Driving In Mobile Customers: A Conversation With TeleNav

Mobile navigation provider TeleNav today announced a new trackable mobile ad metric that will better monetize its navigation products, and those it powers for mobile partners.

We recently got a briefing of the new “drive-to rate,” which joins an evolving list of action-oriented mobile ad formats like click-to-call or social sharing. Just like it sounds, this will track ads that result driving directions that are used.

TeleNav currently sees clickthrough rates of 3.8 percent (above average for mobile), 24 percent of which result in driving directions. Ads themselves will be sponsored links in search results including enticements like coupons and menus.

This is a logical extension of the company’s core navigation capabilities and the 42 million monthly search pages it serves. Mobility (read: local intent) is also known to be high, as 84 percent of its users search from their cars.

Innovation Through Diversification

As we’ve written, TeleNav has been an innovator in the space and had the foresight to move away from standalone navigation devices (PNDs) and toward powering mobile apps.

This proved prescient as the PND market continues to recede — or at least relegate to niche markets like fishing and outdoor exploration. The sector truly jumped the shark when Google released free navigation (via Android 2.0) with the Motorola Droid.

Navigation products have since integrated and converged more deeply with the mobile devices that we already carry. Further smartphone penetration will bring us closer to ubiquity — good for companies like TeleNav.

Meanwhile, TeleNav is positioned well with a total of 16 million subscribers across 500 devices and all major mobile operating systems. It also powers on- and off-deck apps of 14 major carriers in 29 countries. One example is AT&T’s Navigator app.

The company also notably has 500,000 advertisers through a network of ad partners. These logically include lots of national advertisers with local constituents such as hotel and restaurant chains.

Drive Time

The new ad formats should resonate with such advertisers that want to literally drive people to their front doors. Moving toward a revenue model based more on ad support could also ease dependence on licensing and subscription.

This is not only in line with the diversification theme, but is also quite fitting to the company’s growing “home” on the mobile device. Looking for directions is naturally fitting to local advertising.

In this way, TeleNav is creating a more trackable path to advertisers’ front doors than many other evolving forms of performance-based mobile advertising like pay-per-click or even pay-per-call.

“Clicks are the business of Google; CPMs are the business of Yahoo; [phone] calls are the business of Ingenio,” said Director of Marketing Ky Tang. “ ‘Drive to’ will be the business of TeleNav.”

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