A panel at Mobilize ’09 is discussing what factors govern context in mobile. Online, of course, we have a (somewhat) well-defined set of factors to approximate context — keywords, page content, IP address, etc.
In mobile, the rules are changing quickly — too quickly for users to adopt and advertisers to understand, at least in a mainstream sense. The thought so far is that the mobile device can decipher things about a user or a search that weren’t possible on the desktop Web. Chief among these is location. The opportunity is large but equally matched by privacy concerns.
This goes back to the original premise of location-based services: the old “walk by a Starbucks and get hit with a mobile coupon.” This of course has been discredited for privacy reasons and other realities, so we’ve settled back on a more realistic model that involves opting in or searching for things explicitly. In other words, we’ve mimicked the online search model.
Swinging to both extremes over the past five or more years, we’re now beginning to find a happy medium that has elements of “opt in” but also pushes content based on location awareness, preset preferences, behavior and other factors.
This has been shown by a few companies we’ve profiled here that have blended search and local “discovery” features, including Geodelic and Aloqa (which both sit on this panel). MobilePeople is another company we’ve been talking to at great length that is working on some interesting things we’ll see soon (report forthcoming).
The question then becomes, does this brand of more contextually relevant content delivery deserve the tainted online term “push”? Online, push-based content is blasted on an admittedly limited set of criteria. The panel agreed it’s going to have to be a heck of a lot more targeted on the mobile device which is decidedly more “personal.”
At the same time it’s going to have to be more simple — in line with the relative simplicity of search engine marketing — for advertisers to begin to get on board.
“Advertising has always been more complicated than it needs to be,” said Sanjay Vakil, founder of LuckyCal. “Google simplified this online. In mobile, it’s going to have to be ‘give me a location, give me a radius, give me a dollar sign and go.’ ”
This bifurcation between simplicity and acute targeting is the main challenge facing anyone getting into mobile marketing these days.