Local Search

Placecast Opens Up Geofenced Marketing to Self-Service

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.

Screen shot 2011-07-21 at 11.15.11 AM

The original beta version of the ShopAlerts program, tested with selected retailers in the US in late 2009 and early 2010, yielded impressive results:

  • 60% of participants found the location-triggered messages to be cool & innovative
  • 79% said it increased their likelihood to visit a store
  • 65% made a purchase as a result of a ShopAlerts message (though not necessarily in real time after receiving the SMS)
  • 73% of participants would definitely or probably use the service in the future

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 Seeing Success with LBS Offers

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): 

  • 60% of participants found the location-triggered messages to be cool & innovative
  • 79% said it increased their likelihood to visit a store
  • 65% made a purchase as a result of a ShopAlerts message (this sometimes occurred on the same day and sometimes later)
  • 73% of participants would definitely or probably use the service in the future

App Downloads Show Complexity of Mobile Usage: It's Not All about Local

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. 

Millennial: 'Place Call' the Top 'Post Click' Action on Network

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. 

 Screen shot 2011-07-01 at 7.26.29 AM

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).

Picture 14

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"). 

Screen shot 2011-07-01 at 7.31.16 AM

As a general matter Millennial said:

  • Store Locator grew 48% month-over-month and represented 22% of the Post-Click Campaign Action Mix on our network in May (above). Retail and Automotive brands heavily drove mobile users into retail outlets and dealerships by creating unique and engaging Moms, Dads and Grads promotions for their target audiences.
  • Mocial (Mobile Social Media) experienced growth of 36% month-over-month, with 23% of the Post-Click Campaign Action Mix in May (Chart C). Telecom, Entertainment and Retail advertisers increased their usage of Mocial as a Post-Click Campaign Action to acquire social media followers and gather feedback on movie releases and new product launches in May.

Below is the mix of advertiser goals and "landing pages" they sent clicks to. Screen shot 2011-07-01 at 7.27.02 AM

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: Local Mobile Spend Grew 82% YoY

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):

  • Autos
  • Real estate
  • Entertainment
  • Banking 
  • Health care

Compare Millennial Media's top 10 verticals by ad spend for Q1:

  1. Retail & Restaurants
  2. Telecommunications
  3. Portals & Directories
  4. Finance
  5. Automotive
  6. Entertainment
  7. Dating
  8. Education
  9. Travel
  10. CPG

Spending growth

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.

Screen shot 2011-06-27 at 4.14.04 AM

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. 

Ad performance

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." 

Top cities

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: 

  1. St. Louis
  2. Houston
  3. New York 
  4. San Francisco  
  5. Portland
  6. Denver
  7. Memphis
  8. Seattle
  9. Dallas
  10. Cleveland-Akron

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." 

Screen shot 2011-06-27 at 4.35.09 AM

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.

Is Loopt U-Deals Destined to Fail?

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.

Loopt u-Deals - Request a Deal (Price)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. 

Google Brings Places to Mobile Homepage

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 Becomes Daily Deals Aggregator

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. 

 Screen shot 2011-06-15 at 4.56.23 AM

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: Local Targeting Continues to Grow

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." 

Screen shot 2011-06-03 at 6.59.38 AM

Millennial says that retail "content consumption" by consumers on mobile devices is growing in aggregate volume and frequency:

  • The total number of consumers who accessed some type of retail content on their mobile device in a given month jumped 74% year-over-over to 13 million (as of June 2010)
  • Of the 13 million, over 6.5 million accessed retail content on their mobile device one to three times per month, 4.2 million at least once a week, and 2.2 million consumers accessed some form of retail content on their mobile device almost every day

 Screen shot 2011-06-03 at 7.06.30 AM

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). 

Screen shot 2011-06-03 at 7.07.10 AM

Tablets Preferred over Smartphones for Shopping -- Survey

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:

  • 52% owned smartphones
  • 31% owned both smartphones and tablets
  • 17% owned tablets only

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. 

Screen shot 2011-05-27 at 1.20.47 PM

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.

Screen shot 2011-05-27 at 1.01.46 PM

Perhaps not surprisingly respondents rated the shopping experience on tablets, with their larger screens, quite a bit better: 

Screen shot 2011-05-27 at 1.03.17 PM

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

Google Wallet: Some Preliminary Thoughts

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: 

Screen shot 2011-05-26 at 10.34.04 AM

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. 

See related: Square’s “Mobile Wallet” Service Sets Stage for Pay-By-Voice, Maybe

ComScore Says Check-ins Have Grown, Now 17% of Smartphone Users

Last year Pew and Forrester both came out with reports arguing that LBS check-ins (e.g., Foursquare) were being embraced by only a small fraction of the mobile audience. In July Forrester asserted that "geolocation applications like Foursquare" were only occasionally being used by 4% of all Internet users.

In November Pew released findings from a telephone survey (n=3,001) that argued a similar 4% of PC Internet users and 7% of mobile Internet users were on LBS services. However 4% of online adults actually turns out to be a big number. It's roughly 8 million people, using the ~200 million online audience base of comScore.

In the aggregate, in 2010, there were probably several million people in the US checking in on Foursquare, Gowalla, MyTown, Whrrl and others, including Google Latitude.

Today Foursquare says it has 8.5 million users alone and many others, including Yelp and Facebook, offer check-ins. Facebook has not released official numbers but claims it is "by far" the largest check-in site out there. So the numbers are clearly growing. 

ComScore released data yesterday asserting that, now, nearly 17 million mobile users are engaged to some degree with "check-in services": 

16.7 million U.S. mobile subscribers used location-based “check-in” services on their phones in March 2011, representing 7.1 percent of the entire mobile population. 12.7 million check-in users did so on a smartphone, representing 17.6 percent of the smartphone population.

ComScore defines this category to include Facebook Places, Foursquare and Gowalla. It's unclear what the full list of sites was or whether beyond a couple of examples, the definition of check-in sites was left up to user interpretation. 

As one might expect smartphones were the primary source of check-ins, constituting 76.3% of all usage. Here's the smartphone "check-in" OS breakdown: 

  • Android: 36.6% (vs. 34.7% overall market-share)
  • iPhone: 33.7% (vs.  25.5% market-share)
  • RIM: 22% (vs. 27.1% market-share)
  • MSFT, Palm, Symbian: each had less than 5% of check-ins; collectively they represented 7.5% of check-ins (vs. 12.6% market-share collectively) 

Screen shot 2011-05-12 at 9.21.14 PMOverall comScore says that these check-in users "showed a high propensity for mobile media usage, including accessing retail sites and shopping guides, and displayed other characteristics of early adopters, including a stronger likelihood of owning a tablet device and accessing tech news, when compared to the average smartphone user." 

One surprise according to the survey data is that women overall outnumber men on check-in services, in contrast to last year's Forrester findings that showed a wide gap favoring men.

Anecdotal evidence, notwithstanding the growth comScore proclaims, suggests that a large number of early users of check-in services have walked away and are no longer using them on a regular basis. 

Deals and loyalty programs -- such as one just announced between SPG and Foursquare -- are the key to keeping check-ins alive. In the absence of such rewards or incentives the check-in will either die or have to dramatically evolve and deliver some other type of value to survive. 

Mapquest Integrates Skyhook Location to Surmount GPS Limitations

Mapquest and Skyhook Wireless announced today that Skyhook's "Hybrid Location System" would be deployed in Mapquest's Android navigation app. The idea is that GPS is unreliable much of the time, as the press release explains:

Frequent users of navigation apps on smartphones know the headaches of trying to start a trip from inside a parking garage, or of following a route through the urban canyons of New York City. Everyone has a story of the costly wrong turn made due to a lost GPS signal and delayed navigation. These issues are primarily a result of the limitations in relying on GPS satellites, also a handicap of many other navigation apps.  By using Skyhook’s unique combination of Wi-Fi signals and GPS, MapQuest avoids these common GPS headaches.

The free navigation app from Mapquest offers voice search and voice turn-by-turn navigation, traffic and local search. It's a very nice offering -- and free. The challenge for any mapping or navigation provider on Android handsets is similar to the challenge of any search provider on the PC that isn't Google.

Google Navigation is so deeply integrated into the whole mobile search and mapping experience on Android that a competitor has to be superior (or better) to get attention and usage. However Mapquest has huge brand equity, which goes some distance to overcoming the "inertia" around Google Navigation on Android.

According to Hitwise, Google Maps and Maquest are the top two travel sites in the Us. However Mapquest is the top "branded" travel search term.

Top 10 US Travel Sites (per Hitwise): 

  1. Google Maps
  2. MapQuest
  3. Expedia
  4. Southwest Airlines
  5. Priceline.com
  6. Yahoo! Travel
  7. TripAdvisor
  8. Bing maps
  9. Yahoo! Maps
  10. Orbitz

Google: Mobile Search Will Pass PC Sooner Than People Think

There's an extensive article in the New York Times about Google and mobile search. The article is mostly a feature about the evolution of Google's approach to mobile. It also discusses voice search and Goggles but there's little hard data or new numbers. 

The $1 billion mobile ad run rate is mentioned as are several previously released data points. Here are a few of the stats and observations from the article:

  • Google says mobile searches are growing as quickly as Web searches were at the same stage in the company’s early days, and they are up sixfold in the last two years. 
  • Mobile searches spike during the lunch hour and evenings, when people are away from their computers. 
  • Search for Wal-Mart on a computer and Google suspects you are probably looking for the e-commerce site or job openings. Search on a phone and Google assumes you are looking for the nearest store. Other search tools were built specifically for phones.

We've estimated, using comScore and Google's own public data that between 1.9 and 2.4 billion monthly queries on Google are coming from mobile. Google has said 33% of mobile queries have local intent. That would mean that between roughly 600 million and almost 800 million monthly queries are local-mobile.

But here's the "money quote" from the NY Times' piece: “Mobile search is definitely going to surpass desktop search,” said Scott B. Huffman, who works on mobile search at Google and leads its search evaluation team. “The lines will pass, and I think they’ll pass before anyone thought they would.”

NAVTEQ Local-Mobile Ad Performance Good, but not Best in Market

NAVTEQ put out a press release yesterday announcing results of "its first hyper-local ad campaign targeting millions of users of the Poynt application." Poynt is a search app. The NAVTEQ ads tested were location and/or contextually relevant to user queries.

Here are the results: 

The maiden campaign featured hyper-local ads for national gas station and restaurant brands throughout the United States. All four campaigns performed three to five times better than the industry average* click-through rate (CTR) of .49 with an average CTR of 2.68% across campaigns. Post-click user engagement ranged from 4.49% to as high as 11.25%, depending on advertiser. 

The 2.7% CTR and engagement numbers are better than average, but still not as strong as those reported by several others offering local-mobile advertising or location-based ads on mobile devices. Off the top of my head I know that TeleNav, xAD, Placecast and JiWire have local-mobile ad performance data that exceed the reported NAVTEQ metrics.

TeleNav previously said that ads on its navigation software saw nearly 4% CTRs and 24% conversions (in terms of users driving to store locations after seeing an ad): 

[Ads] resulted in a click thru rate of 3.8 percent, which is significantly greater than traditional mobile and online display ads. Moreover, the data indicates that the conversion rate of users who drive to the business location after clicking on an ad presented in TeleNav's local search results is nearly 24 percent. 

Local-mobile ad network xAD told me that it sees average local search CTRs of 5% to 8%, with some campaigns exhibiting higher response rates. Google also previously reported that after a local-mobile lookup 61% of users called a business and 59% visited a location in person.

The larger point is that directional searches on the go are highly commercial in nature with action likely to be taken by the individuals conducting them. 

Marchex Buys Jingle Networks for $62 Million in Cash and Stock

Marchex has acquired Jingle Networks, which operates the 800-Free-411 consumer service and a mobile ad network. The acquisition is valued at $62.5 million and is a mix of cash and stock. Jingle had previously raised roughly $70 million since it was founded in 2004 in multiple rounds from investors. 

The acquisition will boost the Marchex Call Advertising Network and (finally) provides Jingle with an exit. Jingle launched with terrific fanfare and seemed like a great option for mobile callers seeking to avoid growing 411 fees. However, the growth of smartphones has taken a toll (so to speak) on directory assistance call volumes and they continuing to erode albeit at a relatively stable pace. 

Compared to traditional carriers, Jingle had a more interesting and diversified model than traditional 411. (Google shuttered its Jingle competitor, 800-GOOG-411 last year.) The best of the free 411 services was Microsoft's, Bing-411, which continues to operate. 

Marchex says that the addition of Jingle's calls and mobile network to its own will deliver "annualized reach of more than 500 million phone calls across digital media." The company says that Jingle's revenues will be $26 million in 2011. Call-based advertising will now constitute "75% of [Marchex's] revenues on an annualized basis by the end of 2011."

Marchex says that the overall market for calls is worth $179 billion annually and includes both online and offline media. These are ads "intended to generate calls." The company also says that some of the campaigns on its call network generate 10X response and conversions from consumers vs. clicks. 

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Average CTR on Mobile 5X Higher than PC: Report

Investment firm Macquarie captured a bunch of mobile data presented, in part by Google, during and an AMA sponsored webinar on the mobile paid
search market. Most of this has been released or mentioned before but it's a nice collection of stats pertaining to mobile search and the mobile market in general: 

  • Google projected that 15%-30% of site traffic will be from mobile within 18 months  (me: Yelp has already said its number is 35%)
  • Mobile-only campaigns saw 11.5% higher CTRs vs. PC campaigns; CPCs were 30% lower on mobile vs. desktop but CTRs 5x higher (me: this isn't true across the board)
  • 33% of mobile queries have "local intent" (per Google, MSFT: 53%) 
  • After searching for a local business on a smartphone, 61% of users called the businesses and 59% visited the business
  • Tablet conversion rates are equal to or higher than desktop and tablet users spend 50% more than PC users (eBay/Shopatron research)
  • Tablet conversion rates are equal to or higher than on PCs (eBay/Shopatron research)

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Defying the Market Poynt Continues to Grow

Poynt is the local search app that could. Once near extinction the Canadian company, which is publicly traded, has come back and continues to grow.

A week ago the company said it reached "one billion user actions," which is impressive because of the "billion" part but otherwise is a bit of a dubious metric. More transparently, Poynt said it has about 6.5 million uniques across multiple operating systems. That would put it just behind Foursquare, with 8 million users, to provide some context.

Poynt started on BlackBerry and has seen its greatest success on that platform. However it's also avaiable on the iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7 and now Nokia handsets (QT devices). The company says that it's adding about 30K users per day. 

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A couple of weeks ago local-mobile ad network xAD acquired the consumer business of Go2 Media and Poynt bought the ad serving back end. However, Poynt makes most of its money as a distributor of ads and content for third party YP publishes such as SuperMedia and AT&T. 

Poynt is a workmanlike but unremarkable local search app, featuring restaurants, local business search, movies, gas and people search. Its appeal perhaps lies in its simplicity. Whether intentional or not its early adoption by RIM users in an uncrowded BlackBerry App World helped the company gain a following and build some momentum it probably wouldn't have otherwise. 

Avantar is a similar case. Early in with a YP app on the iPhone many users adopted it and continue to use it, though it's extremely basic. 

Poynt, as mentioned, is publicly traded in Canada and has a market cap of roughly $50 million Canadian (just over that same amount in USD). Unless the app were to dramatically improve and/or the company started releasing other apps Poynt is likely to hit the natural limits of growth in the not-too-distant future. 

The endgame for the company is probably to get to about 10 million uniques (if possible) and then be acquired by YPG in Canada or another US local media publisher. However I'm a bit surprised that the company has had the success that it has to date. 

TeleNav 'Infographic' Unwittingly Indicts American Habits

TeleNav has a subscriber base of more than 20 million people, distributed over 600 devices in many countries. The company has done a good job of surviving the free navigation push by Google, Nokia and more recently Mapquest. It has an enterprise business as well as a direct consumer business. TeleNav also powers many of the carrier navigation services.

Earlier this week the company put out an "infographic" with some top-level US data about navigation usage. (As an aside I wish companies would stop putting out these so-called infographics for PR purposes. People pick them up, just as I have, but they make reading and understanding the data more difficult than it needs to be. It's a gimmick that should come to an end in my view.)

The chart shows that the top places US TeleNav users are navigating to. It also stands as a kind of unintended indictment of Americans' tastes and behavior. 

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The most searched/navigated locations are Wal-Mart, Target, Starbucks, Best Buy. McDonald's is in there at number 6. Navigational queries like this (name-in-mind searches) represent about 60% of local searches coming from mobile devices currently. Collectively Pizza, American (food) and Burgers represent about 63% of restaurant-related queries. And among them McDonald's and Pizza Hut figure prominently. 

Separately TeleNav conducted a survey of drivers and found, among other things, that:

Nearly 25 percent of both sexes reported sending at least one text message while driving per week. Men texted the most, with 36 percent of those who text while driving indicating they send an average of seven or more texts per week while on the road. In contrast, only 23 percent of women admitted to texting as frequently.

Below is a video demo of the current version of TeleNav (as AT&T Navigator):

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The Challenges of Foursquare's Amex Deal

This past weekend Foursquare announced a deal with Amex, which was first reported in the Wall Street Journal. The partnership essentially offers discounts and rewards for checking in at participating local businesses:

Under the arrangement, AmEx customers can register their cards in the Foursquare system to get access to special offers from merchants who are also Foursquare participants. Customers who shop at those merchants with an AmEx card will receive credits and electronic notification that they have redeemed the offer. Merchants who participate in the program would potentially see more sales. . . .

The Foursquare partnership is AmEx's latest offering aimed at people who are roughly a generation younger than the company's traditional customer. AmEx has introduced several new cards targeted at the hip and tech-savvy generation in recent years, with mixed success. 

The move is positioned in the article as a way for Amex to associate itself with a "hip" new mobile app and thereby attract younger users. It's going to be initially tested at the SXSW conference coming up next week in Austin, Texas: "Sixty local merchants will honor the 'spend $5, save $5' promotion."

It's great PR and a great high-profile deal for Foursquare, which now has more than 8 million users globally. Amex claims, however, this isn't simply about younger users but about new forms of loyalty and cardmember engagement.

On paper it all makes sense; however there are some potential challenges with the deal. I couldn't find empirical data but my understanding is that on average Amex cardholders are generally older than the bulk of Foursquare users, although there will be some overlap. According to Pew, here's the demographic breakdown of "location based services" users:

Demographics of location-based service users

This "generic" LBS user profile cuts more broadly than Foursquare specifically. And Google's Ad Planner (as well as Quantcast and Alexa) shows a user base that is somewhat older than Pew's profile. It also shows more female users on Foursquare.

Beyond the "demographic" challenge, is the fact that most local businesses don't use Foursquare to promote themselves. In addition many don't take Amex; you remember the Visa ads. ("They won't take no for an answer, and they won't take American Express.")

In our recent SMB survey about 8% of respondents said they were using Foursquare to promote themselves. This number cannot be generalized to the entire population of SMBs. That would effectively mean about 2 million SMBs actively on Foursquare marketing themselves. The 8% figure is larger than in previous surveys, reflecting Foursquare's growth and increased visibility. However the number of businesses using it to acquire new customers or as a loyalty platform is relatively small.

Accordingly you have to find SMBs or national-local entities that are on Foursquare (and take Amex), together with Foursquare users who have Amex cards to use in those establishments. This slices the potential pie pretty thinly. Yet this is the right direction for Foursquare, which will have enormous difficulty monetizing via SMB self-service. It needs to make big deals with channel partners and do national-local deals with retailers to generate meaningful revenue.