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    March 29, 2009

    When Will The "Twitter" of Mobile Payments Hit Mainstream?

    A colleague recently forwarded me an article from MediaPost about a new study from Pew about the role of mobile web in people’s “digital lives.” (Love that phrase, digital lives.)

    As someone very new to mobile web (I was forced into it by the recent demise of my old cell phone), I wasn’t surprised to learn that most Americans (61%) still prefer the good ole PC/Laptop browser to surf the digital waves, but apparently more and more of us are getting the hang of this mobile thing, especially now that we have screens where you don’t need a microscope to read.

    The Pew Study defines digital users into 10 groups based on their level of engagement in social networks and mobile media adaptation, which are summarized in the MediaPost Article:

    5 groups who are using the mobile web :

    • Digital Collaborators: (8% of the population) Very much about continual information exchange with others, as they frequently interact with others to create and share content or express themselves.

    • Ambivalent Networkers: (7%) Extremely active in using social networking sites and accessing digital resources "on the go," yet aren't always thrilled to be contacted by others.

    • Media Movers: (7%) Active distributors of user-generated content such as photos and videos.

    • Roving Nodes: (9%) Active managers of their social lives via basic applications--texting and emailing--to connect with others, pass along information, and improve personal productivity.

    • Mobile Newbies: (8%) Many in this group are recent cell phone adopters and very enthusiastic about how mobile service makes them more accessible.

    Stationary media users include:

    • Desktop Veterans: (13%) Tech-oriented, but in a "year 2004" kind of way. They consume online information and connect with others through traditional means such as email on a high-speed home connection.

    • Drifting Surfers: (14%) Have the tools for connectivity, but are relatively infrequent users.

    • Information Encumbered: (10%) Spend an average amount of time online, but complain about information overload and need help getting gadgets to work.

    • Tech Indifferent: (10%) Have limited online access at home, and while most have cell phones, they bristle at their intrusiveness.

    • Off the Network: (14%) Lack the tools for connecting digitally, with neither online access or cell phones.

    I would venture to say that Gen Yers, and increasingly Gen Xers, fall into the first three groups of Mobile Users: creating, sharing and distributing content (yes, photo albums count), keeping tabs on social networks, and looking for professional opportunities online.

    The Pew Study also notes that shift in trends, which is, in a way a "duh" finding: people in the more mobile-attached group said it would be increasingly more difficult to live without their cell phones. As I discovered a few months ago, for many, their cell phone (or PDA) functions as much more than a way to call someone up and say hello.

    With increased screen size, connectivity, storage capacity and ease of use, I wonder when the day will come when I won't need my laptop at all.

    But for fundraising, as for many consumer product marketers, there is still one catch that has not been popularized: as a Gen Yers, I like things to be quick and easy. Trying to type my credit card number into a cell phone screen is a huge pain in the behind, plus, I am not that comfortable with the "security" of the whole transaction. This means, that if I want to donate (or if the case might be purchase) something, I still have to log in to my laptop, browse over to your website, fill in all the info...I know this doesn't sound difficult to do, but having to switch technologies can be a roadblock-if this is the only reason I need to turn on my laptop, I may choose not to.

    So, when is the "Twitter" of mobile payments going to hit mainstream--concise, to the point, an easily accessible via text, email, or IM? PayPal has a way to transfer funds via your cell phone, but in a recent experiment, this also turned out to be a bit of pain to figure out. More importantly, I have never met anyone actually using it for regular payments, and on a professional levels, most organizations I am familiar with have only recently added PayPal as a payment option on their website, if at all.

    Wouldn't it be neat if you could text "Give $15 to Red Cross" to a specific number, and alakazam!, like magic, $15 gets transferred from your checking to the Red Cross?

    The technology is certainly out there. Cell phones are used to pay for all kinds of things worldwide, and as Americans catch up to the rest of the world in getting attached to their cell phones for all of life's "information-related" needs, I hope my fears about the fundraising community's pace to "mobelize" will be long forgotten.

    I know there are several organizations out there working on creating apps for cell phones that will do just that, and figuring out how to navigate the whole thing from a technological perspective (check out MobileActive for all kinds of useful info), but the tipping point has not yet materialized on our side of the Atlantic.

    So what can you do?

    • Learn about mobile, and I mean learn it. What does it mean? What are the constraints? Understand the tech side of it: like what happens during those commercials that say "just text YES to 87946"? How does that work? I'm not saying you need to become a telecomm expert, but you need to get it conceptually, the same way you get the caging process for your DM gifts.

    • Understand the differences between payment with text or via web. With people using their cell phones to text and browse, learn about vendors offering mobile payment applications, both via text and via a mobile web payment app.

    • Find a "mobile" mentor-an organization or company that is doing mobile well and ask your mentor the "what don't we know yet" questions: i.e.-given what you have experienced, what do you think we all still need to think about?

    • Start to put a mobile plan in place at your organization. Start at the conceptual level-what could mobile do for us? How will it change the way our donors interact with us? What added value could we provide to them and also, what are the potential pitfalls?

    • Ask yourself: are we, as an organization, prepared to handle mobile? If not, what do we need to do to get there? (How will you account for donations via a mobile device in your donor database for example? Or, how will you create "renewal" efforts via the mobile web? Do you have a mobile-browsable version of your website?)

    • Keep a close eye on the private sector. Where they go, we will, inevitably, follow.

    1 comment:

    John Lepp said...

    Great post as usual Miriam. We all know from a direct marketing point of view the easier we make it to give, the better response we will get. With the leaps in technology - ala iphone - and the ability to connect with others around us - there must be an app in development that can offer a one click approach to donating on the fly. Imagine if you were waiting for the subway and as you noticed a poster for UNICEF, you could call up your "DONATE NOW" app on your iphone which would sense the poster and you could just select it and give... There is nothing impossible about this...