Get Those Digits

Walk down the corridors of any office building or the sidewalks of any busy street and it's easy to hear the one-sided chatter, to spot the cell phones held up to dozens of ears. Despite the growing pervasiveness of wireless users in the United States (19 million new customers subscribed in 2006 alone), marketers are still faced with many setbacks in the wireless channel. A new report from Jupiter Research, "Wireless Landscape 2006: What It Means to Marketers and Media Companies," asserts that marketers must now be early actors in the wireless space, pursuing cross-carrier strategies and creating user-beneficial campaigns. Wireless subscribers represent a giant consumer community. Jupiter estimates that the total number of subscribers will reach 226 million by the end of this year and will expand to 258 million by 2011. This number represents mostly new users, as only 2 percent of wireless subscribers have two active subscriptions. Taking advantage of this segment is important now, says Julie Ask, research director with Jupiter Research and author of the report. "It's important because [mobile marketing's] not big right now, but it's going to be big three to five years from now, so this is a good time to be getting some experience." The frequency with which subscribers are using their wireless devices is increasing as well. Verizon Wireless reported a 150 percent increase in text messaging from September 2005 to the same month in 2006. Similarly, the wireless company revealed that downloads doubled in the past year. Thirty-four million downloads were completed by users in the third quarter of 2005, as opposed to 68 million in the same quarter of 2006. The report urges companies to extend any marketing efforts across all carriers. This can be done with relative ease for SMS through connection aggregators. (The report cites Clickatel, Mobile365, and Mqube as good choices.) However, for more advanced video or broadcast campaigns, cross-carrier efforts may become problematic, as the four largest wireless service providers (who deliver to 90 percent of total subscribers) deliver their content differently. For example, among video services, Cingular allows MobiTV and premium channels; Sprint/Nextel allows MobiTV and channels; while Verizon only allows downloads and T-Mobile has no video service. Ask says that although marketers should work hard to push through and reach wireless users, they still must tread lightly. Marketing through mobile is still very much in its infancy and many are reluctant to accept corporate presences on their cell phones; a recent report found that the vast majority of consumers say that they would never be willing to release their number. "Frequency has to be managed. The content has to be managed," says Ask. "We always assert that there should be value." Related articles: Companies 2 Customers: ILU
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