through text-for-charity efforts, as shown through the millions of dollars that were raised for the Haiti earthquake effort. Expect to see more of these types of initiatives in the future.
Using text messages during emergencies: The Virginia Tech shooting opened our eyes to the need for colleges to quickly communicate with students during a time of crisis. Since most teens have cell phones, colleges are using plan old SMS text messages to develop emergency text systems. These types of systems will hopefully improve in the future.
Find new ways to leverage QR Codes: Also known as Quick Response Bar Codes, anyone who has a smartphone can scan and read QR to access images, Websites and text – and businesses are starting to take notice. For example, Chevy is adding QR codes to its new Chevy Volt cars so car shoppers can aim their smartphones on the barcodes to instantly access a microsite to learn more about the vehicle. It’s almost like having a virtual car salesman, without the shtick. Facebook is getting into the act as well has tested putting links to Facebook QR Codes on people’s profile page. It appears that this is related to their location feature roll out, so stay tuned.
What’s next? I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about geo-location applications and how they’re going to be used for customer loyalty programs. But in the meantime, it’s amazing to think of how far we’ve come – and how far we still have to go.