And after behavioural targetting we have …

… mobile network behavioural targetting.

There’s been quite a bit of press this week about Google starting to use behavioural targetting in their advertising. If you’re not familiar with this, the concept is simply that Mr Google will use cookies to track the sites you visit and then serve you relevant advertising. Of course Google who’se policy is ‘Don’t be evil’ have assured users that there is nothing sinister and that they will not store sensitive site visits, nor store any personal information.

Understandably, many users are concerned at yet another breach of privacy. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, Google’s behavioural targetting is only a small example of breaches of privacy. Maybe we should be more worried about governments and living in the most watched societies ever?

The concern over Google will pale into insignificance when the general public realise that mobile network operators are working on their own version of behavioural targetting.

In terms of gaining information, network-based behavioural targetting offers some distinct advantages over the Google version. The networks know where you are. (And they know where you live). They know that you spent last Friday night in Hoxton and that you go went on trips to Paris and Barcelona. Their justification will be that the adverts can be better targetted to the individual and that individual will benefit because information will become more relevant.

Unfortunately few people trust the mobile networks. Unlike Google their moto seems to be ‘Do be evil. And why don’t we charge the customers as much as we can whilst we’re at it.’ It is hard to image how the networks will run their behavioural targetting responsibly and easy to image that they will alienate the mobile user further.

Fortunately network behavioural targetting is a few years away. It seems that only government regulation will prevent any evil behviour, so lets hope that there is some stringent legisation in place by the time the networks are ready to chase their advertising revenue.

Roaming data charges capped. About time too.

Never one to do things voluntarily, the mobile network operators in the EU have been forced to cap their outragous roaming charges for data. A new EU regulation means that operators can charge no more than 50 Euro Cents wholesale and 4 Euros to the consumer.

The operators had been warned about the roaming data charges for sometime, but typically ignored it. With the increase of always on smartphone mobile connections, the issue of data costs whilst abroad has become a more apparent problem to consumers. This is an extreme case in point from the Daily Mail.

So its a maximum of 4 Euros. Not exactly cheap (don’t they know there’s a recession on), but at least there has been some acknowledgement that the operators were acting outrageously with their data charging policy.

Taking it personally – the problem with mobile marketing

Marketing to mobile can generate some good responses. With the current economic situation, mobile offers new opportunities to reach customers and reduced marketing costs. The results from mobile marketing can also be very effective, with response rates over 8% being generally measured.

However, anyone looking to run a mobile campaign needs to seriously address the way it is run, who they are contacting and the offer is.

Mobile phones are devices that most of us have with us most of the time. There is a strong sense of identity attached to our mobiles – the type of handset (‘I have an iphone’ etc), wallpaper or ringtone is as much a part of our identity as the clothes we wear. What’s more, it’s the device that we contact our family, friends and loved ones on.

Whatever the marketing campaign, be it SMS, mobile sites or Bluetooth proximity marketing, sensitivity to the mobile user is paramount. Imagine if you are waiting for an SMS from your partner and a marketing text arrives on your phone? It’s going to annoy the user and put the brand in a very poor light.

A recent discussion amongst technological savvy mobile users about mobile marketing generated many responses like these:

‘Its like the people in the street who try to thrust leaflets on us, except its just about possible to dodge them.’

‘I have received two text messages from businesses I was walking past, both offering immediate discounts. I can think of no other way to more effectively ensure that I will never do business with either establishment again.’

‘If anyone sent a message to my cellphone or other device just because I walked past their store, billboard, advertising poster, etc., they would lose my business forever.’

It is unlikely that a billboard, direct mail or TV ad could cause as much offence, purely from attempting to contact potential customers.

You may think therefore, that mobile marketing is likely to upset customers too much or it is too fraught with problems to run a campaign. However, the highly personal feelings about mobile can be used to great effectiveness. There are many examples of mobile marketing campaigns that have generated an excellent response.

The key is to ensure that it is permission based, highly targeted and offers a real benefit to the customer or potential customers.

Gaining permission often requires more than a simple ‘soft opt in’. It is important and beneficial to get a clear consent from a customer to send them marketing information to their phone. That consent should also be recent. If they opted in 12 months ago then you would need to get their permission again.

Well targeted campaigns means sending the right type of content on the right day at the right time.

The benefit comes from giving your users a clear offer – discounts, free products or mobile content are all examples of offers that work well.

So, mobile marketing has it’s benefits, but working with experienced professionals to deliver campaigns can ensure that you are effective in what you do.

Will Google and Apple Force the Mobile Networks to Rethink Their Business Model?

For some years now, there has been a major division between the internet and mobile economies. The internet is largely free to user and the mobile isn’t. Google has made an art form of the free model, releasing all kinds of apps, including mobile ones at no cost. On the other hand, the networks charge for almost everything.

As one Orange executive once told me ‘We do not understand any customer unless there is a billing relationship’. In other words, unless the network is charging them for something they are not considered to be a customer. The iphone has moved the mobile smartphone market forwards, by offering a genuinely seemless mobile internet experience. Just like your PC the internet is just ‘there’, it’s always on.

As soon as that happens, adding all kinds of internetty applications – not just games, but maps, weather and so on, become standard. The evidence of the success is from the iphone Appstore and the results which show that Apple’s users access the internet considerably more than others. Whilst Apple’s entry into the phone market has been to produce a great handset and beautiful operating system, Google’s entry has been less glamorous, but potentially more significant.

Google started by building some excellent mobile applications – for example maps and email – and has now launched it’s own OS. And now everyone’s doing it! Expect 2009 to be the year of the smartphone and the year of the application store, Microsoft will be launching Bazaar this year. Low cost computer manufacturer Acer are launching their own smartphone and the inevitable application store.

The problem for mobile networks is that the offerings from these companies challenge their traditional billing relationship. Why pay for a call when you can use Skype (available for both iphone and Google phone)? Why use SMS when you can use instant messenger? Why send an MMS when you can email your pictures, or upload them to your Facebook? Why SMS to Twitter when you can send it for nothing with a Twitter app on your phone? Even location services, which were previously the (expensive) monopoly of the networks will be opened up with Google Latitude. Apart from the basic data cost (typically around £7.50-£15 per month), users can do pretty much everything on their smartphones without having to pay for them. The money in mobile will be in paid apps and mobile advertising. So the networks have a dilemma. Do they embrace the new free(ish) world of mobile or carry on regardless and make money while they can? Given their past form, I suspect it will be the latter.

What is the Future of Mobile?

And by that title, I mean, what is this blog all about?

I read somewhere that 70% of people don’t believe business blogs. In other words, most blogging for business is simply a form of low-grade spam to push the company’s products and site PR.

That’s not what I’m aiming to do with this. Of course, like anyone trying to earn a living, I would like this blog to help generate traffic for our sites and products, but what I want to do is provide real incite, opinions and debate. If that can add to the value of what we do as a company then great. If it doesn’t then that’s also fine.

The incite, opinions and debate that I am blogging here is about mobile phones, our relationship with these highly personal devices and what the network operators and other companies are trying to do with them.

The mobile phone is very interesting (but I would say that) because it is the most successful technology ever. Actually I’ll rephrase that. The wheel is the most successful techonolgy ever. The mobile phone is the most successful INFORMATION technology ever. There are 3 billion of them world wide. That’s more than PC’s or televisions. In developed countries pretty much everyone has one. Those that don’t have a phone have specifically chosen not to have one. Or they dropped it down the toilet and haven’t got round to getting a replacement yet.

The point is that with the mobile being such a ubiquitous yet personal technology, the impact that it can have is massive. And on the one hand, we are told by corporates and networks that we must have the latest smartphone, internet, face book app etc, most of us use our phones in spite of the networks, not because of them. SMS was never intended to be so important, yet in some countries such as the UK we send more texts than make voice calls. We are told that we will all have email on our phones, yet only 20% of people in the UK have that. And even with email, we still send SMS. Why?

These are the kinds of issues that this blog will look at. Please feel free to comment and participate as this is intended to be a place of genuine debate.