The race is on to build critical mass around a "recommendation engine" for local search on mobile devices. A range of mobile apps such as Bizzy (owned by ReachLocal), Where (owned by eBay), Alfred (a new app from Clever Sense) and Foursquare, among others, are trying to create viable and fun alternatives to plain-vanilla mobile search. These apps leverage location, social data, favorites and past behavior to offer a broader and potentially more compelling experience than pure "local search."
Along those lines, Foursquare introduced a new notifications feature called "radar" yesterday. It builds upon Foursquare's previously introduced lists capability and it lets users know when they're nearby a business, place or activity on one of their lists.
Here's what Foursquare said yesterday about Radar on its blog:
Now, if you follow a list, like the 101 Best Dishes of 2011, foursquare will let you know when you’re next to one. Or you save that yoga studio to your To-Do List (because you really want to try it); we can remind you when you’re close. Or, better yet, if you’re driving home and three of your friends are getting together nearby, we’ll tell you so you can meet up. The app doesn’t even have to be open, it just works. We call it foursquare Radar, because it finds things nearby that you normally wouldn’t know about.
Radar is an opt-in feature that will send a nearby notification regardless of whether the app is open. ReachLocal's Bizzy has a similar capability with its "try lists," letting users know when they're near a place they previously selected as a "try." By contrast, Where and Alfred take a less "human" and more algorithmic approach to local discovery.
Where.com created what it called a "place graph" to match physical places according to selected criteria, which then form the basis of later recommendations to users. Clever Sense's app Alfred essentially does the same thing. Its technology assigns or "maps" physical places to one another based on styles, characteristics and attributes in the same way that Pandora does for music.
All of these apps are broadly trying to accomplish the same type of thing: enabling users to discover places without having to search for them -- or remember them. These discovery apps won't entirely replace search however. And multiple categories of local apps will probably co-exist over time: search, review apps (e.g., Yelp) and apps falling into this other category (discovery).
Foursquare has evolved from a relatively narrow app built around game mechanics to a much more helpful tool that has many more use cases for consumers and increasingly for marketers. Indeed, with its 10 million-plus users, Foursquare increasingly is in the strongest position of the apps mentioned to fulfill the emerging role of local-mobile discovery platform.
Prosper Mobile Insights released data from a recent US consumer survey (n=348 smartphone and iPad owners), conducted last month. The survey questions ask a range of things about mobile usage and mobile subscriber attitudes. Below I highlight a few coupon-related findings from the survey.
Q: To what extent do you agree with the following statements about location-based coupons on your mobile device?:
They are very convenient and useful
Those that fall into the "Somewhat/Strongly Agree" category equal 67% or 2/3 of respondents. These data simply confirm many other survey findings that have found consumers are interested in mobile coupons.
Interestingly marketing newsletter MarketingVox focused on the 18% (below) who said they didn't want coupons on their mobile devices, using the contrarian headline: "1 in 5 Mobile Users Don’t Want Coupons."
Q: How would you prefer to receive coupons on your smartphone or tablet? (Check all that apply)
One could group responses in the slide above generally into two categories: push and pull. Any category that requires "affirmative action" on the part of the consumer (e.g., search, QR code scanning) would fall into the "pull" category. Push categories would include email, SMS, geofencing ("automatically when I am near a store").
Social media check-in is more ambiguous but probably falls into the push category more than pull. Here the user is being presented with an offer as incentive to come to a location/store or is being shown an offer after checking in (e.g., "nearby offers").
Respondents were allowed to "check all that apply," so the numbers exceed 100%. Basically these responsdents appear to be saying they want to access coupons in multiple ways, actively and passively.
Using the percentages as points here's how the push vs. pull preferences broke down:
Even as many people are interested in searching for deals -- which is about inventory, relevance and control -- they're more interested in getting deals presented to them. Email was the preferred method of receiving deals information. This may be more about familiarity than anything else.
I am concerned about security issues and my location being tracked
Those who expressed moderate or strong concern about location tracking constituted 44.8% of respondents. This is generally consistent with other survey findings. For example, in Q2 WiFi ad network JiWire found that "53% of all respondents are willing to share location information in exchange for relevant content." That means 47% had concerns about location awareness or tracking.
Accordingly nearly half of the mobile users popular has some ambivalence or concern about giving up location information.
The iPhone launch is over: it was a 4S and not 5. An iPhone 5 is lurking but won't be released for an uncertain period of time. You can read coverage of the Apple event until you're blue in the face here. Post-game analysis starts now.
Basically the device is a much upgraded version of iPhone 4: it's faster, has a better camera and works on CDMA or GSM networks. In other words you can take it anywhere and it will work. It doesn't have a larger screen and won't work on 4G networks. Those things are probably being reserved for the iPhone 5.
Most intriguing today was the announcement of the Siri voice assistant. It's Siri, which was bought by Apple in April of last year, but more polished and integrated into the operating system. My colleague Dan Miller will have more to say about it, but it will perform a broad array of functions, including search and local search.
This will be the most prominent use of speech on a mobile device. The speech front end is powered by Nuance. The Siri part is the intelligence inside that knows how to answer or route a query or what app to invoke. It has a "beta" label attached, however. Apple apparently doesn't feel totally confident about how it will work, although it has got to be very polished at this point.
Intel announced that it was buying mapping, navigation and LBS content provider Telmap. Telmap provides mapping and local search content to Orange, Vodafone, Vodacom, Telefonica-O2 among others. The company is very much like TeleNav in the US or deCarta.
Here's Intel's statement about the acquisition:
This move is a step towards expanding our mobile software services capabilities as Intel continues to grow in the area of software and services. We are all very excited to have such knowledgeable and respected experts join the company.
From a consumer perspective, Telmap helps bring to life our vision for integrated, uniform experiences across consumer devices. Telmap has a tremendous amount of expertise around end-to-end mobile local search, mapping and navigation services . . . with Telmap we can directly provide developers with location-based services spanning devices, operating systems and CPU architectures . . .
Through APIs Intel wants to provide tools and content to developers to build location-based apps:
Telmap will allow us to provide AppUp developers with great, differentiated location capabilities in the form of a standard set of location-based APIs and software that developers can easily integrate into their AppUp apps.
These apps will ultimately be sold through the Intel AppUp store -- which currently has almost no consumer visibility and will struggle to compete with larger and more prominent apps distributors such as iTunes, Android Market and Amazon.
Placecast announced today the availability of ShopAlerts push notifications for retailer mobile apps. Previously Placecast ShopAlerts enabled geographically relevant SMS or MMS messages after a consumer opt-in. This new announcement means that geofenced alerts can be integrated into existing retailer apps to boost the effectiveness of those apps.
In the conventional scenario, users need to launch a retailer app and affirmatively search or browse for content. The new program enables consumers to receive LBS alerts that use promotional messages to direct consumers to the nearest local store or outlet, once inside the geofenced area. It's not clear whether the app-based ShopAlerts would require explicit consent to LBS notifications. (On the iPhone notifications require acceptance in general.) Best practices suggest at least a disclosure if not an opt-in.
Push notifications aren't new but this combination of app + alerts could prove effective for retailers and help boost app usage. Examples of companies already working with Placecast ShopAlerts include North Face, Subway, Kohl’s, Kmart, Starbucks and JetBlue, among several others.
The efficacy of geofenced ShopAlerts has been demonstrated in the UK with O2 and in various tests and trials in the US.
Related Placecast posts:
As I wrote in a post at Search Engine Land, we don't know yet whether QR codes are here to stay or whether they’re an interesting experiment on the way to something else, such as NFC-based marketing. But in the near term at least they appear to be gaining and increasingly used by publishers and marketers.
Comscore has come out with some interesting new data on usage patterns. Demographically the heaviest users of QR code scanning are 18-34 year old males who make more than 100,000 per year. Most scanning is done in the home (newspapers, magazines) or in retail or grocery stores.
Several years ago I wrote a white paper about the virtues of SMS based marketing that argued SMS was a highly versatile tool that could be utilized in many ways: on traditional ads, in digital ads, on product packaging and so on. I also argued at the time that consumer response to SMS calls to action also provided compelling analytics for traditional media.
That's exactly the way that QR codes are now positioned. Accordingly they'll probably replace SMS in some contexts as a mobile marketing tool -- if QR codes survive. But QR codes don't really do CRM loyalty marketing as well as SMS.
A press release based on research from Upstream (conducted by Luth Research) carries the following headline: "Personalized Messages Four Times More Effective than Time-, Lifestyle- or Location-Based Offers . . ." This came to me in an email last night.
The headline and the presentation of the data in the release are somewhat misleading, however. And with so many companies releasing data for PR reasons (and the market awash in numbers) no one should rely on a single piece of data or single study. There are some interesting findings however.
The Upstream study involved a consumer survey of just over 2,000 US adults (both smartphone and feature phone users); there's no behavioral data here. Below is the hierarchy of ad preferences based on the categories in the survey:
Users ranked personalized offers at 59 percent over those focused on timing (18 percent), lifestyle (16 percent) or location (8 percent). Smartphone users responded in similar fashion, with 60 percent preferring personalized offers over promotions based on timing (17 percent), lifestyle (10 percent) or location (14 percent).
This stands for the idea that personalization trumps dayparting, lifestyle and location. Lifestyle is a vague concept that seems less relevant than "my tastes and interests." Indeed, this phrase implies greater relevance than these other aided-response categories. The verbatim question is: "In your mind what constitutes the best basis for an offer to be relevant to you?"
Location by itself doesn't mean an offer or ad is relevant, neither does timing. Timing and location are "hollow" in the above list. An ad directed ad people in San Francisco may or may not have any application to my situation. However an ad or offer that has to do with "my tastes and interests" may require location to be relevant and actionable. I can't attend a movie premiere or retail sale happening in another city.
Timing is also an important variable. A discount offer for a restaurant or bar may be more or less relevant depending on time of day and/or day of week.
The larger point is: multiple variables help make ads more actionable and relevant. And most transactions are conducted or fulfilled offline, so location becomes a way to lead people to a transaction unless it's a pure ecommerce event.
An ad for a new product -- a sound system for example -- needs to show me where I can hear, see and possibly buy the product (location) to make it more than simply a less-than-optimal awareness ad. An ad for a holiday retail sale on my phone is going to be a lot more effective if it comes with a store locator vs. taking me to a crappy mobile shopping experience on my handset.
Some of the other data among the findings reveal that consumers often assume offline action or local fulfillment. For example, smartphone owners valued the following categories as those they were most interested in (re ads/offers):
So when we "peel back the onion" on the data, what we see is that people want relevant ads and offers but that location is very much in the background or an assumed feature of the offer.
Perhaps the most interesting and significant data form the survey concerns the most desired marketing "channel" or ad delivery mechanism. The survey question asks, "Which of the following channels for delivering ads to your mobile phone about a product/service would make you more likely to learn more about or purchase the product/service?"
Among smartphone owners the top responses were the following:
Amazingly smartphone users were more interested in SMS marketing messages than feature phone users.
The big conclusion I draw from the data above is that mobile users are interested in saving money (coupons) and essentially want control over the marketing messages they receive (opt-in SMS, or email). Thus these types of ads are likely to be most effective. However, again, the survey is measuring attitudes and not behavior.
Ad network Jumptap released its latest "MobileSTAT" data dive for July. This month's newsletter focuses on Android but also contains general metrics from the Jumptap network. There's a link to a write up of the June data at the bottom of this post.
In the latest issue of its newsletter Jumptap has created a map that shows where Android, iOS and RIM handsets "overindex" by state. This aspect of the report is getting lots of coverage. However the data are little more than a curiosity with few practical or actionable implications. These data may also not actually reflect the sales distribution of the various OS handsets because the Jumptap network is not necessarily representative of the mobile Internet as a whole or used equally by a representative group of mobile subscribers.
More interesting are the other metrics in the report. For example, Jumptap showcases Android handset CTRs by device type and by carrier. CTRs for Android devices are generally consistent across carriers (averaging about 20%). But there appears to be wide variability in display ad CTRs according to handset type. There's no satisfactory explanation offered for the variation in CTR performance by handset.
Jumptap says the following about why Android SonyEricsson handset owners generate the highest CTRs:
We speculate Sony’s relatively high CTR is due to their positioning as a premium brand, but don’t rule out the role that usability, hardware and interface may have.
By contrast I would speculate that LG and SonyEricsson handset owners are late Android adopters, while HTC and Motorola handset owners are earlier adopters and so less inclined to click on ads than Android neophytes.
The following is Jumptap's CTR chart by age, showing that those between 55 and 75 click the most.
Compare the data from June:
These data are likely impacted by a higher number of "unintended clicks" and/or lower mobile sophistication levels in these older age groups.
Jumptap also said that 61% of the campaigns on its network are targeted in some way (vs. 49% in June). The chart below shows the breakdown of targeting methods. Note that "location" is only used by about 18% of advertisers using any form of targeting.
Finally most advertisers on Jumptap's network appear to be sending people to mobile websites or landing pages. Jumptap speculates that this reflects growth in the number of mobile websites. It's a safe bet however that the entire "click to Web" group is not sending users to optimized mobile sites or landing pages.
A substantial number of these "click to Web" mobile marketers may be unsophisticated, however, and simply sending users to their PC sites -- incorrectly assuming that the smartphone browser does a good job rendering them.
The general assumption was that apps were transitional and would eventually give way to HTML5 and the mobile Web. So far that doesn't appear to be happening. And in some ways, the opposite is happening.
More time is now spent with apps than on the mobile Web and there's a movement toward apps, at the expense of the mobile browser to some degree. The latest evidence of this can be found in the mobile mapping category. Last week comScore released data on mobile map usage.
Interestingly -- and not surprisingly -- mobile map-app usage seems to be eating into PC-based map usage. ComScore found a 2% decrease in PC map usage vs. a year ago, though the PC maps audience is slightly less than double the size of the mobile maps audience.
Also not surprisingly, most mobile mapping usage happens in the car. This has also been true of 411/directory assistance.
Mapping apps that provide turn-by-turn navigation are most popular in the category.
ComScore estimated the number of smartphone map users ("4 out of every 5 mobile map users") at 38.2 million in May. This almost certainly under-counts the number of mobile mapping users by roughly 10 million people (using a figure of 38% smartphone penetration on a base of 250 million mobile users). Mapping is consistently one of the most used categories of applications.
Placecast has introduced a self-service version of its SMS and MMS ShopAlerts marketing platform. The platform enables template-driven campaign creation, with extensive control over the radius of geofenced areas as well as the time and dates of message delivery.
This means that any merchant, franchisee or small businesses could potentially utilize the Placecast platform to deliver geographic-based push messages and promotions to opt-in consumers. It's going to be challenging for small businesses as a practical matter. But it's particularly well-suited to franchise businesses and can handle multiple locations with ease. Distribution is up to the business or entity, which would need to capture the opt-ins (similar to follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook).
Messages or promotions can be built around deals and offers but don't have to be; there are many other types of content that can populate these messages.
Placecast works with O2 in the UK and AT&T in the US, as well as individual retailers. The O2 program has seen great success in the UK; the AT&T program is still in very early stages. Unless carriers are going to buy ad networks, the ShopAlerts/O2program is the model for carrier-based advertising -- although it's not apparent that the carriers see that clearly.
The original beta version of the ShopAlerts program, tested with selected retailers in the US in late 2009 and early 2010, yielded impressive results:
Agencies and companies often neglect SMS as a marketing medium and CRM tool. Even with smartphone penetration nearing 40% in the US that still means that 60% of users don't have them. SMS penetration and usage are nearly 100%.
Related posts on Placecast:
UK carrier O2 (owned by Spain's Telefonica) is seeing great success with its opt-in SMS marketing program O2 More. The location-based service is powered by Placecast, which also supports a similar but more nascent program in the US for AT&T. (It's not clear how much promotional effort AT&T is putting behind it.)
O2 not long ago announced it had more than two million subscribers for More. Consumers sign up for the O2 program, specifiy interest categories and recieve no more than a single text per day. The program sees very low churn.
Earlier this month the UK carrier touted the success of a More campaign for gym Fitness First:
Fitness First targeted O2 customers with location-based messages offering a free two-day pass and details of the nearest club. This resulted over 1,100 recipients signing up as new members of Fitness First on four month and 12 month contracts.
With average membership costing just under £300 per year, this uptake generated increased revenue around £400,000.
The best responding target audience was 18 to 35-year-old smart phone using single Londoners, who enjoy engaging through social media.
US carrier T-Mobile recently got into the daily deals market with the launch of an app called "more for me." But with much larger competitors -- and so many competitors -- it's unlikely that T-Mobile will see great success with the program.
However daily deals could be converted into SMS messages for broader distribution and differentiation. Indeed, the O2-Placecast model is a stronger bet than an app strategy for carrier advertising, and can reach 100% of the carrier's customers potentially.
Many marketers and companies tend to look "beyond" SMS to in-app ads and mobile Web advertising because SMS isn't sexy. (Just like text ads in search aren't sexy.) However the reach of SMS is 100% and the response rates to opt-in text messaging programs can be huge.
For example, in early 2010 Placecast found the following in its US beta test of ShopAlerts (the same kind of program run by O2):
Many people (including some analysts) make simplistic assumptions about the mobile market: for example that mobile and local are all but synonymous. I'm obviously a big advocate of local but I see mobile usage as quite complex and defying easy conclusions about usage or the future direction of the market.
There are lots of functions and activities that people perform and do on mobile handsets that have nothing to do with their immediate surroundings or local. For example: games, news, entertainment, music, sports, social networking and so on.
A new set of Nielsen data about app downloads/usage in the past 30 days reflect that mobile is a platform that is complex and diverse in its usage. While local content and apps are well represented in the hierarcy a large number popular app categories have nothing to do with location.
Instead they probably reflect that people are using mobile as a "generic" Internet access tool. Games, the most popular category, is a phenomenon unto itself.
Most purchases occur in the physical world. So most mobile ads will either direct people to actual stores or, in the case of most future display campaigns, offer a dealer or store locator -- at a minimum. Mobile will be a huge branding medium, irrespective of any localization component. And there will be many awareness ads that have a location component as secondary or perfunctory matter.
Moreover we get into an "accounting" problem in defining what is a "local" ad in mobile.
Is a Klondike Bar ad that contains a store locator buried two clicks down a "local ad"? What about mobile click-to-call ads for a florist network, which sends users to call center to place an order fulfilled locally? Is a mobile-video brand campaign for Hilton Hotels that can direct you to the nearest property if you initiate a search or lookup?
There's a lot of gray in determining what is a local ad. We might want to "require" localization in the ad creative before we consider mobile ads as "local." Just a thought.
But just as people often fail to recognize how local or offline purchase intent permeates a great many things that happen on the PC it's equally the case that non-local activity/interest is very much tied up in mobile activity. The chart above nicely illustrates that.
Yesterday Millennial Media released its latest SMART report for May. It shows advertiser trends and marketing tactics on its network. There was a drill-down focus on automotive in the report (which I'm not going to focus on except in one respect). The data indicate the increasing nuance and sophistication of mobile marketing programs.
There are a wide range of goals/objectives that marketers are pursuing via mobile: local, social, demographic targeting and so on. These tactics and objectives defy easy assumptions about the trajectory of mobile advertising over the next several years.
Mobile is a branding and awareness medium, it's also a local ad medium and it will be used in tandem with other media. It's not going to be primarily one thing (e.g., LBS). There will be enormous diversity in the campaigns and tactics seen. Indeed, I've argued before that mobile is a better branding medium than online display. That assertion is supported by the data.
Immediately below is the mix of targeting methodologies used by marketers on the Millennial network in May. The number of campaigns that were targeted in some way has remained relatively constant on Millennial's network for roughly the past year. But of that targeted advertising geo/local has grown and so has demographic targeting to some degree.
Compare the data for Q3 2010 (below). Geo-targeting was the primary targeting method employed by marketers in 42% of all targeted campaigns on Millennial's network. In May, 2011 that was smaller percentage of targeted ads but a higher percentage of them used local targeting (which can be state, city or zip).
Automotive advertisers were much more local in their mobile marketing efforts (chart below), seeking to send people into dealerships or to generate phone calls. They were less interested than advertisers generally in getting people to Like them on Facebook ("mocial").
As a general matter Millennial said:
Below is the mix of advertiser goals and "landing pages" they sent clicks to.
Compare Jumptap's data showing some similar things around targeting or post-click activity. Jumptap also shows consumer click metrics and the improved lift of local + demo targeting.
Verve Wireless is a San Diego CA-based mobile ad network consisting of approximately 1200 local media sites (mostly newspapers). The company's network features both small business and national-local advertisers; and it has created and released the first of what will apparently be quarterly reports focused on local-mobile advertising and consumer behavior.
Verve is calling the quarterly report the "Local Mobile Index" (LMI). The ad inventory measured is all mobile display. Verve says the data presented in its inaugural report are a mix of "Omniture, comScore and Verve reporting." The data can be compared to what Millennial Media is doing with its SMART reports but at a purely local level.
As with all such network-based data the Verve report must be seen as a reflection of what's happening on the company's own network primarily. However it's large enough that these data are going to be directionally reflective of larger trends in the local-mobile market.
Top ad verticals
Top five local-mobile ad verticals on the Verve network (Q1 2011):
Compare Millennial Media's top 10 verticals by ad spend for Q1:
According to Verve the local ad spend grew 82% year over year (Q1 2010 to Q1 2011) for the identical inventory in its network. This growth rate is in line or somewhat higher than general mobile spending growth. For example, here are eMarketer's mobile ad growth projections:
In the table immediately above, eMarketer said that mobile display grew 122% in 2010 but will slow to 65% annual growth in 2011. I believe it's too soon to argue that mobile ad growth will slow, however, and believe these figures are somewhat conservative.
About 56% of page views on Verve's network occurred during the afternoon commute hours and in the evening (between 7-10pm). The chart below reflects mobile usage throughout the week.
These data seem to contradict other mobile data that show weekends as a time of heavy mobile activity. However this might be explained by the fact that most of Verve's sites are newspaper sites and that consumption of these sites may decline on the weekend.
Verve said that in-app ads outperformed mobile web ads "by a factor of nearly 3x (2.67)" during Q1 2011. This is not a surprise given higher levels of consumer engagement with apps vs. the mobile web.
In addition, according to Verve, "rich media campaigns out performed standard banner programs, as measured by consumer engagement, by a factor of 7:1." However some rich media ads that launched video from the banner "performed worse than those without video or had video embedded in a landing page (1.61% video banners vs. 2.67% video embedded), which may indicate some reticence on the part of consumers to go straight into video without an intermediate step."
Perhaps the most interesting data from Verve's report is the list of top DMAs by ad revenue. Here they are and they feature some surprises:
Texas is the top state by ad revenue in Verve's network.
Here's a situation where the data from Verve's network may diverge significantly from larger trends in the market. It's very unlikely, for example, that St. Louis is the top overall DMA for mobile ad revenue in the US. What's more plausible is that the sales reps in that market have had great success selling mobile to their advertisers (Verve does some national ad sales).
iPhone vs. Android
The iPhone represented nearly half of all traffic on Verve's network. However the company said that Android users were more engaged. Verve doesn't elaborate on the meaning of this statement in its report but says that "Android achieved 52% better engagement results during the quarter."
It's also interesting that BlackBerry had nearly as much share as Android on Verve's network. This is probably a reflect of the legacy of numerous RIM devices in the market.
There hasn't been much good local-mobile ad spending data in the market prior to this. So it will be great to see these quarterly reports and assess how the market is doing based on "facts on the ground." Most of the forecasts (though not all) about local-mobile released to date have been based on very high-level data and often incorrect assumptions about the market.
I've got to hand it to Loopt; every few months the company tries something different to rise above the noise in the LBS-SoLoMo market. Sometimes these efforts are very creative. The latest effort, "U-Deals," is a little bit of "back to the future."
The central idea is this: you identify a business and potential discount, publicize and get others on board and then Loopt tries to sell it to the business with some guarantee of participation.
This is a variation on the original "group buying" or reverse auction model that existed in the late '90s. The twist here is that the deal doesn't exist unless or until the consumer suggests or requests it. MerchantCircle also had similar functionality built into its platform, although it was mainly intended for individuals communicating with local businesses rather than for groups.
As I mentioned, this is a very creative twist on daily deals. However there's probably too much work involved for consumers for it it succeed on any kind of scale. To that end, Loopt has tried to automate the process as much as possible through its app: check in, request the deal at specified deal tiers or price points (see at left) and then promote on social networks.
It's much easier for consumers to simply find deals through customary channels like Groupon. (Loopt is a Groupon syndication partner as well.) We may see some adoption of this but I would be very surprised if U-Deals took off.
Right now this is only available in the San Francisco Bay Area on the iPhone and Android platforms. Here's a video that quickly explains the program and how it works.
Update: In fairness to Loopt and U-Deals I have to admit that I purchased the first deal, a discount voucher on Virgin America Airlines. We'll see how the program proceeds; I could be very wrong. However this was not a consumer-initiated deal I'm sure. That's what I'm critical of: not deals but the reliance on consumers to generate and promote them.
Yesterday at the "Inside Search" event in San Francisco Google introduced a range of upgrades and improvements: "search by image," voice search for PCs and several mobile search feature tweaks. Among the announcements, voice search for PCs may turn out to be most significant over time.
On the mobile front Google has been regularly trying to improve the user experience and make it easier to search on smartphones. Google is trying to cultivate mobile search behavior on smartphones comparable to the search habit on the PC. The company is also "hedging" somewhat by offering quite a few experiences and access points: apps, browser-based search and an evolving mobile homepage.
Below are screenshots reflecting the two of the improvements in mobile announced yesterday. Essentially Google is moving its icon-based "Places" search capability to the HTML homepage. You touch an icon to find nearby businesses in the category (e.g., restaurants, cafes). The "more" button brings you to a screen with a wider range of icons. However the Places app still offers a generally superior overall local search experience.
The map-related change duplicates a similar feature that Bing just added to its mobile maps/search experience. On the right in the image above is a map at the top of the screen. As users scroll down the page, the map dynamically changes to reflect the location of the businesses listed.
Google also offers a feature it calls "query builder" for mobile. Essentially the auto-complete drop-down suggestions can be quickly added to the search box to help "build" longer query strings with less typing. This, like other innovations (especially voice search) in mobile are intended to make it much easier and faster to use Google on the go.
T-Mobile USA is becoming a deals aggregator, with a new Android app called "More for Me." It's available today for any Android smartphone running OS 1.6 or higher. LivingSocial is the only deal source mentioned although the word "aggregator" implies a broader array of sources.
T-Mobile claims that the app is the first of its kind from any US mobile carrier. AT&T (the would-be owner of T-Mobile) similarly aspires to be a major player in the deals space and has a existing relationship with Placecast to deliver geo-fenced "shop alerts." That's not the same as "daily deals," but it's location-based discounts and offers nonetheless.
According to the T-Mobile press release:
The T-Mobile More for Me application is customizable, enabling consumers to find the most relevant deals, closest to their exact location. Users have the opportunity to see deals from a variety of retailers, in nearly any city, with many deals tailored to meet their specific interests and preferences.
“LivingSocial works directly with merchants in all of our 260+ global markets to craft great deals that drive our valuable members through their door,” said Jake Maas, senior vice president, corporate and business development, LivingSocial. “We are excited to bring our handpicked experiences to the millions of consumers who will enjoy T-Mobile’s new More for Me app.”
What's unique here is not that T-Mobile has built a deals app or even that it's created by a carrier. Rather it's the idea that a carrier is creating an app extending beyond the borders of its own subscriber network. Given the availability of branded deal apps from Groupon, LivingSocial and others, however, it's very unlikely that More for Me will see much adoption beyond T-Mobile subscribers.
Millennial Media released its latest SMART report on mobile marketing trends and data. In the issue, Millennial focuses on growth in the retail vertical (compiled by comScore for Millennial) as well as its traditional range of metrics (e.g., campaign objectives, landing page composition).
In particular, the report says that "local market targeting grew 22% and represented 56% of all campaigns that used targeted reach." While targeting is growing, the majority of Millennial's advertisers appear to still be most interested in broad reach and driving awareness.
Local can mean different things on Millennial's network: targeting by state, city, zip. However the company also said, "advertisers in the Automotive and Restaurant verticals leveraged Local Market targeting to drive foot traffic into their brick-and-mortar locations through targeted regional promotions."
Millennial says that retail "content consumption" by consumers on mobile devices is growing in aggregate volume and frequency:
Below is the hierarchical mix of retail advertisers on Millennial's network: department stores followed by computer/electronics retailers (e.g., Best Buy) and home & garden retailers (e.g., HomeDepot).
Last week Lauren Freedman's e-Tailing Group put out some interesting consumer data from sponsored research. The February consumer survey sought to assess attitudes toward shopping on smartphones and tablets. Respondents were screened on the basis of whether they owned one or both of those devices and spent at least $250 annually online:
Unfortunately the survey sample size wasn't revealed in the report.
There are two sets of findings, one that pertains to shopping experiences with smartphones and one that focuses on tablet-based shopping. I've copied a few graphics from the report (arrows are mine).
The first graph below explores what information people seek out on their smartphones before a store visit.
A significant minority of respondents, despite being comfortable with ecommerce, did not do any "shopping" or buying on their smartphones. Top reasons cited were "awkward shopping experience," "concerns over [security]," slow connection, and overall poor user experience.
Perhaps not surprisingly respondents rated the shopping experience on tablets, with their larger screens, quite a bit better:
These findings reinforce that smartphones and increasingly tablets are being used for product research within and without the retail store -- but much less for actual purchasing. Though the location of tablet use wasn't explored in this survey, the vast majority of tablet activity is at home currently.
While smartphone and tablet usage are complementary, tablet ownership generally results in diminished PC usage.
It's very difficult to quickly and comprehensively analyze all the implications of Google Wallet. There are many.
I "live blogged" the press conference at Search Engine Land. For both consumers and merchants/retailers the proposition is pretty compelling: offer and loyalty card integration, single-tap payments and so on.
So far it appears that only the Nexus S phone will be capable of accessing and using Google Wallet, although there was some ambiguity around that issue. The merchants that are formally participating at launch the following:
However any merchant that has the MasterCard "pay pass" system enabled can participate. Google has provided a merchant locator by zip.
Offers and loyalty will be a big part of this, which is where the marketing/advertising tie-in happens. The integration of Wallet with Offers and loyalty cards will be the big differentiator for retailers and marketers as well as consumers vs. other NFC payments systems. This is where Google has a big advantage over competitors including Apple, Amazon, PayPal and wireless carriers.
Theoretically at least some of those competitors could participate in Wallet because Google says it's open ecosystem -- in the way that Android is: controlled by Google but anyone can participate. How will this affect other mobile payments initiatives, other payments startups and so on?
That question is hard to answer at the moment. If there's fast adoption of Google's system (a la Android) many competitive efforts will be toast. But that very much remains to be seen. Because even consumers eager to participate in Google Wallet will need to buy the Nexus S right now.
Once other NFC-enabled handsets become available, adoption should dramatically accelerate.