Revolution: Mobile World Congress: A delegate's view
Why marketers should take note of audio codes, by Eric Bader, president of G14 and chief strategy officer, worldwide, at Initiative.
It is easy to be impressed by the developments in devices, processor speeds and network capabilities. But while the hardware and infrastructure improvements will pave a path to massive worldwide usage of mobile devices, and fantastical features for operators and consumers alike, it takes a deeper view to spot where the opportunities are for marketers.
There were many companies at Mobile World Congress offering QR codes and NFC, enabling consumers to interact with and link to all manner of additional content. But just as interesting is an emerging capability that offers an important new dimension to interactions – audio codes.
These can be embedded in a television, radio or cinema ad, or even an outdoor media unit. When a consumer is near the TV with a device in hand, the code embedded in the ad unit can trigger an application on a smartphone or tablet to offer a wide range of content, from opening a browser to a specific site to playing video.
What's in it for marketers? It's a 'push' effort that reaches opted-in consumers, rather than relying on consumers to 'pull' or act on a prompt to scan a barcode or wave their device near a reader to interact. An automotive ad enhanced with an audio code can provide a potential car buyer, for example, with deep, engaging additional content about a particular feature being highlighted in the ad.
Audio codes aren't perfect yet. Consumers still need to have an app and the microphone open on their smartphone in order for it to read the audio signal, but the capability will soon be embedded in devices as a native application and can be turned on indefinitely at the choice of the user.
NFC will also soon be a very effective way for consumers to interact with advertising and content - eliminating the need to type in codes or URLs just to get information. But I think the area in which the technology is creating the most value for marketers is in wireless shopping, transactions and payments, all of which were on display by numerous companies, from Visa to the mobile network and phone manufacturers.
Enabling mobile devices to serve as wallets and shopping applications through NFC takes numerous steps out of the process of how consumers find the products that match their needs, add complementary items and complete the transaction, all from a device that interacts with transponders on store shelves, on vending machines and at the point of sale.
What's in it for marketers? The all-important data stream, which provides numerous points of significance about what consumers are looking at, what they ultimately buy and how often.
In his keynote speech, Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, declared that feature phones as we know them will likely disappear as smartphones get cheaper. Many markets around the world rely on, and are limited to, inexpensive basic phones, many of which don't access the mobile internet. Yet Schmidt believes smartphones will cost the consumer the same as feature phones as soon as next year.
There are definite signs that the sophistication of devices and the networks they run on will soon provide even the most underdeveloped markets access to rich content and experiences. The clear indication is coming from newer players such as Huawei and ZTE, for example, which are producing high-quality devices running the Google Android operating system and driving down the price and cost of smartphones (see left).
What's in it for marketers? There will soon be many more ways to connect with consumers in markets where they are just beginning to interact with foreign and local brands – and deciding which ones they will be loyal to.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
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