Local Search

Loopt Reinvents Itself (Again) with Push 'Rewards'

Loopt was an early friend finder and social network for mobile devices that has been forced to reinvent itself and try different things repeatedly because of the entry competitors and better-known brands into its space: e.g., Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, Google.

The most recent effort to do that is with its new "Reward Alerts," which are limited-time offers that are pushed to users based on location. This is similar to an AT&T-Placecast ShopAlerts initiative that was also announced this week. In that case AT&T handset users opt-in to receive deal alerts and they're pushed to users via SMS/MMS depending on location. 

Initial advertisers for the Loopt program include Participating companies include Altec Lansing, FOX Broadcasting, Gilt City, Jawbone, Microsoft, OkCupid, Southwest Airlines, TabbedOut, Twelve South, TiVo and Yurbuds.

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In order to participate, users must download the new version of the app, turn on "rewards" then the deals start flowing based on where users are. Loopt has had a deals/coupons product for some time in Loopt Star; however this is a more interesting and potentially successful implementation. 

Deals have become immensely popular and the opt-in/push dimension of Placecast's and now Loopt's programs will make them compelling to marketers. For Loopt scale will be key. The company has more than four million users (compare Foursquare's 6+ million). However the Placecast program, because it's text-based, has an addressable audience of 95 million hypothetically (the entire AT&T subscriber base).  

WHERE also offers location-based push couponing. 

ShopSavvy Seeking to Broaden Appeal with Deals

ShopSavvy was one of the very first barcode scanning apps. It later added local inventory data from several providers including Krillion. The company has now become a Groupon affliate, adding Groupon's offers to its Deals tab that includes other deals inventory.

In beefing up deals inventory -- though the company should be working with The Dealmap -- ShopSavvy is trying to move beyond commodity barcode scanning into a broader range of use cases for consumers and for merchants. From a merchant perspective deals offer an effective new customer acquisitions and a loyalty/CRM tool. 

There's some awkwardness in my view with daily deals in a mobile context. Coupons that can be searched or more persistent deals (vs. one day) offer a better fit for most mobile use cases, though food-oriented daily deals can work well in mobile. 

The company also has a number of "social features," including top lists and reviews, which seek to differentiate it from competitors. 

ShopSavvy's core offering, barcode scanning, is now a commodity as I indicated. And the app has largely been superseded in most respects by RedLaser (eBay), Google Shopper/Goggles and Amazon. Local inventory data is also on a path to becoming commoditized, with at least four APIs in the market (JiWire, Milo, Retailigence, Wishpond). Accordingly it will be very challenging for ShopSavvy to distinguish itself from larger and even smaller rivals that can tap all the APIs now in the market. 

There's also a ton of competition from "loyalty" marketing apps, among them ShopKick and Foursquare. However ShopSavvy says it has roughly 10 million users (but is that app downloads or active users?).

If those figures are real I suspect we'll see an acquisition in the near term. 

A Third of iOS, Android Apps Grab Location: Report

Security firm Lookout has put out its "App Genome Report" for February. There's a lot of interesting data about iOS and Android apps and apps stores in there. However I want to focus on two areas of the findings: location and advertising.

Under the heading "personal info," Lookout reports the following about apps that seek user contact information and location: 

  • The Apple App Store has a higher prevalence of apps with the capability to access contacts and location than the Android Market.
  • 28% of all apps in the Android Market and 34% of all free apps in the Apple App Store have the capability to access location.
  • 7.5% of Android Market apps and 11% of Apple App Store apps have the capability to access users’ contacts.

Apple apps individually request location at the time they're launched or initiated. Typically Android apps notify users of an intent to access location at the time of installation or an update. I would expect the Apple model (or something even more transparent) to become a standard that forthcoming privacy regulations seek to enforce. 

Turning to advertising, Google's AdMob dominates monetization for both iOS and Android. However iAd seems to be growing for iOS.

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It's striking to see how much more highly penetrated AdMob is than other networks, especially in the Android Market. Accordingly one could argue that Google owns both search and display in the two most important smartphone marketplaces. 

TeleNav Holding Its Own vs. Google Navigation

I would have thought that free Google Navigation, which is very good, along with free navigation from Nokia might have killed all the subscription-based providers out there. But TeleNav seems to be holding its own; part of that is its enterprise and white-label businesses. The company provides navigation for AT&T, Sprint and other carriers outside the US. Beyond this the company is also being very inventive and expansive in its thinking about its product.

The company's latest financial release -- it went public last year -- shows healthy growth:

  • Revenue for the second quarter of fiscal 2011 grew 19 percent over the second quarter of fiscal 2010 to $48.0 million.
  • Average monthly paying end users for the second quarter of fiscal 2011 increased 54 percent over the second quarter of fiscal 2010 to 19.6 million.
  • Revenue from automotive, enterprise LBS, mobile advertising and commerce and premium LBS was seven percent of total revenue for the second quarter of fiscal 2011,up from six percent of total revenue for the first quarter of fiscal 2011.
  • Cash generated from operations for the second quarter of fiscal 2011 was $28.5 million.

Now the TeleNav is putting out a Verizon version of its consumer-facing TeleNav GPS app for the iPhone. It costs $2.99 per month or $21.99 per year. This is cheaper than both the AT&T iPhone and Android versions of the app. It has lots of useful features:

  • Spoken Turn-by-Turn Directions with Street Names
  • 2D and 3D Moving Maps
  • Automatic Reroute 
  • Nighttime Optimized Navigation 
  • iOS Multitasking Support
  • More Than 22 Million Local Listings in the U.S. 

This is a good solution for iPhone users who don't have access to Google Navigation. In addition to turn-by-turn directions, the app can be used expansively as a local search tool and business finder (it has voice search as well). TeleNav is also integrating local ads from xAD, AT&Ti and others.

One of the "coolest" aspects of the product is "Shake-to-Go." Shake-to-go "allows users to simply shake their iPhone 4 while using TeleNav GPS and they will automatically be routed" to their home location. 

I've had an Android version of the app for a number of weeks. I've used it and liked it, although I have to admit the seamless integration of Google Maps and Navigation into Android create a big barrier to the use of any other mapping platform or tool. 

TeleNav also introduced APIs late last year to allow developers to integrate navigation into any app. Advertisers can also do this using the API. In other words one could ad a "drive there" or "get directions" button on any display ad in mobile. That's pretty interesting and I think not widely known. 

Some time ago I met with the markeing people at TeleNav and was struck by how broadly and creatively they're thinking about the product, the challenge of free navigation and expanding their apps' boundaries well beyond traditional GPS. 

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Microsoft Privacy Survey Shows Effectiveness of LBS Ads -- 46% Took Action

In December Microsoft sponsored a "Location Based Services Usage and Perceptions Survey." Last week in honor of privacy day it released results, which were widely reported -- mostly with a focus on the privacy issues and questions. Yes, people are concerned about location sharing and privacy. Those data, however, are less interesting to me than some of the other findings in the survey. 

The online survey was conducted in December with 1,500 total respondents from the US, UK, Germany, Canada, and Japan. Here some of the more interesting findings from my perspective:

  • 60% reported being aware of LBS
  • 51% said they used LBS (this is much higher than the Pew and Forrester survey data reflect)
  • 35% in the US use LBS at least several times per week which is nearly 2x higher than most other countries surveyed.
  • Only 18% use location-based services to share their location with others: (US 20%, UK 19%, Germany 15%, Canada 21%, Japan 15%)
  • On average, more than 70% prefer to use free LBS applications. This preference is highest in Canada (80%) and lowest in the US (66%). 

Here are the most common LBS use cases:

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The most significant finding from the survey (beyond the privacy stuff) is about the efficacy of location-based ads:

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The data in the tables above show that an average of 46% of those seeing location-based "retail" ads took action after exposure. The percentage is highest in the US: 55%. 

Among those using LBS services to share location, here are the services they used:

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Telmap Metrics Show Different Usage Patterns vs. US Data

Telmap, which provides LBS, search and navigation to a range of partners for mobile and in-car devices, released its first "metrics" report for Q4. The aggregated data are EU-centric and very interesting because they reveal some different patterns than have previously been reported in the US.

According to the report, here are the top "free text" and category or "POI" searches according to Telmap's data . . .

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By contrast, in the US, the top five mobile search categories (according to our data) are the following:

  1. Restaurants
  2. Banks/ATMs
  3. Hotels
  4. Gas stations
  5. Mobile phone-related services

Restaurants don't rank as highly in the mainly European data from Telmap; and hospitals is a curious number 1 in the POI category. Hospitals don't show up on our US-based list until number 15.

Telmap's data also show heavy usage during the middle of the day. Most companies (e.g., Google) tend to report that mobile usage complements PC usage: largely expressed on evenings and weekends. It may be that Telmap usage reflected in the chart below happens during work breaks or the lunch hour, etc. But it's an interesting contrast with what we commonly hear:

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The iPhone is the dominant device accessing Telmap data. 

Verve Names New CEO, Readies for Expansion

Verve Wireless has named Tom MacIsaac as new CEO. Art Howe, co-founder of Verve and prior CEO, will remain as Chairman. According to the press release that went out this morning:

Tom was CEO of ExtendMedia, which he grew into the leading IP video platform serving major operators, including AT&T, Verizon and Bell Canada, and leading movie studios, including Disney and Paramount. Extend was acquired by Cisco Systems in September 2010. Previously, Tom served as CEO of Lightningcast, a pioneer in online video advertising where he led the development of the first advertising technology platform specifically designed for monetizing broadband video and launched the first online video ad network. After AOL acquired Lightningcast in 2006, Tom served as SVP Strategy overseeing strategy, strategic planning and corporate and business development for AOL's market-leading advertising business, Advertising.com. Prior to Lightningcast, Tom was founder and CEO of Backwire, an online and mobile messaging company that was acquired by Leap Wireless in 2001. Prior to his career in digital media, Tom was a corporate lawyer with the global law firm Dechert.

Verve is positioning itself as a premium local display ad network for mobile. It originally developed its network, like Quattro and others previously, by building and hosting publisher (primarily newspaper) mobile sites. The company is focused on both national-local and small business advertisers. It has a presence in the "top 200 markets" in the US. 

Recently surveys by Handmark and Pew show the degree to which mobile has become an important and even preferred news medium, especially for breaking news. According to the Handmark survey (n=300,000):

Mobile has pulled ahead of the desktop web as the preferred medium to access breaking news information. More than 30% of respondents surveyed feel mobile is the most important medium to access breaking news, compared to 29% who prefer the desktop web, 21% who prefer television, and a mere 3% who chose newspapers as their the most important medium for breaking news.  

This will be a significant year for mobile advertising and growth. The foundation has been laid in the form of consumer adoption of smartphones and mobile in general. Regardless of which mobile ad forecast one points to, the medium is now a critical one -- both for publishers and advertisers seeking to build awareness or to drive offline purchases. 

Related posts: 

The UK's Top 100 Mobile Search Queries

UK mobile content and search vendor Mobile Commerce revealed its analysis of the UK's top mobile search queries of 2010. Three out of the top 10 are Facebook:

  1. Facebook
  2. Google
  3. Bebo
  4. Youtube
  5. www. facebook.com
  6. Ebay
  7. Facebook.com
  8. Hotmail
  9. Yahoo
  10. Ebuddy

These are, almost without exception, navigational queries. The exception is Google, which would then lead to some other kind of lookup or search presumably.

For comparison here is Opera's November list of the top UK sites visited by its users:

  1. google.com
  2. facebook.com
  3. bbc.co.uk
  4. youtube.com
  5. wikipedia.org
  6. live.com
  7. my.opera.com
  8. amazon.co.uk (back on the list)
  9. ebay.co.uk (10)
  10. m2d.de (new)

Below is the expanded list of Mobile Commerce's "top 100 mobile search terms for 2010." Assuming that the MC list is generally accurate what's interesting and curious, among other things, is that Google Maps appears at number 60. Yet we know that Google Maps is one of the most widely used tools on the iPhone and Android devices in particular.

What that suggests is that much of Google Maps usage is coming via app and not through the search box (of course). But it's a potential window into the larger "apps vs. search" phenomenon. Similarly, compare Opera's list above (where Amazon is number 8) to Amazon's position at number 48 on the list below. This is again suggestive of app usage or another way to get to the site (i.e., bookmark) vs. mobile search. 

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Bing iPhone App Offers Great 'All-in-One' Utility

Yesterday Microsoft held a Bing Search Summit in San Francisco. A whole boatload of upgrades were delivered including for the Bing iPhone and Android apps. Where Google has several apps or sites, Bing is trying to do a ton of stuff with its single app. Overall it's a terrific all-in-one app. They've really done a nice job and created a truly viable alternative to Google. The only thing not present is turn-by-turn navigation.

Here's the laundry list of upgrades and new features in the iPhone release: 

  • Auto suggest: Bing intelligently narrows and refines restaurant and movie searches by suggesting query strings to help people plan the perfect night out.
  • Bing Vision: Bring an object into the [camera] viewfinder, hold it still and Bing will detect text and present a highlighter tool to select words for a search. If the object has a barcode, Bing will instantly return product results. Search for a nearby business listing by pointing your camera at a landmark.
  • Check-in: Share your current location with friends and family via Facebook, foursquare or Windows Live Activity Stream.
  • iPhone Apps: Surfaces iPhone apps in search results, when relevant.
  • Plans: From the Bing homepage or a local search result, people can plan a night out and share the plan with friends via Facebook, who can comment or join the plan.
  • Opentable and Grubhub integration: With the integration of Opentable and Grubhub into Bing for Mobile, once you find your restaurant of choice, you can reserve a table on OpenTable or order takeout from Grubhub without leaving the Bing app.
  • Real-Time Transit Predictions: Real-time updates for Boston, San Francisco and Seattle allow commuters to see if transit options are on schedule, early or delayed, with predictions for arrival times.
  • Reminders: Create a “to-do” list and set reminders to receive alerts when near a specific location.
  • Enhanced StreetSide: Helps people orient themselves in unfamiliar places by stitching together and panning across street-level imagery of businesses, addresses or landmarks.

Screen shot 2010-12-16 at 9.12.56 AM

The "plans" feature is novel and uses Facebook to communicate suggestions to friends and family. The Check-in feature enables a Facebook or Foursquare check-in or both simultaneously.

Bing Vision is the equivalent of Google Goggles or Google Shopper with visual product search. Bing already had a barcode scanning capability and this is an enhancement with OCR built in. In my informal side-by-side testing of Bing Vision against Google Shopper's similar capability Google shopper performed slightly better and recognized more products more quickly. 

Street Side is both "cool" and useful and is similar to Google's Street View. There are some things that one can do with Street Side that can't be done with Street View, but the offerings are similar. In Bing, Street Side is accessible from local business profile pages. Bing is also completely voice-enabled (powered by Tellme).

Microsoft is making the HTML5 mobile site more and more app-like and over time will likely concentrate on improving that experience rather than building separate apps for multiple platforms. 

The challenge for Microsoft is making users aware of all these capabilities and their benefits. The company needs to focus on one or two "wow" or differentiated features to motivate downloads -- the iPhone app is actually pretty popular -- and then let consumer discover all the other stuff they can do with the app on their own. 

JiWire Launches App-like 'Compass' Ads for Mobile Users

JiWire is becoming a more interesting company by the day. It began as a WiFi ad network, showing location and contextually relevant ads to people logging on to WiFi hotspots. A couple of weeks ago the company acquired NearbyNow, which offers mobile app development and local product inventory information, together with a concierge service that allows users to hold products for local in-store pickup.

Today the company launched Compass ads for the iPhone, iPad and laptops. They look like conventional mobile display ads but provide very rich iAd-like functionality. Beyond that they also provide the full capability of NearbyNow's product inventory and in-store pickup service. In other words these ads are highly interactive and operate like mini-apps effectively. 

Below is a set of images of how the ads look on the iPhone, for a fictional campaign. A traditional-looking mobile banner opens a highly interactive app-like ad in which users can interact with content in several ways including browsing product inventory and putting items on hold for local-store pickup:

Picture 62

Launch partners for the ads include Groupon, The Gap, Ritz Camera, HP and Clinique. These ads would allow retailers and brands to send users to local retail stores to purchase products. 

Previously JiWire said that display ads with local ad copy provide a 40% lift vs. generic national ads. And ads with a “local call to action” have shown as much as a 120% lift. JiWire told me that it now reaches 40 million monthly uniques and is continuing to expand distribution. 

Google, Telenav and Navteq have similarly introduced ads that tie into maps and can lead users to a point of sale. This is a huge opportunity in mobile to take brand or product ads and show consumers where they can buy them nearby. The effectively of this type of advertising has already been demonstrated. 

It's now just a question of getting the word out to agencies and media buyers. 

Voice-Driven Searches Now 20%: Microsoft

Like maps and navigation Google has seen voice as a strategic area and invested heavily in it: Voice Search, Voice Input and Voice Actions. Most recently the company acquired Phonetic Arts to improve "voice output" on mobile devices. 

Indeed maps/navigation and speech are the big differentiators of Android vs. the iPhone. Ad network Chitika said that about 7% of iPhone search queries (on Google) are voice initiated. By comparison, earlier this year Google reported that 25% of search queries on Android devices are initiated by voice.

In a meeting last week with Microsoft the company told me that about 20% of mobile queries on Bing are now voice driven. This number is obviously very consistent with Google's Android number. It suggests that over time more and more search queries and other types of actions on the phone will be initiated by voice. 

Right now, I'm told, speech-input queries are quite similar to text-based queries. But as people gain more experience with speech and voice search on mobile devices we should see longer and more specific queries. We may even see more rapid growth of mobile search query volumes due to voice. As keyboard frustration and "friction" disappear search queries will grow. 

Speech thus makes mobile search (vs. app usage) much more viable for consumers overall. 

See related posts:

New Yahoo Local-Mobile Site: Discovery not Search

The mobile version of the new Yahoo Local is interesting in several ways. It combines events, neighborhood-level news and deals aggregated from several sources. It's a "local discovery" tool (in HTML not an app). Discovery is making something of a comeback or new surge vs. "search" among local site purveyors including WHERE, Bizzy -- even Google (with HotPot).

The online version of the new Yahoo Local has a search box at the top of the page that takes you into Yahoo SERPs. But there's no comparable search box on the new mobile site for Yahoo Local. The old Yahoo Local was an IYP-like site that was primarily about local business listings and reviews, as well as events and other content. But POIs and business listings were the primary focus. 

That's now gone from the new Yahoo Local and the mobile site. Perhaps it's a recognition that Google "owns" business name lookups and an attempt to appeal to users with a very different approach to local. 

Picture 30

Picture 32

The domain "yellowpages.yahoo.com" redirects to the "old" (but currently running) Yahoo Local site. But when the Yahoo Local domain eventually kicks over to the new Yahoo Local will that mean business listings will only be available through Yahoo search? And what about all Yahoo's reviews content? Where will that end up or be displayed?

Yahoo has "Sketch-a-Search," which offers local business listings content on the iPad and in mobile. Also local business information is currently available via search on Yahoo's mobile site. 

Google Driving In-Store Sales with 'Offer Ads'

Fresh off its anointing as the king of mobile advertising by IDC, Google is starting to expose some interesting mobile advertising case studies. The first of these (or perhaps the latest) is one involving Adidas using mobile offers to drive in-store traffic or "footfalls," as they say in the UK.

A description of the campaign: 

In their ad, the company [Adidas] offered customers 15% off purchases made in an Adidas store of $75 or more. Interested users could store the offer either via email or SMS.

In addition to the coupon, the ad also provided a phone number and map of a local Adidas store, giving consumers all they would need to go in-store, redeem the offer and make a purchase.


With a click-through rate 28% higher than their past mobile advertising, the mobile Offers Ads campaign doubled in-store coupon redemption and increased the average in-store order value.

Google says that it's now extending offers "to desktop computers" (general PC AdWords). These offer-based ads employ the same CPC model as other AdWords types. Advertisers are charged when users click on these ads/offers. 

There are many interesting things about this. One is the business model: Google could move off it's click-based billing here. It could charge based on leads or a per-user bounty. But CPC pricing makes it simple for everyone. 

Another very interesting thing is the extension of Offer Ads to the PC. This move provides a new way to track online-offline activity within AdWords. While there's not a true "closed loop," the clicking on or capture of an offer will strongly imply (like calls) that users will be going to local stores to redeem. 

Another interesting thing is the way in which mobile ads are starting to influence PC-based ads. I would expect most national retailers and some categories of local businesses to experiment with and advantage of Offer Ads as it rolls out more broadly. 

What Is a Local Ad in Mobile?

The folks at BIA/K have updated their mobile forecast: $2.9B by 2014 in the US. I have some critiques of their assumptions, which I won't focus on now. But there's something in the press release that raises an interesting larger philosophical question around "accounting" and forecasting in the local-mobile ad space. It's an issue I've been thinking about for the past six months and this gives me an opportunity to write about it.

BIA/K says that local will represent 69% of US mobile advertising in 2014: 

BIA/Kelsey expects U.S. mobile local advertising revenues to grow from $213 million in 2009 to $2.03 billion in 2014 (57 percent CAGR). This represents 44 percent of total U.S. mobile ad revenues in 2009, growing to 69 percent in 2014.

This is a huge percentage and it begs the question: "what's a local ad?" Accordingly this is the part I want to focus on:

BIA/Kelsey defines mobile local advertising as that which is targeted based on a user’s location and/or actionable locally. Local targeting occurs to varying degrees and with different methods within each of the advertising formats examined in the forecast (search, display, SMS).

Again: "targeted based on a user’s location and/or actionable locally." Let's unpack this a bit. 

Arguably all product advertising in mobile is "actionable locally." For example a mobile display ad for a Sharp TV becomes "actionable locally" if it prompts me to head into a retail store and look at or buy the set. It may or may not have a "local call to action." And over on Screenwerk I've argued for five years that product search needs to be considered a part of local because that's where most of the transactions ultimately occur -- in stores. 

But transaction-location swallows almost all commerical activity and some people may feel that's too broad a concept. Similarly "actionable locally" is vague. I believe what they're trying to get at however is something like a coupon that needs to be redeemed in a store or a business service that must be fulfilled offlline.

But here's an interesting hypothetical that illustrates the challenge with this idea. What about a Gap ad (discount/coupon) in a mobile app that equally applies at all Gap stores across the US? How should this ad be categorized; is it a national ad or a local ad?

It may target audiences across the US equally and it doesn't necessarily contain local ad copy (in fact it probably wouldn't at this stage). Maybe it's exclusively for in-store purchases but maybe there's an e-commerce component (which is increasingly true for retailers: channel agnosticism). There may be a secondary or subordinate link on a landing page to a store locator. Absent any other local copy does this store locator make it a local ad? (More on that later.)

There are several considerations that are relevant to defining a local ad in a mobile context: targeting methodology, ad copy and ad format. Because users who see ads on mobile devices are always somewhere that can be pinpointed quite precisely, every mobile ad has the potential to become local in a way not possible on the PC. 

Millennial Media reported that in October roughly 18% of all display campaigns it saw were geotargeted. Here "geo" is defined quite broadly to include country and state. Given that marketers can target mobile users with great precision, what level of geo is required before we call an ad local?

Picture 27

Does an ad need to be targeted down to the DMA or city level to be considered local? Or would we be willing to call ads that target France, for example, or all of New York local? I don't have an easy answer but I would argue we'd need to get down to at least the DMA level. We could call a state-level ad "geotargeted" (because it is) but "local" implies something more narrow.

Now to ad copy. Clearly an ad that contains city-level references would seem to qualify as "local."

The ad below, from a JiWire-run campaign (online), was a national buy that dynamically inserted local references to make it appear more relevant to users in specific markets. But it did this across the US; it was not otherwise a "local" ad. There was no local call to action, no store locator; it was a pure brand campaign that happened to include location references. Is this a "local" ad?

Picture 28

Now back to the "store locator" issue. Recall my "first date with iAD." I saw an ad for Klondike Bars. There was nothing local in the content of the ad, except that it did offer a store locator of sorts ("find a bar"). Is this a "local" ad?

Screen shot 2010-09-20 at 5.28.25 AM

My view is that most brand-oriented ads in mobile are going to contain dealer or store finder capabilities as a matter of course. It will essentially be a "checkbox." This is because the phone and its functionality (maps) permit it -- so why wouldn't you do it? It makes brand messages actionable locally. Buick? Find a dealer. Klondike? Find a bar. Marriott? Find a room.

If we consider these local ads then more and more mobile display moves over into the "local" column. That raises a related issue: ads with phone numbers in them.

As I just argued mobile ads (whether search or display) will routinely have store locators or links to maps. But they will also increasingly show phone numbers too -- again because of the way the inherent capabilities of the handset can be invoked. Does a national, brand-centric insurance ad buy (e.g., State Farm) become local if it contains an 800 number that routes calls to local offices? What if it has a dynamically inserted local tracking number but no other local element? 

While an ad for a local sushi restaurant is clearly a local ad (one town, one restaurant), some of these other scenarios (national --> local) are much more ambiguous. And as I suggested, location and local ad copy will increasingly be dynamically inserted based on a national database of locations, ad copy and images. Google is already doing this in mobile today. 

There's somewhat less ambiguity when it comes to search advertising but not much less.

The focus for small business will be less on buying mobile advertising per se than getting exposure broadly across platforms via channel enablers. There will be some mobile-specific activity by SMBs (e.g., Foursquare marketing, Facebook Deals) but most marketing will not be mobile-centric. Indeed, very few true SMBs will be buying PPCall ads on Google. Most of the action for SMBs in mobile will be about organic distribution.

For the foreseeable future most of the "local" advertising on mobile devices will be bought by enterprises that otherwise seek regional or national reach but local stores, dealers or outlets. Thus we return to the various scenarios above and the question of what do we consider a local ad in mobile?

It's a much harder question to answer than it seems.

Under the broadest definition of "local" the category swallows the lion's share of mobile advertising going forward. And we can manipulate the definition of "local" to make the category larger or smaller. But where we place ad revenues is less important than how consumers are interacting with mobile devices and what sort of marketing or advertising methods are effective in reaching them. 

Survey: Store Locations Most Important LBS Data for Consumers

JiWire, which manages advertising at more than 300,000 public WiFi locations, has issued another quarterly report with data about attitudes and behaviors of mobile users (including users on laptops). Part of the data comes from a survey of "1,200 customers randomly selected across JiWire's Wi-Fi Media Channel from July 2010 - September 2010."

Here are some of the top-level data points and charts from the report: 

  • 89% of respondents said they will use location based applications during holiday shopping
  • 61% of respondents say that store location data is the most valuable/important feature of LBS; 33% are interested in product inventory data
  • Roughly 30% are "willing to travel more than five miles to redeem a mobile coupon"
  • 29% cite deals and promotions as the most valuable part of checking in

Intended LBS usage rationale behind usage:

Screen shot 2010-11-17 at 2.26.50 PM

 Checking in and "find a store" within an ad:

Screen shot 2010-11-17 at 2.27.16 PM

How far will you go for a deal (by offer category)?   

Screen shot 2010-11-17 at 2.28.13 PM

WiFi usage by country and US city: 

Screen shot 2010-11-17 at 2.25.59 PM

WiFi usage business locations: 

Screen shot 2010-11-17 at 2.26.19 PM


  • People are more interested in store locations than actual product inventory. But the number of those interested in product inventory (33%) is relatively high vs. the actual availability of product data on the PC or mobile Web. One would think that store location is a kind of proxy for inventory but these findings suggest it's not. 
  • People would like deals and offers as incentives to check in. And they will travel distances to get access to them.
  • 62% of respondents have clicked on/used store location data within ads

Google Hotpot Could Really Shine in Mobile

Yesterday Google launched Hotpot, a local recommendations engine that leverages Web history, your ratings/reviews and those of your network to offer personalized local business suggestions as part of search results. I wrote about it briefly on Screenwerk.

The success of Hotpot in the aggregate and for any individual in particular is based on participation; you actually have to connect with friends and rate places to see the benefits. After about 10 minutes of doing that online I started to feel fatigue (I've also got jetlag). But mobile is where this really has the potential to take off in my opinion. Ratings generated via mobile devices will also show up online as well. 

Right now "rate and review" is a bit buried at the bottom of business profile pages in Google Places/Maps for mobile. But over time it will likely become more prominent, prompting people to quickly rate local business and attractions on the spot. Over time I could well imagine the majority of reviews from the system coming from mobile devices. 

Microsoft: 53% of Mobile Search Has Local Intent

I was on the phone with Microsoft and they presented a statistic in the context of our discussion about Bing and mobile: 53% of mobile searches on Bing have a local intent. I stopped and verified the number and its source. 

Google has said the number is about 33%, but this number isn't based on internal Google data. It repeats a BIA/Kelsey survey figure or estimate. I have suggested to Google that it put out a number based on what it observes in its own query logs. Google has said that 20% of PC based search queries have to do with location.

The Microsoft data, I confirmed, are drawn from internal query log analysis. This is a big deal and a real number based on search user behavior. 

Google Instant: Will It Make a Difference?

Yesterday Google released Google Instant for mobile:

With Google Instant on mobile, we’re pushing the limits of mobile browsers and wireless networks. You will probably notice a big improvement in speed when you search thanks to a new AJAX and HTML5 implementation for mobile that dynamically updates the page with new results and eliminates the need to load a new page for each query.

Google Instant for mobile works best on 3G and WiFi networks, but since the quality of any wireless connection can fluctuate, we’ve made it easy to enable or disable Google Instant without ever leaving the page. Just tap the “Turn on” or “Turn off” link.

Its biggest impact will probably be on Android devices.

The Google iPhone app had search suggestions already, which is very much like Google Instant. In addition I would bet -- though I don't know this for sure -- that the majority of searches on the iPhone are happening either through the app or through the Safari toolbar, where Instant doesn't yet exist. Fewer people on the iPhone, I would imagine, navigate to Google.com on the browser and then search -- though that pattern is probably more true of people using Opera Mini on the iPhone. 

Instant for mobile is part of Google's larger efforts to make search more user friendly (including voice, Maps and Goggles). The company is battling apps to make search a central part of the mobile user experience (as it is on the PC). 

Pew: 7% of Mobile Internet Users on LBS

Pew has released findings from a recent telephone survey (n=3,001) that asserts 4% of PC Internet users and 7% of mobile Internet users are on location-based services such as Foursquare or Gowalla. The first number is in general agreement with Forrester's survey numbers. There are other surveys that have found somewhat higher LBS usage numbers.

Pew found LBS users tend to be male and under 30: 

  • 7% the adults who go online with their mobile phone use a location-based service.
  • 8% of online adults ages 18-29 use location-based services, significantly more than online adults in any other age group.
  • 6% of online men use a location-based service such as Foursquare or Gowalla, compared with 3% of online women.

One of the "issues" here is how questions are formulated and explained over the phone. What definition of a "location-based service" is being used for example? (Pew typically posts survey questions but in this instance they're missing.) In addition, if you asked people about the importance of location on mobile devices the numbers would be far larger. And once again, frustratingly, Pew doesn't segment or break out smartphones vs. non-smartphones. 

Twitter, social networks

Pew does however segment LBS usage by users of Twitter and social networks. Twitter users tend to use LBS much more than other populations. This makes sense in many respects.

If the extrapolate these Pew figures (from the 4% figure above) and turn them into real numbers, we can say that there are about 8 million users of these services in the US.

People want to focus on scale and volume in these discussions. Yet talking about how many users there are today misses the larger point in a way. The larger point is that these services have brought together something interesting and relatively new, combining local-social-mobile, and created a model for a next-generation cityguide, among other things. 

I had been thinking about LBS chiefly in terms of coupons and direct marketing opportunities. However these services can equally be brand engagement tools or mediums. In fact, in some ways they're more effective in that context. They can equally work as new customer acquisition platforms and as loyalty vehicles. 

There's something very interesting going on with LBS and it's important to study that carefully. The market is changing and LBS is a new model for future services. Any of the individual companies may not survive but the larger phenomenon of social + local + mobile definitely will. 

DexOne Releases Upgraded Mobile Apps

Directory publisher DexOne has upgraded its smartphone apps across mutiple platforms, with an emphasis on the iPhone, Android and RIM. The company has also broadened out the app's content considerably from the previous version, integrating events, movies, gas prices and other non-standard YP content. There are also a range of new or enhanced social features.

Users may now directly write and submit reviews through the app, which will be incorporated into the DexKnows online directory as well. Consumers can also share listings information via Facebook, Twitter and email. The Facebook and Twitter sharing/notification is tantamount to a "check-in" though there's no formal check-in capability in the apps at this point. 

Screen shot 2010-11-03 at 10.01.29 AM

In addition to the new and improved native clients, there's an upgraded mobile browser experience and an improved "WAP" browser experience for lower-end phones. Users can also conduct transactions (if available), such as buying movie tickets or making restaurant reservations through OpenTable. 

Deals are coming in the future. Advertisers are incorporated into listings and search results throughout but not specifically "called out" as sponsored links or ads. However they're only presented (at the top) if they're relevant from a location and category standpoint. 

The homescreen of the iPhone app is animated, which can't be turned off right now (though I would recommend that capability). It rotates through a series of widgets, giving users a tour of the app and showing relevant local listings or other content.

Screen shot 2010-11-03 at 10.01.46 AM

I can certainly offer some critical remarks but, overall, there's much more visual appeal, design flair and "personality" in this app vs. the previous one. It should prove to be more engaging and drive new user behaviors among Dex's customer base.