Bringing new meaning to the term "conversational marketing," voice services provider Nuance has introduced mobile "Voice Ads." The new units use the Nuance voice platform to enable smartphone (and presumably tablet) owners to interact with these ads. It's not clear right now whether these interactions would occur exclusively on display landing pages or in the initial mobile display ad creative.
In a Siri-like way users talk to the ads and potentially receive one of several pre-programmed responses. In one sense these new Voice Ads are not unlike more traditional audio/radio ads (think Pandora).
However the interactivity -- if done well -- could create much more engagement and "lift" for the campaign. Coupled with a campaign such as Old Spice something like this might have worked extremely well. Indeed, the campaign creative and concepts are key. Poorly executed ideas could quickly backfire and become fodder for brand parodies.
Nuance is promoting a range of benefits from using Voice Ads including engagement, brand lift and better recall.
The company says that it has already partnered with leading agencies and mobile ad networks to ensure the units are widely available:
Nuance Voice Ads gives mobile advertisers and creative agencies an opportunity to go beyond the limitations of the four-inch mobile device screen and create a conversation with consumers through the power of voice recognition. Voice Ads finally creates an opportunity for brands to deepen the relationship with their consumers, with targeted interactive ads that deeply engage their core audience – much in the way that the world’s most popular mobile personal assistants have deepened consumers’ relationship with their mobile phones.
Nuance has partnered with many of the leading companies in the mobile advertising ecosystem to ensure broad reach and distribution for Voice Ads – a completely new format for mobile advertising. Creative advertising agencies include Digitas, OMD and Leo Burnett, while mobile advertising companies such as Millennial Media, Jumptap and Opera Mediaworks (AdMarvel, Mobile Theory, and 4th Screen), will provide distribution to more than 100,000 app publishers and hundreds of millions of consumers globally. In addition, mobile rich media ad servers such as Celtra are providing tools for rich media production and analytics on mobile devices.
One could also imagine clever integrations that tie into call centers at the end of the interaction to close a sale. Again, everything is going to depend on strong concepts, execution and user experiences. Nuance offers a relatively tame mock campaign example using Voice Ads in this video.
Earlier this week IDC issued its new projections regarding hardware "shipments" through 2017. The bottom line is: continued growth for smartphones and especially tablets ("connected devices") but negative growth for PCs.
IDC said that in 2012 tablet shipments "surpassed 128 million" and sees increasing demand across markets. While "shipments" is often an inaccurate and misleading metric for market-share purposes, it does indicate the "directional" trend in the market.
Even in emerging, immature markets PCs will only see "moderate single-digit growth" according to the forecast.
The company said that replacement cycles are getting much longer for PCs as tablets and smartphones make more frequent replacement unnecessary. However IDC does continue to forecast laptop growth. I suspect that projection may turn out to be optimistic at least in non-emerging markets.
Device penetration drives internet usage patterns. And while online publishers and marketers "intellectually" understand what's happening they have been generally slow to adapt their strategies and tactics to match the radical changes taking place in the market.
Facebook is the leading app on the iPhone. But does that popularity as an app mean that Facebook would have success with its own branded handset?
Next week on April 4 Facebook seems poised to introduce some version of the long-rumored "Facebook phone." The speculation is that it will be an HTC-made handset carrying a "forked" version of Android. We'll see. But I'm extremely skeptical that anything like can succeed at scale.
HTC previously made two Android handsets in 2011 with deeper Facebook integration: the ChaCha and the Salsa. They both flopped. INQ has also made social-media-centric handsets since 2009, which have not done especially well.
Let's assume that everything on the hypothetical HTC handset is deeply integrated with Facebook: contacts, dialer, camera, maps, apps, messaging and so on. Let's also assume that everything works elegantly. It's highly unlikely that there will be mass-market demand for this phone.
Most people are not so involved with Facebook that they would turn over this most important piece of personal technology to the company. There will also be the inevitable privacy questions and concerns ("Is Facebook tracking me?"). Most people I know are quite content to use a Facebook app on their smartphones. The notion of an entire handset devoted to Facebook seems excessive and unnecessary.
Perhaps the phone will offer some unique and impressive functionality or be priced extremely aggressively. Perhaps "younger people" will be interested. I remain very doubtful, however, that the majority of users will want to buy a smartphone so closely aligned with a single social network.
A new forecast from eMarketer estimates more than half of Twitter's ad revenues (53%) will come from mobile advertising this year, up from virtually no ad revenue from mobile in 2011.
In total, eMarketer estimates global ad revenue at $528 million for 2013, pushing upward to $1 billion for 2014.
But ads on mobile devices are driving incremental growth over the next two years. By 2015, Twitter is expected to pull in $1.33 billion in worldwide ad revenue, more than 60% of which will come from mobile advertising.
The rapid growth in mobile ad revenue is due in part because "Twitter has ultimately benefited from the increased focus on mobile by competitors like Google and Facebook, which have both expanded their own mobile ad offerings and worked to convince advertisers to shift dollars to mobile devices," says eMarketer. Advertisers are clearly showing more interest spending money on mobile ads.
The report shows Twitter ad revenue is slowly shifting globally with 83% of 2013 ad revenue from the U.S., down from 90% in 2012.
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins recently got a lot of coverage, in anticipation of the BlackBerry Z10 launch, for the remark that the iPhone was now outdated.
The much-hyped Z10 is now available in the US from AT&T (soon from Verizon) and a range of carriers in international markets. I went into an AT&T store this weekend to take a look at and get a "hands on" sense of the device. Unimpressive.
It was immediately clear that this handset may keep some number of BlackBerry customers from "defecting" to the iPhone or Android. However it's not sufficiently exciting to lure existing iPhone and Android users to the BlackBerry platform. The UI and software are not entirely intuitive for iPhone and Android users. In addition, the collection of apps is limited.
The phone resembles an HTC device and is generally unremarkable otherwise. Indeed it has a "generic smartphone" quality.
Much has been made that AT&T employees haven't been trained to promote the phone. That seemed evident in my visit. In the store I entered there was not only a lack of promotional signage but the phone was placed in a far corner almost as an afterthought. It was simply there among a row of competing smartphones -- not highlighted in any way. I had to ask store salespeople multiple times where it was to locate the phone.
It's almost 100% certain this device will not be the engine of new growth for BlackBerry and that the device maker will continue to fall out of favor in the US market.
As Apple reportedly prepares to release a less expensive, plastic version of the iPhone to boost sales in the developing world, it's trying to strike a balance between cost and quality. It will simultaneously have to make the phone appealing (perhaps with a slightly different design and color) while not cannibalizing its flagship.
The perception of higher quality is one of the few remaining advantages that the device has over Android rivals, who over the past three years have dramatically closed the quality and features gap. Despite these gains, the iPhone has consistently beaten its smartphone competitors in customer service ratings from JD Power. The latest survey is no exception.
JD Power surveyed nearly 10,000 US smartphone owners. The satisfaction criteria, in order of importance, were the following:
This is the ninth consecutive time that the iPhone has ranked #1. JD Power said the Apple device did particularly well in the areas of design and ease of operation.
In a bit of a surprise, Nokia edged Samsung in the survey. However Nokia has many fewer users (by an order of magnitude) than Samsung, whose Galaxy smartphone line is the best-selling Android handset in many markets around the world.
It's interesting that LG performed so poorly given the success of the LG-made Nexus 4, which repeatedly sold out and to date remains overall best Android handset on the market. In contrast, among feature phone OEMs, LG performed best, which is somewhat curious.
Mobile advertising and platform exchange firm Velti has released its monthly snapshot on the "State of Mobile Advertising" for February 2013.
Among the interesting tidbits, the report found Apple iOS devices accounted for a whopping 8 out of the top 10 mobile devices serving ad impressions. iPhone devices had a 37.4% share, while iPads comprised 17.2% of all impressions served in February.
And while Samsung Galaxy devices comprised less than 5% combined market share, the report speculates the release of Galaxy S 4 might significantly alter the mobile ad market in the coming months.
In terms of market share by OS, Apple still clearly shows an advantage holding steady at around 65% for the month of February 2013.
One noteworthy datapoint in the report highlighted how weekends continue to see the highest levels of app usage, with Sundays accounting for 15.7% of all impressions served. The report stated: "Publishers and marketers should keep in mind daily usage patterns as an important factor in getting the highest return on clicks, and ultimately revenue, for their specific site or app."
Velti’s "State of Mobile Advertising" report gathers data from the Mobclix Exchange and is provided on a monthly basis.
Recently there have been several reports starting to show that tablet (iPad) traffic is beginning to overtake smartphone traffic. For example, a report last week from Adobe found that, on a global basis, tablet traffic now exceeds smartphone web traffic (8% to 7%).
A new report from ad network Chitika, however, says that at least in North America the iPhone still generates roughly 2X the web traffic of the iPad. The iPad dominates tablet-only traffic with more than 80% market share.
In late February, Chitika looked at traffic distribution from "250,000+ publisher websites." The company found that "iPhone users still generate more than two times the traffic of [ ] iPad users."
The iPhone was responsible for 61.5% of North American web traffic from iOS and the iPad for just under 31%. The iPod Touch drove roughly 8% of iOS-generated web traffic according to Chitika.
The Chitika report didn't look at engagement or time on site. The earlier Adobe report found that "on average internet users view 70% more pages per visit when browsing with a tablet compared to a smartphone."
As tablet penetration grows, we should see its share of iOS and all web traffic commensurately grow. The interesting question is whether tablets are substituted in the home for smartphones or PCs. A recent Google-Nielsen report found that 77% of smartphone search activity happened at home or in the workplace (when people typically have ready access to PCs).
Last night in New York Samsung formally announced its much anticipated Galaxy S4 follow-up to its hugely successful S3. The hardware update was relatively modest: a somewhat larger high-resolution AMOLED screen, more CPU power and thinner body. It will be challenging to tell the S4 from the S3 without a close look.
Much of the evening was about software though decidedly not about "Android" or "Google." Android got a single mention and Google was never mentioned.
Here are the S4's major "specs":
With its splashy, Broadway inspired show last night Samsung entered Apple's "big launch" turf. It also perhaps unwittingly emulated Apple's "incremental" handset update cycle. Indeed, we might call the S4 the "S3s" because of its "evolutionary" changes over the S3.
There were tons of software updates and new additions to the handset; many of them related to the camera and many of them were impressive seeming. However today several outlets are reporting that the Samsung software didn't always work as promised. In fact the S4, which will undoubtedly be popular, has received some quite mixed reviews -- especially from Gizmodo last night, which called it a "missed opportunity."
Samsung has taken a bit of an "A/B testing" or shotgun approach, if you prefer, to developing mobile devices. Over the past three years it has released a wide range of tablets and handsets vs. Apple's much more deliberate and controlled pipeline. Yet through its experimentation with larger screens and a range of devices (as a differentiation strategy) it has helped cultivate in consumers an appetite for larger smartphone screens.
But for that shift in the public's appetite, Apple wouldn't have made the "taller" iPhone 5. Yet there's considerable pressure to make still larger iPhones.
A larger screen has become one of the key hardware features and differences between the first-tier Android handsets (especially from Samsung and HTC) and the iPhone. Thus Apple will be rolling out an even bigger iPhone (probably at 6). Apple would do well to bring that larger phone this summer and not wait another full year to do so.
Apple is not used to compensating and being on the defensive. It normally leads the market with design. But it has been playing catch-up recently.
The unexpected success of smaller tablets forced it to create the iPad Mini. And the unanticipated development of giant-screened smartphones (Note II, S4) forces Apple to offer a larger iPhone, thereby betraying Steve Jobs' "single hand" operation philosophy. In addition the need to sell more iPhones in developing markets (vs. less expensive Androids) has given rise to rumors of a cheaper, "more plastic" iPhone.
Samsung clearly emulated, imitated or copied (take your pick) the iPhone's look and feel at the outset. But the Korean company has now gone beyond it in several ways -- including in the hyperbolic claim that the S4 is a "life companion." And, ironically, Apple is now being compelled by the Galaxy line's success and by public demand to make the iPhone much more like Samsung handsets.
Many developers and digital marketers still cling to the assumption that HTML5 and the "mobile web" will eventually win out over native apps. There's a kind of logic to that position. However they may be waiting a very long time for that to happen.
As has previously been written, the overwhelming majority of consumer time spent with mobile devices is spent in apps ("4 out of every 5 mobile minutes," per comScore). And according to a new survey from Compuware the majority of international respondents (85%) preferred apps over mobile sites.
The survey had a total of just over 3,500 respondents from the US, UK, France, Germany, India and Japan.
Despite the positive news for app developers the survey also had some harsh findings. For example 59% of respondents said that an app should load in two seconds or less. In addition, poor user experiences result in app abandonment, switching to competitors' apps, negative word of mouth and erosion of brand perception -- among other negative consequences.
The most common problems encountered were freezing/crashing (62%) and slow load times (47%), as well as the more generic "didn't function as expected" (37%). A majority of users had encountered one or more of these problems in using apps. Users expect apps to load faster and perform better than mobile sites: "78% expect mobile apps to load as fast as — or faster than — a mobile website."
Nearly 80% of the survey respondents said that they would give an app one (maybe two) more chances if it didn't work correctly the first time. And app-store ratings are being taken very seriously by users: "84% users say app store ratings are important in their decisions to download and install a mobile app."
The survey report cited third-party data for the proposition that the average number of apps on users' smartphones is 41.