The buzz around iBeacons continues this week with a couple new hardware and software technology vendors entering the market for indoor location.
Hardware startup Sensorberg, based in Berlin, Germany, has secured $1 million in funding from Technologie Holding GmbH and undisclosed angel investors. Sensorberg offers various packages to retailers that combine setting up Beacon sensors in stores to deliver mobile marketing campaigns and location features via software developer kits and management dashboards. The prices range from as low as $120 (€89) that includes 3 mini-beacons and an SDK to connect apps to an unlimited package that offers developer resources and enterprise support.
Founded in 2013, Sensorberg began as a startup in the Microsft Ventures Accelerator in Berlin and plans to use the new funding to further develop its platform and build an extensive iBeacon network.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, CA, Datzing is positioning itself as a new competitor to Apple's iBeacon with an Android platform for indoor location technology. Profiled this week at The Verge, Datzing is a software-based startup with patent-pending technology to turn a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi device into a beacon. Datzing doesn’t require purchasing any special hardware to set up an access point. The company plans to launch an Android beta app in March and doesn't rule out the possibility of an iOS option down the line.
While iBeacon is getting more than its fair share of press -- notably, a partnership between ShopKick and American Eagle (AE) Outfitters to outfit 100 U.S. stores with iBeacons and Apple's chain-wide deployment of iBeacons last year -- the push for in-store marketing and indoor location is still in its infancy. This year should present a good opportunity to see how the market plays out.
For the past several years there's been speculation about whether and when Apple might throw its hat into the mobile payments ring. A new patent application (filed in Q3 2012 and discovered by Patently Apple) indicates that Apple is ready to move and introduce an iWallet.
Here's the abstract, which indicates use of two or more technologies to enable the transaction:
A commercial transaction method is disclosed. The method first establishes a secure link over a first air interface by a purchasing device. This secure link is between the purchasing device and a point of sale device. The method further identifies a second air interface, which is different from the first air interface, and the second air interface is used to conduct a secure commercial transaction.
Multiple technologies are discussed, including Bluetooth Low Energy (behind iBeacons), near-field communications (NFC) and RFID The failure to incorporate NFC into the iPhone was regarded generally as a rejection of the technology by Apple in favor of others (e.g., BLE). However the patent application suggests that future iPhones (and iPads) would potentially be compatible with it.
Apple's failure to build NFC into the iPhone is one reason it has stalled in the US. However, as the patent application suggests, NFC in the US may not be dead after all. We'll see.
The precise technologies and methodology described in the application are less important than the existence of the application itself. Mobile payments for offline services or goods are starting to happen but generally not in a "horizontal" context. They're happening today in very specific scenarios (e.g., Uber, Starbucks, parking apps, dining). Google Wallet and carrier-backed Isis, which are broad "horizontal" payments platforms, have largely failed.
Given its installed base of users and credit cards on file Apple could potentially spark widespread adoption of payments by consumers. Apple has more than 600 million consumer credit cards registered. That's quite a bit more than even Amazon and more than PayPal as well.
The payments segment will consolidate in the next 12 to 24 months and there will be a number of additional acquisitions by the major players for technology or to remove competitors from the market.
Ultimately mobile payments -- paying with smartphones for goods or services in the physical world -- will shake out as follows: mass-market/horizontal mobile wallets dominated by a few major players: potentially Apple, Amazon, PayPal, potentially Square and maybe Google. Banks are a wild card.
Otherwise individual apps (including retailers) will offer to store consumer credit card information for faster checkout or frictionless offline payments. But the payments giants will also likely be options within these app/vertical contexts as well (e.g, PayPal, pay with Amazon, pay with iTunes).
Push notifications and mobile marketing platform Urban Airship released data last week that shows how push messaging can boost engagement and app-user retention. The company, which provides notifications functionality for publishers and app developers, compared how opted-in push messaging users behaved vs. those who had not elected to receive notifications in six verticals.
Those verticals were: retail, media, entertainment, gambling, sports and games. The study covered 2,400 apps and more than 500 million push messages during a six month period. At a high level Urban Airship found:
The company also reported that on average just under half of app users opted-in to receive push notifications. Though this is logical and may be intuitive, this is the first time the impact of push notifications has been documented empirically to my knowledge.
The engagement and retention differences among those who received notifications vs. app users who did not varied by industry. But in all cases engagement and retention were boosted, sometimes dramatically.
It may be that those opting-in were more favorably inclined toward the publisher or app and thus were predisposed to be more engaged with the content. However I think it's beyond dispute that push notifications, if used judiciously and correctly, can boost app engagement.
The problem is that most requests to allow notifications come immediately upon download and often before someone has had an opportunity to see the value of an app or of notifications. I routinely opt out because I fear they'll be abused by publishers and I don't want to be constantly interrupted.
Publishers, retailers and marketers should do a better job of explaining the benefits of turning on push messages for the end and perhaps not request an opt-in immediately upon download. It would also be interesting to know, for the 50%+ who did not opt-in, what were their thoughts and rationales.
For at least a decade analysts and car makers have been discussing, debating and forecasting telematics. Until this point, however, telematics has mostly been about in-dash navigation. More recently, with Microsoft Sync and similar inititives, we've seen a move to integrate speech and smartphone-like app experiences into in-dash "infotainment" systems.
Apple, Microsoft and now Google are trying to expand their reach into the "connected car." This year's CES has featured a number of auto-related announcements. Among them -- and arguably the most significant -- is the Google-led "Open Automotive Alliance" (OAA). With the OAA Google seeks to bring Android into the car in a deep way:
The OAA is aimed at accelerating auto innovation with an approach that offers openness, customization and scale, key tenets that have already made Android a familiar part of millions of people's lives. This open development model and common platform will allow automakers to more easily bring cutting-edge technology to their drivers, and create new opportunities for developers to deliver powerful experiences for drivers and passengers in a safe and scalable way.
One can imagine that if the initiative expands and succeeds it will boost Android generally and become a new channel for Google services (i.e., Gmail, Google Maps, Music, Google Play) and advertising.
Early members of the OAA, which mirrors the earlier Google-led Open Handset Alliance, include Audi, GM, Hyundai and NVIDIA. Microsoft currently works with Ford and Toyota via its Sync system. And in 2012 Apple announced partnerships to bring Siri into the car with a number of car makers, including BMW, GM, Mercedes, Audi, Toyota and Honda, among a few others.
It's not clear to me from a technical standpoint whether auto OEMs can built multiple operating system compatibility into their vehicles or whether they'll have to bet on one. However there's much at stake in this "battle for the dash."
The operating systems that "win the car" will see a boost all around. For example, if Android beats Apple and Microsoft in the car it will help Android more broadly in the market, or vice-versa. As in-dash systems become richer and more complete, people will want their devices and apps to be compatible and accessible in the car.
The "battle for the car" also mirrors the so-called "battle for the living room" among these tech titans. It's really a battle of operating systems and ecosystems across multiple platforms.
It's amazing to think that Pizza Hut has been doing online ordering for 20 years. That would mean Pizza Hut took its first online order in 1994 -- way ahead of the curve. And when it comes to mobile Pizza Hut again appears to be ahead of the market.
Today, according to Pizza-industry publication Pizza Marketplace, roughly 30% of all Pizza Hut orders come from the internet. But half of those are now coming from mobile devices, with momentum favoring mobile (smartphones + tablets) over the PC.
The Pizza Marketplace interview is with Pizza Hut's Kevin Fish, senior e-commerce manager. He sums up the company's attitude toward mobile as follows:
It's important that we're where our customers are and that our experience meets and exceeds their needs. The app offers us the opportunity for a highly engaging and personalized experience. Meeting our consumers at their point of need is become more and more important as technology continues to advance. Our opportunity now was to provide the best experience in the industry with enhancements that meet those consumer demands.
Pizza Hut is using its app to not only deliver services but to engage and cement the loyalty of its users. The company also uses location to deliver specific local promotions and offers that aren't necessarily available in all markets nationally.
I'm not a fan of Pizza Hut pizza but the company really has the right attitude toward multi-channel marketing and engagement -- with its mobile app (and all the personalization it allows) now at the center of its "online ordering" strategy.
According to multiple sources roughly 80% of consumer smartphone time is spent in apps vs. the mobile web. However in the retail segment the story is almost the opposite. Most consumers engage with retailers through the mobile web vs. apps. That means loyalty and mobile engagement are more limited in the category.
The exceptions are Amazon and eBay. According to early December data from comScore Amazon and eBay apps dominate the mobile retail category (Apple's #3 status almost doesn't count here because of its privileged position on the iPhone).
The chart below shows leading retailers' audience reach and time spent by device categorty:
Early on Amazon and eBay invested very aggressively in mobile app development vs. traditional retailers and many other e-tail "pure plays." As a consequence consumers downloaded them "early" and have continued to be loyal to these apps.
What comScore doesn't discuss is that eBay and especially Amazon's apps are often used in retail stores to compare prices and for product reviews content. However, as the metrics firm points out, retailers without apps on consumer smartphones are at a competitive disadvantage.
While retail apps are used for buying sometimes, multi-channel retailers need to start thinking very differently about their apps and see them equally as in-store "assistants" rather than just extensions of PC websites. They will also need to expose and lobby consumers in multiple channels on the benefits of downloading their apps. Apps should be seen along with email as part of a broader, more holistic loyalty and engagement strategy.
Startup Expect Labs has launched its MindMeld app after months of being in private beta. A crude but quick way to describe it is: Google Now meets Skype. Expect Labs, founded by Tim Tuttle, describes it as a "voice assistant." But that doesn't really do it justice.
Many bloggers and tech sites are reviewing MindMeld. In a way that misses the bigger picture. The app is really a "technology showcase" or demo for something larger and more forward looking. Expect Labs, which charges $4 for the app, doesn't see MindMeld as a money maker and isn't staking its future on the success (or failure) of the app.
First, here's what MindMeld does: it listens to your conversation, with one or several people, and in real time shows you pages and websites that are relevant to the discussion. The sites and data are coming from various APIs and the internet broadly. If you and your friends are talking about going to New York on vacation, for example, it will start showing hotels, restaurants and things to do based on the specifics of your conversation.
The key challenge here is filtering "signal" from "noise" and finding relevant pages and sites. Expect Labs' CEO Tim Tuttle says that the technology has significantly improved over time and the app has changed somewhat from its inception to its launch today. For example, it used to listen to the entire conversation. However now it will pause and users are required to initiate "searching" via an "OK MindMeld" wake up phrase.
The underlying technology seeks to deliver a better search and discovery experience on devices where the keyboard isn't particularly useful or there's no keyboard. There are myriad inputs into "search results" (anticipatory search results): time of day, location and "context" broadly speaking. If you sign in with Facebook it also grabs other information about you as another relevance input.
Expect Labs' technology, while imperfect, is really the fulfillment of the vision behind Google Now: real-time, useful information that dynamically changes based on context. MindMeld is the "1.0" expression of that vision. Speech recognition is from Nuance but the natural language understanding is Expect Labs' own technology.
There are a number of enterprise use cases in development; and one can see this technology being incorporated into a wide range of general and vertical applications. Google Ventures is an investor, as is Intel. Those are two potential buyers of the company.
The technology is impressive and the major practical question for Expect Labs will be where to focus and how to fully express what the technology can do in a commercial context.
Earlier this year Opus Research held the first conference dedicated to indoor location and its marketing implications: The Place Conference. The theme of that event was how indoor location technology and mapping would change online and mobile marketing across the board, bringing the digital and offline worlds closer together.
At the event we explored the technology, marketing scenarios, privacy considerations, analytics and customer experience improvements that flowed from use of indoor location technology. Three months later we're starting to see increasing momentum in the segment, with new deployments, announcements and some acquisitions (which will increase next year).
Indoor analytics provider RetailNext, one of the speakers at the Place Conference, recently announced the acquisition of Nearbuy Systems. And earlier today AP reported that Apple was now rolling out Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to all of its 254 retail stores. That will pressure and/or embolden other retailers to follow Apple's lead.
Under the radar, most US retailers (and others) have to varying degrees been experimenting with indoor analytics and location. However they've been hush-hush about it, for fear of being criticized as Nordstrom was when it disclosed it was using indoor analytics. But greater public discussion and education around indoor location will change the tone of coverage from "spying" to focus on consumer and B2B benefits.
Apple's March 2013 acquisition of WiFiSlam helped raise the profile of indoor location. The company's new rollout of iBeacons across its retail network will further legitimize the segment.
Indoor location is one element of a larger "ecosystem" of proximity marketing that includes geotargeted mobile advertising, notifications, analytics and online to offline ROI tracking. Mobile payments are also in this mix (see PayPal Beacon). Next year will be an eventful and exciting one for indoor location and place-based marketing.
Place 2014 is coming soon.
Roughly three years ago Steve Jobs opined that search wasn't as central to the mobile user experience as it is on the PC. That sentiment elicited dismissals as naive or self-serving and was generally disputed. This is what Jobs said verbatim:
On the desktop search is where it’s at; that’s where the money is. But on a mobile device search hasn’t happened. Search is not where it’s at, people are not searching on a mobile device like they do on the desktop.
It turns out that when you consider what he actually said, Jobs was exactly right.
Various surveys have found that search is widely used on smartphones. But it's not used as often or as centrally as on the PC. Indeed, search is a more occasional or peripheral experience on smartphones (especially the iPhone), whereas people search many times daily on the PC.
Earlier today Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) released survey data about most frequently used mobile apps among US smartphone owners. The survey measured frequency not reach. This is very important to understand about the data. The firm asked mobile users to identify their "three most frequently used [mobile] apps."
CIRP found that Facebook was the leading and most frequently used mobile app. That was followed by Twitter, Candy Crush and Instagram. The surprise is how low Google Search and Google Maps rank on the list.
Google Maps is #12 and Google (the search engine) is #10. We don't get an analysis of usage by platform (i.e., iOS vs. Android). However I suspect we'd see different rankings on the two platforms, with Google doing better among Android users given search's prominence on the Android OS.
It's unclear how large the sample in this survey was and so we can't tell how reliable these data are. In addition these are self-reported data and not behavioral or traffic data. People often report one thing and do something else.
Having said all that, these data strongly argue that what Jobs said is accurate: "People are not searching on a mobile device like they do on the desktop." Although this has been written about at length in the past, if accurate, this more modest mobile search frequency represents an obvious problem for Google as migration from PCs to tablets and smartphones continues.
Consistent with pre-Thanksgiving weekend surveys, mobile devices (at home and in the store) played a big role on "Black Friday" and will continue to do so throughout the holiday season. Among others, IBM released a trove of US e-commerce and traffic data for Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend shopping.
Here's a snapshot of some of the IBM data:
Separately, e-commerce analytics provider Custora reported that "almost 40%" of online buying on Black Friday came through mobile devices. I'm quite skeptical about the accuracy of this figure; it seems inflated or drawn from too small a sample. IBM's mobile commerce figure is 22%, which is more plausible.
Below is the Custora breakdown of overall US Black Friday e-commerce sales by device category:
While comScore has argued in the past that smartphones are outpacing tablets in terms of mobile commerce -- which makes logical sense because there are many more smartphones -- I'm doubtful of such claims. IBM's figures seem more (directionally) accurate: tablets: 14.4%, smartphones: 7.2%.
Custora said the following about the distribution of mobile commerce by platform:
We could look at a bunch of other reports and try to determine a consensus about how much e-commerce actually took place via smartphones and tablets. What's more important is the recognition that mobile devices are being widely used by US consumers for shopping and product research, and that serious "m-commerce" is now starting to happen (especially on tablets).
Another interesting fact from the IBM data: "on average, retailers sent 37% more push notifications . . . during the two day period over Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday when compared to daily averages over the past two months." The company also said that retail app installs grew by 23% compared with daily averages over the preceding months.
Reportedly Wal-Mart will be offering the HP Mesquite 7” Tablet for $89 on Black Friday. This is a "3.5 star" tablet but should sell out, given the HP brand and the aggressive price.
There are dozens of sub-$150 and even a surprising number of sub-$100 tablets now available. Most of them are "no name" brands and thus may hold US consumers back. That's why the HP brand matters at this price point.
Many of the low-cost Android-based tablets will be bought by parents for kids this holiday season. But the flood Android tablets, of varying levels of quality, inevitably means that the iPad's market share, with its much higher price points, will decline. That doesn't mean that iPad users won't still generate most of the traffic. Currently the iPad is responsible for more than 80% of US tablet traffic.
The tablet race in the US is between Apple, Samsung, Google/ASUS and Amazon. A quick search on Amazon for tablets reveals page after page of inexpensive Android tablets.
It's not clear right now how these aggressively priced Android tablets will impact the market, beyond bringing more users into the tablet realm (to the likely detriment of PC replacement cycles). But will they cut into iPad sales? Perhaps at the margins. Someone buying the $89 HP tablet is probably not in the market for an iPad Air or Mini, however. Such low-cost Android tablets are more likely to impact other Android OEMs such as Samsung or Kindle (Amazon doesn't classify Kindle Fire as an Android OS device).
Amazon threw down the pricing gauntlet for tablets when it introduced the original Kindle Fire for $199. Now there's increasing price pressure on 7-inch tablets (other than Apple) to enter the market at $150 or less. If this HP tablet and similarly priced others prove to be successful that $150 price point may become "institutionalized" for 7-inch Android devices.
Profits be damned.
Last week ShopKick introduced "shopBeacon," which uses Bluetooth low energy (BLE) indoor positioning technology. The company is testing it with Macy's, which has also independently been using indoor location for some time (mainly leveraging WiFi) to enhance its in-store app experience for customers. (See ShopKick demo video.)
ShopKick's adoption of iBeacon is an important move to insert the company back into the in-store shopping conversation. It had been an early pioneer in mobile loyalty, seeking to help retailers drive consumers into stores. But as indoor location has gained momentum ShopKick has largely been on the sidelines -- until now.
ShopKick has a wide range of brands and national retail partners, including Target, BestBuy, Sports Authority and JCPenneys. The company seeks to serve retailers but also "own the customer relationship." Accordingly there's some tension between working with ShopKick and providing a direct indoor-location experience, as Macy's does through its app.
A less-well-known company seeking to do something very similar for retailers is Swirl. Swirl has both a consumer-facing multi-retailer app but also powers the indoor experience for retailer apps through an SDK. Timberland is the company's best-known partner. ShopKick is now also an indoor-location enabler with its shopBeacon BLE beacons.
Apple itself is going to implement iBeacon in its own stores. There are a range of obvious and secondary use cases, including providing enhanced product information and notifications about Genius Bar appointments. Beyond an improved in-store experience, Apple hopes to boost sales through iBeacon. The product can also be used to support in-store mobile payments (see, PayPal Beacon).
It's well established that a majority of consumers have used smartphones in store for research purposes and many are interested in indoor/in-store information. However recent research from ISACA suggests that retailers will need to be judicious about how they use in-store notifications and personalization and not become too "pushy" in trying to upsell and cross-sell consumers.
Another challenge of sorts for retailers with indoor location is the fact that majorities of smartphone shoppers use retailer mobile websites. Indoor-location features are much harder to deliver via websites. Smaller numbers of consumers use retailer apps. This makes sense because apps are typically downloaded and used by a store's most loyal customers, which represent a minority of overall store shoppers.
According to NPD survey data, 71% of smartphone owners access retail websites but only 57% use apps. Many of those apps fall into disuse shortly after they're downloaded. In addition, the survey found that a majority of smartphone shopping-related research was done at home and not on the go, suggesting "that engagement on their smartphone is more of an alternative for online shopping rather than a showrooming tool."
Accordingly in-store information directed at enhancing the customer experience is a way to make apps more relevant and engaging. But as the ISACA study indicates retailers (or mall and venue owners) will need to develop information, content and indoor experiences for customers that are informational and not merely about trying to sell things.
This is a complicated arena for retailers and would-be providers of indoor location and marketing. Experimentation and testing are necessary to determine what's going to "work" for consumers, vendors and venue owners. Macy's is very smart and to be applauded for "getting out in front" of the issue and trying things, notwithstanding the potential exposure to "indoor surveillance" criticisms.
One of the maddening things about the cult of iPhone news coverage is that immediately upon the release of this year's product the cycle of rumors and speculation begins about next year's product. So it was and is with the iPhone 5s.
Essentially the day after the iPhone 5s was announced the iPhone 6 rumors began. Part of that was fueled by disappointment about the iPhone 5s' current 4-inch screen and anticipation of a larger-screen in the iPhone 6 (or "Air" as it's now being called).
Indeed, one feature that most US -- perhaps all -- current and would-be iPhone buyers want from the device is a larger screen -- though longer battery life might be a close second. One of the primary ways that Android handsets have successfully competed with the iPhone is by offering larger and high-resolution displays.
Many iPhone owners now have what might be called "screen envy."
Yet Apple has set a very difficult task for itself. It wants to offer a larger screen on the next iPhone -- speculative reports have asserted that there are 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models being tested -- but the company still prizes "one-handed control."
That would seem out of the question for a 5.5-inch device; but it might be possible with a 4.7-inch screen. It's difficult to imagine what a one-handed, 4.7-inche phone would look like.
Might it be even "taller" than the 5s, which lengthened but didn't proportionally widen the screen? Most larger-screen Android models (4.8-inch and above) can't be entirely operated by one hand. But they preserve proportionality, which in my view is lacking in the "tall" 5s.
The largest a smartphone screen can stretch before it becomes a "phablet" is about 5-inches. Apple's next phone needs to reach about 4.7 or 4.8 inches to be competitive; 4.5 won't cut it. And despite rumors of curved displays it's not clear how Apple is elegantly going to attain that objective and still make one handed control possible.
A provocative article in Mobile Marketer this morning discusses how the aesthetics and layout of retail spaces are changing to accommodate the mobile shopper. Here's a representative excerpt:
AT&T recently unveiled a new store format intended to reflect customers’ mobile lifestyle where café-style learning tables replace cash registers.
The store layout highlights products and services in three different thematic areas. In the Connected Experience, shoppers can see how solutions can be used in their everyday lives. The Community Zone features an open and interactive space where customers can test products. In the Explore Zone, there are digital monitors to highlight AT&T’s lineup.
This sort of "customer experience" was largely inspired by or modeled on Apple retail stores -- especially the replacement of cash registers with free-roving sales associates. However beyond improving the "flow" and "engagement" of retail spaces there are other considerations to be factored in.
The article doesn't at all discuss how data gathered from indoor analytics can help retailers do a better job with layout and usability of their stores. Indoor location data and usage patterns should be included in the "aesthetics" and layout discussions because they will lend empirical grounding to what is otherwise a relatively speculative discussion.
How do consumer actually behave in stores? How are they interacting with displays? These sorts of data are readily available and can inform the broader debate about how to reconfigure retail environments.
Another interesting angle here is how mobile payments will be affected by retail store redesign. My belief is that low-skilled and poorly paid store (and QSR) cashiers will be increasingly replaced by mobile payments and self-checkout kiosks.
Loyal store customers will increasingly have a mobile app with stored credit card information. That scenario will become increasingly prevalent in stores. For those customers without a retail/payment app, Apple-style mobile in-store checkout will prevail.
Google updated its iOS search app today for both the iPhone and iPad. The new app brings some additional functionality to Google Now, which is embedded within the app:
The update also enables hands-free voice searching through the trigger/wake-up word "OK Google." This capability started on Google Glass and has migrated onto Android handsets such as the Motorola Moto X and LG Nexus 5. It's now available to iPhone 4S and above users.
New Google Now cards include:
The combination of voice search and Google Now has turned "Google Search" into the "Google Assistant," without being rebranded as such. The combined Google capabilities rival Siri and arguably exceed it in some respects.
On iOS hands-free voice searching (OK Google) isn't as readily available as on Android. Users must first launch or open the Google Search app, which can be done with Siri, ironically. Then the hands-free searching can be initiated. That sort of defeats the point. On Android handsets voice search is immediately available on the home page.
While probably no single feature launched today will generate massively more Google searches from iOS devices, collectively they may bring more user engagement.
The new hands free search capability may have the biggest impact on the iPad. While users could perviously perform voice queries from Google's iPad app in the past, this new purely speech activated feature may generate more searches for Google from Apple's tablets -- which drive about 80% of all US tablet traffic.
Microsoft will reportedly spend north of $400 million this holiday season on marketing in the hope of selling 16 million Surface tablets. It will likely have trouble because the Surface Pro tablet is neither a true PC replacement nor does it offer as good a tablet experience as the iPad.
Surface Pro 2 also starts at $899, making it considerably more expensive than the entry level iPads and even many Windows PCs. The argument in favor of Surface Pro is that it has Office and offers greater productivity than the iPad. However it's not clear that consumers are seeking a unified device for all their computing needs.
According to data from app marketing platform Fiksu, the iPad Air had a powerhouse opening weekend. The device "is seeing five times the usage the iPad 4 did two days after launch - and more than 3 times that of the iPad mini," explains Fiksu.
Stellar reviews and early momentum indicate the iPad Air may have a very good Q4. The new iPad Mini "Retina" launches later this month, which could either divert some iPad Air sales or simply generate more tablet "shelf space" for Apple. That would be potentially bad news for Microsoft, which is competing directly with the iPad.
On the Android side in the US market it's really Kindle vs. Nexus 7 (Samsung has more of a presence in Europe). Between the two Kindle has the stronger brand and greater distribution through Amazon. But the Nexus 7 is probably the better device overall. In the 9 - 10 inch category the Air really doesn't have any competition from an Android tablet.
In order to see more than token sales, Microsoft will have to truly make the Surface Pro (RT is RIP) a laptop replacement, with a longer battery life and better typing experience. Surface Pro 2 is not that device; so we'll need to wait for Surface Pro 3. That won't be out until next year -- if then.
That means Microsoft, no matter how much it spends on marketing for the holidays, is unlikely to meet its ambitious sales goals for Surface. That is, unless it starts cutting prices very aggressively, with a capital "V."
The Future of Privacy Forum's Jules Polonetsky was one of the featured speakers at the inaugural Place Conference. He spoke about indoor location and privacy with Jennifer King from UC Berkeley. We alloted 30 minutes for the discussion but could have easily spent an hour on it.
Privacy is the 800 pound gorilla of indoor location and the issue that challenges and potentially threatens its roll out. Ever since the negative publicity and coverage suffered by Nordstrom retailers have been scared to death of talking about what they're doing with indoor location -- despite the fact that consumers stand to benefit greatly through these innovations.
Hoping to head off regulatory intervention and preempt more ill-informed coverage and negative publicity, Polonetsky's Future of Privacy Forum (and Senator Charles Schumer of New York) announced a code of conduct that will govern indoor analytics and seek to protect consumer privacy.
The companies involved include Euclid Analytics, iInside, Mexia Interactive, Nomi, SOLOMO, Radius Networks, Brickstream and Turnstyle Solutions. Euclide and iInside spoke at the Place Conference.
This list doesn't include all the companies involved in indoor analytics (e.g., Retail Next) but the rest will adopt and abide by the rules announced today. And retailers will follow them. Basically the new rules require clear disclosures, enable consumers to opt-out of indoor tracking, make any tracking anonymous and prevent the misuse of information gained by venue owners.
People always forget that much more intrusive closed-circuit video cameras have been in retail environments for more than a generation.
As our panel on indoor analytics pointed out most of the data aggregated and anonymously captured by retailers will translate into in-store improvements, from staffing to store layouts. However consumers need to be educated about all of this given how new and little understood it is. This is where retailers need to step up (rather than cower) and help consumers understand why and how indoor location will benefit them.
Hopefully this new code of conduct will enable them do that with confidence.
Below is the full text of the press release:
New York, NY – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and a group of leading location analytics companies – including Euclid, iInside (a WirelessWERX company), Mexia Interactive, SOLOMO, Radius Networks, Brickstream and Turnstyle Solutions – today announced that they have agreed to a Code of Conduct to promote consumer privacy and responsible data use for retail location analytics. The companies responded to privacy concerns raised by Senator Schumer and the FPF about the use of this new technology. The code of conduct includes in-store posted signs that alert shoppers that tracking technology is being used, and instructions for how to opt out.
“This is a significant step forward in the quest for consumer privacy,” said Schumer. “This agreement shows that technology companies, retailers, and consumer advocates can work together in the best interest of the consumer. There is still much more work to be done and I will continue to push for privacy rights to be respected and strengthened, but this represents real progress and I thank the Future Privacy Forum and these tech companies for their hard work hammering out this agreement.
“Today, location analytics companies have introduced a comprehensive code to ensure they have data protection standards in place to de-identify data, to provide consumers with effective choices to not be tracked and to explain to consumers the purposes for which data is being used,” said Jules Polonetsky, executive Director of the Future of Privacy Forum. “These standards ensure that consumers understand the benefit of the bargain and have choices about how their information is used while allowing technology to continue to improve the shopping experience. As we quickly approach the holiday shopping season, this is not only the right move – but a timely one as well, adding a layer of trust, choice and transparency onto a shopping experience that in 2013 is more mobile and hi-tech than ever before.”
In July, Schumer warned that major national retail chains were testing technology that would allow them to automatically track shoppers’ location through stores. Following this warning, FPF worked with the technology companies to develop a Code to ensure that appropriate privacy controls are in place as retailers seek to improve the consumer shopping experience. These technology companies use mobile device Wi-Fi or Bluetooth MAC addresses to develop aggregate reports for retailers.
The Code puts guidelines in place to create best data practices that will provide transparency and choice for consumers. The Code calls for the display of conspicuous signage by retailers and for a central opt-out site for consumers.
"We are just beginning to see the possibilities that in-store analytics can bring to shoppers and to retailers, and yet, as with any new technology, there is the chance for confusion about the intent and possible implications of such technology,” said Steve Jeffery, CEO, Brickstream. “We applaud the Future of Privacy Forum for taking the lead in bringing retailers and technology providers together to address these important issues.”
“We would like to thank Senator Schumer for his leadership on this issue,” said Will Smith, CEO, Euclid. "Privacy has always been a priority as we've designed and built our services, and we have been working diligently with FPF to release best practices for the retail analytics industry as a whole.”
"iInside and industry partners have made it a top priority to assure that consumers are well-informed and their personal privacy and identity are protected. The newly announced code is a major step forward in establishing and communicating clear and concise standards across our industry," said Jim Riesenbach, CEO, iInside Inc.
“The release of a Code of Conduct to guide industry practice ensures that businesses and retailers are able to enhance their customers’ experience without compromising their privacy,” said Glenn Tinley, President & Founder, Mexia Interactive. “Business and consumers also can be assured that a company listed on the SmartStorePrivacy.com website has committed to following the code.”
"Proximity and location technology is evolving rapidly, and we want to make sure it’s deployed in an open, responsible and trustworthy manner. The retail location analytics Code of Conduct is a solid step in the right direction," said Marc Wallace, Co-Founder & CEO, Radius Networks, Inc.
“SOLOMO sees privacy as an opportunity for retailers to build trust with customers,” said Liz Eversoll, CEO, SOLOMO. “We’ve collaborated to develop the Code of Conduct to ensure transparency and empowerment for retail customers. Indoor location technology will offer customers new in-store experiences, special deals, and localized services as retailers introduce it in their stores. Everyone wins.”“Turnstyle Solutions is pleased to partner with the Future Privacy Forum in the development of this Code of Conduct. We are confident the code lays the foundation necessary to protect sensitive consumer information, while offering retailers and consumers services that enhance their shopping experience," said Devon Wright, Co-Founder, Turnstyle Solutions.
Digital marketing platform Monetate recently tested whether a site offering the option to buy through PayPal saw any conversion lift vs. not offering PayPal. Using A/B testing and data from a single client the company said there was a modest roughly 1% sales lift by offering PayPal:
Adding this simple reassurance to product detail pages not only lifted average order value by 1.03%, but it also reduced cart abandonment by 1.21%. Not a huge lift, but not shabby either . . .
We recently asked 1,250 US adults which entities they trusted most to handle mobile payments. The following was the order of results:
Square and Facebook were not on the list of choices. However Facebook is testing its own mobile payments service with some consumers and retailers (stored credit card and details).
As the survey data above indicate PayPal is in a very strong position to become the dominant mobile payments company (especially after its Braintree acquisition) if it can establish and reinforce its brand and user experience as being the simplest and most secure.
Apple could quickly enter the mobile payments arena; however so far it has held back. And while Amazon has a presence in mobile payments it's not particularly strong or developed.
Google, for its part, has failed to establish Wallet among consumers. Square is in a decent position but it doesn't have the reach that PayPal currently has. Facebook has massive reach but is not going to be trusted with payments by most consumers without a Herculean education and marketing effort.
So currently it's PayPal's market to lose really, as mobile payments take hold.
According to a report (rumor) in Engadget, Google is preparing to build an incentive-based mobile panel to track browsing and app usage behavior. The initiative is called "mobile meter" according to the blog and it would be directed toward iPhone and Android users.
Google would offer some incentive (points, rewards, etc) to motivate users to opt-in and allow their usage to be anonymously tracked. This would be nearly identical to the system currently used by Nielsen.
In addition Placed uses a panel to track mobile and exposures and their impact on store visits. The Placed app (with opt-in consent) watches where users go in the real world and extrapolates their data to estimate the offline impact of mobile campaigns.
Google recently announced Estimated Total Conversions that will track the impact of search ads across devices and, eventually, into stores. The primary methodology relies on signed-in Chrome browser users.
A Google mobile panel would complement that approach and, like Placed's panel, provide data to advertisers -- offering a more holistic view of their campaigns, especially the impact on offline store visits.
In the frenzy of speculation leading up to Apple's iPhone announcement last month, there was lots of discussion of smartwatches. Apple supposedly was developing an "iWatch" and would be announcing it along with the new handsets. Samsung, wanting to beat Apple to market, rushed out its Galaxy Gear watch, which has met with scathing reviews as an "unfinished product."
Google was also rumored to be working on a smartwatch. The 9to5 Google site has some additional information on the potential release of a Google smartwatch at the end of this month: "Details are slim but the person seemed to think that Google Now functionality would be at the center of the product."
The idea is that Google would take its technology and learning (thus far) from Google Glass and put that in a watch. The emphasis on Google Now is interesting and appropriate -- the watch as a kind of notifications center. Samsung tried to cram too much half-baked functionality into Galaxy Gear.
There's considerable consumer interest in smartwatches (much more than Google Glass). Just over 40% of survey respondents in a recent survey we conducted (n=1,024 US smartphone owners) said they were interested in a smartwatch. Not surprisingly respondents were most interested in smartwatches that were made by the same maker as their current smartphones.
The right mix of features and pricing are key here. Undoubtedly Apple will develop an "iWatch." And Google, as the rumor suggests, will probably roll out a watch itself, given its new commitment to "wearables." But these initial products may not get the mix right: simplicity, aesthetics, functionality and cost.
The optimal price is probably $99 to $199. But $299 would be OK if the watch were a great product. At $299 and above, the Galaxy Gear is simply to flawed and too expensive for what it delivers. Now we'll see what Google can come up with.