AP to give Web surfers instant gratification

The wide deployment of WAP (wireless application protocol)-enabled mobile phones will change the business model of advertising on the Internet, according to loyalty program provider Surfgold.com.

The trend will be away from banner advertising towards instantly rewarding surfers for accessing services via WAP-enabled mobile phones, managing director Eugene Lee said here yesterday at the official launch of SurfGold's loyalty program.

"You can't get a full-page screen on a WAP phone so banner advertising will become irrelevant as a marketing concept," Lee said. "When you have a WAP phone, merchants will pay to reach you."

Already, twice as many mobile phones are in use worldwide as PCs, and the ratio will be five to one -- roughly one billion mobile phones to 200 million PCs -- within three years, Lee said.

"Mobile phones are going to become very pervasive," he said. "And it is extremely important that WAP has emerged as an open standard."

Via a WAP-compliant device, such as a mobile phone handset, users can access Internet content written in WML (wireless markup language).

WAP phones will also facilitate the redeeming of points earned through loyalty programs, Lee said. Instead of receiving a printed voucher from a supplier or through the post, subscribers dial into their SurfGold account and their loyalty points balance will show up on screen for a merchant to verify, according to Lee.

"These applications give instant redemption and therefore instant gratification to the consumer," he said.

SurfGold will launch its WAP applications in Singapore in the middle of next month, shortly after the network providers and mobile phone suppliers start commercial WAP services here, Lee said.

Banks will also be fast adopters of WAP applications, due to the extra convenience and cost savings of phone banking, according to Lee.

"Instead of spending money conducting face-to-face bank transactions, banks want to spend money to push customers online," he said. "The banks will use WAP to modify customer behaviour from offline to online."

SurfGold offers loyalty points to consumers for registering at its site, for volunteering information about their personal preferences, and for shopping at the 30 international and local merchants that are part of the scheme.

SurfGold.com currently runs Web-based surf and shop loyalty programs in Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. By June, it expects to have begun operations in China, Australia, India, Japan and Malaysia.

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