The marketer’s challenge has always been one of persuasion - put forward the product in as attractive a fashion as possible, and then through a system of rewards and other incentives, try to influence consumer behavior in the desired direction.

Today, technology is changing the ways in which marketers and consumers interact, as well as offering a mind-boggling range of new options. At the end of the day, though, the challenge remains the same. Marketers must seed information into the marketplace, identify interested consumers, engage those consumers in conversation, and then convert them into purchasers and users of the final product.

While technology makes it easier to reach out to the masses, the rapidly-changing message space presents consumers with even more options, and more opportunities to turn away from marketing messages. The internet and mobile phones, for example, put an immense amount of power in the hands of consumers, and social media gives them a voice to make themselves heard. This can work positively, because satisfied customers can be your best advocates, but can also make the marketer’s job more challenging as they have to address more immediately the concerns of the unhappy.

Out There Media has taken a different approach, one in which consumers themselves play a role in the marketing process. Instead of beginning from the somewhat adversarial traditional position, where marketers have to overcome consumer resistance, Out There Media uses a process called opt-in marketing that is a quite revolutionary approach to the usual marketing problem.

In opt-in marketing, consumers are offered the option to sign up to receive marketing materials. This offering is done through the auspices of Out There Media’s Asian telco partners who allow their customers to sign up for the program as a value-added proposition. Consumers sign up, according to their preferences, and are offered the option to share some personal data. This facilitates demographics, as well as allowing for more accurate targeting.

From this database of customers who have indicated their interest, Out There Media can accurately channel marketing material to customers that are most desirable, or to customers who have previously indicated their interest in a particular product. In order to incentivize the opt-in program, consumers are offered other benefits, including special offers, discounts, electronic coupons, and the entire program uses the mobile platform to deliver information directly to the consumers in question. At the end of March 2011, Out There Media’s opt-in database in the region stood at five million, an indication of the level of public interest in opt-in programmes, and a study of this database reveals some interesting findings

For a start, the average conversion rate for opt-in marketing and advertising stands at 25.15%: considerably higher than the rate for mobile display ads (in the low single digits), more than twenty times the response rate for direct marketing (1.38%) and very much higher than web advertising (where a response rate of 0.08% is considered a successful campaign response rate). It is worth mentioning that, in some cases, the rate of response to opt-in mobile advertising was as high as 50%.

Fabrizio CarusoConsumers were willing to share large amounts of information - many consumers were more willing to share information on their location (97%) and interests (96%) in order to receive better targeted advertising. Opt-in mobile advertising also reaches beyond the traditional demographic targeted by new media offerings, going beyond the 15-25 male range.

In fact, 72% of consumers are between the age of 20 and 39, with a fairly even gender split. Additionally, while the most actively engaged verticals were FMCG, finance, automotive, beauty and fashion, the method worked well across all verticals.

The implications for traditional marketing are substantial. The mobile channel offers interesting opportunities, certainly, but the mode of operation (opt-in) has brought results that are greatly improved over old-school methods. Opt-in marketing represents a shift, a new paradigm in marketing, one where consumers and marketers work together, and that turns marketing material from an intrusion into something that consumers welcome in order to receive incentives and benefits. The higher conversion rate represents the higher value that consumers place upon marketing material that they have asked for themselves, especially when they know that what they will receive will match their interests and pursuits.

Consumer behavior certainly has changed in the digital age, and marketers will have to change to keep up. Opt-in marketing may become an integral part of consumer behavior, as they choose for themselves what messages to receive, but pay for that in return with greater attention and higher conversions.

By Fabrizio Caruso, Vice President, Business Development and General Manager, Asia-Pacific, Out There Media