User Experience

The Miserable State of (Local) Mobile Ad Creative

Location-based ad network Verve Mobile announced a Series C investment this morning of $15 million led by Nokia Growth Partners. This brings to more than $21 million the funding raised to date by Verve.

The company is one of several location-based mobile ad networks. An incomplete list of others includes xAd, YP, LSN Mobile, Telenav/ThinkNear, Marchex. In addition, all the major mobile ad networks offer varying flavors of geotargeting.

While local-mobile advertising holds enormous promise, most mobile display revenue forecasts associated with the segment are overblown for many reasons. They often contain overly simplistic assumptions or fail to recognize the complexity of the space and challenges that must be first overcome to realize its potential. 

In addition to local "infrastructure" challenges and the difficulty of proving ROI from mostly offline conversions, a major challenge facing local-mobile advertising is poor or sloppy mobile ad creative. Weak mobile creative is a problem with mobile advertising in general but it's especially true in the local space. The following are a few examples of the "current state of the art." 

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Beyond the fact that there's no call to action on the Tiffany's banner above, the landing page showcases various types of jewelry for e-commerce sales. However it's highly unlikely that a consumer would click on the ad and then buy a necklace or other jewelry item within the ad. People might go to the Tiffany's site later and buy there. 

However, what's much more likely is that someone would peruse the jewelry online but buy later in a local store. Unfortunately the store locator is yet another page down and generally buried. It should be much more prominently displayed on the landing page and connected to maps and directions. 

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The ad above was presented on the AP news app. One problem is that the ad copy is small and challenging to read. However, what's more problematic is the way that the ad dumps users into an HTML5 version of Google Maps without any context, branding or additional information. 

It's a map to lead you to a dealer (one infers) but you don't actually know what you're looking at or how it connects to the ad clicked on.  

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Immediately above is a Radio Shack ad that appeared in a local newspaper app. Like the Tiffany's ad it's really promoting e-commerce. Radio Shack has hundreds of local stores but nowhere -- not anywhere -- in the ad is there an obvious store locator. Again, the majority of users are unlikely to buy directly through the ad. The lack of a store finder is a missed opportunity. 

These are just three recent examples among many others of the many problems with mobile display and local-mobile display advertising in particular. 

With Its $12 Billion Marketing Budget, Samsung Now 'Owns' Android

I've written here and elsewhere about the fact that Samsung is increasingly the dominant global Android OEM. Samsung has ridden the Android wave to huge profits and near-global domination of the smartphone market. However the company is ambivalent about Android.

As Benedict Evans points out Samsung isn't promoting the Android brand and doesn't really mention Android in its multi-billion dollar "Next Big Thing" marketing campaign. Accordingly Evans contends that Samsung's Galaxy brand has greater recognition than Android itself. This conclusion is based on Google Trends search data, which may or may not be accurate as a reflection of actual brand recognition or demand.

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There's plenty of other evidence in the market to support Evans' argument, however, including the above Android OEM comparison chart from ad network Millennial Media. Another data set from AppBrian also supports the same conclusion: 

With the possible exception of Huawei all the other Android OEMs are in decline (re market share) including and especially HTC, which is shifting its strategy to focus on emerging markets because it can no longer compete effectively in North America and Europe. 

What happens when Samsung so totally dominates the Android landscape that it can start using that leverage against Google or creating its own "forked" version of Android independent of Google (as Amazon has done with Kindle Fire)? That's presumably why Google is working on the "X-phone" through Motorola -- to try and create a viable rival to the Galaxy. But will Google be willing to go toe-to-toe with "partner" Samsung in terms of marketing dollars? 

No is the short answer. Samsung reportedly spends roughly $12 billion annually on marketing its mobile devices. That fact alone makes it hard for any other Android OEM, even Google-Motorola, to compete. Only Apple is really in a position to compete with Samsung. 

Study: Low Awareness of Digital Wallets Other than PayPal

Online measurement firm comScore released data from a new survey about digital wallet awareness and acceptance among US consumers. The survey was conducted in November 2012. It underscores familiar themes in the existing coversation about digital wallets: most consumers are largely unaware of the offerings, but those that are have security concerns.

In the context of this research "digital wallet" means online and mobile. To that end, the survey data showed that PayPal and Google Wallet were the only two payments products that enjoyed meaningful consumer awareness. In terms of usage, only PayPal has seen any real adoption -- largely because of its long established online history. 

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Echoing many other surveys the comScore data found that security was a concern for many users. Like almost every one before it, the study concludes that consumers need to be educated about the overall benefits of digital wallets and the features that make them more secure than conventional credit card payments.

In a Q3 2012 survey we found very limited interest in mobile payments. 

How interested are you in using your mobile phone to pay for things, and replace cash or your credit cards?

Survey: mobile payments

Source: Opus Research (August, 2012; n=1,501 US adults)

From a demographic standpoint, people under 45 were considerably more interested in mobile payments than people who were older. Similarly, a recent survey (n=1,155 US adults) by the Raddon Financial Group found that that younger adults (Gen Y) are most likely to be interested and most likely to see value in mobile wallets.

Mobile wallet interest

Source: Raddon Financial Group (2012)

A recent survey from Harris Interactive is more bullish on the outlook for mobile payments than was ours:

“How interested are you in being able to use your smartphone to process in-person payments via tapping a special receiver, rather than using cash or payment cards? 

  • Very interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 8%
  • Somewhat interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 19%
  • Not very interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 12%
  • Not at all interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 43% 

This was the full mobile-user population. The following were the smartphone-only responses: 

  • Very interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 16%
  • Somewhat interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 28%
  • Not very interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 16%
  • Not at all interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 30% 

While the benefits of "horizontal" wallets and mobile payments solutions (e.g., Google Wallet) are often unknown or ambiguous to consumers, what will drive (and is now driving) mobile payments adoption are "point solutions" that are highly specific. In these scenarios the benefits are concrete and self evident: 

Apple the OEM Now Driving Most Mobile Internet Traffic Globally and in US

Amid all the hand wringing over Apple's "impending decline," it's interesting to note new traffic metrics from StatCounter that show Apple driving more mobile Internet traffic than any of its rivals. This is partly a product of the iPhone 5's success during the holiday quarter. 

The StatCounter data reflect mobile OEM market share based on actual Internet traffic. This stands in marked contrast to most smartphone and tablet market share estimates (from IDC, Gartner, comScore and others) that are based on shipments or consumer surveys. There are a few actual traffic measurements out there (e.g., Chitika) but not many.

That's why StatCounter's data (as a reflection of actual user behavior) are so interesting. Shipments is an inherently flawed metric that may or may not correspond to actual sales to end users. 

The "headline" being used along with this new StatCounter OEM data is that Apple has overtaken Nokia as the company driving the most Web traffic on a global basis. Samsung is third. In the US Apple is much farther ahead of rivals, including Samsung. Nokia by comparison drives just over 3% of mobile Web traffic in the US market.

Top 10 Mobile Vendors (Global)

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Top 10 Mobile Vendors (US)

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It's interesting to compare the above numbers to "mobile OS" and mobile browser figures from StatCounter. The vendor and OS numbers are essentially identical in Apple's case, as they should be. The browser numbers are not. They suggest that roughly 10% of iOS users in the US market are using browsers other than Safari. 

Top 10 Mobile Operating Systems (US)

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Top 10 Mobile Browsers (US)

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On a global basis the Android OS has a greater share of traffic in the aggregate than iOS: 37% to Apple's 26%. 

Top 10 Mobile Operating Systems (Global)

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It's not clear to me whether StatCounter captures and includes apps in its traffic estimates -- I believe it's just conventional Web traffic. Regardless, traffic is a much better metric to discuss than handset or device shipments in terms of the influence and importance of the competing mobile platforms.

Super Bowl Advertisers' Missed Mobile Opportunity

While a few ads shown during yesterday's Super Bowl were noteworthy most were a bust -- and largely a waste of the nearly $4 million it reportedly cost to buy airtime during the game. Matt McGee at Marketing Land did a nice job of tracking and reporting on social media mentions or "calls to action" on most of the ads (Twitter and hashtags were most common).

Oreo is emerging as one of the big winners, with its fast reaction to the game's 30+ minute power outage.

Yet for all the energy put into associating ads with hashtags and social media, there was an almost total absence of explicit mentions or references to mobile. The only mobile app mention that I was aware of came on a quickly shown credits screen during an ad for the forthcoming Star Trek sequel (upper right image). Exact Target confirmed my own informal sense of that yesterday. 

A large percentage of people watching the game in the US were smartphone owners. As you already know, and as Nielsen and others have confirmed, there's a very high level of "second screen" behavior among smartphone owners. These Super Bowl ads were a huge opportunity to drive app downloads for brands. And other than the Star Trek mention, which raced by in less than a second, nobody talked about apps at all. 

One might have expected real estate company Century 21 to mention its mobile site or app in its several mediocre commercials given that so many people use mobile during their house hunting. But they did not. I could go on with numerous other examples. 

Perhaps the assumption among the agencies that produced these commercials was that people would be using Twitter or Facebook on their smartphones or tablets and the mobile call to action was thus implied. Yet it's more likely that marketers didn't really know what to do with mobile specifically and so were simply silent on the subject. 

How Damaging Would 'Do Not Track' Be to Mobile Advertising?

The digital advertising industry opposes "Do Not Track" (DNT). No surprise there. Indeed, the industry went "ape shit" (to use the vernacular) when Microsoft declared that IE 10 in Windows 8 would be set to DNT by default. Yahoo and the The Digital Advertising Alliance, a trade group comprised of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the IAB, the DMA, the Association of National Advertisers and the American Advertising Federation, said they would simply "ignore" IE 10's DNT default settings. 

The rationale ostensibly was: "Microsoft is making a decision for the consumer; this isn't the consumer's decision." However another reason was that DNT fundamentally threatens behavioral targeting, profiling and retargeting.

A widely held view in the online advertising industry is that consumers, if they fully understood the benefits of targeting, would willingly accept it in exchange for more relevant ads. There's mixed evidence on this point.

In a Q1 2012 survey of roughly 2,000 US adults the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 68% of respondents didn't want to be tracked and targeted while 28% were comfortable with it "because it means I see ads and get information about things I'm really interested in." Thus two-thirds of these people were explicitly rejecting the notion of trading privacy for more relevant ads. 

 Online targeted advertising

This morning the US Federal Trade Commission released a report on mobile privacy. It makes a boatload of recommendations to developers, OEMs/platform providers and ad networks. Without listing them out in detail, they mostly focus on education and disclosures. However the FTC also recommends that platforms (iOS, Android, Windows, etc.) adopt a global DNT capability that would block third parties from collecting information about them (including location).

Here's what the FTC says about DNT in the report:

Some consumers may not want companies to track their behavior across apps. Indeed, one survey found that 85% of consumers want to have choices about targeted mobile ads. A DNT mechanism for mobile devices could address this concern.

Accordingly, Commission staff continues to call on stakeholders to develop a DNT mechanism that would prevent an entity from developing profiles about mobile users. A DNT setting placed at the platform level could give consumers who are concerned about this practice a way to control the transmission of information to third parties as consumers are using apps on their mobile devices.

The platforms are in a position to better control the distribution of user data for users who have elected not to be tracked by third parties. Offering this setting or control through the platform will allow consumers to make a one-time selection rather than having to make decisions on an app-by-app basis. Apps that wish to offer services to consumers that are supported by behavioral advertising would remain free to engage potential customers in a dialogue to explain the value of behavioral tracking and obtain consent to engage in such tracking.

Apple has already begun to innovate with a DNT setting on its platform. Apple’s iOS6 allows consumers to exercise some control over advertisers’ tracking activities via the “Limit Ad Tracking” setting. Although the setting could be more prominent, this is a promising development, and we encourage Apple and other platforms to continue moving towards an effective DNT setting on mobile devices that meets the criteria we have previously articulated for an effective DNT system: that it be (1) universal, (2) easy to find and use, (3) persistent, (4) effective and enforceable, and (5) limit collection of data, not just its use to serve advertisements. We will continue to have discussions with stakeholders in the mobile marketplace on this important issue.

If such a platform-level DNT capability was available -- and obvious -- to smartphone and tablet users, I suspect that a majority of them would adopt it, as the Pew data above suggest. Perhaps a meaningful minority percentage of users would accept tracking/profiling as the price of more relevant advertising. But I still believe it would be less than 50%.

Of course one of the things that users don't understand is that they'll get ads regardless -- just lower-quality ads. 

Survey: Half of Mobile Showroomers Changed Their Minds about Buying

A new Pew survey (n=1,003 US adults) found that 58% of all mobile phone owners (feature + smartphones) used their handsets as part of in-store shopping during holiday 2012. More specifically, 72% of smartphone owners did so. Google research and InsightExpress have found even higher smartphone numbers: 82% to 90%+.

What kinds of things did these mobile phone owners do in stores? Mostly they called other people, but they also checked prices and product reviews.

Pew says 46% of all mobile users called others to get input on a purchase; 28% looked at product reviews and 27% compared prices on their phones (presumably there was some overlap among the categories). Of those who conducted price comparisons, roughly 48% didn't buy in the store, while 46% did make a purchase:

  • 46 percent purchased the product at that particular store
  • 30 percent decided to not purchase the product at all
  • 12 percent purchased the product online
  • 6 percent purchased the product at a different store

Interpreting these data is tricky. That's because we don't really know the mindset of these people when they entered the store. Accordingly we don't know the full impact of the pricing information they discovered. 

We can make the assumption that 64% of these respondents (of the 27%) had some level of existing purchase intent when they went to the store -- because they ultimately did make a purchase. As mentioned, 46% percent bought at the store and 18% bought elsewhere (another store, online).

Another way to interpret these data is to say that 48% of the the people who did in-store mobile price checks decided not to buy there (my headline). It's probably safe to infer that at least 18% of these people were negatively swayed by the price data they saw on their phones -- they bought online or at another store -- although the actual number may be quite a bit higher and include some or all of the 30% who decided not to buy at all. 

We don't have any sense of how this price-check group compares with the larger survey population. Did the larger group buy at higher or lower rates than the price checkers? We don't know.

One can see what one wants in these data. Without a sense of what people were thinking ahead of time we can really only guess at the full impact of in-store mobile phone usage. Yet it's clear from the totality of available information that "showrooming" is a real thing and that retailers need to aggressively address it. 

Related: Spaaza ‘MyPrice’: A New Response to Showrooming

Siri-Fandango Tie-in Will Drive More Mobile Movie Ticket Sales

For users who updated their iOS devices to 6.1 yesterday Fandango is now the commerce partner for movie ticket sales via Siri. If you look up movies using Siri you get the Rotten Tomatoes powered list with an option to buy using Fandango. If you don't have the Fandango app on your device you'll be prompted to install it to complete the transaction. 

Fandango has reported that mobile now accounts for more than 30% of ticket sales. That will undoubtedly increase with Siri and iOS integration.

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There are many Siri critics out there but the process of looking up a movie and (now) buying a ticket is pretty compelling. In fact this may well become the primary way that many iOS users buy movie tickets in the future. Once a credit card is on file with Fandango it's going to be faster and easier than conducting the same transaction even on the PC.

In addition, there's Apple Passbook integration post purchase. 

This is yet another "mobile payments" point solution (it's really e-commerce on a mobile device) that will get people comfortable with the idea of using their phones to conduct transactions and pay for things. The convenience and value here are obvious to consumers.  

 

Yahoo Rebuilding in Mobile: Excerpts from the Q4 Earnings Call

Yesterday Yahoo reported Q4 2012 earnings and full-year results. In several respects company did better than expected in Q4, though display revenue was down 5%. Search revenue was up 14%. Display advertising is the single biggest source of revenue for the company. 

On the earnings call CEO Marissa Mayer discussed the company's strategy. Among other things, Mayer is focused on improving Yahoo's mobile sites, apps and products, branding them consistently and upgrading them in those areas where Yahoo wants to concentrate. Improved Yahoo Mail and Flickr apps were two recent product upgrades for mobile. 

Mayer is very focused on modernizing Yahoo user experiences and generating more usage and engagement accordingly. She believes that will bring more revenue opportunities including in mobile.  

Below are some of her verbatim remarks about mobile from the earnings call transcript:  

Yahoo! is focused on making the world's daily habits inspiring and entertaining . . . Essentially, we need to start a chain reaction . . . To start that chain reaction of growth, we've identified approximately a dozen products to focus on, each a daily digital habit. When taking multiple platforms into consideration for each product, desktops, mobile web, mobile apps and tablets, there's a lot of work to be done . . . 

Focusing more on the pure advertising and monetization standpoint, there's greater opportunity with the big 4: Search, Display, Mobile and Video . . .

In 2012, we saw our Mobile adoption grow to more than 200 million unique monthly users. From a monetization perspective, this is still a very nascent source of revenue for us. With any platform shift, revenue always follows users, and Mobile will be no different . . .

Obviously, we have a large mobile web offering and people tend to use things like Yahoo! Finance, omg! on their mobile browsers on their phone. They also tend to use some of our applications . . .[M]ost of our applications and our mobile web experiences have Yahoo! Search boxes . . .

In terms of having 50% of our engineering workforce on Mobile, I think that this is something that will ultimately happen. I think you start looking many years in the future, it's hard to imagine that there are going to be technology companies where that isn't true. To date, we have started to shift some of our engineering teams to be more focused on Mobile. We need to get to a critical mass on that.

Just a few years ago Yahoo was well ahead of Google in terms of mobile advertising and revenue. Today that's hard to believe. Cleary, however, Mayer "gets it" and is working with her team to address Yahoo's current mobile deficiences. And the 200 million monthly unique users is a very encouraging figure for the company. By constrast Facebook, Yahoo's biggest display rival, has 600 mobile uniques on a global basis. 

Even though Yahoo is building out its mobile assets, I would expect the company to make several mobile acquisitions -- perhaps on the consumer side but also of a mobile ad network or exchange.  In fact, I would be surprised if Yahoo didn't make a meaningful acquisition to bolster its mobile advertising business. 

Coaster Another 'Point Solution' That Will Drive Mobile Payments Adoption

Some people have described the competition for business owners in the mobile payments segment as a "race to the bottom" in terms of credit card processing fees. Indeed, there are now at least 10 mobile payments or POS vendors targeting small businesses that are undercutting traditional credit card processing fees. The include LevelUp, Groupon, Square, PayPal Here, GoPago and others. 

Just yesterday Coaster introduced an iPad POS app that charges bar owners zero credit card fees -- zero. It makes money off charging consumers a small amount for the "premium service." 

Clearly this is not the company's long-term strategy. It's trying to create more bar "inventory" for consumers in the hope of driving app adoption and expanding beyond San Francisco, it's only current market. However the zero credit-card processing fee is a major incentive for bars to sign up and use the system. 

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Coaster is another example of something I've written about multiple times: vertical or point solutions that offer self-evident value to consumers and will drive adoption of mobile payments. My favorite example is mobile parking payments but Coaster is a pretty good example.

By using Coaster smartphone owners can order, pay and tip at bars without giving over their credit cards directly or waiting in line. I've not yet used the app myself. However Coaster offers concrete and obvious value for bar patrons (and bar owners).

These kinds of vertical scenarios or "point solutions" will educate consumers and get them comfortable with mobile payments, paving the way for broader adoption of "horizontal" solutions such as Google Wallet. Exposure to a positive veritcal payments experience will tend to accelerate broader payments adoption. 

By contrast people often don't see the reason or need for "mobile wallets" in the abstract. 

How interested are you in using your mobile phone to pay for things, and replace cash or your credit cards?

Survey: mobile payments

Source: Opus Research (August, 2012; n=1,501 US adults)

Yandex Launches Voice-Powered 'Wonder' Search App, Amazon Buys Its Siri

Russian-based search engine Yandex this morning released a new mobile app called "Wonder." It's currently only available for the US market and right now only on iOS. It uses speech recognition from Nuance and social data from Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare and Twitter to provide search results refracted through social networks.

The kinds of queries Wonder envisions are those such as "tech news stories liked by my friends" or "restaurants near me visited by my friends." The app can only be used in landscape mode. It offers a visually polished UI but generally poor search and user experience (it would be better on the iPad). Unless there are some dramatic changes it won't be widely adopted by consumers. 

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Indeed, Wonder is no substitute for Google or Yelp or Facebook's new local and general search capabilities. What's interesting and significant is that it does illustrate broader adoption of social data as a filter and mechanism to personalize search results. The app is also consistent with the embrace of voice as a primary UI and capability.

Wonder offers a hint of a personality there but it's not a full blown "assistant" like Siri or Speaktoit. However Amazon's acquisition of text-to-speech specialist Ivona is a move to bring a Siri-like assistant feature to Amazon's Kindle tablet devices. (Amazon previously purchased speech provider Yap.)

Amazon already had text-to-speech for Kindle but Ivona offers a smoother, human-sounding voice capability that can be deployed for a range of purposes and use cases. And like Wonder it reflects the degree to which speech has become a critical "must-have" function on mobile devices.

By itself, however, speech is not enough. Increasingly there must also be a "personality" (assistant) to go along with the raw speech-processing capability. This is the impact of Siri on the broader marketplace. 

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My colleague Dan Miller brings a different perspective to the Ivona acquisition. He sees it in the larger context of speech-industry consolidation.

Update: TechCrunch says that Facebook has blocked Wonder's access to its user data while the companies negotiate about access. 

Survey: A Majority Use Smartphone 'Personal Assistants' Daily

Nuance Communications, which provides speech recognition services for enterprises (and increasingly consumers, including the Swype keyboard) released a “mobile assistant” survey in connection with CES. The survey of roughly 1,000 US adults found that 75% of respondents had their mobile devices (presumably smartphones) “always on them” or “at hand.”

Among the 90% of survey respondents that reported they had some sort of assistant capability on their phones (not defined in the survey results), a majority (60%) said they used that assistant daily. The following were the most common use cases:

  • Driving directions: 84%
  • Weather: 72%
  • Restaurant lookups/recommendations: 61%

This survey implies satisfaction is relatively high with these assistants. More than 80% of respondents indicated if they could they’d want the “same mobile personal assistant” with them at all times, across all devices and use cases: phones, tablets, PCs, cars, TVs, apps and so on. Accordingly the survey was partly intended to support Nuances "cross-device persona project" called Wintermute, which the company is showcasing at CES.

Using your unique voice print, the system remembers who you are and "follows you from one device to the next, remembering what you like, what you’ve been doing, and where you’ve been." This is in a way a voice-version of what Google is trying to do in asking people to sign in to the Chrome browser so that it can monitor them across devices. In Google's case it's for the purpose of personalizing search results, serving better ads and collecting data on user behavior. Nuance seems to be focused more directly on improving the user experience. 

Interestingly the survey also found that respondents had emotional connections (to varying degrees) to their assistants:

More than half of all respondents cited a personal connection with their mobile personal assistant. Women actually name their mobile personal assistant more than men, with 71% compared to a close 66% of men . . . 73% of men feel comfortable asking their mobile personal assistant for directions but 79% of women ask for help more often.

The materials I received don’t provide detail on whether the assistants in question are Nuance products (i.e., DragonGo) or Apple’s Siri or Google Voice Search/Now. It's not clear how specifically the "personal assistant" idea was defined in the survey instrument. 

The concept of the personal virtual assistant has been around for quite a long time, using a range of technologies and approaches. Yet crystallized in the public mind with the advent of Siri. Nuance, which provides speech recognition for Siri, recently introduced Nina -- a white label Siri-like assistant for enterprise customer service applications. 

My colleague Dan Miller recently issued an expansive new report on personal virtual assistants and their adoption in the enterprise and on consumer devices.

Update: Nuance has reportedly acquired VirtuOZ, which is a provider of virtual-assistant enterprise customer care solutions with a PC focus. The VirtuOZ online assistant will be enhanced and improved by Nuance's speech recognition capabilities and Nuance's Nina offering will help expand its reach into online customer care. 

Consumers Change Screens Depending on the Task at Hand

One of the challenging things for marketers these days is to figure out how to efficiently reach consumers on the growing array of screens they interact with. The growing complexity of consumer behavior and the interplay among devices is dizzying.

Last year Google did some terrific research about the parallel and sequential usage of smartphones, tablets and conventional PCs along the path to purchase. The company found that 90% of US adults surveyed used multiple screens during the day. It's really challenging to track this behavior in real time let alone create coherent, integrated campaigns to address it. 

One of the central behaviors identified in the Google research was the multi-screen path to purchase. Consumers often start on one screen but complete transactions on another. The behavior wasn't random, however. Smartphones were found to be the most commonly used screen but people chose different screens depending on the context and nature of the task at hand. 

Harris Interactive has released similar research that reflects different user preferences and behaviors depending on the particular screen and use case. Harris found overlapping usage scenarios but also consumer preferences for one screen vs. another in several instances.

The survey sample consisted of 2,383 adults, about 42% of which owned a smartphone. However that's lower than the US mobile average of 50%+. The data were collected in November 2012. 

The question fielded was: "Thinking generally about your media and communication behavior on a smartphone versus on a computer, please indicate which of these actions you regularly perform on each." Multiple responses were permitted.

In some cases smartphones tended to be used more and in others PCs dominated. Unfortunately Harris didn't ask about tablets.

General activities (penetration/usage): 

  • Texting/messaging: 87% smartphone, 20% PC
  • Email: 90% PC, 72% smartphone (more people on smartphones read emails than compose them)
  • Researching product/services: 81% PC, 45% smartphone
  • Purchasing products: 78% PC, 23% smartphone
  • Maps/navigation: 73% smartphones, 56% PC

Social media usage (penetration/usage):  

  • Reading posts: 62% P, 56% smartphone
  • Sharing content: 51% PC, 44% smartphone
  • Composing posts/messages: 50% PC, 43% smartphone
  • Checking in: 43% smartphone, 28% PC

The presence of children in the home was correlated with increased smartphone activity across almost all categories of activity.

In looking at these data one can see that certain kinds of activities, better suited to smartphones (texting, map usage, checking in), are more often performed on mobile devices. However activities that require larger screens or where the mobile user experience is sub-optimal, favor the PC (e.g., product research, purchasing). 

Daughter Shows Challenges (and Opportunity) for Windows Phones

I had an interesting experience this past week with my 13-year old daughter, which illustrates the challenges but also the opportunity for Windows Phones. One of several smartphones I have is a blue/purple HTC 8X (Windows Phone). The phone offers Beats Audio integration. It's a very attractive handset and looks very much like a Nokia Lumia device, only not as heavy. (Nokia is not too happy about the close similarity.)

My daughter is currently a feature phone user and really wanted an iPhone 5, which my wife and I cruelly denied her. But she spied the 8X on my desk and really liked how it looked. She also had seen (on Hulu) the relentless Microsoft Windows Phone ads -- "as unique as you are" -- and was parroting some of the ad copy/dialogue to me almost verbatim. (The campaign must be working.) 

She asked for the phone and I agreed that she could have it. I gave it to her to try at home on WiFi to make sure that she was really interested before I went through the trouble of changing carriers and so on. I suspected the OS might throw her; she's had an iPod Touch for several years and we've also had several Android phones. She's familiar with both operating systems but hasn't ever used Windows. 

Another factor: she was intrigued by the Microsoft Surface tablet, which she saw at a friend's house. The colorful and different look of the UI appealed to her. The Windows "metro" design -- I can still use that term even if Microsoft cannot -- on both devices got her attention. 

Then she started playing with the phone and found out that some of the key apps that she and her friends routinely use weren't there. She wasn't thrown by the metro UI and "live tiles," as I expected. Rather it was the fact that Instagram, Oovoo, Snapchat and other apps she uses were missing. She was particularly annoyed by the pseudo Instagram apps that appeared (e.g., Instagram blog). After discovering that these beloved apps were missing she rejected the phone. 

Had those and a few other critical (in her mind) apps been present, she would have kept and used the phone. I told her that Instagram would eventually come to Windows Phones as would other missing apps. That didn't satisfy her. 

Windows Phone now has 150,000 apps; however as indicated by the above it's still missing many key apps. For example, as part of its antitrust argument against Google Redmond says it's being unfairly denied access to YouTube metadata. It's makeshift YouTube app is deficient in fundamental respects:

Google has refused to allow Microsoft’s new Windows Phones to access this YouTube metadata in the same way that Android phones and iPhones do. As a result, Microsoft’s YouTube “app” on Windows Phones is basically just a browser displaying YouTube’s mobile Web site, without the rich functionality offered on competing phones. Microsoft is ready to release a high quality YouTube app for Windows Phone. We just need permission to access YouTube in the way that other phones already do, permission Google has refused to provide.

If Microsoft can manage to get the key/top apps onto Windows Phone it will be able to attract buyers who like the different look of the UI and/or who may be attracted by the aggressive subsidies offered by carriers. The 8X is available for $49 with a two-year contract at Verizon, for example. 

However until these apps (enough apps, key apps) are there would-be users, such as my daughter, won't bite. Microsoft can break the "catch-22" of Windows Phone app development through developer payments and incentives, which it's trying to do. The company needs to identify all the "necessary apps" and make sure those are built for Windows Phones. 

Beyond this the current messaging isn't really successful in attracting buyers, notwithstanding my daughter's ability to parrot the commercials. Microsoft needs build messaging around three ideas:

  • All the apps you want are here (once they in fact are) 
  • Windows Phones are cheap(er) and offer comparable functionality vs. Android flagships and the iPhone
  • The designs and UI are different, making you more of an individual in owning one (this is a slightly different statement than the current customization messaging) and a version of Apple's past Think Different argument.

Finally, ideally, there should be something about the hardware and software (beyond the UI) that is different. Microsoft argues there are already such things (e.g. Kids Corner). And the colorful phone cases offer an approach taken by Nokia and HTC. A better camera (i.e., Lumia) is another.

Yet these things aren't quite enough. There needs to be a highly visible feature or dimension of Windows Phones that truly isn't present on iPhone or Android handsets. Right now, nothwithstading the nicely designed metro UI, Windows Phones continue to seem like "wannabe" devices that are still playing catch up to other smartphones. 

Nearly 40% of Smartphone Owners See Mobile Payments in Less Than Five Years

Last week eBay reported that it will realize "more than $10 billion in mobile volume for the year from its mobile apps and PayPal expects to transact more than $10 billion in mobile payment volume." Those are big numbers. If we visit some of the mobile payments forecasts the numbers get much bigger. 

Yet consumer surveys in the US and elsewhere reveal consumer ambivalence and even indifference to mobile payments. It does vary by age however, with younger users indicating greater interest than older people.

A survey we fielded in August (n=926 US adults) found that roughly 29% of respondents had varying degrees of interest, whereas 71% were "not at all interested" in mobile payments.

"How interested are you in using your mobile phone to pay for things as a replacement for cash or your credit cards?" 

  • I'm not at all interested: 71.3%
  • I have limited interest: 14.8%
  • I'm fairly interested: 7.2%
  • I'm extremely interested: 6.8%

In our survey people under 45 years of age were considerably more interested than people who were older. A new survey from Harris Interactive is more bullish on the outlook for mobile payments however, with smartphone owners reflecting much greater interest in mobile payments: 

“How interested are you in being able to use your smartphone to process in-person payments via tapping a special receiver, rather than using cash or payment cards? 

  • Very interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 8%
  • Somewhat interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 19%
  • Not very interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 12%
  • Not at all interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 43% 

In other words 27% were "Very" or "Somewhat Interested" while 57% were "Not Very" or "Not at All Interested." This was the full sample population. The following were the smartphone-only responses: 

  • Very interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 16%
  • Somewhat interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 28%
  • Not very interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 16%
  • Not at all interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards: 30% 

Thus "Very" or "Somewhat Interested" came out to be 44%, while "Not Very" or "Not at All Interested" was 47%. Quite a bit more interest accordingly. 

Smartphone owners in the 18-47 age range were most interested in mobile payments according to the Harris survey. In addition, 38% of smartphone owners saw mobile payments replacing card-based transactions "for a majority of purchases" within five years.  

Despite Better Performance, Mobile Ads Considered Just a Notch Above Spam

Mobile advertising is typically quite a bit more effective than comparable ads on the PC. Indeed, the data show that mobile search and display consistently outperform their PC counterparts. Yet mobile ads (especially display and SMS) are viewed with skepticism and distrust and rank near the bottom of all ad categories in consumer surveys.

This is something of a paradox to say the least. For example, Marin Software's Q3 aggregated client data report indicates the following about the relative performance (CTRs) of paid search ads on the PC, smartphones and tablets:

  • PCs: 2.35%
  • Tablets: 3.22%
  • Smartphones: 5.07% 

You might be quick to respond that smartphone click-through rates could be attributable to the so-called "fat finger" problem thus distorting their true performance. This problem -- and we can debate the extent of its reality -- doesn't really exist in a paid-search context.

These clicks are from intent-based queries and thus more inclined be "real" and reflective of a buying intent. In a display context an unintended click may be somewhat more likely. However mobile display outperforms PC display advertising across the board and consistently across studies. 

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According to 2011 Nielsen US consumer advertising-trust survey data (above), personal recommendations and traditional media ads are near the top and mobile ads are the least trusted of all the major ad categories. 

A more recent Millward Brown consumer survey (Q3 2012) found much the same thing. Mobile ads were at the bottom of favorability rankings among all ad types. The list below just shows digital categories: 

Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 11.48.11 AM

There's no easy way to explain the apparent contradiction between negative consumer attitudes toward mobile ads and their otherwise superior performance to categories more trusted or ranked more highly.  

Examination of Apps Shows Small Minority Share Location

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today released a study of privacy and mobile apps for kids. The report was a follow up to an earlier study issued in January. Both reports were highly critical of app developers and app stores. Both found that parents weren't given enough information to assess privacy policies and whether or how their kids' information was being used. 

The FTC looked at 400 apps (randomly selected) that were directed toward kids. The agency compared privacy policies and actual practices. It found: 

[The] industry appears to have made little or no progress in improving its disclosures since the first kids’ app survey was conducted . . . most apps failed to provide basic information about what data would be collected from kids, how it would be used, and with whom it would be shared.

In a few cases privacy policies were directy contradicted by actual practices and the FTC called these apps deceptive and potentially illegal.  

The report's findings are interesting and potentially important for the debate over mobile privacy. However the specific finding I want to focus on here has to do with the number of apps that transmitted location information to ad networks. 

Mobile apps (for kids) that share information with developers and ad networks 

 

Source: FTC 

Only 3% of apps that transmitted information back to developers and ad networks shared location data. The iPhone makes that process more explicit than does Android. But when location isn't shared there can't be any location-based ads.

Apps for kids aren't ncessarily representative of the entire universe of apps. Indeed, location may be much less of a factor in apps for kids. But the data may be directionally consistent with the market as a whole, inducating how relatively few apps today offer opportunities to display location-based ad inventory. 

The Most Interesting Mary Meeker Slides about Mobile

Former Morgan Stanley financial analyst, now KPCB partner, Mary Meeker did one of her patented blizzard of stats/data dump presentations at Stanford University the other evening. The slides (available here) are essentially an updated version of a presentation given earlier this year. 

You know most of the material by now. However, below are the most interesting slides I culled from a much longer set. They go to device adoption and mobile ad revenue projections. 

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 11.57.33 AM

The noteworthy thing about the above chart is that it argues there are 172 million smartphone subscribers in the US. If that's true it would mean a smartphone share of something like 68% or 73% depending on the base used. This is undoubtedly high. But it's not unreasonable to argue that there may be 60% smartphone penetration by the end of Q4 in the US (or early Q1). 

From the chart below: there may not in fact be 5 billion individual mobile phone users around the world. There are "only" 7 billion people on the planet. It's probably more accurate to assert there are something like 5 billion subscriptions/SIM cards (there are some dual subscriptions). Still the global smartphone growth opportunity is massive. 

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 11.58.14 AM

The following chart is based on Pew survey data, showing that 29% (as of earlier this year) of US adults owned a tablet or eReader. Tablets are going to be the number one electronics gift item this year. We could be looking at 80 million total tablets in the US in Q1 2013. 

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 11.58.37 AM

What's most interesting about the slide below is that it projects tablet ownership to pass PC ownership by the end of next year; in other words: more tablets than PCs. This may be a aggressive forecast but it's not out of the question. 

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 12.00.05 PM

The final slide is about mobile advertising and app revenue. There are many sources behind this projection. It envisions a $20 billion global market by the end of the year, with mobile advertising around $6 or so billion. 

Screen Shot 2012-12-04 at 11.59.17 AM

US mobile advertising was worth roughly $1.2 in the first half and is on track to be somewhere between $2.6 and $2.8 billion for the full year 2012. Globally mobile ad revenues will probably reach between $5.5 and $6 billion by the end of Q4 this year.

Where Do Mobile Users Get Their Deals and Coupons?

There's a relatively common perception that "daily deals are dead." What's more accurate to say is that the daily deals "bubble" has burst and consumers are burned out on push email marketing, where many of the deals are irrelevant to their interests or needs. But it would be inaccurate to say that "deals are dead." 

Coupons and deals remain popular among consumers and mobile users in particular. According to data from Nielsen, xAd and Telmetrics, the three top reasons that a mobile user would engage with an ad are the following:

  1. The ad is locally relevant
  2. There's a coupon or promotion
  3. It features a familiar brand

Consistent with the findings above, "search for/receive mobile offers" (especially locally relevant ones) is one of the top three "mobile commerce" activities that users engage in according to 2012 data from the US Federal Reserve and JiWire. They also search for coupons on smartphones while in stores according to multiple surveys and behavioral studies. 

A new set of data from Nielsen tries to identify where mobile users get those deals and coupons. A majority get mobile vouchers from retailers directly (sites/apps), followed by deal of the day sites/apps.

Screen Shot 2012-11-22 at 6.27.33 AM

 

Among the daily deal apps Nielsen found that the "usual suspects" were the most often used: Groupon, LivingSocial, Google Offers and AmazonLocal (LivingSocial). Amazingly, of those who have sought out daily deals on their smartphones, 91% have done so through the Groupon app. 

Screen Shot 2012-11-22 at 6.27.46 AM    

This shows that relatively few daily deal vendors have any brand awareness and usage beyond these major sites. But among them Groupon is far and away the leader. 

Major Retailers, Etailers Unprepared for Mobile and Tablet Shoppers

Almost daily my inbox is hit with a new study or report that expresses a similar theme: businesses large and small aren't ready for mobile shoppers. However one would expect retailers to have invested and be prepared for the coming multi-screen holiday season. Not so, says an informal usability study from Keynote systems.

Keynote examined major retail and e-commerce sites on iPhones, Android devices and BlackBerry handsets. It found numerous problems and inconsistencies from device to device. The inference is that retailers aren't actually testing their own sites on the various platforms and operating systems.

Some of the problems Keynote identified are minor (copy not optimally presented) but some are major (broken search functionality). Furthermore many of the retailers didn't seem to be addressing the tablet audience. Keynote explained, "We also looked at Target on the iPad 3 and see that they probably haven’t been testing on a tablet and are content to delivering their desktop site to a tablet on good faith." 

Tablets drive actual online conversions, whereas smartphones are mostly used to check reviews, price information and locate and contact stores. Tablet conversions are as high or higher than on PCs and average order value from tablets is higher than on the PC. It's critical for retailers and etailers to address the tablet audience specifically. 

Most retailers appear to believe that their sites will "work" for tablet users. That's true in many cases but a tablet-optimized retail experience would almost certainly drive more online sales and increased user satisfaction.

According to Skava only 7% of retailers currently have tablet-friendly sites. Accordingly this year may turn out to be a missed opportunity for most retailers when it comes to mobile and tablet users. Here's Keynote's conclusion, which is simply common sense: 

Early testing of both mobile websites in preparation for the holiday season would have prepared these top retailers for the judgmental mobile shopper this season. With holiday shopping looming and ready to begin in just days, it seems that these top retailers are already running into hurdles that may affect their holiday sales goals.