Financial Times: Peter McCready examines the renewed interest in the mobile market
EXCLUSIVE: Mobile marketing platform, i-movo, is in talks with six credit card companies to supply a mobile coupon redemption system to expand existing loyalty schemes. Although the platform refuses to disclose the identity of the credit card providers, it is thought that at least one of the firms issues cards on behalf of a UK high street retailer.
David da Silva, principal consultant at i-movo’s joint owner Conchango, recently said the mobile marketing channel currently suffered from a lack of confidence because there was no brand that consumers trusted to safeguard communication integrity and privacy based on opt-in preferences. As a result, i-movo believes it is well placed to serve this market by offering a system that enables time sensitive, narrowcast communication with consumers who can order and receive mobile vouchers in a matter of minutes and redeem them instantly .It tracks each coupon throughout this process, allowing retailers to overcome the problem of void or counterfeit vouchers .In addition, i-movo does not require retailers to change or reinvest in their point-of-sale terminals.
The system is aimed at the potentially huge m-commerce market, which suppliers believe is resurging after the stall precipitated by the 2000 technology bust.
The systems today are technologically and commercially more advanced and refined. Subsequently, there is renewed interest in corporate and individual investment in products and services right across the market. These new developments have enabled companies such as i-movo to take advantage of the lessons the industry has learned, to address the technical and marketing needs of companies, and to provide the consumer with the necessary solutions.
David Tymm, CEO at i-movo, said that up until now, SMS has largely been used on a commercial basis for advertising. Previous coupon systems were often unsuccessful or inefficient because coupons did not have or were not perceived to be of much value. Many failed because they often required consumers to ” spend a lot to get something back, and a number of less scrupulous offers tarred the market. ”
However, i-movo’ s system is less invasive for the consumer and retailers can assess the success of their coupon offers using real-time and specific data feedback to refine their targeting. This means marketing and offers can be extremely flexible, for example, region specific.
This benefits retailers and card providers alike and enables both parties to engage in co-branding to each other’ s mutual advantage. Tymm said there is an ongoing fight between card providers for custom. Currently, providers are trying to retain their own customers or entice their rivals with free interest deals. This is expensive and will prove more so if interest rates rise.
Therefore, providers are constantly seeking new methods and schemes to keep and grow their share of the market. Tymm said vouchers can be used to reward customers in a number of ways and retailers can create their own micro-market, for example, by driving the usage of specific cards in specific stores of any customer base.
Furthermore, providers of other services and solutions will also be looking at the m-commerce market once again to offer new and increased business as the shadow of the 2000 technology bust recedes. Renewed confidence and the need to replace existing hardware and software should boost the PDA and Smartphone market.
Richard Poole Conchango head of strategy, said spending is on the increase again as both companies and consumers have more money and begin to overcome the reluctance to purchase new applications . The recent lack of big and exciting launches such as Egg and First Direct have made the market seem stagnant to many consumers, but now old systems have degraded and even those that have not, are beginning to look dilapidated. Rather than signal a continued downfall in enthusiasm, this trend has contributed to a renewed interest in the market and its applications, many of which have improved significantly. Over the past three years, the hardware has become cheaper and smaller.
Previously connected PDAs were limited by coverage to the metropolises, but now bandwidth and battery life have extended coverage and performance. Today’ s smaller machines have batteries three or four times as powerful which will last two to three days and the manufacturing costs have dropped by a factor of four.
Despite the fall in colts and our love affair with gadgets and technology, the biggest demand may come from institutions. Poole said mobile phones and computers have become the standard tools, but not everyone needs a computer. PDAs and Smartphones may well prove significantly cheaper than existing static workstations for companies with large numbers of employees.
Nevertheless, take up of PDAs has been lower than predicted. The case for them is very good but still challenging. Products are changing and transforming rapidly and businesses will invariably ask themselves at what point should they buy.
Poole believes businesses will have to accept that this kind of technology will have to be refreshed every two years and not every five. Even now, experts in the US are saying the standalone PDA is becoming obsolete.
Research indicates that despite very low penetration (<1%), Smartphones based on Microsoft Smartphone and Symbian are expected to have overtaken PDAs as the more common device in four years. From the perspective of the financial services industry, while all signs are pointing towards a renewed interest in consumers using mobile devices for financial transactions or responding to marketing messages, it is vital that development teams consider the lifespan of these application that will support new initiatives.