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This is the year of mobile commerce: MMF panel

NEW YORK – With so many brands using mobile to convert prospects to customers and processing transactions via consumers’ handsets, 2010 is the year of mobile commerce, according to a panel at the Mobile Marketing Associations’ Mobile Marketing Forum.

Consisting of executives from money-transfer giant Western Union, telecommunications service and technology provider Syniverse and analytics specialist Webtrends, the panel discussed the current state of mobile marketing. Moderator Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief of Mobile Commerce Daily, proclaimed that this is truly the year of mobile commerce, and the panel agreed.

“Mobile marketing and mobile commerce have great price performance when compared to traditional mediums,” said John Mavraides, director of business development at Syniverse, Tampa, FL. “Brands and retailers can launch services quickly and inexpensively—SMS messaging costs pennies to reach consumers on the device they always have with them.

“We push a lot of control out to the brand,” he said. “For example, a chain can set up a branded short code across its entire corporate umbrella, and franchisees can target campaigns to their specific region based on keywords.”

It is important to use the inherent characteristics of the mobile device itself.

“A lot of intelligence there can provide brands and retailers with more relevant advertisements, send them an alert about a product that they bought or they’re interested in that they can purchase,” Mr. Mavraides said. “Using location and user behavior, where somebody is and what they’re likes are, to target time-sensitive offers is an effective tactic.” 

Western Union helped an automotive finance company go mobile by alerting consumers when their bill was due and letting them confirm their payment via mobile.

“We put it on the Web site, within less than five minutes we started seeing sign ups, and it took off from there,” said Steve Kramer, vice president of electronic payments and global business payments at Western Union, Denver. “Mobile gives brands and retailers another touchpoint to reach out to their consumers.

“How can you make it more convenient for me to get that payment in to you?” he said. “When a consumer and a business already have a relationship, how do you get the money to them?

“How does that money move? [It moves] via the mobile channel.”

From Pizza Hut and Papa John’s to and Fandango, many retailers are seeing impressive amounts of revenue being generated via mobile.

One of the most impressive examples is eBay, which $645 billion in revenue via the mobile channel in 2009—$400 million via its iPhone application alone—and the projection for this year is $1.5 billion worth of mobile transactions.

The majority of eBay’s payments are processed through its subsidiary PayPal.

With so many success stories, it is clear that retailers and merchants of all kinds must have a robust mobile portfolio or risk getting left in competitors’ dust.

“Mobile commerce is the act of transacting real or virtual goods through the device itself—not just retail, any type of transaction,” said Eric Rickson, director of mobile analytics at WebTrends, Portland, OR. “It’s a small screen, so I want relevant content, offers related to where I am now.

“If I want to engage with you, look at my past behavior—I’ve shown you what I’m interested in, so show me products relevant to that, and that could lead to some type of purchase,” he said.