Google has been one of the most innovative companies during the past decade as broadband Internet access went from an affordable luxury to a household necessity, opening up a huge market for the search giant. At the same time, computing has migrated from desktop-oriented to web-centric. Google was able to harness this change and use it to its advantage by collecting detailed information about user search and browsing behavior. By leveraging this information, Google has created some of the most profitable advertising-driven online services available.
As we usher in a new mobile age, computing is transforming again: this time, from being web-centric to being ubiquitous and mobile first. This transformation has begun to diminish Google’s dominance in collecting user behavior information, especially on mobile. A new group of players, mobile carriers, have suddenly emerged, looking to become the major force in mobile campaign targeting data and services.
Mobile carriers have unbeatable information on the mobile devices that people are using. This is critical to successful mobile marketing, because companies want to deliver campaigns to as many mobile users as possible, while having each user receive an optimal experience for the device he or she is using. Half of all mobile users are still using feature phones and are consequently unable to see campaigns developed specifically developed for smartphones. Carriers can easily access the necessary device information and target users with the relevant smartphone or feature phone content.
Mobile carriers have access to detailed mobile usage information. They know about every text message you send, every app you download, and every website you visit on your mobile device. Nobody else has this information. Even Apple and Google can only access this type of information for their own respective devices or their own site traffic. This is the same level of detail regarding user behavior Google had on the web (thanks to its search dominance) and it will prove extremely powerful for mobile campaign targeting.
Mobile carriers have a great deal of flexibility when interacting with mobile users simply because the carrier provides the mobile service. While most marketers must follow strict opt-in rules surrounding mobile communications, mobile carriers’ subscribers are essentially automatically opted in. This makes direct communication with mobile users much easier, improving mobile marketing campaign distribution efforts.
To certain extent, the advent of smartphones has liberated mobile devices from the carriers, while giving the general public a great deal of flexibility to explore all the options mobile has to offer. At the same time, it is also creating a new competitive advantage for the carriers as they know more than anyone else how mobile users engage with their devices. It’s going to be exciting to see how the carriers can best leverage this information to create better mobile experiences for all. Who–if anyone–will become the Google of mobile?