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Scope & Status of Mobile Advertising & Commerce in India


Modern mobile phones are cameras, personal computers, traditional fixed line phones and e-banking devices, all rolled into one. With the increasing usage of mobile phones and WAP access on cell phones by one and all, fashion brands, retailers and magazines have increasingly started advertising through mobile campaigns and the social and digital media. Vishal Singhal explores the scope and increasing popularity of this new-age advertising platform

There are approximately 650 million mobile phones in our country today, which is larger than the number of fixed line phones. In India, mobile penetration continues its incredible growth with additions coming in at 8-10 million new subscriptions every month (as of May 2010), exhibiting beyond doubt that the Indian consumer is rapidly embracing mobiles as the primary communication device.

The other significant trend is the mobile web, which is picking up pace in urban and corporate segments of India due to slow broadband connectivity and lack of PC penetration. The convenience and ubiquity of mobile device means that this channel will overtake the PC as the primary internet device in India in due course. Among executives, this rate is even faster. Almost 85 per cent of the top Indian executives have so far accessed the internet using their mobile devices. Browsing, search and directions are the important mobile web features being used by the executives.

While advertising on the mobile devices is being well received by the Indian consumer, marketers must remember that mobile cannot, and must not, be treated like the other mass media out there. Approximately 26 per cent Indian marketers say that they use push-based mobile marketing only, 24 per cent do only permission-based advertising and 26 per cent do both kinds of mobile advertising. The figure for push-based used to be higher earlier but has gradually decreased as more and more consumers are starting to opt for Do-not-disturb (DND) directory registration of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Mobile marketing should quickly move from push to pull strategy, else it will increasingly face consumer resistance and government scrutiny. ROI will be maximised when relevance and pull strategy will be adopted. ROI is also related to personalisation in mobile marketing.

We are seeing the growing presence of fashion agencies on social websites like Facebook, and the same goes for models. Most of them carry either smart phones or two phones, one for calling and other for data to be in touch with the fashion world. Quite a few fashion brands and modeling agencies have created their Facebook accounts and their respective members or fans access the groups through their cell phones.

The 2008 edition of Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week got its share of mobile exposure with fashion videos and fashion catalogues of various designers being broadcasted to mobiles present in the vicinity by the organisers through bluetooth. Today, there are several platforms for a company to choose from for mobile advertising. Most companies worldwide are currently adopting iphone as their preferred platform for getting on mobile, while advertisers are already tapping iPhone and other mobile platforms to give small banner ads on top of or below the applications. Examples of some fashion brands which have adopted mobile presence include fashion brands Gucci and Dace, as well as magazines such as Vogue and Australia-based Nina Maya’s Mobile Magazine. Thus, the scope of advertising on mobile phones in the fashion industry clearly exists and is slowly increasing.

One has to start somewhere, and establishing one’s own WAP presence is as good a place as any. With more than 88 per cent top corporate executives accessing web on cellular phones, it’s a good idea to have a mobile website for your business. The regular internet websites appear clumsy in a mobile screen and unreadable for most of the part.

Although a number of devices, like the iphone, now offer a full web experience on a small screen, ownership in India for the same is extremely small in comparison to the mobile market as a whole. In any case, even on a larger screen phone with zoom functions like the iphone, a standard website won’t offer the best user experience because it is designed for a PC-type screen. Only 26 per cent of Indian marketers have their WAP sites while 74 per cent are either still pondering over this issue or have not even given a thought to it yet. Firms that have mobile-specific websites stand to gain mobile internet user loyalty early in the lifecycle and be the leading mobile web brands as internet on the mobile goes mainstream. There exists immense scope of mobile advertising in India.

Mobile commerce
A potential use for mobile phones is as an electronic wallet to pay for goods and services. In developed economies like those in western hemisphere, Korea and Japan, a number of methods of doing this are beginning to emerge such as using visual barcodes on the screen of the mobile to be scanned in shops and retail counters. Many prominent players in India provide bill payment on mobile phones using credit cards or SMS commands. Although these mobile payment providers have strong levels of security to ensure consumers are protected, there is still doubt and reticence in the customers’ minds about using mobile as a payment and banking channel.

Most luxury brands have now come to accept that the internet is a powerful tool for commerce and that social media provides an opportunity for a new kind of brand engagement. Here is another technological wave that will feed the ongoing digital revolution in fashion and take it mobile.

Indeed, more users will likely connect to the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs within the next five years. What does this mean for luxury and fashion brands? And, as consumers continue to migrate to smart mobile devices, how does this change the dynamics for operating fashion commerce and communication in the mobile space, and the wider social web?

Mobile commerce unlocks impromptu purchase decision and even retail therapy. We cannot dismiss the behaviours accelerating this change. In the near term, we can expect e-commerce sales to dwarf mobile sales, but that equilibrium will shift in the coming years as one-touch, frictionless payment becomes the norm.

About the author
Vishal Singhal is vice president (marketing) at CellStrat. CellStrat is a boutique management consulting and system integration firm helping clients in areas of mobile strategy, mobile marketing and digital media. He can be contacted at contact@cellstrat.com or at 91 9999 658 436 (India) or 1 770 355 2114 (US)