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Issue Date: October 2004

Mobile data collection breaks the time barrier

1 October 2004

AdCheck improves customer interaction with MTN and Leaf Wireless
When last did you make a business decision that improved your business' performance within hours? Your answer, if you relied on accurate research data from the field, would have to be, 'Never'.
At best, you could hope to have had the facts at your fingertips within several days, more likely weeks, of a survey. So if someone told you that data collected today could now be on your desk by tomorrow, how quickly do you think you would be able to adapt?
To market a product (and measure its performance) includes consideration of its price, demand, position and overall brand appeal. It is a complex science, understanding how people buy what they do. Marketers spend millions on sending the right message, hoping to attract the right result. A successful result translates into higher market share and an improved bottom line.
Specialist research organisations such as AdCheck have spent years developing processes that accurately track and analyse a product's performance. AdCheck's clients range from banks and pharmaceutical companies to FMCGs; big organisations that depend upon fast and reliable data to stay competitive in an often volatile consumer environment.
The concern regarding market research has to do with efficiency. The traditional method of capturing, processing and presenting information is for an agent in the field to manually collect data, commit it to paper, process it, analyse it and then deliver it to the client. All of which takes several days at best. If that period of reporting could be reduced to hours, the benefits for researchers, marketers and consumers would be greatly improved. Researchers would be able to refine their analysis; marketers would be able to improve their strategies; and consumers would ultimately enjoy a better choice of service and product delivery.
Developing an alternative solution has until now been considered virtually unattainable. The logical alternative would have to be electronic, preferably realtime, and therefore mobile. In the past, each of these imperatives posed a prohibitive problem. Collectively they included the high cost of hardware, the slow rate of mobile data transmission, and the absence of a device that was both a PC and a phone.
But what was previously thought to be impossible has now become a reality. AdCheck ha2 introduced a mobile, realtime software product called Quick Market Intelligence (QMI). By combining the mobile computing power of the iMate Pocket PC (which is also a phone) with MTN's GPRS technology, AdCheck and its technology partner, Leaf Wireless, have revolutionised the service of data collection.
Trevor Ahier, CEO of AdCheck, explains: "QMI delivers comprehensive, clean data in hours rather than days or weeks. We do this by equipping agents in the field with iMate Pocket PC-phones enabling them to capture data and report it over the air. With MTN's GPRS service, large batches of data can be seamlessly transported and translated via computer into meaningful reports within hours of a store visit."
For example, in the FMCG sector, field agents are now, within a relatively short space of time, able to record and report stock levels, product placement, and consumers' feedback on promotions. Furthermore, the accuracy of data is even more refined than before because of QMI's automated, realtime analysis, which reduces the margin of error previously resulting from the time taken to re-interpret data.
This means AdCheck's clients now have the ability to brief AdCheck as before, but instead of waiting days for the results they can now analyse reports within hours. This affords them a new level of flexibility in responding to rapidly changing market conditions.
By enabling agents to download and upload information on the go, the iMate
Pocket PC-phone lends them a new degree of efficiency. For example, agents are now able to receive updated questionnaires and training information via e-mail to their phones and respond immediately, generating a dynamic flow of data which is being electronically and seamlessly collated.
Brian Seligmann, product manager: Products and Solutions - Business Segment at MTN says: "Mobile technology is here to enhance the way in which people and businesses communicate. The convergence of innovative technologies has allowed us to create a mobile application that can add real value to any business that relies on critical information from the field."
It seems that with more partnerships of this nature, bringing together the wealth of experience and expertise of organisations such as AdCheck, Leaf Wireless and MTN, the future looks bright for improved business-consumer relations. And in South Africa's growing economy, that would be a very encouraging sign indeed.
In conclusion Bruce Cockburn, sales and marketing director at Leaf Wireless says: "Technology is a business enabler, it is there to redefine previously unwieldy processes and streamline them in such a way so as to make our jobs easier. While mobile technologies have been creeping into this space more and more, few of them have proved to provide a direct return on the investment they incurred. At Leaf we have been providing our customers innovative ways in which to transform mobile platforms from a pure communication tool, to one which assists in building, branding, marketing and improving the service offerings of your business.
"It is in our opinion that the AdCheck case study is one which highlights the benefits of true mobile convergence, as well as demonstrates how important partnerships in this space are. In addition it also shows that a company which is willing to explore new ways to market can set itself ahead of its competitors without breaking the bank, and by just harnessing the power of the technology and tools which are already available to us in the market."
For more information contact Martin Du Plessis, Leaf Wireless, 011 326 1844, fax 011 326 1853.

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