Oct. 6 2010 12:00 AM

As we continue to track the increasing consumer demand for multi-channel (electronic) communications, it's no surprise that enterprises have accelerated their efforts to match that need. Most of our clients are working on strategies and implementations to facilitate reduction in the amount of printed material they deliver to clients and enhance the electronic channels. One top 10 bank recently reported hard copy suppression running just below 30% of all clients and over 65% of active online banking customers. Increasingly, it's not a matter of IF clients will shift, but WHEN.

In fact, some corporations have embraced this trend and are launching new products and services to meet client demand — the most aggressive in this regard are banks. With new, tighter legislation, such as Reg D, banks are looking for ways to reduce expenses, which means retaining the profitable customers and reducing churn, while increasing revenues through new services. Many of us have seen the bank commercial that informs the customer of his/her new balance while shopping at the mall; these mobile apps are gaining traction, as much of our traditional desktop computing migrates to our handheld devices (iPad) and smart phones (Blackberry/iPhone).

Increasingly, we're finding the marketing organizations driving new and innovative applications, including what is traditionally called direct mail. The migration to mobile computing has grown more prevalent over the last year. According to a July 7th Pew Research report, "Nearly half of all adults (47%) go online with a laptop using a Wi-Fi connection or mobile broadband card (up from the 39% who did so as of April 2009), while 40% of adults use the Internet, email or instant messaging on a mobile phone (up from the 32% of Americans who did this in 2009). This means that 59% of adults now access the Internet wirelessly using a laptop or cell phone — that is, they answered "yes" to at least one of these wireless access pathways. That adds up to an increase from the 51% who used a laptop or cell phone wirelessly in April 2009."

Marketers have taken note of this shift as well. Mobile marketing, a channel increasingly used by direct marketers, could become more profitable due to Apple's new iAd mobile advertising software. iAd gives marketers access to users' download preferences of apps and iTunes and even users' locations, which could help marketers target specific audiences. Location intelligence, understanding where your customer is while engaging electronically, will be a growing factor in this sector. Pitney Bowes Business Insights is a leader in location intelligence and has incorporated it in many of its recently deployed SMB business solutions.

It is reported that marketers will be able to advertise in the App Store, iPod, iPhone and, later in 2010, the iPad. However, advertising access to Apple's 85 million iPod and iPhone users could cost up to $1 million per ad, versus the $100,000 to $200,000 that many marketers spend on other mobile ads, according to The Wall Street Journal. Direct marketers that can afford to use iAd are likely to boost mobile advertising revenue.

It was only a matter of time before the marketers figured out the shift to electronic and devised ways to get in front of us. We'll be watching these developments closely, from our iPhones.

KEMAL CARR [kemalcarr@madison-advisors.com] is the president and principal analyst of Madison Advisors, an advisory firm that provides thought leadership, strategic consulting and market research in the print and electronic communications space. For more information on Madison Advisors, visit www.madison-advisors.com.



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