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AOL?s MapQuest reveals mobile strategy: MMF keynote

NEW YORK - While there are similarities between the online and mobile worlds, and it's important to target consumers in both channels, mobile consumers have unique preferences and behaviors.

That was one of the lessons gleaned from AOL's MapQuest during its keynote presentation at the Mobile Marketing Association's Mobile Marketing Forum. The company has invested in a mobile site, PC-to-mobile functionality and both subscription-based and ad-supported mobile applications.

"Maps, location-aware apps and local search and advertising are growing categories on mobile -- the growth of maps, travel and navigation are sweetspots of LBS apps," said Christian Dwyer, Denver-based senior vice president and general manager for MapQuest.

"Consumer interest in mapping, directions and navigation fits squarely with where MapQuest is going both online and in mobile," he said.

According to comScore, MapQuest is the 13th largest mobile Web site in the U.S., with 5.2 million unique visitors.

The company's iPhone app has grown 162 percent in the last six months. It launched the free MapQuest 4 Mobile app on BlackBerry, with more than 45,000 downloads of the beta version in last seven months.

In addition, MapQuest rolled out a mobile local app for iPhone focused on connecting users to local businesses.

The iPhone-optimized Local Web app has actually shown a daily UV growth of 88 percent from March to April of this year.

In 2004, MapQuest, uLocate, Research in Motion and Nextel launched MapQuest Find Me, a buddy-finder service that works on GPS-enabled mobile phones.

MapQuest Find Me, which is currently only available on the MapQuest toolbar, lets users automatically find their location, access maps and directions and locate nearby points of interest including airports, hotels, restaurants, banks and ATMs.

Users also have the ability to set up alerts to be notified when network members arrive or depart from a designated area.

In 2005, the service became available on Sprint and in 2006 on Boost Mobile.

MapQuest Navigator is a mobile subscription-based GPS navigation service offering voice-guided directions. It is $49.99 per year on most carriers.

Telmap is a MapQuest partner that was involved in the backend technology.

With MapQuest's free Send to Cell map service, consumers can search for places or create MapQuest maps and directions on their computer and send the map results to their Web-enabled mobile phone by clicking on the "Send to Cell" link found on results pages throughout the MapQuest.com site.

Then, while on the go, consumers can access the results on their mobile device via a URL text link to MapQuest for Mobile Web, the company's WAP site.

During the keynote, MapQuest highlighted the demographic shift it has noticed between online and mobile.

Online, its audience is 49 percent male, 51 percent female, while 28 percent of users fall within the coveted 18-34 age range.

In the mobile space, 63 percent of users are male compared to just 37 percent female, while the percentage of users in the 18-34 range is a whopping 52 percent.

In addition, MapQuest attracts much more active users on its mobile platforms. The online average visits per user, per month is 2.4, while the mobile Web average visits per user, per month is 4.

MapQuest.com's top advertising categories online are 1. travel (30 percent) 2. automotive (16 percent) 3. retail (7 percent).

MapQuest Mobile's top advertising categories are 1. travel (73 percent) 2. retail (8 percent) 3. finance (3 percent).

MapQuest shifted its mobile applications from a $3.99-per-month subscription model to a free, ad-supported model.

"We provide appropriate advertising to users to generate revenue," Mr. Dwyer said. "Advertisers learning how to extend their online experience to the mobile phone has something to do with their success, but some sectors that are locally oriented such as retail make more sense on mobile."

More than 50 percent of consumer spending takes place within a 25 mile radius of home, according to MapQuest.

"The key is contextual relevance, advertising that is targeted to the user and which does not compromise the nature of the user experience," Mr. Dwyer said. "When mobile campaigns are combined with an online campaign, it lifts audience reach significantly.

"We broke down the silos within our company between online and mobile, and it's proved to be helpful, because the same consumers who are online have a phone in their pocket," he said.

"However, currently advertisers on MapQuest.com are not the same brands who are advertising on mobile, so how do you actually put those campaigns together to get extended reach?"