Mobile Marketing Research Priorities: Roadmap to Engaging the “Connected Customer” | MMA
August 14, 2006

Academic Review
Mobile Marketing Research Priorities: Roadmap to Engaging the “Connected Customer”
Michael Becker, EVP Business Development, iLoop Mobile, Inc.; Michael Hanley, Assistant Professor of Advertising, Ball State University.

Prepared for the Global Mobile Marketing Association
(For more information, or to discuss this article in more detail, please contact Michael Becker at [email protected])

“…the ‘connected customer’ era may change the paradigm for effective marketing strategy.”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

(Marketing Science Institute 2006)

Consumers and business customers are gaining significant power in today’s technologically advanced digital, virtual and globalized world. More than ever before, customers have the power to make informed choices through increased real-time access to a broad range of information, communication and decision making tools. It’s the marketers job to offer relevant services to their target audience, however, due to the fragmentation and explosive growth of media channels and the ability of customers to time-shift with DVRs, the Internet, mobile phones and related technology, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for marketers to capture the attention and maintain an on-going, profitable, relationship with their target audience.

The customer has changed. The Marketing Science Institute (MSI) refers to this new breed of customer as “The Connected Customer” (Marketing Science Institute 2006). According to the MSI, Connected Customers are quite unique (as depicted in Figure 1). They continue to be exposed to traditional mass media and many-to-many marketing initiatives as in the past, but are now also simultaneously accessing information directly (anywhere, anytime) and using this information to make informed choices when engaging the brand, marketer and special-interest groups one-to-one through mediums like the mobile phone and the Internet.   

Figure 1: ‘The Connected Customer’ Relationships
(adapted from Marketing Science Institute 2006)

The idea of the Connected Customer is not just a phenomenon in industrialized markets; emerging markets are catching up fast. There are more than two billion mobile subscribers worldwide, about 30 percent of the global population, most of which are in industrialized markets. However, by 2010, according to the GSM Emerging Market Handset Initiative (EMHI), almost everyone will have a cell phone, especially in emerging markets. The EMHI estimates that mobile subscriber penetration rate will reach 80 percent worldwide (Taaffe 2006). Moreover, it is not just wireless phone technology connecting the customer. There are new networks, applications and devices emerging that are speeding the reach of the customer along. For example, network technology like WiMax, which can blanket a 10-mile radius with wireless Internet from one tower, will significantly enhance a customer’s ability to stay connected, not just from the phone, but from their car, iPods, computers and mobile terminals that have yet to be developed. Moreover, new context sensitive applications and solutions will enable marketers to enhance their initiatives and make their programs location, time and presence available. The emergence of mobile commerce and micro-payment solutions are also significant and interesting developments that marketers should pay attention to. It is an exciting time, but there is much work to be done in order to engage the Connected Customer.

Marketers must realize that current marketing methods, media types and guidelines may not work to engage the Connected Customer or to understand and report on such engagements. The MRI (2006) notes that “the ‘connected customer’ era may change the paradigm for effective marketing strategy.” Marketers must embrace this change. However, they should not just accept it or take it for granted. They must take an active role in understanding how they must adapt to face this change. If they do not, they run the risk of becoming marginalized. As noted by McAlister and Tay (2005), " will only improve its standing in organizations to the extent that its activities are methodologically rigorous, strategically relevant, and accessible to key decision makers in their own language…."  It appears that marketers understand this. Marriott (2006) notes, “the goal is to create new models that work for mobile, not merely more models that have been applied to other media types. This is the challenge for agencies and their brands, and one they're stepping up to.”

Marketers need to better understand the Connected Customer and what Connected Customers find relevant, informative and entertaining, and how the mobile channel and the practice of mobile marketing can help them accomplish their goals. There is much research that needs to be done, but for research to move forward it helps to have an agenda, to know where the research needs to go. The remainder of this article will help one formulate a research agenda and set priorities as it pertains to how marketers can use the mobile channel and the practice of mobile marketing to engage their audience. It briefly documents what we know about mobile marketing and details research priorities. It also helps focus academic and industry practitioners start a research agenda in regards to adding to the growing body of knowledge on mobile marketing.

What We “Think” We Know About Mobile Marketing
Simply put,
mobile marketing is the practice of leveraging the mobile channel for marketing. It is the practice of brands and marketers interacting with their audience through the mobile channel, including through messaging (SMS, MMS, Email), voice, alternative alerts (Bluetooth, etc.), the mobile internet, wireless advertising, and data services like MobileTV, picture recognition, mobile portals, etc. The concept of mobile marketing is less then a decade old and has only been put into practice in the last few years. The Direct Marketing Association (2006) notes that marketers are employing mobile marketing for:

·          Response fulfillment

·          Sales promotion support

·          Direct sales (through downloadable content)

·          'Interactivity' (such as voting and competitions)

·          Customer service support

·          Research and data collection

·          Store traffic generation

·          Couponing and ticketing

·          CRM

·          Advertising

·          Branding

Much has been learned from industry case studies and academic research about mobile marketing and consumers’ acceptance of it. Through controlled research experiments, case studies and reflection of live mobile marketing initiatives we’ve learned that mobile marketing:

·          Can be very effective in generating responses rates from and is often a preferred channel for certain demographic segments (youth, ethnic groups, women, and others): WAP banner ads responses of 3%-5%; SMS programs 3%-10% or higher; MMS campaigns up to 20% are not unheard of (Kavassalis et al. 2003, Rettie et al., CTIA 2005, Baker 2006; Enpocket 2005; Baker 2006; Levey 2006; Young 2005).

·          Incentives (free minutes, coupons, sweepstakes, content, money, etc.) can be used to engage the Connected Customer; however, many incentive models are currently not allowed in certain markets.

·          Is interactive, turning normally static media (TV, print, radio) into interactive, personalized, informative and entertaining media (Marriott 2006, Bauer et al. 2005, Manis 2005, Bragge et al. 2005, Dickinger et al. 2004, Nysveen et al. 2005).

·          Can be an effective way to gather customer information that has been challenging, if not impossible, to previously gather and utilize through other means (location, time, presence, immediate purchase intentions).

·          Is being adopted by marketers at an increasing rate. By 2008 up to 89 percent (depending on geography) of marketers will be actively employing mobile marketing in its various forms (Marriott 2006; Pearse 2005; Airwide Solutions 2006).

·          Is an effective means for the promotion and delivery of content and personalization software.

·          Can be used to enable other research methods. For instance, a recent MediaAudit/Ipsos research study “found that adults are 3.5 times more likely to agree to participate in a panel study using a cell phone (66%) versus 18% who would agree to carry a pager” (Loechner 2006).

On the industry front, empirical evidence is time and time again proving the increasing effectiveness of mobile marketing; likewise, on the academic research front much has been done. However, more is needed. Published qualitative and empirical data shows us that mobile marketing can be very effective, but studies done to date to prove or disprove effectiveness hypotheses are limited. Moreover, additional longitudinal studies and studies validating what we already know are also hard to come by.  A review of several online advertising and marketing research sources and conference abstracts found a modest but growing amount of published material about mobile marketing. The World Advertising Research Center ( database has 601 advertising or marketing research articles pertaining to mobile marketing, as of early August 2006. A Google Scholar search of “mobile marketing” found 28,500 sources; a “cell phone advertising” query returned 6,970. Mobile marketing-related conferences papers have also shown slow growth. At the August 2006 conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, four papers about mobile marketing were presented in the Advertising Division, up from one in 2005. Leppäniemi et al. (2006) studied fifty conference papers and journal research articles published on the topic of mobile marketing between January 2000 and February 2006. Their analysis shows us the broad array of mobile marketing topics being studied, including the mobile ecosystem, consumer attitudes, value of mobile advertising, and more. They categorized the available research during this time into three segments: Consumer, Business and Management, and General. 

Even with all this work, however, Leppäniemi et al. (2006) note that “…despite the increasing number of publications, the growing body of literature on mobile marketing is somewhat inconsistent and highly fragmented. This is due, in large part, to the fact that a common conceptualization of the phenomenon is still lacking.” (p1).  For instance, in their article they cull over 21 different definitions of mobile marketing out of the studies they looked at. It is evident that focus is needed. Research plays a vital role in directing the future practice and development of mobile marketing. While much has been learned regarding the effectiveness of mobile marketing, there is much more to learn.

Research Priorities
In order to thoroughly study a topic, like mobile marketing, it’s important to define research boundaries, to establish a focus for everyone to work off of. Having a well defined list of research priorities will help with this. For instance, since 2000 the Marketing Science Institute has published research priorities based on member company input every two years to help focus research into marketing in general. MSI’s 2006-2008 priorities are encapsulated by the theme “The Connected Consumer.” This is an appropriate theme for marketing in general, and quite applicable for guiding research into mobile marketing. For the practice of mobile marketing there are many detailed topics to consider. The following list of research themes and their sub-topics seem to be the key areas of mobile marketing concern to marketers and practitioners alike, having been culled from articles, call-for-papers from the International Journal of Mobile Marketing and International Journal of Electronic Business and related sources:

1.      Understanding the Mobile Marketing Ecosystem & Technology Development

a.       Mobile marketing theory, frameworks, constructs and concepts.

b.       Research methodologies and models suitable for studying mobile marketing.

c.       Effective methods for bringing mobile marketing academic research to professionals.

d.       Review of industry typology and definitions

e.       Understanding the nature of alliances and business models amongst the player within the ecosystem in order to effectively monetize each other’s efforts

f.        Architectures and frameworks for mobile marketing models.

g.       Design, implementation and evaluation of mobile marketing software systems

2.      Mobile Initiative Creation, Delivery and Measurement

a.       Mobile initiative measurement and metrics: A need for a clearer understanding of mobile marketing ROI, critical success and failure factors, effectiveness and traceability perspective (Marriott 2006; Virtanen et al. 2005).

b.       Effectiveness of mobile content, such as ringtones, mobile TV, video and images, within the marketing mix

c.       Word-of-mouth marketing (Kim 2006).

d.       Content design of mobile advertising and promotions.

e.       Analysis of the various opt-in and delivery methods: SMS, MMS, mobile internet, IR, IM, Bluetooth, mobile email, mobile portals, picture recognition, Zoove method

3.      Consumer Perceptions and Attitudes Toward Mobile Marketing

a.       How is mobile effecting consumer interaction?

b.       The role of incentives in consumer acceptance of mobile advertising.

c.       Customer profiling, personalization and targeting in mobile marketing.

d.       Mobile customer relationship management.

4.      Legal, Privacy and Regulatory Issues, and Best Practices Guidelines

a.       Who owns the mobile customer relationship?

b.       CANSPAM and future regulations: Enabling or disabling?

c.       Opt-in or be left out: The minefield of permission-based mobile marketing.

d.       Issues surrounding privacy management within a mobile context.

e.       Analysis of future trends and impact of global, environmental, cultural, and political activities on mobile marketing.

5.      Mobile Use and Context Across Different Mediums.

a.       Effectiveness of mobile marketing across various traditional media channels: Interactivity of mobile-enhanced traditional media and pure mobile programs (Marriott 2006).

b.       Applications of multimedia within mobile marketing initiatives.

c.       mCommerce as it pertains to the marketing mix.

d.       Mobile marketing in the agency: Where does it fit – in offline or digital departments?

e.       Use of the mobile channel for philanthropy and politics.

The above set of themes and research topics can certainly be refined, but overall they paint a very good picture of the areas of mobile marketing that need further investigation.

Clearly, the practice of mobile marketing is immensely effective; however, there is much to learn and document on its varied uses. The above research priorities and themes are not in and of themselves an agenda, since they are not laying out a chronological roadmap; rather they are a starting point toward helping the industry and academia gain clarity on focus when researching the field. Note, however, while it is critically important that we begin to model and understand the Connected Customer and her relationship with brands and marketers and how the practice of mobile marketing can get her engaged, we must take note that we don’t need research simply for research’s sake. When taking up the charge to tackle research into mobile marketing practices and answer many of the questions that are at hand, researchers - academic or industry practitioners - must focus on creating commercially actionable insight, not simply knowledge for knowledge sake. Ultimately, through focused study and research, we’ll understand more fully the role and impact that mobile marketing can and will play in the coming mobile-enhanced economy.

If you have comments or insights about mobile marketing research priorities and would like to assist in the refinement of a research agenda for mobile marketing, send them to [email protected]


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