Nielsen Mobile Shows Surprising Popularity for Mobile Payments

Ideally, local search results in discovery of the goods, services or merchants with whom a searcher wants to carry out business. It culminates in a purchase and payment transaction enabled by mobile phones. That's why it's reassuring to see a press release quoting research from Nielsen Mobile (formerly Telephia) showing that 9 million wireless subscribers have used their mobile phones to make purchases.

Here's the coverage:

  • As of Q1 2008, 3.6 percent (9.2 million) of US mobile subscribers use their phone to pay for goods or services
  • Men are more likely than women to use their phone for commerce: 4.5 percent (4.9 million) of men and 3.0 percent (4.3 million) of women say they have made a purchase using their phone
  • Adults ages 25-34 are the most likely to have made a purchase using their phone: 5.4 percent (3 million) of adults ages 25-34 have made a purchase, compared to 3.6 percent of all mobile subscribers
  • 49 percent of mobile data users, those subscribers who have used one or more data features on their phone such as text messaging or the mobile internet within the past 30 days, say that it is likely they will conduct mobile commerce in the future

Mobile websites are one popular way consumers make purchases over the mobile phone. Of the 40 million active US users of the mobile web in April 2008, 5 million accessed mobile shopping and auction websites -- up 73% from April 2007, when just 2.9 million mobile users did so. Auction site eBay.com is the most popular shopping or auction destination on the mobile web, with 3.4 million unique visitors in April.

Purchasing items via text messaging is another growing form of mobile commerce. Some services allow consumers to send text messages to a phone number or mobile shortcode in order to be charged for goods or services directly on their mobile phone bills. Already, 6.5 million US mobile consumers say they've used text messaging to purchase an item.

"For many of the millions of consumers who are already shopping online or over landline phones, mobile commerce is an obvious and useful extension of that opportunity," said Nic Covey, director of insights at Nielsen Mobile who presented the data at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition today. "As more mobile commerce services become available and consumers develop a greater trust for phone-based transactions, we expect commerce to be an increasingly important part of the mobile experience next year and beyond."

The findings come from Nielsen Mobile's monthly Mobile Insights survey of more than 30,000 US wireless subscribers, with similar data available internationally.

Nielsen's study reveals that security is the number one concern among those mobile data users not yet participating in m-commerce:

  • 41 percent of data users who do not participate in mobile commerce say security is their biggest concern
  • 23 percent say they worry about being charged for the airtime
  • 21 percent say they don't trust that the transaction will be completed

"As with other forms of electronic commerce, US consumers need proof that mobile transactions will be a safe, affordable and efficient complement to other modes of shopping," said Covey. "As long as retailers continue to meet those expectations, more consumers will come to view mobile shopping as a compelling and viable option."

Motricity Conference Poll Finds Low Adoption for Mobile Ads

At the Mobile Marketing Association show that just ended yesterday, Motricity was polling people (n=129) in the exhibit area about mobile advertising and marketing. The audience/respondents were vendors, agencies and others.

Here's what the company found:

  • 40% of mobile marketing agency representatives said their agencies currently spend less than 2% on mobile marketing initiatives, however, one third of the same group expect to increase spend by more than 25% next year.
  • 71% of the content providers and 58% of technology providers polled said that advertisers aren't using mobile marketing and advertising because the mobile marketing channel has not developed enough.
  • 31% of wireless operators reported that they are looking for more clarity from the mobile ecosystem on the strategies and tactics used to execute mobile marketing campaigns.
  • Participants in the study responded with the need for greater visibility and transparency into the data in order to offer targeted content to subscribers at the right place at the right time:
  • 49% of content provider respondents and 36% of integrators/aggregators noted that targeting and demographics are most critical to effective mobile marketing campaign management.
  • 23% of wireless operators felt that content customization and personalization are the key drivers to increase mobile marketing.
  • 48% of agency respondents noted that opt-ins or registrations are most important in demonstrating the return-on-investment of mobile marketing campaigns.
  • 43% of respondents are clearly focused on technology that provides visibility and performance of the effectiveness mobile marketing campaigns.

Additional key findings include:

  • 46% of wireless operator respondents find transaction and financial technology to be the most important technology. 23% focus on scalability.
  • One-third of respondents across all groups would be willing to offer sponsored content to consumers in return for receiving advertisements.
  • 38% of wireless operators find that open APIs to the content providers to manage the campaigns would make mobile marketing initiatives more effective and generate more revenue.

This is a small survey but probably fairly representative of attitudes throughout the industry. The bottom line here is that people need more education and the industry needs to mature in terms of standards and best practices. Mobile "marketing" is established and growing but mobile "advertising" needs to develop greater reach (consumer adoption) for agencies to take notice.

The mobile marketplace, though numerous, is highly fragmented in ways that the Internet is not. Aggregating large audiences or very specialized, desirable audiences are keys to gaining adoption by marketers.

It's all coming of course and many of the agency attendees talked about how mobile ad spends/budgets were rapidly increasing -- and increasing at rates much faster than the historical ramp up of online advertising.

Multiplied Media Introduces Blackberry Client

Multiplied Media, which has been driving local search content into IM on the desktop, has just launched a Blackberry client (not connected with mobile IM). The end user doesn't need to have an IM client on the phone to use the product.

One of the interesting things that Multiplied is doing is expanding "local search" to include brands/products, which is a primary use case in mobile. Recently the company also launched movie search on the IM side. That's also especially relevant to mobile, given the prevalence of entertainment oriented searches.

Replace That 'Inefficient' Internet Spend with Mobile

At the MMA show yesterday one of the better panels was "Opportunities for Mobile Marketing & Advertising in the U.S. Market." It was a broad discussion about a range of issues, as the session title suggests.

Toward the end of the discussion there was a question about where mobile budgets come from. What was striking to me was that the panelists argued that marketers should take some of their "under-performing" Internet budget and allocate it to mobile. This was very much the same language and case being made for shifting budget from traditional media to the Internet.

Panelists were touting the better ROI, better targeting and improved response rates in mobile (vs. online). There was a tremendous irony in these arguments, which I've heard so many times about traditional media, now being applied to the Internet.

Google Goes Back to 'Opt-in' in Mobile

When Google first launched mobile AdWords it was an opt-in program: advertisers specifically had to choose to be in mobile sponsored search results. Then, in a fairly well publicized move, Google decided to make mobile an opt-out for AdWords advertisers:

Each ad’s eligibility will be determined by its landing page and only ads with landing pages that can be adapted for viewing on mobile browsers will be shown. You can monitor each ad’s performance via a special performance tracking page within your account called “Performance Data: Search Ads on Google Mobile Search.”

Again, you will not be charged for clicks on these ads until November 19, at which time we will begin charging the usual CPC prices. And as always, you may opt-out of this feature at any time.

The company informed me last week that it has gone back to an opt-in policy for mobile at the present time.

I also discussed with Google the degree to which the desktop and mobile might ultimate become more similar than different, in the context of "full HTML" browsers (Safari, Opera, Skyfire, Mozilla, Android). We'll see. As I've tried to argue in the past, while there are some advantages in that scenario for users there are considerable disadvantages for advertisers -- chiefly because online ads get lost and become very difficult to see.

The iPhone is probably the model of how smartphone browsing will evolve: native applications + full HTML browsing. But that still doesn't solve the problem for advertisers seeking to effectively reach mobile audiences.

Mobile 'Marketing' vs. Mobile 'Advertising'

One of the early themes at the MMA show yesterday was the difference between "mobile marketing" and "mobile advertising." Although different, in some ways the discussion is akin to the distinction between SEO and SEM online. With SEO there's no direct payment to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. -- though good SEO costs money.

The same is true with "mobile marketing," an example of which is a text-based response option appended to a traditional media campaign. There are fees and costs, but no direct payment to a publisher or search engine. Mobile advertising by contrast does involve direct payments and ad placements specifically on mobile websites.

Mobile marketing has been around for a number of years and continues to gain traction, while mobile advertising is only now starting to take off. The two may overlap (e.g., text that drives users to a WAP site with ads/promotions). Most mobile marketing involves SMS, while mobile advertising can employ or be featured in SMS but is generally looking beyond text to WAP or its successor.

Questions surrounding the distinction kept coming up in various discussions and I thought it was interesting. The intellectual/analytical distinction isn't as important as what's actually working for marketers and where the money will flow accordingly.

When Will 'Mobile Search' Overtake the Internet?

This is a question that has come up several times in the recent past. I've modeled it but it's difficult to confidently predict and depends on how one "scopes" the relevant markets. It matters, for example, whether SMS-based search and voice or just WAP are considered. It also matters if you focus on just the US, the EU or the globe.

For example, a speaker at MMA pointed out yesterday that Brazil has (approximately) 128 million mobile subscribers and roughly 40 million Internet subscribers (3:1), with only 3 or so million of those on broadband. This is a snapshot of non-Western countries and the developing world: mobile far outstrips the desktop Internet.

For people in these regions, mobile and the Internet will be substantially the same thing. While it might take some time for mobile to pass Internet search in the US or Western Europe, in context of the entire world it's not hard to imagine mobile search volumes exceeding the desktop Internet, in the aggregate, within 5-7 years.

Passive Tracking Creates Potential Privacy Nightmare

On a MMA panel about mobile ad agencies, the statement was made that the top things carriers could do to facilitate mobile advertising would be the following:

  • More aggressive data plans, including flat rate plans (which now exist)
  • Open up their billing and user data to ad targeting (Sprint has done this to a degree)

This second suggestion raises important and contentious privacy issues, which were picked up in a later mobile social networkingComo todos los casino online que son de alto nivel, Casino Del Rio tambien utiliza el software de Playtech para el desarrollo de juegos de casino online, y brinda atencion personalizada las 24 horas alos jugadores en casino online durante todo el año. panel. With GPS and related “passive” or automated tracking that a number of mobile social networks have proposed (e.g., Whrrl), simple and transparent privacy rules are strongly implicated -- or these companies will face a PR nightmare and potential regulation.

Nuance OVS - Promises Voice Search for iPhone in August

No pricing is available but Steve Chambers, president of the Nuance Mobile business unit has demonstrated Open vSearch (or OVS) speech-enabling Web search on the iPhone. A demo can be seen here. While it is not substantially different from the offerings of Vlingo, V-ENABLE or Microsoft Live Search in terms of using speech input and distributed speech processing (DSP) to recognize utterances and populate a search box, it is no coincidence that the announcement coincides with Apple's World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) here in San Francisco.

It was at WWDC yesterday that Steve Jobs announced the new, 3G-compliant, less expensive iPhone and began enticing Apple's true believers with the capabilities of a faster data link, longer battery life, GPS and a larger user base (thanks to the lower price). We expect to see some formidable new speech-enabled multimodal applications for the new generation of iPhones. It's impact far exceeds the share of the mobile subscriber base.
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P.S. from Greg: I've been using the Microsoft Live Search application with voice much more recently and have become very pleased with the performance. Voice/speech of course addresses many of the shortcomings of keypad entry on mobile phones, although it's imperfect. It also helps drive consumer search volume as well because of the reduced "friction."

Local Matters and Apptus Bolster Canoe411 for Qubecor MediaPages

In a joint press release from Denver, CO, and Lund Sweden, IYP and enhanced 411 aficionado Local Matters and e-Commerce specialist Apptus announced that they have worked together to bring new content and capabilities to www.Canoe411.ca, an Internet Yellow Pages and local search engine operated by Quebecor MediaPages.

A "beta" version of the site has been operating since April. As it moves out of beta status, it becomes the official online directory for the Canoe.ca network, which reportedly attracts 8.8 million unique visitors each month. The combination of technologies from Local Matters and Apptus is to provide mechanisms for local merchants to target advertising to local buyers. MediaPages published printed directories in 20 or so smaller communities in Canada, but will grow its business by expanding into Montreal and Quebec City. Integration with Canoe411.ca will give the MediaPages sales force more opportunities to sell products and services that rely on targeted search-based marketing through the Canoe411 Web site.