Is Online Access Through Mobile Phone a Bigger Opportunity than through PC?

The mobile opportunity for Hispanics may be even bigger than the one of online access through   PC's. The investment dollars of not just major telecommunication companies, but also PC makers (e.g. the recent deal between Dell and Telefonica to develop connectivity and communications solutions) are definitely pointing into that direction. With 40 percent of U.S. Hispanic adults accessing the Internet on their mobile phones and only 20 percent of marketers utilizing the channel to reach Hispanics, mobile marketing represents a unique opportunity combining near complete reach with unparalleled engagement.

But what strategy works for marketers hoping to leverage this opportunity to reach potential Hispanic customers? According to Gartner, more users globally will access the Internet via their mobile phones than PCs by 2013, and recent data from the Pew Research Center reveals that the U.S. Hispanic market is voracious in its mobile appetites. According to the study, 40 percent of Hispanic adults use their mobile phone to access the  nternet and 59 percent of Hispanic teens access news on their mobile devices.

Higher indices of Hispanic smart phone ownership and usage, as well as significantly greater engagement with mobile content than the general market “may be the result of historically lower-than-average Internet access via PCs, which makes mobile devices an important alternate access mode and a key avenue for marketers looking to reach these audiences,” according to Noah Elkin,  senior analyst for eMarketer. “And this applies to all points along the content value chain, from search engines to branded sites and messaging.”

Mobimarketers Targeting Hispanics With a U.S. Hispanic population of about 46 million, these numbers reveal a significant opportunity for conversions.

But are “mobimarketers” leveraging the opportunity? According to Elkin, they are. He cites yahoo!'s Spanish-language version of its mobile portal, launched late last year, which he says provides access to a range of content, as well as an opportunity for advertisers to target Hispanic mobile users on a highly visible, highly trafficked destination.

Lifestyle interests such as sports appear to be a much-hyped focus in targeting Hispanic mobile users. The next World Cup being the first to coincide with the explosion of smart phones may prove a watershed for mobile video as a marketing tool that reaches a specific consumer base, predicts FierceMobileContent executive editor Jason Ankeny. While Spanish-language mobile marketing has been largely confined to SMS-based advertising, historically, Hispanics over-index on mobile video consumption, he says.

Recently, T-Mobile launched its El Llamado del Futbol campaign in March, which engaged Hispanic mobile users with a sweepstakes and offered themed unique mobile content tied to “The Call of Soccer” (the campaign name's translation) Which Mobile Strategy Works? So, it seems that mobile marketers are delivering targeted messages to the Hispanic market, but not necessarily via all of the viable mobile avenues available. Video is still relatively new to mobile, so marketers have a chance to catch up in that respect, but should they target Hispanics strictly by lifestyle? Ankeny doesn't think so. “Mobile allows a personal and customizable experience [for users],” he says, adding that more variables come into play. Demographics such as age and gender are just as important for delivering applicable advertising and branding messages to Hispanic mobile users as they are in targeting the general market. Thus, Hipcricket's Hispanic Mobile Marketing Network allows its advertiser and agency clients to segment their target audience by more general criteria such as age and region of the country, relying on individual users' interests for delivering targeted messaging. The key difference from the general market is the high mobile engagement of the Hispanic market. Hispanic mobile subscribers are among the most active and interested in interacting with brands,” says Hipcricket chief marketing officer Jeff Hasen. “We see a promising and steady increase in Hispanics opting into our permission-based mobile marketing network. Brands are capitalizing-for instance, a campaign for Home Box Office saw a 13 percent click-through rate for Hispanic mobile users, perhaps six times what might have been recorded for a similar campaign online.”

Time to Get Social But it's in social media that exponential consumer engagement opportunities lay for marketers. According to a recent comScore study, “30.8 percent of smart phone users  accessed social networking sites via their mobile browser in January 2010, up 8.3 points from 22.5 percent one year ago. Access to Facebook via mobile browser grew 112 percent in the past year, while Twitter experienced a 347-percent jump.”

Mobile phones themselves have become social platforms, Marco Koeder-executive director of specialty media company Cybermedia-told attendees at the Digital Innovators' Summit (DIS) in Berlin March 1-2. He added that 67 percent of the global population uses social network services (SNS) on their mobile devices. However, eMarketer reported in March that only two in 10 marketers are engaging Hispanics on social media platforms. This market loves social media as much as they love their mobile phones: eMarketer went on to report that nearly four in five Hispanics socialize online.

Mobile Social Networks

So how do marketers engage this market on mobile social networks? Majid Abai, CEO of social platform provider Pringo, suggested at DIS asking: What is the goal of the online community? What is the advantage to the community member? This strategy can reveal the path to connecting with consumers where they choose to spend their online time.

On these platforms, users are automatically providing their demographic information, interests, activities and needs. Marketers need only tap this user-generated information to target their messaging. Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare offer applications for mobile devices, allowing their communities to become part of the user's life, at their fingertips, so that engagement extends to any moment of the user's experience.

And social networks offer marketers a robust crowd-sourcing opportunity. Couple that with the Hispanic market's high levels of social and mobile engagement and willingness to receive and respond to offers and ads, and marketers can leverage mobile social platforms to find out what type of messaging the market would like to receive, as well as to deliver that messaging.