Not all that long ago the most important place in any traveler’s world was the hotspot. A mobile business person had to plan ahead. The airport and hotel room were safe bets and Starbucks and few other large chains were likely candidates as well. The mobile business person had to have everything required in their laptop (which likely weighed a ton) and their PDA – remember those clunky boxes with their calculator like screens?
Technological advances aside, the real change in the last few years is the ubiquitous access to wireless networks. Doctor’s offices, malls, public parks, libraries, and even entire cities have signals being beamed around them. Couple the spread of access with the rise in sales of net books, mobile broadband cards, and internet enabled cell phones on fast cellular data networks, and suddenly access is no longer an issue.
The “go to” source of information on the fly is changing. Will consumers buy a paper, boot up a laptop, or jump on their phone to check movie schedules at the local cineplex? One of the most troubling aspects of the change in information availability is for retailers and manufacturers of consumer goods. When standing in front of a display it is now easy and painless to read reviews of products posted online. From experience, I have personally not purchased a water cooler for the office that otherwise looked perfect because of the reviews I accessed while in the store. Magazine ads, packaging, and point of sale pitches are no longer the main source of product information.
The web has changed the function of those media from a channel for information and sales and relegated it to brand building and interest generation. From electric toothbrushes and bicycles to industrial power generation, simple to complex sales are being influenced online. A cross media marketing strategy that incorporates social media is critical. Blogs, networking sites, and instant message forums are as important as a full page advertisement in the local paper. The new marketing channels are too important to be ignored by any business.