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Marketing Wireless Time
Marketing Wireless Time

How did northern Californians cope without wired voice and data communications, e-mail, and e-commerce - all dependent on uninterrupted electricity? The lucky folks did well. These smart Californians got their hands on the prototypes of wireless handheld computers from Handspring and AvantGo of Mountain View and San Mateo, California, respectively. Or they began pushing Openwave Systems of Redwood City for better wireless software, and Web page designers in Santa Monica and San Diego for live video delivered to wireless devices. And, of course, these telecommuting info-geeks bought the newest mobile handheld devices with SMS, the wireless Internet, and, in some cases, m-banking so they could stay in Marin County rather than make the commute to San Francisco.

Their brilliant decisions showed us how to survive the end of yesterday's PC-based technology with the newest wireless services currently available from Vodafone AirTouch.

Before California's electricity crisis, I made the following forecast: 300 million wireless users worldwide within two years, and by 2005 one billion mobile devices and $210 billion in mobile revenues worldwide for wireless telecom firms. These are lowball figures for two reasons.

First, Americans will pay attention to how Californians coped with rolling power outages with their cell phones and other wireless devices, and all of us finally will join the world in demanding quality 3G wireless services from U.S.-based wireless telecom providers. The demand for wireless is higher than ever before.

Second, these lowball estimates assume the continuation of the technological confusion that reigns today among wireless telecoms, content providers, and m-commerce customers. Let's hope 2001 is the last year of multiple wireless protocols (such as CDMA, TDMA, PHS, and GSM) that are incompatible with one another.

Look at what can happen when most telecom firms agree on common protocol standards. If NTT DoCoMo, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, and others agree on W-CDMA and WAP2000 as the only two protocols for today's wireless handsets in Japan, Europe, and the U.S., then wireless commerce is ready to become the 30-second promotion medium for music, movie clips, and sitcom ads and, as a consequence, to revitalize B2C and B2B electronic commerce. With this one decision to establish a dual-protocol system for the world, miniature mobile information devices bury wired PCs.

The Future of Wireless Time
Therefore, double the low-ball figures. Within four years, I see the world as follows: a new network-based, real-time computing, mobile era, where businesses and individuals are communicating and transacting business from any location at any hour, that rises to new heights and takes over the business life of professionals and the personal life of individuals. Let's call it wireless time, and recognize it as a paradigm shift in how we live and work, and love and prosper.

How do we get to wireless time? Anybody who's a good marketer of Internet time, such as AOL, can also become a good marketer of wireless time, such as NTT DoCoMo. Join the two together, as is the case in Japan, and good Internet marketing managers become good wireless marketing managers, too. Today, 14 million Japanese customers of DoCoMo's wireless service pay for content from AOL Japan.

Crucial Strategies
Which strategies are crucial to the success of marketing wireless time? Here's a short list:

  • Product marketing: Marketers introduce miniature information appliances with unique interactive content for wireless customers. Check out the daily manga cartoons in DoCoMo's Japan.
  • Promotion marketing: Marketing managers provide customers with value-added intangible product attributes that are included as part of their smart handheld devices. See Nokia's rainbow-colored wireless phones.
  • Price marketing: Marketers offer both commodity and higher value-added prices as marketing managers divide wireless customers into those who do virtually everything online and those who prefer personal services from telecom, content, and financial service providers. Compare prices for 2G and 2.5 GPRS services in Europe's GSM community versus DoCoMo's loss-leader pricing of 3G service in Japan.

    Price marketing is by far the most important marketing strategy for establishing wireless time. The "right" price creates first-mover advantage, builds market share, and ensures market dominance. For example, European and Japanese wireless marketers must teach U.S. customers, who prefer free Internet content, to adjust to paying for content, and to join the rest of the world in paying for virtual transactions online through mobile phones, m-commerce, and the wireless Internet. Teaching Americans to do what others do naturally with wireless is the essence of marketing wireless to the wired masses of the U.S.

  • Segmentation: Marketers divide like groups of people across national frontiers into those who have the income, are the correct age, live in the right neighborhoods, and belong to modernizing ethnic groups as candidates for the purchase of miniature information appliances, 3G telecom services, and interactive Internet content.
  • Targeting: Marketing managers assemble groups of people who are bound together by their professions, such as entertainers, or by their skills, such as athletes, and by their personal tastes, habits, and values, such as info-tech geeks. See NFL football, FIFA soccer, NBA basketball, WWF wrestlers, and other sports personalities who can't wait for 3G; their coaches who are happy with 2G and 2.5G; and the owners of the teams and franchises who remain tied to wired time.
  • Positioning: Marketers match possible online Internet products with probable customers; the former offer the latter enhanced customer relationships to try out m-commerce, the mobile Internet, and wireless time. Compare the first-place success of Nokia versus the second-place position of Motorola, and the failure of Ericsson. Also study the contest for U.S. market share among Vodafone AirTouch, DoCoMo, AT&T Wireless, and Deutsche Telekom-VoiceStream Wireless.
Although marketing professionals speak of segmentation, targeting, and positioning as one continuous effort, targeting specific like-minded groups is by far the most important in delivering value to present and potential customers of wireless commerce. Currently, no U.S.-owned firms are first movers in the race to dominate wireless time. Instead, they must depend on partnerships and alliances with European- and Japanese-owned firms to learn how to price wireless products properly for the appropriate target market groups in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.

Good Investments
How do wireless marketers make money from wireless time? What will venture capitalists invest in today, tomorrow, and in the second half of 2001?

  1. Design new interactive content for the wireless Internet that's different from the content for the wired Internet.
  2. Form wireless alliances among telecom and content providers.
  3. Turn i-mode and WAP phones into dual-protocol, miniature information appliances for 3G digital service.
  4. Sell cell phones to the following age segments: m-generation kids, teenagers, Gen-Y (twentysomethings), Gen-X (thirtysomethings), and boomers (fortysomethings).
  5. Market anytime, anywhere voice and data communications, and transaction capabilities to the following values and lifestyles target groups: teenage Japanese women, unmarried American info-geeks, married European business executives, Chinese bureaucrats, and others.
  6. Build brand communities as product-based experiences for DoCoMo and WAP users.
The Best Wireless Marketing Deals
Today these wireless deals create value for marketers, beat out competitors, grow sales rapidly, build market share, make money for business firms, and help investors conquer the wireless world:
  • Web-based phones, with screens or "home decks" that show books, CDs, airplane tickets, and other items to purchase, from Finland's Nokia
  • W-CDMA or CDMA 2000 from America's QUALCOMM
  • Distribution alliances for connections and content from Japan's NTT DoCoMo's AOL Japan
  • Electronic wallets from Finland and Sweden's Merita-Nordbanken
  • Online stock trading from Charles Schwab and other nonbank financial institutions
  • Dual-protocol GSM and i-mode phones in Europe from Japan's NTT DoCoMo and its Dutch partner, KPN Mobile
  • Investments in AT&T Wireless by DoCoMo with the goal of introducing 3G wireless technology sooner than 2005
  • Online hotel and travel ser-vices from the Hyatt and other hotels
  • Portals in Europe, such as Vizzavi, itself a joint venture of the UK's Vodafone and France's Vivendi
  • Internet banks from global and local banks in East Asia, Europe, and the U.S.
  • Wireless Ethernet network from America's Aerzone and Wayport for the Red Carpet Clubs of United Airlines, the lobbies of five-star hotels, and intranets for business offices, university campuses, and Starbucks coffee shops
Wireless marketers must spend a great deal of time creating and delivering value for mobile phones, m-commerce, and the wireless Internet. The devil is in the details on how and when interactive content, distribution, and platforms morph into interactive wireless sports, m-entertainment, mobile banking, and other possible money-making wireless marketing deals. Events do come along to disrupt the best-laid plans of marketers, technologists, and venture capitalists, such as loss-leader pricing, Ethernet networks, and market share dominance.

Improved targeting strategies must be developed to keep Nokia, DoCoMo-AOL, and Vodafone AirTouch ahead. Second-best wireless marketing strategies are needed to help Motorola, AT&T Wireless, and Deutsche Telekom-VoiceStream Wireless stay in the competitive race.

This is the challenge facing wireless telecom and content providers as they prepare for fewer, but stronger competitors this year, next year, and through 2003. The power shortage in northern California is a golden opportunity to push the wireless agenda in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Remember: No wireless success today means disappearance from the wireless market tomorrow.

About Douglas Lamont
Doug Lamont is Telematics Editor of Wireless Business & Technology and visiting professor of marketing at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.

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