The next time you are standing at a bus stop, or you are waiting for a train, take a look around at anything that interests you and take a photograph of it with the camera on your internet enabled phone. For instance, that poster advertising a film that you have heard good reviews about, or perhaps the advertisement for a chocolate bar. Chances are that you will just have photograph of an advertisement on your phone and a pretty shaky one at that unless you are a professional photograph specialising in photos taken through phones.
But wouldn’t it be useful if that photograph led to you finding out where you could see that film in the cinema nearest to you, at what time and buy tickets for it then and there? Or by photographing the chocolate bar on the poster you received a digital voucher which you could redeem in your local corner shop on one of those chocolate bars? Another useful application of your mobile phone could be when you are driving around an area looking for houses you might be interested in buying.
Currently, you have to get the details from an estate agent or an online service about houses and then plan a tour around the area to see which ones you want to view. But, if you see a house on your tour for which you had not printed off the details you would have to mess about calling the agent or logging onto the web to get the details. It’s frustrating and the speed at which you find details on the internet at home or at work makes it all the more so because you cannot find them so quickly when you are away from the web. It would very useful if you could take a snap of the outside of the house on your phone and see details about it immediately to see whether it is in your budget.
Well, this capability is now available through your Nokia mobile via their ‘Point and Find’ service. It allows you to find information like this now. All you need is the ‘Point and Find’ software on your internet enabled phone to get instant information. The service is quick and easy to use. For marketers, it gets around a major hurdle with mobile marketing which is the fact that people don’t like having to tap out more than basic messages on their phones. The three keys activities carried out on mobiles are search, social networking and photography. But search is limited by people’s reluctance to type on their keypads so Google is developing a voice driven mobile version of their search engine.
With services like ‘Point and Find‘ or ‘Amazon Remembers‘ you just need to photograph what you are interested in to get the information you want about the product or service you have seen. The possibilities are endless. And they both meet the ‘Want It Now!’ feeling that we all experience now. Consumers hate having to wait.
Marketers will be able to understand which of their off-line marketing collateral is most effective and which locations are most productive. Marketing investment can be targeted more effectively and efficiently. Mobile marketing will become more mainstream with the reality of instant gratification as the database of products and services are increased in these services.
Image by forcevive via Flickr
‘Mobile mania’ is abundant. Everyone is excited about it in the publishing world. Books on mobile phones, learning on mobiles (aka ‘m-learning’), broadband on mobiles. You name it, everyone wants everything on their mobile and wants their mobile to do everything, according to the mobile handset manufacturers and network providers.
Of course, network operators want to grow their revenues from data charges because their revenue from voice is being eaten away by competition and regulations. Cynical? Me?
Some interesting meetings recently with publishers have also revealed much the same excitement from them about mobile learning and books on mobiles. I have previously written about eBooks on mobiles and my views on that are clear. Learning through a mobile phone is another topic of interest to debate.
The number of people who own a mobile in Africa and Asia is generally greater than the number who own a laptop or PC. That’s not a surprise and mobile networks are enabling commerce in developing countries in ways which have not been possible before their arrival. For example, a fisherman off the west coast of Africa can call several ports to check where there is a lack of fish so that he can get the best price for his catch.
In India, where I spent six weeks with 3 Mobile in October 2008, 3G networks will soon arrive enabling greater potential for commerce and information transfer to more people. In the ‘West’, eBooks is the fastest growing category on the iTunes App Store. Publishers are getting excited, understandably.
I believe that these numbers hide some truths, however. In the training business where I have spent the last 12 years of my career selling and marketing elearning, books, classroom training and distance learning, one of the most tricky items to sell and to show value for the benefit is elearning. Publishers sew seeds by giving away some elearning courses for free to gain interest, usage and to help install any plug-ins needed to run the elearning on PC’s and laptops. The publishers then get excited about how many people have downloaded the free elearning and cite it as evidence that people want to the stuff.
Of course, the question they rarely answer is how many people who downloaded the free course actually completed it? There was never an answer. So, the implication is that people get the free course, look at it for a bit and then lose enthusiasm for completing the course. People are buying eBooks for their iPhones, for sure. They seem to be willing to pay more than for games and they are very keen to pay less than US$1 for them. But, what type of books are they buying in which subjects?
Also, there is the challenge of infrastructure to support mobile learning. As web developers, we test sites we build for customers on several different operating systems and browsers. In the mobile world, there are something in the region of half a million combinations of operating systems and mobile web browsers. There are specialist content management systems (CMS) which are designed to handle this challenge, but you then have to start running two CMS’s to reach your mobile and PC customers.
Furthermore, what are the data charges that customers in Africa who want learning materials are willing to pay? Also, many customers in Africa and Asia are likely to be on pre-pay plans which means their connection with the network is likely to be intermittent.
I think publishers need to slow down before they start committing to mobile learning and concentrate their resources carefully on providing more robust learning options for their customers such as rich Internet applications first. Mobile learning will become more achievable as a business proposition, but I believe it is just a nice way to deliver small bites of learning, news and information to encourage customers to take advantage of resources which are near to them.