Analysis: Interactive information delivery – which way is best?

September 10, 2007 at 10:59 am

inbabble-mobile-interaction.jpgApart from contacting users directly through their handsets, there are several methods advertisers can use to get mobile users interacting with their marketing messages and content – the main ones are SMS shortcodes, image recognition, QR (quick response) codes, and localized wireless connections via Wi-fi, Bluetooth and Near Field Communications (NFC). We’re not aware of any research that has tested each side by side and compared response rates, but we have a few thoughts on which might be the most successful, why, and on what timescale.

SMS shortcodes

Description: A special number is printed on a billboard, newspaper or magazine ad. Users send a text to the number and receive a return text which contains product information, a special offer or a link to a mobile website with more specific and/or richer information.
Pros: Uses existing ubiquitous technology, instantly recognisable and easy to use, no additional software required
Cons: Involves more user effort than other methods, not very “hi-tech’, cost to user
Timescale: Already widely used, likely to remain so for the foreseeable future
Verdict: Ubiquity and user recognition likely to ensure popularity into the medium term
Examples: Too numerous to mention

Image recognition

Description: Users capture an image of a poster, CD cover, TV show or other item with their camera phone and send it to a service provider via SMS. The image is then put through an image recognition image and relevant content is sent back to the user’s handset
Pros: Spontaneous anywhere, anytime usage opportunities, potential location relevance, ease of use, immediacy and relevance of content delivery, ‘cool tech’ factor, no additional software required
Cons: Involves the most user effort, technology and business model unproven, not widely available
Timescale: One for the medium to long term
Verdict: Long-term future will probably depend on the success of early services that are now coming to market
Examples: MMS and Buy from Craze Productions (which we talked about here)

QR codes

Description: QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes that can be used to store information such as URLs or contact details, and need to be scanned by an image capture device (like a camera phone) to decode the information.
Pros: Ease of use, immediacy and relevance of information, ‘cool tech’ factor, can be deployed in large (billboard poster) or small (magazine ad) form factors
Cons: Lack of user recognition, requires special software
Timescale: Already widely used in Japan, and starting to appear in Europe – medium-term for widespread implementation
Verdict: May well take off once more users know what they are
Examples: Poster promotion for release of “28 weeks later” DVD in the UK

Localised wireless connections

Description: Distribution of information and content via a short-range wireless connection, usually via an enabled billboard poster or in-store information point
Pros: Immediacy, minimal user effort, range of applications
Cons: Potential intrusiveness, lack of compatible handsets, can require additional software
Timescale: Intensive trials over the last two years, commercial services just starting to be deployed
Verdict: Sheer range of uses and immediacy should guarantee long term success once standards have been agreed and handsets/services become more widely available
Examples: Akoo’s Wi-Fi based m-Venue™ solution (that we talked about here), Kameleon’s Bluetooth-enabled Mobizone product (that we discussed here), and Transport for London’s smart poster trial (that we mentioned here).

It’s still relatively early days for interactive information delivery via mobile phones (with the possible exception of the Japanese market) but we think it’s here to stay, and that interaction with wireless solutions in particular will become second nature to many users over the course of the next decade.

Hamish M.
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Entry filed under: image recognition, mobile applications, mobile content, mobille messaging, nfc, qr codes, sms shortcodes.

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