Local Search

Geodelic Extends White Label Strategy with GeoGuides

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:

  • GeoGuides: Present brand messaging, information, and offers at targeted locations to consumers in real time, as well as navigation to promotions, events or amenities.
  • Proximity Based Ads: Advertising designed to deliver information and offers based on consumer location.
  • Sponsored Discovery: Associate your brand or business with high value locations, placing marketers and their messages in relevant consumer environments.
  • Comprehensive Brand Guides: Marketers can curate location-based GeoGuides based on brand values and consumer interests.


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. 

New Foursquare Features Make Bid for Utility, Usage and Broader Reach

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 separation of tips and to-dos
  • Everything is now visible on a map (e.g., tips, friends)
  • Profile pages are redesigned to include more information
  • The addition of an online "like" button equivalent . . . add to MyFoursquare.  

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.

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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."


Related: McDonald's Actual Foursquare Test Numbers: 2,865 Check-Ins.


Where's the Scale? WHERE Delivers a Billion Ads in a Month

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.

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Where is one of now several pure local and local-mobile ad networks:

  • Where
  • Local Ad Xchange
  • CityGrid
  • Chitika/LAX
  • Marchex

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.

Google Gets More 'Connected' to BMW in Europe

Google has renewed and expanded its relationship with BMW (ConnectedDrive) in Europe. According to a new blog post:

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 Buys Aloqa to Improve Location, Proprietary Services

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. 

Now Motorola has acquired Munich-based LBS startup Aloqa. According to the press release Aloqa will be integrated into MOTOBLUR:

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.

Weather, Maps Follow Only Games in Apps Race

Last week Nielsen released data based on a recent survey of 4,000 mobile users (geography uncertain) who had downloaded an app within the past 30 days. The survey found that iPhone owners had "an average of 40 on their phones . . . while Android owners report having 25 apps on their phones . . . and BlackBerry owners report having 14." 

Nielsen also reported that "Facebook is the most popular individual app on all of the major operating systems." In terms of categories, games leads followed by weather (strangely) and maps/search.

Here I assume that "search" refers to map-based search or local search given the way the Nielsen has grouped them together -- although it could just refer to general search. 


Skyhook Integrated in Augmented Reality Browser

Skyhook's location positioning capabilities are being integrated into the Layar augmented reality browser for Android. The impact should be better location awareness and precision for Layar. According to the press release: 

Skyhook, the worldwide leader in location positioning, context and intelligence, today announced that Layar, the world's leading augmented reality browser platform, has added Skyhook's Core Engine to its Android application for improved location results.

The Layar Reality Browser displays real time digital information on top of reality in the camera screen of the mobile phone. While looking through the phone’s camera lens, a user can see houses for sale, popular bars and shops, tourist information of the area, play a live game, etc. The Layar platform serves as an enabler for mobile location services – any database with geo-location information can easily be turned in a content layer.

Skyhook's triangulation data was replaced on iOS 4 by Apple's own system, though it remains on earlier versions of the iPhone/iOS.

Simply put, augmented reality has been over-hyped. Everyone knows about Layar but I'm unaware of anyone who regularly uses it for ordinary mobile searches. The concept is very "cool," but the utility is quite limited. The same is true for Yelp's "monocle." It's "cool" but far less useful that Yelp's regular features. 

Augmented reality will be useful as a way to get more information about places, objects (e.g., art) and products right in front of me but it will have a smaller role to play as a replacement for general search. There are other use cases depending on how we define "augmented reality."

Having said that the camera will be an increasingly important content-input mechanism. However this is distinct from augmented reality as I'm defining it. 

As an aside many of the important "augmented reality" patents are owned by early pioneer GeoVector. Someone will probably want to acquire GeoVector if for no other reason than to get its IP portfolio. 

BrightKite Shows Next Phase of Check-in Apps

The novelty of mobile check-ins has largely worn off for the early adopters, hence the arrival of the phrase "check-in fatigue." Fairly quickly it became clear however that Foursquare, Gowalla, MyTown, Yelp and others using check-ins would become couponing or mobile loyalty plays. In some cases there's also branding angle too.

BrightKite was one of the first of the check-in services, if not the first one. But the company has been overshadowed by newer rivals. It created the novel Check.in to address check-in fatigue and LBS fragmentation. Geotoko tries to do a similar thing (aggregation) on the advertiser side and specifically for SMBs -- write once and promote your offer on many apps simultaneously.

BrightKite has been doing some interesting promotions with brands (e.g., Starbucks), as have others. Now there's another one with Visa and McDonalds. People are promoted to go to a McDonalds to subsequently get a $5 Visa card. It's pitched as $5 off on a McDonalds meal, which is a bit of a bait and switch. But the deal will be appealing to many BrightKite users.

To get the deal, of course, you have to physically visit a McDonalds and check in:  














The power of this is that the ad unit leads you to a nearby McDonalds and the check-in closes the loop on the promotion for the merchant. The problem and challenge for brands and merchants is the relatively small audience of users overall for LBS-check-in apps and the even smaller one for any particular publisher, in this case BrightKite. 

While the overall audience is around 10 - 12 million in the US (based on the apps' self-reported numbers) this is still a pretty small audience. Yet it's wise for brands and marketers to be testing programs like this to see how they perform and how consumers react. This is one model for the future of mobile advertising: incentives to visit a store or retail location.

Google and others are doing similar things with maps and local search on mobile devices. And this is what's new and really compelling about mobile (beyond general ad performance): the ability to deliver someone to a store or physical place at a time of interest or need. 

These sorts of deals and promotions have the capacity to help push check-ins beyond the early adopters into the mainstream. Though deals by themselves may not be sufficient. Facebook because of its size and installed base also can help mainstream check-ins with Places. However that remains to be seen. But I believe the game dynamics and competition around badges and status is by themselves are unlikely to push LBS further into the mainstream.

Apple's 'On the Grid' Highlights LBS Apps

Apple has collected about a dozen location-based apps in a new featured iTunes area called "On the Grid." While there are many more apps that offer location as a central element of the experience -- yellow pages apps for example or various cityguides -- the bias appears to be  toward check-in style apps.

Apple should recognize that location and check-ins are not entirely synonymous.  And I would expect the selection to grow over time. Here's what's there now:

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Third party sites that monitor the app store recently indicated that it now exceeds 250,000 apps from more than 50,000 developers. Here's the distribution of apps from 148Apps.biz. Somewhat surprisingly books has taken the top spot from games.

CardStar Launches iPad App, Coupons

Mobile loyalty platform CardStar launched an iPad app. It expands the functionality of the company's earlier iPhone app (and other smartphones) by adding coupons and deals that are tied to users' registered loyalty cards. In other words you see the deals for the companies whose cards/programs you've registered on the app. 

Here are the features of the new iPad app:

  • Scissor-Free Coupon Clipping & Hassle-Free Redemption – To select a coupon, drag and drop it onto the corresponding merchant’s digital loyalty card inside of CardStar for iPad. To redeem saved coupons, simply use the loyalty card at checkout
  • Retailer & Manufacturer Coupons – CardStar currently partners with numerous retailers and coupon providers, including Zavers, to provide a wide range of saving opportunities.
  • Personalization – CardStar helps avoid information overload by only sending coupons for retailers saved in a user’s CardStar card catalog.
  • Filtering – CardStar offers filters so users can easily see coupons they’ve previously selected or search for those from specific brands.
  • Social Sharing – Coupons can be e-mailed to friends and family through the app and users can also automatically check in through Foursquare at checkout.

One of the nice things about the new app is that offers saved on the iPad are in the "cloud." So they're automatically logged on the iPhone and other smartphone apps.

People obviously aren't going to bring the iPad to the point of sale. But they can browse deals on the couch and associate them with their registered loyalty cards. By using the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry apps at the POS, users automatically get the benefit of the coupons previously "clipped" on the iPad accordingly. 

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In addition, one spouse can clip coupons on the iPad and the other one can use the CardStar smartphone app and get the benefit of those coupons at the POS without any knowledge of the spouse's prior iPad clipping activity. 

Adding coupons (tied to loyalty cards) is a logical move for CardStar, whose iPad app becomes something analogous to the Sunday circulars. And the automatic linkage of the deals to the loyalty card/account offers a "closed loop" to merchants. CardStar told me that they're were going to greatly expand the variety and range of coupons offered. However I believe offers presented will remain largely "personalized" via the filter of existing loyalty memberships.

CardStar is compiling some fantastic data on user behavior that it can use in a variety of ways to be determined. The company says it's had two million downloads since launch in 2009 and currently has 700,000 active mobile users. 

See our earlier posts on CardStar:

TappLocal: Another New Local-Mobile Ad Network

The sleepless bloggers at TechCrunch profile TappLocal, a new LBS entrant that reportedly wants to build a local-mobile ad network. It's partly or largely directed at SMBs and it sounds a little like Foursquare meets Placecast:

TappLocal uses their backend to create a geofence around certain partner venues. When a user crosses that boundary and happens to be using one of the partner apps, a deal indicator will pop-up. A quick click on this area will open a larger area explaining exactly what the deal is. Simply click one more time to verify you wish to use the deal, show it to the store that it’s valid at, and you’re good to go.

The company has two "franchises": nearby, proximity marketing and time-sensitive deals:

Hyperlocal means in closer proximity than just local. Generally this is measured on a more granular basis such as a neighborhood, intersection, or even meters. TappLocal uses advanced GPS technologies, mobile smartphones, and a network of mobile applications to target users as closes as +/- 3 meters* to visit your business. 

This platform allows you to instantly notify users, in real-time, of a sale to move perishable items, or to instantly get customers in your door. Imagine being able to put a time-sensitive deal, selling unsold pastries for half off 2 hours before closing, or half off drinks to fill your business with customers from 3:00-5:00pm. Our network would send an alert to all users in the metro-region alerting them that for the next 2 hours they can get your pastries half off, or from 3:00-5:00pm they can get drinks half off. Furthermore, you have complete control over the offer, so it can be whatever you like.

To the extent that TappLocal is trying to attract SMBs it will encounter the familiar -- or perhaps not so familiar to them -- challenges of educating the market and then signing up advertisers. 

There are a range of other local ad networks online and/or in mobile. Here is a partial list:

  • Chitika (LAX)
  • CityGrid (IAC/Citysearch)
  • Google
  • Groupon/LivingSocial/daily deals
  • Local Ad Xchange 
  • Marchex (calls)
  • Where 

All the major mobile networks offer geo-targeted ads as well.

My guess is that TappLocal will "backfill" with inventory from these networks as it tries to build its own inventory. But again, it will encounter major challenges in acquiring small business advertisers.

Geodelic Does White Label Deal with Clear Channel

Clear Channel Airports, a division of Clear Channel Outdoor, has partnered with Geodelic to create a co-branded airport-centric local search app called FLYsmart. It offers fairly comprehensive information about services, flights, transportation, as well as places to eat and shop within and nearby the user's airport of choice.

Presumably Clear Channel will be extending its ads into the app, appropriate to the location and airport in question.

I found it to be a nicely done application, with a number of ways to view desired information (carousel view, list or map view). I'm not a fan of the Geodelic carousel. According to the press release:

FLYsmart is available now for free download for the iPhone smart phones, with an Android version expected to be released soon. A BlackBerry version is slated for release in early Fall. The app will initially be launched in ten of North America's largest airports including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle. New airports, of all sizes, will be added each week.

Dedicated to airport advertising for more than 30 years, CCA is the premier innovator of contemporary display concepts that currently handles more than 200 airport programs across the globe. CCA has a presence in 32 of the top 50 U.S. markets with major airports.

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Geodelic has done co-branded projects in the past, with T-Mobile initially and then Universal Studios. In each case users get the Geodelic-branded app as part of the partner app (T-Mobile offered a branded version of Geodelic). The same is true with FLYsmart; Geodelic is one of the options (screen far right). 

The company will likely pursue a dual course, doing more partner deals like Clear Channel while continuing to try and build its consumer brand and usage -- a much more challenging proposition. But the co-branded download also provides Geodelic with a kind of backdoor into consumer usage.  

Nokia Builds Mobile Craigslist for Developing Countries

There have been other mobile classifieds marketplaces but none with the potential heft of Nokia. Craigslist has many associated third party apps on the iPhone that mobilize its listings content; eBay of course has had great success in mobile, to name two big names. 

Nokia has now created Listings, a sales and services marketplace aimed right now at the developing world. It's only available in India during the beta test. 

The downloadable app features several categories of information:

  • Buy & Sell – Find or post items for sale
  • Jobs – Find or post a job
  • Local Services – Access or advertise services such as auto repairs, driver services, plumbers, etc.

The success of such a service is all about penetration and inventory. If lots of people use the service it could become quite successful and potentially generate meaningful revenue on a global basis. User experience is key but more important is getting the listings content into the system so that users show up.

The service is also more likely to succeed in countries where there aren't already established online marketplaces, which means developing nations primarily. Yet if the content is there and the UX is good enough it could potentially compete elsewhere in world, in Europe perhaps.

Why It May Be Time to Buy Skyhook

The news that Skyhook's triangulation data had been replaced on iOS 4 with Apple's own proprietary system is seemingly very bad for Skyhook Wireless. Apple was the company's sexiest and most visible client. I confirmed that had happened last week with founder Ted Morgan.

Here's how the WSJ presented the news this morning:

Beginning with iPhone operating system version 3.2, which was released in April, Apple began using its own proprietary database of WiFi access points to help determine the location of a mobile device. Apple disclosed the change in a July 12 letter to U.S. Rep. Edward Markey and Rep. Joe Barton. The congressmen had asked Apple to explain its privacy policy after the computer maker alerted users in June that it would be collecting location data in order to provide location-based services . . .

The move is a blow to Skyhook, a startup that helped pioneer the practice of mapping WiFi networks to determine location. In 2008, Apple tapped Skyhook to provide WiFi-based location services for the new iPhone and iPod Touch. In the same letter to Congress, Apple also said it has stopped using Google for location data.

But this is also a moment of opportunity for Skyhook and the time may be ripe for an acquisition by a third party. Skyhook arguably has the best location database in the market -- Morgan says so and believes it. It's undoubtedly better than Apple's new system and better than Google/Android (for sure).

Skyhook has raised (by my count) just under $17 million in funding and so would not be terribly expensive for an Apple, a Google, a Nokia, a Samsung or a Microsoft to pick up, given the strategic nature of location on mobile devices. Skyhook's challenge, however, may be the perception that its database can be replicated or recreated with sufficient time and effort. 

Apple is perhaps unlikely to make the Skyhook acquisition given the recent development, so perhaps Google or Microsoft should step up and buy the company. Google would certainly benefit immediately from Skyhook's assets and creativity around location products. I'm not sure Skyhook CEO Morgan would like to be a Google employee but perhaps if the price were right . . .


Update: Another reason to buy the company is that it has 15 patents around location and locaton detection.  

Tellme/Microsoft Executive Joins TeleNav

Former Tellme CEO Mike McCue is off with his new company Flipboard; and mobile navigation provider TeleNav has named former Tellme executive Dariusz Paczuski as marketing VP. It also announced Tom Erdman as enterprise solutions VP. 

Paczuski was responsible for Bing and Tellme carrier strategy at Microsoft. Before that he managed consumer services at Tellme. Prior to Tellme/Microsoft, Paczuski was at AOL running search. He was at Netscape and several other online companies before joining AOL.

Paczuski will be responsible for consumer product marketing and mobile advertising and commerce for TeleNav, which is behind many of the carrier GPS navigation tools and products. TeleNav now has to compete with formidable challenges from free navigation services offered by Google, Nokia and Mapquest.

Shooger Launches PC Site, Aims for Broad Consumer Adoption

In case it isn't clear, deals, coupons and local offers are very hot and will continue to be. The incredible rise of daily deals (e.g., Groupon) and the evolution of Foursquare as a couponing and loyalty platform reflect this. Indeed, deals have emerged as a uniquely popular and critical form of mobile marketing. I previously discussed data showing significant (100% YoY) growth for digital coupons. 

In the iTunes app store alone there are more than 245 stand-alone apps that respond to the query "coupons." And there are well over 100 daily deal providers in the US market. But how many "vendors" can and will the market support?

Historically coupon sites were plagued by an "inventory" problem; there wasn't enough content there to be useful or that interesting to consumers. Cellfire, an early mobile coupons pioneer, was the exemplar of this problem until the company switched to grocery coupons. This was also a challenge with ValPak's PC site as well. Models that emphasize "push" (daily deals, ValPak's blue envelope) require less "inventory" than "pull" (search) models.

For those publishers, apps and sites seeking to build consumer brands and destinations, aggregation of others' deals has become a key strategy. Yipit, RetailMeNot, TheDealMap, 8Coupons and Shooger, among a number of others, are seeking to be one-stop destinations for offers of various sorts from a broad range of sources. Some of these players also seek to cultivate direct relationships with advertisers as well. 

Accordingly, the coupons and deals ecosystem has "sellers" that own the advertiser or are the source of the deal, consumer-facing brands that distribute offers and those entities that try and do some version of both. ValPak does both, so does Groupon, so does Yelp. Google aspires to do both. Google of course is the ultimate, if imperfect, coupon "aggregator" because search is how most people online find deals. And Ask.com has a dedicated deals site.

In the daily deal segment, Yipit is angling to become a "one stop shop" for consumers. It only distributes others' offers. Shooger, which started in Florida and has recently expanded nationally, also seeks to be a comprehensive consumer destination, though it also allows advertisers to create coupons. The site also now crosses platforms. Shooger just launched its online presence after being exclusively a smarpthone app. 


One of our most popular webcasts was on mobile coupons with Shooger and ValPak. And our next webinar will be on daily deals with Yipit and Closely.

While the entire deals segment shows no signs of slowing winners and losers will emerge in the near future -- though many companies on the consumer side (though not hundreds) can succeed. There's a land-grab going on for consumer awareness and usage. Winning sites and apps will need to offer both great content, which means comprehensiveness outside of the daily deals, as well as superior usability -- and probably cross-platform distribution for maximum and brand-building purposes. 

Shooger is taking aim at all three. 

Report: Local Search on Mobile Growing in 'Double Digits'

Data released today by comScore and the Yellow Pages Association show that local search on mobile devices is growing significantly. The data focus on use of directories and IYPs on mobile (and online). Here are the top-line mobile figures:

  • Mobile subscribers accessing business directories on a mobile phone increased 14% year-over-year to 17.3 million users in March 2010
  • People accessing directories on a mobile device at least once per week increased more than 16% YoY growth to nearly five million in March 2010.
  • Mobile browser was the most common access method for users, with 10.8 million subscribers in March 2010 and 21% YoY growth.
  • Apps grew at a more rapid pace with 42% YoY growth (4.1 million subscribers)


 Mobile IYP users are more affluent and better educated than the general population: 

  • 58 percent are 34 or younger.
  • Over half have a household income in excess of $75,000.

 Study methodology:

ComScore utilized "both 1) a unique survey sample of over 10,000 U.S. respondents each month, resulting in a sample in excess of 35,000 when running 3-month average reports and 2) a meter-based smartphone mobile browser measurement tool based on a representative panel of approximately 2,500 devices."

ComScore has always been conservative regarding how it defines a "local search." These data too likely undercount activity online and on mobile devices directed toward offline purchases and other local commercial behavior.

The slide above also reflects activity on IYP and directory sites exclusively and doesn't look at search engines or locally focused apps in the aggregate. 

Related: Report: Local & Social Huge on Smartphones

Survey: 36% of Retailers Have Mobile Site, 33% Have Apps, 9% Spending $25M+

A recent Research In Motion-Forbes survey of 305 executives at leading U.S. retailers with $100 million or more in annual revenues showed they were mostly bullish on mobile and moving quickly to adopt it as a key customer retention/loyalty and marketing channel. The chief motivation for "going mobile" was the recognition of customer adoption of mobile devices and the desire to capture a "first mover advantage."

Sixty-three percent of survey respondents indicated they were already in market with some form of a mobile program: "in pilot programs" (39%) or "expanding rapidly" (24%). Ten percent said they had "already widely implemented" mobile and only 7% said they "did not plan to pursue," while 20% responded that mobile was currently "under evaluation." 

Of those using mobile 61% said their efforts were "somewhat integrated" with their other maketing/advertising channels. Thirteen percent said their mobile intiatives were "completely integrated," while 17% reported they were "not at all integrated."

Which of the following statements is closest to your company’s attitude/approach towards development of a mobile channel?

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What mobile tactics are you using today—and plan to be using in one year?

Screen shot 2010-07-28 at 5.21.42 AM

What are the main factors that drive your mobile channel efforts?

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How are your investments in the mobile channel performing to date?

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Source: Forbes-RIM (n=305, 4/10)

Recent US consumer survey data from Insight Express found that 82% of respondents were using their mobile devices in the store, while shopping. 

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Source: Insight Express, n=1,300 (Q2, 2010)

A considerable number of retailers (47% in the Forbes survey) are clearly recognizing how consumers are interacting with mobile devices and responding rationally. And another contingent (24%) is responding to competition, following those early adopter-retailers into mobile.

Here's what the Forbes survey revealed were the top mobile spending priorities: 

  • Mobile website -- 30%
  • Mobile redemption/coupons/barcodes -- 29%
  • Mobile advertising (display) -- 27%
  • Downloadable applications -- 25%
  • Database development/obtaining customer opt-in -- 25%
  • Proximity marketing (in-store recognition/interaction on an opt-in basis) -- 23%
  • SMS: two-way communication -- 16%
  • SMS: outbound/informational -- 14% 

The bulk of retailers were spending less than $10 million annually on mobile, with the largest single group (34%) spending under $1 million. However 29% were spending at least $11 million and, of that group, 9% were spending $25 million or more. For 66% of respondents mobile represented 10% or less of their total marketing budgets but they expected mobile spending to grow as a percentage of their overall budgets in the next several years.

The "big picture" that emerges from this survey is that retailers so far see mobile primarily as a customer service and retention/loyalty channel and not as much as a new customer acquisition channel. 

Is 'OnTheFly' a Preview of Google Travel App?

The relatively new ITA OnTheFly iPhone app -- BlackBerry and Android are coming -- provides one of the better mobile travel experiences. The catch is you can't book anything directly with the app. You must go to a preferred airline's app/site or call. The company, which Google is in the process of acquiring, says that its mobile app offers a "demonstration of ITA's QPX airfare shopping engine on a mobile app." 

OnTheFly allows side-by-side airline price comparisons, easy airport and date selection and interactive mapping. Should the ITA deal pass regulatory muster the travel comparison app could quickly become part of a more comprehensive Google travel app/tool.

One of ITA's "properties" is Needlebase, which scrapes, organizes and de-dupes unstructured data from the Web. Here's a rudimentary example of its capabilities:

Screen shot 2010-07-27 at 12.30.00 PM

As you can see all sorts of related content and information have been collected regarding the destination city: events, dining, attractions.

While other OTAs and aggregators provide additional information about destinations and vacations, Google's in a strong position to quickly dominate consumer traffic in the consumer travel segment if 1) ITA's purchase is allowed and 2) it packages the presentation of content in an elegant way -- especially with this broader data. 

Ironically, while the former may be a near fait accompli the latter is not. Google's local and mobile properties are proliferating and it will be somewhat challenging to bring all the data, capabilities and interfaces together in coherent ways. 

Thanks to Gary Price for the tip.

Forrester: Wait 'n' See on Foursquare

Forrester, late to the LBS party, tells most marketers to "wait and see" on Foursquare and other LBS apps/sites. The chief complaint is that adoption is not large enough for most large marketers to care and it's a mostly male audience according to the firm's survey data.

AdAge covers the findings:

Almost 80% of location-based service users are male. Close to 70% of them are between the ages of 19 and 35, and 70% have college degrees or higher. Forrester also found these location-app users to be influential . . . and they are especially receptive to mobile coupons and offers . . . This small audience is still attractive to some marketers. Forrester recommends that gaming, consumer electronics and sportswear marketers lead the way with testing these apps . . .

To its credit Forrester does recommend that some brands and marketers go after this audience, which is acknowledged to be populated with influencers. Here's the survey breakdown:

Image credit: AdAge

While the general underlying advice -- marketer know thy audience -- is sound, the danger is that this data and the coverage surrounding it will create a "negative halo" and cause some marketers to think they can "wait another year" before testing and engaging with mobile in general. They cannot.

There are a number of LBS apps and mobile websites focused on local that are mainstream now (e.g., Google, Yelp, Yellowbook). In addition, retailers and brands should be considering mobile loyalty programs (including SMS) and actively testing them today so that later they won't be in the "trial and error phase" -- while their competitors trounce them with innovative campaigns and best practices developed while they hestitated.

Mobile loyalty marketing and mobile brand marketing have have already proven effective and in many cases much more effective than online. (However mobile shouldn't be considered a stand-alone medium.)

Regarding the 4% audience metrics, they could mislead marketers as well. The US mobile Internet is already 75 million people operating at different levels of engagement. With more people buying smartphones daily those numbers may cross 100 million by the end of this year.

There's also value in being able to test campaigns and marketing tactics outside the glare of major media and large public audiences. In many ways these smaller audiences -- still in the millions -- offer a great opportunity for marketers to try and fail and refine their approaches for broader application later.