CTIA Enterprise and Applications San Diego 2011: Power Series Roundup

Phew… after attending Mobilize 2011 in San Francisco and AdWeek in New York, we joined the wireless and telecom community for the yearly CTIA Enterprise and Applications conference in San Diego. In this post, we’ll summarize our insights from the CTIA Power Series sessions with their specific focus on mobile commerce and advertising. Enjoy!

Mobile Commerce
Once more mobile payment was one of the conference’s hot topics. But even though most people see huge potential in mobile payment technology, “there needs to be more value created through mobile commerce on top of what we already have today”, as Edward McLaughlin, panelist in the m-commerce boardroom session and Chief Emerging Payments Officer of MasterCard, hits the nail right on the head. To better understand why mobile payment is not quite there yet, consider that today mobile payment requires firing up an app, enter a password, deal with identity management and authentication, and so on. In other words, paying with your mobile device is still pretty cumbersome and normally still takes more time than a good old cash or credit card payment. So there’s still plenty of room for innovation and simplification before mobile payment technologies are far enough to replace the clunky solutions available today.

While discussions about the value proposition of mobile payments (for both merchants and consumers) keep popping up, most people feel that mobile payment solutions are eventually going to create a lot of value; one aspect that is especially interesting concerns their enabling nature. In the past payment technology always just meant costs; by integrating payment with mobile context, past purchasing behavior and consumer preferences, however, merchants will soon be able to benefit from new and unprecedented engagement opportunities (such as loyalty programs, coupons, rewards, analytics, etc.), which – when used with a customer-first mentality – will ultimately benefit the consumer, who can expect to get more relevant offers, more appreciation and a better service. The following example makes this apparent: When used in a frequently visited restaurant, the ability to pay directly via her mobile device helps a loyal consumer to avoid waiting for the check and to pay directly via the device.

Mobile advertising
Advertisers want to tell stories. So they‘re always interested to learn how emerging technologies enable story telling in new and engaging ways. That’s why there’s clear excitement in mobile, which allows for using video, location-based ads and barcodes/QR tags to achieve increased customer engagement. But the mere use of a mobile marketing technology (e.g. a QR code linked to a website) is often not enough. For example, as the mobile ad team at AT&T interactive observed,  ads that contain location-based information like a phone number, the distance to a local shop or a local address can boost click-through rates by up to 50%. In other words: Dynamic ads seem to offer great effectiveness and may thus be one of the next frontiers in mobile advertising.

Naturally, location-based advertising also evokes privacy concerns. The mobile advertising industry is aware of that and aims to be proactive. “I do not want my beer brand to know whenever I drink a beer, even if I have a trusted relationship with that brand”, said Rip Gerber, panelist in the m-commerce Content, Monetization & Advertising panel. As with Facebook and similar platforms, control over privacy settings should be simplified and put in the hands of the end user. The idea is that giving users more control will build trust, which will ultimately result in more engagement with the brand.

A growing number of long-tail merchants and restaurants already leverage location-based advertising such as the Foursquare check-ins. By offering discount or specials, for example, they can flatten capacity fluctuations. And by connecting Foursquare check-ins and American Express payment services, Foursquare users can instantly pay for and redeem location-based deals and specials. So while a GAP rep at AdWeek moaned that daily deals and significant group discounts were the only working (and very expensive) strategy to extract additional customer revenues, CTIA Power Series experts such as Foursquare’s Holger Luedorf suggested that, at least for small businesses, the use of location-based and well-timed specials (not just daily deals with huge discounts) may offer a cost-effective alternative.