Thursday, November 17, 2011

7 Lessons Japan Can Teach Us About Mobile Marketing

Reaching a high level of complexity and adoption of mobile marketing like Japan’s in the short run is wishful thinking but the West should definitely investigate what it can learn from the East.  While not all success ingredients fit together, surely some strategies can prove themselves quite transferable.

So let’s take a look at what made Japan the poster child at mobile marketing. As much as I would want to understand Japanese to see for myself, I can’t, but fortunately others do. Christopher Billich from Infinita, a market intelligence and research company that acts as a liaison between Japan and the world on mobile marketing know-how, has shared his insights on the topic with mobithinking.

Out of his experience of the Japanese market, a couple of lessons emerge for us, the laggard West:

1.    Infrastructure upgrades
In Japan the 3G network penetration is impressively high.  This is a question of getting the fundamentals right. Even before talking about value added services, telecoms should get down to the basics. Factoring in collaboration with other carriers and government support can prove to be a killer formula.

2.    Flat-rate data plans that rule
The rapid adoption of mobile internet usage is, in Christopher’s opinion, due to Japan’s mobile operators’ flat-rate data plans. The idea is simple and not a new one: we all know how hard it is to resist temptation to over eat at an open buffet for example once you paid the flat price. Same goes for data usage.

3.    Homogeneous handset base
In Japan the carriers have a special relationship with the manufacturers in that they control what kind of devices appear on the market. Marketers are then faced with little fragmentation. This point is a bit more difficult to argue when it comes to the geographically fragmented Europe. Nevertheless, this strategy can go well within countries that are quick at implementing change and are hungry for gaining a national competitive edge.

4.    Mobile email over SMS or MMS
A consequence of a 3G wide coverage is the fact that considerably more data can be transmitted, allowing for the advent of the mobile mail that, in Japan, offers up to 10 000 characters, emoticons and attachment options. 

5.    Off-deck mobile sites
Right from the start of the micro browsing, Japanese mobile carriers have allowed for off-deck mobile sites that encouraged creation and sharing of non-proprietary sites and content, otherwise known for as an ‘’open garden’’ approach. Open source and crowd sourcing are the other two sister trends that telecoms should think of embracing. Keeping absolute control over their value chain means stagnation and the way to innovate implies giving up some of that control in favour for collaborations, scale and diversity of mobile services and revenue sharing agreements for instance. 

6.    Attractive content revenue sharing
What better way to encourage usability of devices and popularity of new software and services than rewarding the content providers generously. In Japan, operators will only retain 10 % of the revenue in stark comparison with up to 50% in some cases in the West. An attractive revenue sharing scheme will quickly translate into economies of scale involving mobile services as products which in itself can propel the telecoms` subscriber base and popularity considerably. 

7.    Telecom + private sector partnerships
Avoiding a dumb pipe fate has put telecoms on the burner as internet and the ubiquity of connected devices increasingly shape new directions for today`s economy.  Telecoms could fight back  by looking for new business models. One example is particularly encouraging: DoCoMo’s joint venture with McDonald’s over a loyalty program that primarily involved redeeming coupons at the fast food chain while ensuring a swift and adequate user experience. ‘’Kazasu Coupon’’ program has since become the darling of those who eat at McD`s. You can also check out an interesting article on the idea of telecoms becoming somewhat like media companies here

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