I’ve said for a while that mobile just isn’t here yet. Well, I’m starting to think it’s getting there now. Why?
For starters, the technology is a lot better than it was even a year ago. Smart phones are starting to get that all-important penetration into the phone market, so we can finally start considering how to reach these people.
Texting is always the first approach. It’s an established technology, and at least in Europe and Japan, it’s still popular. SMS marketing – or “Short Message System” marketing for those of you who had dates in high school – never really took off in the United States. I think it’s because we hardly ever walk anywhere, and few cities have trains to commute on. If you’re always in your car, you can’t read texts, right? Since they were so popular in these other places, it will be some time before they go away. They’re established technologies. It’s like waving a magic Hulu wand and expecting television to just disappear.
So the phone thing didn’t take off here the way it did there. Once we started getting more functional phones, however, things got interesting. QR codes, augmented reality, apps… if you haven’t been paying attention, it feels like there’s this massively popular technology sweeping the land.
Truth be told, the technology is really in the hands of the people who love the technology. So far. That was the same case with the Internet originally, if you’ll remember. Before everyone had their Hotmail addresses or online news, the Internet was the domain of the geeks. No need to market to those people! They (who am I kidding? We) were a tiny niche, and everyone else was still watching television. Advertisers were beating their brains out trying to figure out how to sell to consumers splintered by cable. If only they knew how bad THAT would get, right?
So we are still in the early stages of the “next big thing.” Well, maybe the late early stages. After all, you can now pretty easily learn to write your own mobile app, or at least find someone to do it for you. (iPhone apps being the latest “get rich quick” scheme.) And if you want to brave the waters of SMS, the only barrier to you is cost. It’s pretty cheap to send out a bunch of text messages to people with even the most basic cell phones, but it still isn’t free. Yet.
Start thinking now about how your product can appeal to mobile phone owners, because we’re only a year or two from smart phones being the standard. As we speak, there are companies you’ve never heard of who are getting in early with their own phone business model, and I guarantee you they will be the ones that dominate the stock exchange in a few years.