These are interesting times for mobile marketers as we are seeing more and more brands actively evangelizing the use of mobile as a marketing channel. It has become a viable new way to create customer loyalty, boost sales and increase awareness for e-commerce business.  The mobile offers increasingly attractive returns on investment especially during the current economic climate as marketers look for smarter ways of connecting with their consumers.

The objectives of mobile marketing campaigns are straightforward: increase brand awareness, generate a customer profile opt-in database, drive up attendance to events, visits to a store or e-commerce sites, improve customer loyalty and increase revenues. However, we need to understand that mobile marketing does not stand alone; rather it leverages traditional promotional channels that include TV, radio, print media or even the Internet. Mobile marketing consists of a unique, complex mix of technologies, business skills, and marketing expertise. There are several forms of mobile marketing that can be leveraged in e-commerce.

Opt-in SMS (Short Message Service) campaigns, in which a consumer provides a business with his or her cell phone number in exchange for special offers or alerts delivered via text message, is one option. For example, a retailer may send SMS alerts to customers to remind them that it's time to reorder and offer attractive discount coupons within the SMS to make the purchase now.

For B2B marketers who are looking to create awareness about their solutions and services, an innovative method for creating top of mind awareness is through the use of search and mobile marketing. Ads designed specifically for mobile Web pages are another form of mobile marketing. In a mobile Web campaign, a consumer using Google or Yahoo Search on a cell phone to locate camping gears may find among the search results an ad for a nearby outdoors goods store. The consumer could click on the ad for more information or to call the store.

One reason why the mobile marketing trend is gaining traction is that its growth potential is enormous. The Asia Pacific region leads the world in mobile marketing and advertising, and accelerating growth will see nearly $7.7 billion (and more than $16 billion globally) spent in 2011. Japan and South Korea are the world's most sophisticated mobile markets; China is the largest; India is the fastest-growing. Asia also is home to a huge number of developing nations -- from Bangladesh to Mongolia – that are potential growth areas for mobile marketers as they are yet to achieve a significant toehold in mobile. 

The Potential of Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is increasingly attracting the interest of smaller retailers and e-retailers, as more people are using the Internet on their mobile devices as compared to using the computer. Internet advertising is now a subset of mobile advertising as developers continue to make Internet sites friendlier for mobile devices. Mobile delivers on the promise of one-to-one marketing with a personal, targeted conversation and a higher level of interaction.

In the Asia Pacific region, we’re starting to see a real shift in brand thinking: more and more brands are now thinking of the mobile as an essential part of their marketing media, rather than experimental. The increase of smart phones on the global market, larger screen size, better web browsing capabilities, longer battery life and “all you can eat” data packages have all contributed to the growth of the mobile Internet.

Brand sponsored widgets and applications on mobile social networking sites are a rich immersive platform to target customers and very attractive to brands because there is a deep level of emotional engagement and interactivity. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and their regional variants are a few social networks that have become world-wide phenomena.

The result: Mobile marketing can be more effective than other forms of marketing because mobile campaigns are highly targeted and opt-in. This year’s RSW survey of advertising executives found that mobile ranks as the 2nd most positively viewed advertising or marketing tactic for 2009.

Mobile marketing also helps e-retailers gather valuable data, such as cell phone numbers, on consumers who are interested in their products or services. As long as customers opt in (to receive an offer or alert via text message), retailers and e-retailers can capture them on their database and use the information for loyalty marketing and customer retention.

In addition, mobile marketing can help generate buzz about the products or services. The offers will reach consumers while they're actively shopping or socializing — instead of when they're at home or at work.

Looking Forward

While it is not currently very common for e-retailers to market directly to customers' cell phones, the practice is only going to grow. It is pertinent that small e-retailers learn about their customers' behavior, get a sense of what they will respond to and what will turn them off and then give mobile marketing a try. If they are hesitant, chances are that down the line, their competitors will have used mobile marketing to gain an edge over them.

By Rohit Dadwal, Managing Director, APAC, Mobile Marketing Association