According to the internet research firm, eMarketer, there are over 405-million mobile internet users worldwide. Projections see this figure reading over 800-million in four years. Staggering indeed, and an exciting opportunity for internet marketers, especially in Africa where mobile represents a much larger penetration than fixed line Internet connections.
It's also an exciting opportunity to engage with customers because it enables marketers to interact with them right at their touch-point with the internet, right in the palm of their hand.
Handheld devices are becoming more and more enabled, and this combination of PDA, camera, email, MP3 player, internet browser and so forth is only serving to make the penetration and dependency on these devices more and more prolific.
Clearly, with mobile and WAP sites, the mobile internet brings a new dimension to ecommerce and the way transactions are done.
How WAP differs from traditional web
WAP sites need to be simple and suitable for the smaller screen size. In addition to the design and technical considerations when putting together a WAP site, marketers need to consider that the purposes or intent of a mobile internet user are potentially different to a person sitting in front of a computer.
WAP users tend to prefer goal-driven services that provide quick answers to specific problems. Examples include finding the nearest hotel, a towing service or weather forecasts. Other uses for WAP include entertainment-focused services for users who are looking to kill time.
Overall, WAP services should target users with immediate context-driven content.
Mobile services now include everything from SMS to podcasting and video-on-the-go, so the opportunities to advertise are virtually limitless.
The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) released a whitepaper in April 2008 which presents an overview of mobile advertising as it stands.
The mobile channels that are defined include the mobile web, downloadable applications, mobile messaging and mobile video. Each channel presents a number of advertising opportunities.
The most obvious channel is perhaps the mobile web. On the mobile web, advertising opportunities include banner advertising, text ads and branded mobile websites.
Here, ads are primarily sold on a CPC or CPM basis. It is possible to set up ads in a number of formats in the mobile web channel, but these are most commonly banner and text ads.
These days virtually every single handset, no matter how rudimentary, is able to send and receive Short Message Service (SMS) and to a certain but more limited extent, Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). These form the basis of mobile messaging.
SMS is limited to only text characters, while MMS can include images, sound and video content. There are a number of opportunities for advertisers through the mobile messaging channel - these include text advertisements, branding though splash pages and animated images.
Downloadable applications refers to software or specific content that users download to their mobile device, that then remains on the phone - these services can include games, ringtones and lifestyle tool applications. These types of application downloads are only available to those users with compatible devices and data plans.
Advertising opportunities within the downloadable application channel include ad placement within the apps, and branded applications.
The final channel is mobile video. This refers to video that is sent via a cell phone operator network to a handset's embedded media player.
Mobile videos are either streamed live or downloaded either from the mobile web, or as part of an MMS.
Ad placement here can be as pre-, post- or mid-roll adverts. Marketers could incorporate static images or produce branded videos specifically for this channel.
What are the expected results?
These advertising opportunities can be useful as part of a broader CRM strategy, for branding, direct sales and for driving users to a mobile or WAP site.
Many mobile advertisers report response rates of between 10 and 30 percent, meaning that targeted mobile advertising is a powerful tool. With the forecasts indicating a high adoption rate and rapid expansion in this area, the mobile arena is certainly one that should not be neglected when it comes to broader internet marketing strategies.
Jonathan Andrews is an eMarketing Strategist at AlterSage, an Internet marketing consultancy based in South Africa. AlterSage serves clients both locally and abroad. A wide range of customised Internet marketing services are offered including mobile marketing, affiliate marketing, online reputation management, SEO and PPC.