Universal Mobile Interface

Stop wasting money on mobile marketing

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on September 24, 2010

This interview was written and first published by Roger Ström, Visiting Lecturer, Marketing Halmstad University, Sweden.

With a thoughtful approach and consistent implementation, mobile marketing holds a huge potential for retailers. The pitfalls are many, however.

The mobile phone has still not made a substantial impact as a new marketing channel. There are many examples of more or less successful attempts, but these have largely been individual campaigns, not as a permanent channel of communication. “Technology providers and mobile operators have long been pointing to the area’s potential for marketing, but still the majority do not use the phone for other things than normal phone calls and text messages, “says Martin Vendel, independent consultant and former Head of Product Management of mobile services at the largest Nordic and Baltic operator TeliaSonera. However, the market is gradually maturing constantly giving more favourable conditions. The vast majority of phones are now able to connect to the Internet and data transfer is not a problem anymore, thanks to 3G. Operators plan to or are implementing the next generation of mobile networks, “4G”, with the potential of reaching download speeds of 100 megabits per second. All phones sold today have a good high resolution colour screen. Pricing for data traffic is reasonable and close to understandable for customers. “Since the launch of iPhone, we see an increased focus on usability by all stakeholders. All these positive trends make mobile marketing even more interesting as a new channel of communication for both customers and retailers. Now the time is right to evaluate what mobile marketing can do for each player in the retail sector, “continues Martin Vendel.

Retail mobile campaigns have historically been primarily SMS-based. Retail clothing chains, such as H&M, have achieved good response on campaigns designed to drive traffic into their stores. According to the U.S. research firm Forrester more and more companies are still planning new marketing campaigns based on SMS, e.g. large one-off promotions or special offers. But is this trend sustainable? “The situation can be compared to the development of e-mail marketing in the middle of the last decade. Tolerance to increasing amounts of unwanted messages in your inbox is not likely to be greater today than fifteen years ago, “says Martin Vendel. The problem with spam to mobile phones was early identified and resolved in markets such as Japan. There are few examples where legal fines are imposed to companies spamming users with sms. The problem may be considered to be limited but with the expected increase of campaigns, the issue may arise again.

Mobile marketing can be seen as an extension of the web. Anything that can be done online can also be done using a mobile phone connected to the Internet. “Modern mobile phones are becoming more and more like small computers. But do not make the mistake to regard the mobile as a normal computer. The services must be adapted to the mobile’s tiny window and the phone usually lacks a proper keyboard,” says Martin Vendel. Furthermore, data capacity is still significantly lower compared to fixed broadband. This leads to further constraints on capacity-demanding services such as moving images.

The computer screen size, image and sound quality is well suited for large, multi-sensory, brand communications, while keyboard and mouse facilitate more extensive search, comparison and evaluation of information for purchasing decisions. The limitations of the mobile phone make it more suitable for simple messages in a simpler format, with less extensive search patterns.

The mobile phone is personal and almost always directly available to the user. It holds the potential to become the perfect media for communication close to and at the time of the purchasing decision, as a tool to support customers in their purchases in store. “I think customers shortly expect all retail chains to have a mobile service where the most basic functionality is available,” says Martin Vendel.

Features such as find the nearest store, goods in stores, expanded information about goods, other customers and “expert’s” opinions on products, other channels of supply and prices simplifies customers’ search process and decision. Shop capacity and sales can be increased by an increased degree of customers self service and by an increased conversion rate of buying customers not leaving the store because of lack of information, suggestions or not finding the right goods.

Loyalty programs may increase their value to customers through increased accessibility utilising the mobile phone. Enabling access through the mobile phone of features such as shopping lists, personalized tips and advice, bonus balance, account balance, discount and bonus offers and coupons, and club cards, will increase their relevance and value as being used in store and during a purchase. Coupons and club cards are for instamce often forgotten at home, especially within the consumer discretionary sectors.

You should have a realistic expectation on the mobile channel and it´s contributions. It is not realistic to expect that it will solve all the challenges and replace existing channels immediately. “It is more realistic to expect that only a few percent of the customer base migrate over to the mobile channel initially. Then it is up to the company to train and reward their customers so that they migrate to the channel most valuable to both parties, “according to Martin Vendel.

In the choice of technical infrastructure, it is important to select solutions that can be used by as large fractions of the customer base as possible. In this perspective, SMS has up until now been superior to more advanced services. There have been numbers of barriers for an easy access to Internet based mobile services such as incompatible mobile operating systems and operator phone settings. More advanced applications giving a superior user experience are available for smartphones such as the iPhone or phones built on the Android operating system. These applications do, on the other hand, only work and may be accessed through specific phone models, and cannot yet be seen as general solutions. Today there are good alternatives, such as the service Squace, which can reach the majority of customers independently of operating system and with all the functionality needed.

Companies that are evaluating and planning implementation of mobile marketing should according to Martin Vendel, consider the following:

  • Revise and clarify your online strategy carefully. Build mobile extensions to existing web functionality, where it  makes sense and brings value.
  • Mobile marketing will not replace existing channels, but should initially be seen as complementary. Attention must also given to clarifying the benefits and role of mobile marketing compared to other channels. Mobile marketing has to be an integrated part of the overall marketing, including other channels, to maximize synergies.
  • Start with features that have high value for the customer and which are relatively simple and inexpensive to implement.
  • Each company’s needs are unique. The solution should be based on existing systems and aspirations of digital marketing as a whole.
  • The mobile channel will initially attract only a small but growing share of the customer base.
  • The content of a mobile site must be constantly renewed so that it is not perceived as dead, this is even more important on a mobile site compared with online services.
  • Encourage and educate the customer base to gradually incentivise them to move to more efficient and profitable channels.
  • Mobile and the existing online services should interact and be based on the same technical infrastructure to achieve efficiency.
  • Choose a rather simple and straightforward system that will not be expensive nor inflexible.
  • The mobile service should be possible to be directly managed by the marketing department, so that marketers do not become dependent on suppliers or internal IT bottlenecks.

When done right, companies will find solutions that meet their unique needs while maintaining a good flexibility. Furthermore, these investments will create substantial value within a short time period.

In summary, the time is right to learn more about mobile marketing and what it may bring to each individual business. The potential is huge. Unfortunately, it is very easy to make mistakes in this area, which can be costly and could harm customers’ trust in the specific brand.

New report by Ovum analysing the potential of UMI

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on June 22, 2010

“The concept of a universal mobile interface is appealing for many reasons. The independence it affords from tie-in to specific vendors, platforms, and distribution mechanisms will appeal to all those who prefer an open environment. For the B2B environment it is the potential to increase the return on investment and to get to market as broadly and as quickly as possible. Ovum is particularly supportive of the elimination of the boundary between the use of desk-bound Internet usage and that of all forms of mobile device,” concludes Ovum in their new report analysing the UMI concept and in particular the Squace service.

In their further analysis regarding the need for a Universal Mobile Interface they state: “If the mobile device is set to become the primary personal window into the Internet then all the issues regarding delivery of content and transparent availability of applications, and the ability to switch devices, suppliers, and operators becomes critical. It is quite possible that user communities will be happy enough to exist in a world that’s owned by a supplier that they trust, but in the end this limitation on freedom of choice is likely to slow down the widespread deployment of new and innovative features and content as developers struggle to keep up with all the varying platform requirements. The user community is rapidly getting to grips with the concept of cloud/server-based computing and the fact that they do not need to retain content locally if they are always connected to the Internet at realistic bandwidth. The idea that they could have one common interface that was under their control and available on any device they chose, regardless of the operator, platform, or hardware manufacturer becomes very attractive indeed – that is, as long as that interface supported the sort of rich environment that the current ecosystems can support. For those involved in the development and distribution of content, the degree of uniformity and the ease of deployment are obviously critical. Over the next few years we expect to see a major increase in the way users are targeted by mobile marketing, suggesting appropriate offers to them based on their profile and their location. A universal mobile interface would be very advantageous to those supporting that need.”

The full report is availed to download for free.

New Business Models, New Markets – Red Herring panel

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on May 28, 2010

“Will 2010 be the year when new use cases and emerging business models start to make their mark? What can we expect from the consumer market? And what are the latest in the mobile enterprise space?” These were some of the questions setting the framework for a panel which I chaired this week at the Red Herring Europe 100 in Paris. The venture capital community as well as entrepreneurs were represented by Jan Vocke, Cartagena Capital (technology-focused corporate finance advisory firm), Javier Rubió, Nauta Capital (VC specialized in technology, media and telecom), Stefan Hultberg, Accumulate (mobile payment and authentication solutions), Andy Munarriz, HulloMail (visual voice mail provider).

The fundamental issue or frustration is the inability of the market players, except for operators and device manufacturers to make substantial revenues and profits. The area has looked so promising for so many years, but still has not materialized in line with the expectations. How can this be? We have the fastest growing new media and the highest global penetration ever with about 3 billion phones capable of browsing the Internet. There are many hundred thousands of apps available and billions are downloaded. The majority of the time spent using the mobile is for services other than voice and SMS. And still both investors and entrepreneurs seem frustrated about the malfunctioning business ecosystem and desperately seek new and sustainable business models. This is not a question about greed or maximising profits but rather that we need working models and systems to fully utilise the benefits and potential of the mobile media.

What is quite clear is that there is no doubt what so ever regarding the potential or that this media will influence and benefit humanity worldwide. From a technology point of view there are no real obstacles anymore and everything is possible. The three key areas slowing innovation down and that where pinpointed by the panel are the fragmentation of operating systems, the walled garden or protective approaches by present larger stakeholders (operators, device manufacturers and Internet giants) and that some enabling and supporting services are not yet openly available, efficient or well enough established. The general view is that the operating system fragmentation is here to stay and that there is a huge potential in services managing to bridge functionality cross platforms, which in essence is the vision of the UMI concept. The panel did not share the same view regarding whether the big players will open up further to facilitate partner businesses. We all agree that it in the long run would benefit all stakeholders but the ambition to capitalize on existing businesses and lock customers in may turn this into a very slow process. The general recommendation giving highest probability for fast uptake is to launch services and business models that manages to work well independently of operators or device brands and that can handle all relevant operating systems. Independent global players that can offer supporting cost efficient functionality such as payment solutions, security solutions, ad solution are also essential for a fast development. These supporting roles are of course very attractive positions and will create substantial value.

New business models and markets are thereby expected to be developed on top of and bypassing existing proprietary and closed solutions. Having a larger addressable market enables a very fast penetration and also very competitive cost levels. We can expect to see quite disruptive new services not only affecting the mobile market but also other areas in the same way that online Internet services more or less changed the rules of any business or market, being consumer or enterprise. 

What is also quite encouraging is that the company Squace, fully dedicated to establish a world class Universal Mobile Interface solution on the market, was announced Red Herring Europe 2010 Winner.

Key mobile trends

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on January 12, 2010

I was asked at the Mobile Monday event at the Squace office in Stockholm yesterday what people read on this blog. Going through the statistics over the last year some conclusion may be drawn. If this says anything at all regarding general mobile trends could be debated. The top three posts discuss the importance of the mobile to developing countries, as a new marketing channel and as a way to distribute long-tail content. Reflecting key industry trends? Yes, I think they do.

Below the top 10 blog posts are ranked based on popularity:

The importance of the mobile phone to developing countries

Key considerations when choosing mobile marketing platform

The Reversed Long Tail – Key to the success of mobile Internet

The first ever true UMI is born!

Why companies should do mobile versions of their web sites

Will the business models of web 2.0 services work when expanded to the mobile?

Why search will not be as powerful when accessing Internet through the mobile

Cloud computing – a key enabler for mobile service development

Microsoft moves into the Universal Mobile Interface space launching OneApp

The operating system forest may turn into a jungle

The first ever true UMI is born!

Posted in UMI by Martin Vendel on June 25, 2009

I just want to inform you that the new version of Squace went live a few days ago. We now have the first service to illustrate the strength of the Universal Mobile Interface, UMI, concept. Hopefully more services will follow, but presently this is to my knowledge the only service that can be regarded as an UMI. The new version of the client already runs on about 1000 different phone models. For further information about the service and to down load please visit the Squace site.

New Picture (12)

What is it then that makes Squace a UMI and why will this release the potential of the mobile Internet? The new version of Squace has the capability to act as the mobile desk top comprising most key services, such as messaging, calling, web links and applications. It does so independently of operator and device and is fully controlled and customised by the user. In addition, it is also very easy to integrate existing web services or create mobile services enabling long tail content going mobile. Compared to the previous version of the Squace service, launched in the spring of 2008, the whole Internet is now available and there is also direct access to applications. The user interface has become even more intuitive. The number of clicks to whatever content or applications, the individual may prefer, are fewer than ever. The viral potential of Squace, being a fully operator and device independent service connecting all users, will be really interesting to follow. We are now in a similar position compared to the early days of the Internet with the position to experience massive peer to peer distribution of content, but this time in the mobile space and now including more or less the whole population on this globe, not just those having a PC. Exiting!

The new version of Squace certainly holds a huge potential and with more integrated content and applications this may be a key mile stone within the development of the mobile Internet. However, what this type of UMI service does is to fully integrate the mobile and the fixed Internet. This is making the mobile what it should have become a long time ago, just another window or access point to the Internet and its services. Well done!

Here are some examples:

GigaOMOliver StarrTechCrunchGoogle SearchYahoo mobile