Milo.com last night released its Android app, with an iPhone app to follow. The app is simple. As the picture at right indicates it's a search box and a location box; however it uses current location as the default.
It doesn't have all products and it doesn't have all stores; it's mostly focused on the national retailers and "big boxes." Roughly 50K stores are included, "which cover categories ranging from toys and games to apparel and electronics, and include national retailers such as Best Buy, Nordstrom, Target, and Toys “R” Us, among others."
For the inventory it can serve it works simply and nicely. Milo aims eventually to be comprehensive: to be the Google of local products, as it were. Others in this segment include:
Mobile is a context in which local inventory is particularly interesting and relevant. At the beginning of the purchase process consumers are less interested in where they can buy something (unless they're physically comparing products) and more interested in what to buy, which product. But as they progress toward a decision local inventory becomes increasingly important, ultimately becoming the most important piece of information for a consumer.
That's why "on the go" consumers will value an app such as this -- because generally speaking they're more "ready to buy" than someone at home on a PC doing product research. As an aside the conventional wisdom that consumers use mobile devices when they're not using PCs is not entirely accurate. There is some substitution ("cannibalization") going on, especially at home with the iPad. But consumers will increasingly use mobile devices as their first choice device over time. So you will see people using mobile apps at home instead of the PC, as well as moving back and forth between the PC and mobile devices.
One of the other things that Milo and the other companies trying to bring inventory data to the Web are doing is making more transparent the fact that products belong in the "local" bucket as well. Most pundits and analysts have treated products as exclusively within the domain of e-commerce -- e-commerce vs. bricks and mortar -- and that's simply not true.
The vast majority of online-influenced product buying happens offline. Only about 4% of products are purchased online but the Internet influences an increasing number of the 96% of transactions that happen in the real world. The Forrester number that you sometimes see quoted or cited, about online-influenced offline transactions, is pretty speculative. But it's directionally accurate -- a kind of placeholder for an actual, empirical number.
A piece on the radio this morning prompts me to write this. Currently it's legal in California (but not everywhere) for the FBI or other law enforcement to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle and collect data from the movements of that device without first obtaining a warrant. As indicated, there's conflicting federal law about whether a warrant is or should be required in such circumstances.
This is yet another situation in which technology is way ahead of the law. But it's an issue that will probably come before the US Supreme Court in the not-too-distant future.
Location based technology and GPS-enabled devices make it possible to monitor the movements of large numbers individuals in ways that simply weren't feasible just a few years ago. Whereas physical surveillance previously was time consuming and labor intensive, now law encouragement can place devices on/under cars -- or perhaps soon track smartphones -- and watch many people and their movements simultaneously. By correlating those movements with other location data and information they can effectively determine the businesses and people that those under surveillance are visiting and associating with.
Is this a violation of the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment? Does it implicate the First Amendment and the right to privacy? Does it impact free association and the right to assemble? Clearly privacy advocates think so. However, a conservative US Supreme Court (assuming a case arises in the next few years) would likely affirm the legality of warrantless GPS surveillance. The US Supreme Court has been eroding the protections of the Fourth Amendment and its prohibitions against unlawful search and seizure for quite some time.
Allowing warrantless GPS "searches" or surveillance would represent another major step in that process. Should people have a "reasonable expectation" of privacy about their movements throughout the day? That's one of the questions raised by GPS surveillance.
We should pay attention and be concerned about such things. It's not that far from warantless GPS searches to requiring all cars to incorporate GPS chips that would allow law enforcement to routinely track people wherever they may be. In such an instance it wouldn't be hard to imagine speeding tickets automatically mailed to people after their cars transmit speeds back to law enforcement that are in excess of posted limits. And there are many other unpleasant scenarios to contemplate.
Location technology is a terrific thing and enabling all sorts of consumer conveniences and benefits, as well as new business models. But there's a dark side to all of it and we collectively need to be vigilant about privacy rights and make sure that complacency doesn't make possible some of the unhappy scenarios I describe above.
On Friday Mobile Marketer published an article, based on a talk given by Google's Mike Steib in New York. The article appeared to "announce" a new Google couponing effort called "Google Offers":
“The Holy Grail for local advertising is location-targeted coupons, and we’re building Google Offers to enable that, as well as click-to-call functionality for nearby businesses,” Mr. Steib said. “If you have the ability to reach out to consumers nearby and pull them in using mobile, it’s great for consumers and advertisers.”
I had an opportunity to talk to Google on Friday (though not Steib) about this, as well as its $1 billion in mobile ad revenues and other subjects of interest. Most of the conversation was off the record. However my conclusion is that "Google Offers" is much more of an idea than a product at this point. What the talk in New York really means is that Google sees locally oriented advertising on mobile devices, driving calls and foot traffic into stores, as very powerful and desirable both for consumers and merchants.
Part of that calculus is coupons, which more than any other advertising vehicle have a direct impact on consumer purchase behavior. Currently SMBs and others with Places pages on Google can offer coupons. However Google needs to do a better job of surfacing those coupons in order to gain consumer notice and further merchant adoption. Somewhat more visible are Google "Tags," which can also be coupons.
There's also the broader question of how deeply Google wants to get into coupons. Does the company, for example, want to integrate them into Google Shopping/Product Search or limit them to service businesses exposed via Local/Maps? Would Google create a "coupon destination," as others have done, including Yahoo and Ask?
I'm sure that Google has looked carefully at the "daily deals" segment as well. But so far the company has declined to either buy a company or mimic the offering. However it did recently invest in a company called Signpost, which is in the same general space.
It's clear that Google does want to get more deeply into local deals and coupons and is trying to figure out what's the best, most scalable way to do that. It also appears there's no new product (ad) announcement coming in the immediate future.
It appears, without much fanfare, that Yahoo Answers has now gone mobile. It's a "Web app" so there's no download. It should accordingly work on most if not all major smartphone platforms through the browser.
The failure (until now) to mobilize Answers has been a big "missed opportunity" for Yahoo. It has a huge Answers community and should have mobilized the product some time ago. However now that it has the question is: will it be widely used?
The company has done a nice job with the interface but I don't find it to be a particularly interesting or useful on the go. Beyond the nicely designed UI there is little recognition of the differences between PC users and mobile users, whose needs and interests are more immediate and in some cases quite different.
For example, there's no "local" angle other than browsing prior answers, which are difficult to navigate and not necessarily relevant.
Loyal Answers users will likely appreciate and use it on the go. Otherwise it's not particularly useful for mainstream consumers who aren't already hooked into the Yahoo Answers community and who may be seeking information in near real time. However Yahoo says that the community is so large that responses come in quickly with little latency. That may well be.
In my limited usage of Answers over the past few years, I've found quality to be uneven. Sometimes it's effective and sometimes answers are weak or too general. Ask.com is preparing to launch its mobile Q&A app and we'll see how that performs.
Otherwise there are more than a dozen "social search" or Q&A services, most of which fail to really be useful enough to replace the conventional search box or specialized apps.
Voice-initiated searches on the Google iPhone app account for about 7% of overall Google search query volume on the iPhone, according to search-based ad network Chitika. By contrast Google CEO Eric Schmidt said previously that 25% of Android-based Google searches in the US market are initiated by voice.
Below is a chart reflecting Chitika's data, based on millions of queries, that show the proportion of voice to non-voice initiated Google queries on the iPhone. While all Google voice search queries come from the Google app, the non-voice queries presumably are distributed across the app, Safari toolbar and Google.com mobile site.
The data in the chart above may not be exactly reflective of all voice search on the Google iPhone app. But let's assume that they are generally correct. That makes the two numbers cited (voice on iPhone vs. Android) very interesting -- and curious. There are other voice search apps on the iPhone (e.g., Bing, Dragon Search, Yahoo) and we don't know what those queries volumes are at the moment or how they compare to the Google breakdown of voice vs. text-based search.
The volume of voice-initiated search queries (25%) on Android is striking by comparison the 7% iPhone number. Google has more deeply integrated voice into the Android platform and may have trained people to use it more frequently accordingly. I can't explain the discrepancy otherwise.
GroceryIQ, which is owned by Coupons Inc., just launched a PC website -- I had assumed they already had one. Previously GroceryIQ was just a mobile app. But the new site allows cross-platform shopping list creation and adds considerable convenience and utility. There's also coupon-based email marketing as part of the package from Coupons.com partners/customers.
I write about it because this sort of cross-platform utility is what will win categories. Very few mobile-only sites will succeed over the long term. Or, if they do, they'll be scooped up (like GroceryIQ) and turned into something larger. By the same token sites that are PC based but don't have a mobile component will be similarly vulnerable over time to competitors.
The GroceryIQ app has been downloaded more than a million times according to the company.
Amazingly ChaCha announced last night that the company had raised another $20 million from new investors VantagePoint Venture Partners and Rho Ventures. I believe that brings total funds raised to date to over $70 million.
From the release:
ChaCha has answered nearly one billion questions in the past two years alone, having surpassed even Google in mobile text search, according to Nielsen. ChaCha is the industry leader in text-based advertising and has emerged as the single best place to reach the youth market in any medium. Between online Top 100 website, www.ChaCha.com, and mobile platforms, ChaCha reaches over 15 million unique users every month.
In the course of answering questions, ChaCha creates a clever dialog with its users, which ends with a marketer's call to action. Additionally, the company will soon deploy a new MMS service that will deliver movie trailers, other video, coupon images, and rich media ads to virtually all phones, not just smartphones.
I just wrote about the new ChaCha.com at Search Engine Land. Here's some of our past writing about ChaCha at I2Go:
SMS is the single best medium to reach teens and young adults in the US (perhaps globally) and ChaCha may be the best platform for teen and youth-targeted SMS.
Local ad platform xAD (formerly V-Enable) just announced that it had raised $4 million Emergence Capital. It also announced that it is profitable, growing 20% per month and "serving 200m local search ad requests per month." The company also says it delivers 10 million calls per month.
xAD said it will use the money for technology upgrades and development.
The company operates LocalAdXChange which was one of the first local ad networks for mobile. It takes inventory (ads) from many sources, including yellow pages publishers, and delivers those ads to a growing list of publishers across its network. It also optimizes ads across sites and by geography.
In the past 12-18 months a number of other local and local-mobile ad networks have launched:
AT&T Interactive should also be considered a network and provides lots of inventory to others, including Bing.
Where there was once almost nothing now the segment is very crowded with local and local-mobile networks. That's good for advertisers and publishers both.
Generally speaking CTRs, engagement and performance of mobile ads beat the PC. In my previous post I discussed data that suggest mobile uses are better and more immediate prospects for local ads (or locally targeted ads) than PC users.
Google has been telling people that "one-third" of mobile queries have a local intent. But this is based on a BIA survey number (probably extrapolated from roughly 1K respondents) and should be taken with caution accordingly. It's probably not a "bad" number but it's ultimately a directional estimate. Google should come forward with a mobile number that's based on its own query data internally.
By contrast to the survey number, Google reported some time ago that about 20% of PC queries had a local intent. That was based on actual query observation and it's only a very general estimate. I would argue the number is actually larger but it gets into gray areas quickly. Regardless, it stands to reason that the local number should be larger in mobile.
The challenge of course is defining what is a local query. On the radical fringe I argue that most product-related searches should ultimately be considered local because more than 95% of products are purchased in stores. However that's not a position held by anyone else to my knowledge.
Microsoft recently presented a mobile query analysis on a panel I moderated at the SMX conference in New York earlier this month. Below is a slide that Microsoft's Jamie Wells showed during that panel. It reflects, based on Microsoft internal analysis, that 27% of queries in mobile show intent to take action locally. It also shows that mobile searches tend to be more commercial than PC based searches.
Previously Microsoft reported that 70% of mobile (Bing) users start and complete a search process ("query chain") in one hour vs. one week on the PC for comparable behavior.
Taken together these data communicate that mobile users are doing more commercial searches, which are more likely to be acted on locally -- and generally within a very compressed time frame (an hour or so). All this means that ultimately mobile is going to be a better platform for locally oriented advertisers than the PC.
There was an interesting conference session recently that involved Foursquare and the company's next phase of development. According to AOL's Daily Finance, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley suggested that at some point Foursquare might try and get users to link their credit cards to their accounts. On a more mundane level he also said that there would soon be more tangible incentives for consumers to check-in:
Dennis Crowley, co-founder of social networking website Foursquare, says businesses may soon offer consumers the option to link their credit card to their favorite social networking website, or the opportunity to earn a slew of new incentives to actively promote an advertiser's products and services . . . Crowley . . . acknowledged that his website . . . is looking at models where local store owners could offer incentives for users who "tweet" or "check-in" each time they frequent a location. Some advertisers already offer consumers rewards for "tweeting" when they use a product or service certain companies want to market. Crowley expects this type of practice to increase.
Foursquare got its start with "game dynamics" but they are not enough to push the service mainstream. The possibility of becoming the mayor of some local business is not interesting to most people -- and not even possible for ordinary people. Getting a deal or reward is much more interesting however. Such incentives already exist on Foursquare and some of its rival sites.
Foursquare offers both the potential to be a new customer acquisition platform and a loyalty tool for businesses. For example I was in a bar in Dallas and was told that one could get "free chips and salsa for checking in." We did so and viola . . . lots of unwanted carbs came to the table. But I was already there.
The key is to both get new customers in the door (nearby deals does this to some degree) and reward customers for their patronage.
The mayor concept does this but there can be only one. Broadening the mayor into a "city council" of sorts -- to a group of people -- will be more effective to reward and encourage loyalty. In other words, anyone who checks in X times, gets Y reward.
Regardless the model needs to evolve if it's going to move beyond the minority of mobile users it current attracts.
Location platform and data provider deCarta made a flurry of announcements today that seek to position the company as the leading alternative to Google for local search content, maps and related services for carriers and handset OEMs. The company announced some new partnerships, a new navigation application and an upgraded map-based local search offering, MapSearch.
Here are the components:
The quote in the release from deCarta CEO Kim Fennel is very telling in terms of the pitch to partners: "MapSearch is all about delivering control of state-of-the-art mobile local search applications back to the MNOs and Handset OEMs."
Telenav offers a similar value proposition and positioning, although it's not quite as broad a product offering.
Canada's Yellow Pages Group annonced that its popular YPG mobile app would be pre-loaded on some BlackBerry devices from carrier TELUS:
Starting in October, TELUS will preload the popular Yellow Pages™ mobile application on select TELUS BlackBerry™ smartphones activated by TELUS consumer clients. The app, which has already been downloaded over one million times, allows users to quickly look up information about millions of Canadian businesses by category, name, or location. Business lookups conducted on the TELUS mobile web portal will also be powered by the YellowPages.ca search engine.
But what's most interesting is that the app will include connection to an enhanced DA/concierge service:
This partnership also includes options for TELUS mobile customers to complete a voice-assisted search and to receive confirmation or address information via text message. An optional "concierge" service will also be made available allowing mobile users to connect with a TELUS 411 agent to provide additional assistance such as driving directions or accommodation reservations related to search results.
There's no word on pricing in the press release but I suspect this service is billed on a per call basis. But because of its tie-in with the YPG app it is differently positioned than pure DA. You'll invoke it when you need specific, additional help. I'll be interested to hear how the app and the DA feature work together and how popular the enhanced service is.
To my knowledge this is a novel implementation and integration of DA into an app, although I know that Tellme had some very ambitious and non-traditional plans for "enhanced" DA services (which may never be realized).
Location is a problem that's now mostly solved on mobile devices. Through network location, triangulation and/or GPS, most ad networks now have access to location on mobile handsets. That means ads can be targeted and served with great precision -- unlike on the PC, which is still mostly stuck in the reverse IP lookup world.
The issues with location-based ads in mobile now revolve around secondary but important questions like:
The easiest way to get scale and to create a call to action is to add a store locator or product finder. This can be done simply as one creative element of a display or rich media campaign. See for example the most unlikely of ads to include a store locator: Klondike Bar.
It created a simple, offline call-to-action in what was otherwise a brand campaign (iAd):
Interestingly Dynamic Logic just wrote about best practices surrounding calls-to-action in online display (brand) campaigns. What it found was that time-based calls-to-action were most effective in generating action/response from consumers:
In mobile the universal call-to-action should be location.
While there are many potential calls-to-action for mobile campaigns, product finders and store locators should and will likely become almost ubiquitous in display and rich media ads. Location is not incompatible with other calls-to-action and can lead consumers to the point of sale or to at least a place where they can see and touch a product -- or take a test drive as the case may be.
I would predict we'll see local as an almost "perfunctory" part of mobile display going forward. The store locator or product finder won't define location-based advertising. But unlike online it will become a check box of sorts that the agency and brand will need to include in their campaigns, when they're not specifically doing something more interesting with location.
Mapquest is reminding users of some nice features in its Mapquest4Mobile, while Bing has updated and added some new features and content to its iPhone app, including maps. Here are the capabilities that Mapquest wants to remind us about:
Bing's updated iPhone app features now include travel, airfare deals and price predictions, which align it with what Bing does online through its Farecast acquisition of a couple of years ago.
Bing also says it has redesigned the iPhone mapping experience "from the ground up":
We enhanced the backdrop so information on the map such as traffic details, business listings, pushpins, labels, etc. could pop. We increased the font size corresponding to larger roads and added neighborhood labels so you can easily identify and convey locations in cities. We have also added what’s Nearby with enhanced map and labels so you can “fly” through a neighborhood and quickly find a local listing. And best of all, you can easily switch between the map view and the list view on the map.
I've been very impressed with the Bing iPhone app and think that, though popular, it remains under-appreciated.
Where announced this morning that it acquired LocalGinger, a small Massachusetts-based group buying platform provider. Where is already deeply into location-based couponing but hasn't to date offered a daily deal program.
The deal was reported as a mix of cash and stock but no specific terms were disclosed.
Where could combine daily deals with very precise location awareness and might be able to offer some interesting and new things (to merchants and consumers) that aren't yet being done in the group buying space -- despite the presence of mobile apps for Groupon and LivingSocial.
Indeed Where is using the term "Flash sales" to suggest that it will use the technology to enable merchants to make time-sensitive offers that are much more time-sensitive (and local) than the current structure of daily deals:
Currently LocalGinger operates in only four small markets. As part of the deal the 10 person LocalGinger team will become part of Where, which will roll out the service nationally over the next couple of months.
Geodelic launched as a consumer site but increasingly it's positioned as a location-based mobile platform for third parties. I previously wrote about this shift:
Now the company is developing what it calls "GeoGuides" for brands and enterprises, which formalizes its white label strategy:
This is a smart direction for Geodelic and I anticipate that it will be fairly successful for the company. Verizon has also reportedly invested in the company, which has raised roughly $10 million to date.
I also anticipate, with some new momentum in this area, that Geodelic will be acquired at some point over the next 12 months. It could well be by Verizon or an OEM. Geodelic competitor and conceptually similar Aloqa was just acquired by Motorola to help the company offer a more differentiated, location-based experience.
Foursquare is fighting a battle on two fronts: trying to stay a step ahead of LBS-check-in competitors and trying to broaden its appeal to more mainstream users. Whether it's Forrester's 4% or Myxer's 11% that have used a mobile "check-in" site, it's not a mainstream phenomenon. And though it arguably has the strongest "brand" other than Yelp in the LBS segment, it doesn't have the most users. That title I believe belongs to Booyah's MyTown.
But last night Foursquare rolled out version 2.0 of its app, which features a number of improvements designed to boost utility, usage and reach. You may have read one of more than two-dozen commentaries, but in the event you haven't here's what's new:
The myFoursquare button is very much like the Facebook "Like" button but a less certain endorsement of the business. It's intended to be displayed on PC business profile pages and adds a venue to your to-do list so you can access it later on your mobile handset.
Game mechanics and even coupons are not going to carry Foursquare into the mainstream. It will be a combination of things, but more content and utility are essential to enable the company to realize its promise as a "social cityguide."
Where's local ad network has gone from "zero to sixty" in record time. This morning the company put out a release that says it has added its 100th publisher and has delivered a billion locally targeted ads in 30 days. In March the company launched its own "hyper-local" ad network in response to what it said at the time was poor and limited local ad inventory from the major networks such as AdMob.
Where now sells ads directly and gets inventory from third parties such as CityGrid as well. In June the company introduced opt-in coupon-based Deal Alerts. And it just announced last week that it was part of the new Microsoft Mobile Ad Exchange.
Where is one of now several pure local and local-mobile ad networks:
Another interesting piece of data that Where released as part of this morning's announcement: "11% of clicks from an ad result in a phone call or directions to a merchant location."
Where has evolved considerably from its original vision as a fee-based location platform for third party content. And the rise of the ad network is now as important if not more important that the consumer business.
Today, we’re happy to announce that in a joint effort with BMW, we have renewed the package of Google services that come with BMW’s ConnectedDrive service. As part of this major update, if you’re a ConnectedDrive customer in Germany, Austria, France, Italy and the U.K., you’ll have access to several exciting Google services you’ve never before experienced in a car.
ConnectedDrive is a suite of services that include maps and directions, as well as other Internet content. Major improvements to the Google Maps portion of the service include local-search suggest and new imagery, including Street View. The service is currently only available in Europe.
It doesn't appear there are any ads on the map but that may be something slated for the future. Regardless this is a "branding vehicle" (so to speak) for Google. Google competitors have relationships with other in-car or PND vendors, including Ovi Maps/Navteq and MapQuest. And then, of course, there's Microsoft/Bing and Ford, which are making a big push.
In general we can anticipate that the Internet will be a much more significant part of the in-car/in-dash experience going forward. There's also the "rolling hot spot" phenomenon, where the car provides the connectivity or people have MiFi devices in the car.
Motorola is in a tough spot. The company has seen its fortunes reverse somewhat with aggressive adoption of the Android platform. The next order challenge is differentiating its handsets from other OEMs building off the same platform: HTC, Samsung.
Motorola is trying a number of things to do that. One of those is the awkwardly named "MOTOBLUR" interface/software. Another effort -- using Skyhook Wireless to deliver better location than Google's native location technology -- was allegedly thwarted by Google. (Skyhook is now suing Google.) That's literally another story, however.
Aloqa's technologies and services utilize the user's context (location, identity and social relationships) to proactively inform them of places, events, bargains and other opportunities of which they may choose to take advantage. For example, if Aloqa's software recognizes the user is in a certain region, it will offer him the top events of the day or special offers of leading discounters in the vicinity. Aloqa distributes its product as a mobile application for smartphone platforms, including Android, and more than one million users have already downloaded its software.
Aloqa will further enhance Motorola's MOTOBLUR(TM), which delivers customized content to mobile device homescreens and allows users to access Facebook™, MySpace and Twitter updates -- along with emails, news and favorite apps and widgets -- all in one place. MOTOBLUR(TM) will integrate Aloqa's open, location-triggered mobile push platform to connect users and publishers of location-aware content in real-time.
Aloqa has a million users, according to CEO Sanjeev Agrawal. The company also works with "more than 100 publishers in six countries." Agrawal told me in email that the app will continue to be available to Android and iPhone users independent of Motorola's integration.
The purchase terms were not disclosed. The company only announced $1.5 million in funding. We first wrote about the company a year ago: Aloqa: App Store within an App Store Goes Live.
Geodelic is another company similarly positioned to Aloqa, also providing a platform for location-based content, ads and services. In the wake of this deal they now become a target for acquisition by a carrier or OEM seeking to offer something differentiated and unique to consumers.