User Experience

Siri and the Mainstreaming of the Speech UI

Companies like Google and Apple are "market makers." They may not be first with a technology but their inclusion or the use of a particular technology can have a dramatic impact on its acceptance and adoption. Siri, as we recently argued, is one such product (along with speech on Xbox). For all its imperfections, Siri has managed to mainstream voice and speech interfaces -- at least in terms of awareness.

Siri performs at a level that has reinforced its usage and focused considerable media attention on speech. As we said in the report "Siri and the New Speech Imperative": 

Voice on the Xbox and the emergence of speech as a front in the “smartphone wars” both create new momentum for voice interfaces and even a kind of “speech imperative.” At a recent search conference someone remarked, “Voice is the new touch.” In other words: a “sexy” new interface that, like touchscreens, could shape consumer expectations of how they should be able to interact with a range of devices and services going forward.

Siri's integration into the iPhone 4S has been well received by consumers and is at least partly responsible for the huge sales the iPhone 4S has reportedly enjoyed in Q4. 

 Screen shot 2012-01-12 at 11.45.31 AM

The New York Times today did a short roundup of companies at CES now building speech (and gesture) into consumer devices. On the heels of its indirect success with Siri (as the speech recognition front end) Nuance introduced Dragon TV at CES. Also at CES, Samsung debuted new TVs that allow voice and gesture-based control. Telematics, which offer varying degrees of voice control, are also getting a lot of attention at CES this week.

Apple TV (allegedly coming soon) is also supposed to integrate Siri. Indeed, there's a convergence of speech (and gesture) UIs with APIs and apps across an array of platforms: mobile, TV and in-car. The smartphone experience and its various metaphors are informing a host of consumer experiences beyond phones. 

Benefiting from decades of research and various false starts, Siri has become the breakthrough consumer product that has raised the public's awareness of speech interfaces and their potential. But Siri isn't just about speech it's about combining Nuance's speech capabilities with natural language understanding, which is the other half of it.

We're going to see more and more devices integrate speech as a UI, with all sorts of implications for enterprises across the board.

See related posts:



Mobile Internet Kicks PC's Butt in Time Spent

Last June mobile analytics provider Flurry released a startling statistic: people were spending more time with mobile apps per day than they were on the PC web. The number of people on the mobile Internet in the US is still smaller than the PC Internet (100 million-ish vs. 218 million). But the implications of Flurry's engagement data are both obvious and dramatic. 

Flurry recently updated its numbers and found the gap had widenend -- in favor of apps. According to the company Americans now spend an average of 94 minutes per day with apps vs. 72 minutes on the PC.

Here's what Flurry said about its methodology and how it calculated the numbers: 

For the web, shown in green, we built a model using publicly available data from comScore and Alexa.  For mobile application usage, shown in blue, we used Flurry Analytics data, which tracks anonymous sessions across more than 140,000 applications.  We estimate this accounts for approximately one third of all mobile application activity, which we scaled-up accordingly for this analysis. 

Since conducting our first analysis in June 2011, time spent in mobile applications has grown. Smartphone and tablet users now spend over an hour and half of their day using applications. Meanwhile, average time spent on the web has shrunk, from 74 minutes to 72 minutes. Users seem to be substituting websites for applications, which may be more convenient to access throughout the day.

Assuming the calculations are accurate the implications are profound for marketers and brands. In other words, if you're not optimized for mobile and not doing mobile advertising/marketing you're going to miss a significant audience. And that audience spending more time with apps may be your target.

People invariably want to get into the apps vs. HTML5 debate; that misses the point. The real comparison is mobile (apps + mobile Web) vs. PC. The PC audience is largely flat and time online isn't growing. But time with mobile and tablets is.

Smartphones, tablets and one day "smart TV" will be where more and more consumer eyeballs go especially for non-utilitarian tasks. It's a four-screen world; get used it. 

Telenav Introduces Personalized, X-Platform Navigation and Search App: "Scout"

At CES today GPS provider Telenav is launching a new app (and a new brand in a way) called Scout. It's a website; there's also a smartphone app (iPhone for now) and an in-car nav capability. Accordingly, it's coming to Ford vehicles later this year according to the company.

Here's how Telenav describes Scout: "The first daily personal navigator that will be seamlessly accessible across the web, smartphones, and in-car systems – offering users an easy and consistent discovery and navigation experience no matter where they are." 

Indeed, the cross-platform feature and personalization are key differentiation themes: 

Scout opens to My Dashboard, a customizable start screen that allows users to quickly get personalized, real-time commute times to work or home – as well as instant access to local search for easy discovery of new places and saved favorites. My Dashboard was created to solve the need for an everyday navigation tool, even when driving to familiar destinations.

The website enables users to conduct local searches (ratings are coming largely from Yelp), create favorite lists, get directions and share content with friends. That content can be later accessed on the Scout smartphone app or in-car.


Scout is free and will provide voice-guided turn-by-turn directions. Telenav also has free and paid apps for the iPhone and Android, which provide the same capabilities and most of the same content and local search features. The Scout app and site are supported by ads from Citysearch and xAd. 

The "Scout" brand as well as its look and features are more consumer friendly than "Telenav," which came out of the enterprise navigation segment.  That was probably the impetus behind the creation of the new site/app, which relies on the same infrastructure as Telenav proper. Telenav is also the provider behind many of the carriers' paid navigation apps. 

My experience with the Telenav app for the iPhone since giving up my Android handset and Google Navigation has been very positive.

Wal-Mart, M-Commerce and Brand Weakness

As you may recall, last April Wal-Mart bought Kosmix for roughly $300 million and turned that into the nouveau social-mobile-e-commerce initiative @WalmartLabs. Yesterday the division of the world's largest retailer acquired a Portland Oregon based mobile agency and app developer Small Society: "A highly respected mobile agency, is joining the @WalmartLabs mobile team. Small Society embodies what has made us successful in 2011 and will help us accelerate that success in 2012."

Stepping back the question is: what is Wal-Mart thinking about its strategy going forward? Sure, it's smart to set up a Silicon Valley shop that incubates social and mobile products. But what is Wal-Mart actually going to do with them? 

Wal-Mart could take on Amazon and try to become a better version of the e-commerce pioneer. While that would take enormous corporate commitment and be risky, the company could leverage mobile and social functionality being developed at WalmartLabs. Alternatively or in tandem it could try and build verticals and new initiatives that cultivate new audiences and shoppers.

Building new audiences and expanding beyond its value-conscious/price sensitive demographic is a major Wal-Mart company objective. It sees Target as a big threat in the US, which has much greater appeal to "upscale" and younger shoppers. 

This quickly brings us to the Wal-Mart brand. Yes, it's a global brand -- but it's a brand like McDonald's: low quality, high volume. Wal-Mart has also been tainted in some quarters by its discrimination class action litigation with employees. Accordingly, with certain demographic segments (affluents, higher education) Wal-Mart is seen as an exploitative employer that peddles low-quality products. 

Wal-Mart is equally often seen as destructive of local communities and small business. It's not uncommon to see grass-roots efforts to keep the store out of communities (e.g., San Francisco). This kind of anti-Wal-Mart outrage doesn't exist with other retailers, and Target in particular. 

This negative brand image and reputation is directly at odds with the mission and self-image of @WalmartLabs and will be a major impediment to success -- either via a direct challenge to Amazon or any other "2.0" initiatives that carry the Wal-Mart brand.

However, Wal-Mart could use its own brand and potentially find success over time in a head-on challenge to Amazon and other e-commerce retailers if it did the following things:

  • Created sites/apps that offered great (capital G) user experiences
  • Competed aggressively on price with free shipping all the time
  • Made a very public and sincere commitment to customer service and backed it up with action
  • Did a better job of community relations with sincere commitments to local communities
  • Integrated stores and online in a smart, channel-agnostic way

If the company were to succeeded across the board on these fonts Wal-Mart might be able to not only appeal to new audiences but it could improve the standing of the brand overall. However, any sort of specialty, vertical or category specific initiative would need to carry a new brand. 

While there's great potential in @WalmartLabs I don't think the necessary corporate-level commitment is really there. 

Will 2012 Be a 'Breakthrough' Year for Mobile Payments?

Mobile industry consultant Chetan Sharma conducted a 2012 predictions survey among "executives, developers, and insiders (n=150) from leading mobile companies and startups from across the value chain." The complete findings are available here. Many of them are interesting, but in total they indicate to me that most insiders have no great clarity on the direction of the market.

What's most interesting to me about the survey is the discussion of mobile payments. Respondents thought that mobile payments will be the "breakthrough category" of 2012. But they also believe that banks and credit card companies will dominate the emerging segment:

Screen shot 2012-01-04 at 7.38.08 AM

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While it's logical to assume that banks would control mobile payments -- they control the infrastructure -- I don't agree that the "financial guys" will define the segment. For the most part the credit card companies and operaters are not going to be able to deliver a compelling user experience -- especially the operators. 

Visa, Amex and MasterCard will be the "Intel inside" of mobile payments but the user-experience front end will be delivered by someone else in my opinion (like Square). Some consumer surveys indicate that, right now, credit card issuers are more trusted than others in the emerging ecosystem (other surveys show the opposite). Credit card issuers and banks are a known quantity; they're familiar to consumers.

However mobile payments are still mostly hypothetical for most people because few have had any practical experience with it. Once various "solutions" appear and people engage with them the landscape of survey responses will likely change to favor those with the best user experience (and/or most favorable terms on the merchant side). 

Screen shot 2011-06-20 at 9.15.23 AM

Source: Retrevo (Q4 2011)

Square contradicts the "banks will dominate" assumption. The company is an amazing success already, largely because it created an elegant user experience for both merchants and consumers. This is not something that would have been done by a credit card company or bank. Ultimately a credit card company, financial entity, Intuit or eBay will buy Square, however. 

In the next few years, there will probably be a few mobile payments entry points for consumers on top of a couple of payments infrastructure ecosystems. Unless there are common standards, however, there won't be many consumer-facing players.

I don't think this means that Visa or Amex will dominate, though they will have to be involved. I also don't think that PayPal will win in the segment. I would have bet on Google in the past but the operators (at least Verizon) seem inclined to block the company's mobile wallet. Amazon and Apple are dark horses but still have considerable potential because of their installed bases of credit card accounts. 

As with the example of Square I think there's still room for startups in mobile payments, provided they don't ask users and merchants to change behavior or adopt new proprietary systems. However unlike some of the larger or more established companies they must overcome the "cold start problem" (building usage among consumers and merchants simultaneously). 

In my view this year is still about developing the ecosystem and infrastructure and not a "breakthough" year for payments. That will come in 2013 or 2014 in terms of mainstream consumer adoption.

Apps Beat the Browser, Lift Brands

It has taken some time, and longer than I would have expected, but more people are now using apps to access content on mobile devices than are doing so with a mobile browser according to comScore's most recent data release. While the number of people who "used downloaded apps" and "used browser" are almost identical this is the first time in comScore's tracking that apps have surpassed browser usage. 

The data are survey based. They likely underestimate the relative role of apps in the overall smartphone user experience. 

What these comScore data mean effectively is that mobile apps have a reach that now slightly exceeds the mobile browser on smartphones. But in terms of time spent or engagement mobile apps have for some time dominated mobile browsing (and even PC browser time according to Flurry Analytics). 

Flurry also estimated that during the Xmas to New Years Day period, more than 1 billion apps were downloaded around the world. 

Separately research has confirmed that apps can have a dramatic, positive impact on brand favorability metrics. Accordingly brands' attention to apps as interactive marketing tools should increase dramatically in 2012. And we should also see much more mobile display advertising used to build app awareness and generate downloads. 

Are Android Handsets the New Feature Phones?

It used to be that the "free" phones being given away by the carriers were very low-end feature phones. Not anymore. Now, with a two-year contract, you can get a range of no-cost Android smartphones from AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile.

Verizon was especially aggressive during the holidays; and this morning I counted no fewer than six pretty decent Android handsets available for free from T-Mobile with a two-year contract. These kinds of promotions have helped power Android's rise. The operating system now represents about 47% of all US smartphones according to comScore. 

I don't have and haven't seen data about upgrade patterns from feature phones. But my guess would be that most smartphone upgraders are going to Android, partly because of the "free" promotions as well as the selection and ubiquity of these devices. 

InsightExpress not long ago pointed out that all smartphone owners aren't the same. They can be segmented by engagement and activity level. And while I haven't seen any data on the behavioral differences between Galaxy Nexus owners (Android flagship) and those who own an LG Optimus (entry level Android handset), there likely are some. 

How else does one explain the NetApplications data now making the rounds. These data, showing browser usage across millions of sites, reveal iOS with more than 3X the mobile browsing share of Android in December (iOS includes tablets here). 

  1. Apple/iOS: 52.1%
  2. Java/J2ME: 21.3%
  3. Android: 16.3%
  4. Symbian: 5.8%
  5. RIM: 3.5%
  6. Other: 1.1%

Given the comScore numbers above these data from NetApplications are fairly dramatic -- and curious. However, the gap isn't nearly as large in StatCounter data (global and North America below): 

Screen shot 2012-01-03 at 6.02.50 AMScreen shot 2012-01-03 at 6.03.31 AM

In North America, Apple's lead is considerably less than in the NetApplications data; and if one looks at "mobile browser" share -- the data above reflect "mobile operating system" -- Android is ahead of iOS in North America and globally. It's not clear how to explain these differences between the data sets. 

Another piece of data: last month an online and mobile shopping study found that iOS devices accounted for 92% of all non-PC sales. In other words Android users aren't very active in m-commerce. In addition the study reported that "Apple mobile devices also have a larger AOV compared to other mobile platforms ($123 for Apple vs. $101 for Android in December 2011) – and far outstrip desktop orders ($87)." 

Last year Nielsen posted some demographic data on iPhone and Android users and found them more similar than different. But in 2011 the recommendations site Hunch conducted a user survey (n=15K) and found some meaningful differences between Android and iPhone users. Chief among these differences were levels of education and affluence; iPhone users were generally older, more urban, better educated and had higher incomes according to the self-reported data.

Back to the comScore data above. Clearly Android is a more "mainstream" smartphone than the iPhone. Almost twice as many people own Android handsets in the US than the iPhone. However, looking at the rest of the data above, iPhone users are more engaged and active than their Android-owning counterparts on the whole.

As we move from a market still dominated by feature phones to one controlled by smartphones, by the end of this year, we'll see most people embrace Android as they upgrade. Apparently, however, this doesn't mean that they'll immediately begin displaying radically different behavior, though it does mean at least incremental changes.

Accordingly it might be fair to say that the lower-end Android handsets are becoming "the new feature phones." 

TeleNav Launches in-App Turn-by-Turn Directions for Mobile Developers

Navigation provider TeleNav is launching what it's calling "the first HTML5 browser-based, voice-guided, turn-by-turn GPS navigation service for mobile devices." The new developer-facing service will be available here (soon). The idea is to enable mobile publishers and developers to add a single line of code and then deliver GPS-based maps and voice-guided directions within their app experience to users (via HTML5).

Remarkably, the company says the service will be entirely free and available across mobile platforms (because it's HTML5). It will become publicly available in Q1 2012. However TeleNav is soliciting developers for early testing now. 

The benefits of this are obvious. Currently on Android and iOS, any mapping request takes users out of the publisher app experience to Google-branded maps on either platform. This TeleNav functionality would not only allow publishers to retain users within apps when maps are requested but would provide voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions to locations (retaurants, hotels, shops, etc.) as well. 

I haven't spoken to TeleNav about this or the fact that they're making it free to publishers -- I'm guessing it's a branding/distribution play. But it's a pretty sweet proposition if it all works as the press materials represent. 

Most Mobile Shopping Happening at Home

I've now written a number of posts, yesterday most recently, that point out most mobile shopping and purchase activity is not happening in stores or "on the go," but at home. Data vendor Compete last week released some findings from its most recent smartphone user survey that confirm this. 

What Compete found is that mobile "shopping" (not buying) was largely performed in the home or, to some degree, at work. What's significant here is that people are choosing to use mobile devices (smartphones typically) when they likely have access to a PC. 

A significant minority of people (34.5%) used their devices in stores (price checks, reviews, coupons) and another sizable group (28.6%) shopped while killing time. 

Below are the most common mobile shopping activities. Note that the largest category is "store information" (people preparing to visit a store location). According to Compete "made a purchase" just missed the list with 31.8% of people reporting making a purchase on mobile devices.

Majority of Mobile Buying Happened at Home During Thanksgiving Weekend

Of all the mobile shopping apps in the market, the company with the most data on consumer-user behavior is undoubtedly Amazon. But price monitoring mobile application ShopAdvisor also probably has a pretty good window into consumer behavior as well.

The company behind ShopAdvisor, Evoqu, released some data (based on its 100K users over the Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend) that captures the varied ways in which mobile apps are being used by consumers. It revealed three mobile shopping behaviors (based on purchase location):

  •  in-store price checkers (11%)
  • "couch commerce" buyers (54%)
  • deferred purchasers (35%) 

Evoqu said that consumers generally placed products above $156 on "WatchLists" for later research, discussion or price drops. Price-driven alerts later caused purchases of many of the "watched" items. This was also interesting about e-commerce vs. local/offline shopping: mst of ShopAdvisors' users stayed away from local stores during that first weekend: 

Mobile users shop locally, but not so much on Black Friday. The proportion of consumers who used ShopAdvisor to find local products dropped by 50% during the busy holiday shopping weekend. In the week prior to Thanksgiving, 20% of mobile users chose a local retailer to make a purchase, but from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, only 10% of users braved the mall or other local shops.

Here are the top 10 categories by percentage of mobile shopping (not necessarily buying) activity:

  1. Toys 13.8%
  2. Tablets & media players 7.0%
  3. TVs 5.8%
  4. Xbox 360 games 5.1%
  5. Digital Cameras 5.0%
  6. Women's Shoes 4.5%
  7. Men's Shoes 4.4%
  8. Small Kitchen Appliances 2.3%
  9. Watches & Accessories 2.2%
  10. Outerwear 1.9%

Assuming that the data above (in-store, couch, deferred) reflect the actual point of purchase, what's interesting is that the minority of mobile purchases happened during in-store shopping, which may have been based in part on crowd avoidance that weekend. Most (at least 54%) happened at home, where a PC was readily available. It may also be that a sizable chuck of the deferred purchases happened at home. It's not clear. 

Regardless, this is another study that shows how assumptions about mobile behavior and actual mobile behavior are often quite different.  

Facebook Has Greatest 'Active Reach' of Android Apps

Nielsen has published data on the Android apps with the greatest "active reach" by age group (US market). Active reach means "percentage of Android owners who used the app within the past 30 days." After the Android Market app itself, Facebook is dominant across age categories. 

After Facebook, Google occupies the next four slots with slight differences by segment. But basically it goes: GMail, Google Maps, Google Search and YouTube. In the top 100 free apps in the iTunes store, Facebook comes in at #24, Twitter at #48 and Google at #61. 

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In September here's what Nielsen said about overall active reach of Android apps: 

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Below is a chart (UK data from 12/10) that shows how dominant Facebook is in terms of time spent in aggregate minutes: 

Screen shot 2011-12-12 at 10.13.17 AM 

Verizon Stuffs Google Wallet, Starbucks Proclaims Itself the Mobile Payments Leader

Starbucks issued a press release this morning that proclaimed the company the "mobile payments leader," which is probably not incorrect. Here are some of the numbers exposed in the statement:

  • Mobile payments available at 9,000 US Starbucks locations (7K Starbucks, 1K Target stores, 1K Safeway locations)
  • 26 million mobile transactions at Starbucks to date
  • $2.4 billion in value loaded into various payment cards during 2011 (Starbucks payment cards are used for 25% of all US transactions)
  • $110.5 million reloaded onto Starbucks Cards directly through the mobile app

These are impressive numbers and Starbucks is likely doing more to popularize and educate people about mobile payments than any other entity in the US. The company plans to expand its apps/mobile payments program internationally as well.

In a related story, VentureBeat reported this morning that US carrier Verizon, the first to gain access to an Android 4.0 handset (Galaxy Nexus), is effectively blocking Google Wallet. The Galaxy Nexus is the second US Android handset to include NFC capability. The blog received a statement from a Google representative confirming that “Verizon asked [Google] not to include this functionality in the product."

The motivation for the carrier's move is obvious: it has a competing mobile wallet/payments offering in ISIS, a joint venture with AT&T and T-Mobile. It's not clear how much "outrage" this will generate among consumers, given that most have not tried mobile wallets and are conceptually ambivalent about them according to several surveys.

According to a Retrevo survey, carriers are less trusted than Google or Apple to provide mobile payments functionality:

Screen shot 2011-06-20 at 9.15.23 AM

I'm very skeptical that carriers will be able to provide a good and highly functional mobile payments experience. Google is in a much stronger position to do so than the carriers (in the US or internationally). I've got a note in to Google and will update this post if I'm able to talk to them.

Siri Most Popular Feature on New iPhone

The firm ChangeWave Research surveyed Apple iPhone 4S owners (n=215) and found higher consumer satisfaction levels than for its predecessor, the iPhone 4. The firm discovered that 77% of owners reported being "Very Satisfied" vs. 72% of iPhone 4 owners. Siri apparently is a large part of that, as the most liked feature on the handset. 

The biggest frustrations or "dislikes" were: 

  • Battery life issues (38%)
  • Lack of 4G speed (30%)
  • Screen size (11%)

After Siri, the best liked features of the iPhone 4S were:

  • Ease of use (39%)
  • Camera (33%)
  • Faster browsing (24%)

This is the first emprical proof we have beyond media reports that Siri is really making an impact on people. 

Study: Tablets Are for "Couch, Bed and Kitchen"

Tablets are for fun, entertainment, relaxation, while laptops are for work says a new study from Google. The company is releasing some very interesting (and more nuanced) data today on tablet usage, which has come into sharp focus following all the post-holiday analysis.

The data in the Google study are based on self-reported dairies consumers kept over a two-week period (sample size undisclosed). Google found an emerging bifurcation between tablet and PC usage, as well as some other interesting consumer behaviors.The bottom line here is that tablets are used in the home primarily, mostly by one person for leisure activities and often along side other media. 

Most consumers in the study "use[d] their tablets for fun, entertainment and relaxation while they use[d] their desktop computer or laptop for work." Just over 90% of usage turned out to be personal (email is an exception perhaps). Google added, "When a consumer gets a tablet, we’ve found that they quickly migrate many of their entertainment activities from laptops and smartphones to this new device."

Screen shot 2011-11-30 at 12.02.44 PM

Other findings from the study:

  • The most frequent tablet activities are: email, games and social networking 
  • Usage was more compressed during the week and longer on the weekend (e.g., watching video)
  • 42% of tablet activities happened during other tasks or along side other media (i.e. watching TV). Email, games, social networking and search are the tablet activities most frequently done in front of TV 
  • Usage occurs mostly in the home, though some people use them on the commute and on vacation or work trips, “where they use them as a laptop replacement"
  • Google also discovered most tablets were used by single individuals; a smaller percentage were shared with family members

Tablets are, according to Google, “mobile within the home, with the highest usage taking place on the couch, from the bed and in the kitchen" (see first graphic above).

Google also offers some implied recommendations for publishers: “For many people, websites and apps designed for smartphones just don’t cut it on tablets" In other words have sites and apps optimized for tablets. That's somewhat ironic given how few tablet apps exist for Android -- they're mostly stretched smartphone apps (which will change hopefully soon with Ice Cream Sandwhich). 

In a parallel vein, Google said that consumers expect more interactivity from ads on tablets:

Consumers are engaging with useful, relevant and rich ads that take advantage of the touchscreen interface on tablets. Some consumers expect more interactivity from ads on tablets than they do from ads on their desktop computer.

Screen shot 2011-11-30 at 12.02.34 PM

Interestingly, most activities carried out on tablets were limited to tablets, according to Google. Only 18% were conducted across platforms (on PCs or smartphones). 

With the iPad topping wishlists and millions of Kindle Fires being sold this holiday season the influence of tablets will only grow. This seems to be further confirmed by Google's finding that tablets were mostly used by one person. This argues for subsequent tablet purchases by other family members so "each can have his/her own." 

And in a bad economy those purchases will likely come at the expense of PCs. 

Cutting through the Cyber-Monday Hype

IBM, eBay, comScore and others have been pouring out data reflecting revenue gains over the weekend and on Monday for e-commerce and specifically mobile. In particular comScore says that Cyber Monday became the biggest online shopping day in US history clearing $1.25 billion. PayPal said that it saw a 552% increase in mobile payment volume vs. last year and a nearly 400% (397%) increase in mobile shopping.

There are a range of other statistics that reinforce the fact that there was a great deal of shopping on mobile devices over the weekend and on Monday.  

Screen shot 2011-11-29 at 3.14.22 PM

For example, IBM said the following about mobile shopping and mobile traffic over the weekend:

  • Mobile traffic increased to 14.3 percent  . . . compared to 5.6 percent in 2010
  • Sales on mobile devices surged to 9.8 percent from 3.2 percent year over year
  • Mobile shopping was led by Apple (iPhone + iPad) . . . Android came in third at 4.1 percent. Collectively iPhone and iPad accounted for 10.2 percent of all online retail traffic on Black Friday.
  • Shoppers using the iPad led to more retail purchases more often per visit than other mobile devices with conversion rates reaching 4.6 percent compared to 2.8 percent for overall mobile devices

IBM added on that on Cyber Monday mobile represented 7.7% of all online sales, up from 2.2% last year.

So what does all this mean exactly? As a basic matter, it means that people are using smartphones and tablets to shop for products and some are making purchases on them.

We need to ask several questions, however, before we can take the full measure of what happened:

  • Were mobile devices being used mostly in the home?
  • How much of the activity happened "on the go" and in stores? 
  • What percentage of people started with a mobile device and finished on a PC (and vice versa)? 
  • How many mobile purchases were made through mobile apps vs. the mobile web? 
  • What percentage of "mobile" purchases happened on the iPad vs. smartphones?
  • What percentage of mobile buying happened where the user had a stored credit card on file with the e-commerce site/app?   

Answering at least some of these questions will give us a better sense of what's really going on in terms of mobile behavior. Screen size, location, time and the immediacy of user needs are all variables that contribute to a larger consumer-behavior context. For example, a tablet (iPad) user at home is very different from a smartphone user in a store, and so on. 

While marketers and publishers can't address all these variables and nuances, they need to strive to better understand them to be effective and understand where mobile sits in the new cross-platform shopping paradigm.

Screen shot 2011-11-29 at 5.13.44 PM
Source: Google-AdMob, March 2011; Nielsen Q1 2011

Data: Mobile Shopping, Transactions Way Up from Last Year

Data released by eBay/PayPal and IBM today show some early holiday 2011 digital commerce trends. PayPal (and parent eBay) said that there were two mobile shopping peaks yesterday across its various sites. The first happened between 1pm and 2pm PST. The other occurred between 6pm and 7pm PST.

The most popular merchandise categories on eBay mobile were the following:

  1. Clothing, Shoes & Accessories
  2. Cell Phones & PDAs
  3. Jewelry & Watches
  4. Collectibles
  5. Toys & Hobbies

The top mobile-purchased items in the electronics category were: 

  1. iPhone Accessories
  2. Apple iPhone 4 - 16GB – Black
  3. Apple iPod Touch 4th Generation 8GB

PayPal also recorded a "511% [increase] in global mobile payment volume compared to Thanksgiving 2010."

IBM reported that "Thanksgiving 2011 sales were up 39 percent over Thanksgiving 2010." The company also said the following about mobile traffic and purchases yesterday:

  • Traffic to retail sites reached 15.2%, up from 6.4% last year
  • Number of consumers buying on mobile devices increased to 11.09%, up from just over 4% last year.

EBay has said that it will record roughly $5 billion in mobile purchases and PayPal will process $3.5 billion in mobile payments by the end of 2011. Of course these sites, and rival Amazon, are leveraging a huge installed base of users. These are not new mobile adopters but existing customers who are using mobile apps to carry out transactions. Both eBay and Amazon have invested heavily in mobile apps and their overall mobile user experiences.

All of this is helped quite a bit by consumer credit cards already on file. Most other retailer sites will see significant increases in traffic from mobile devices but not corresponding purchases. The reasons for this will be a poor mobile user experience and/or lack of a stored credit card number. One solution is, which captures credit card information through the smartphone camera, eliminating the need to key in 16 digits.

Amazon Might Own Android Tablet Market

I've not had my hands on an Kindle Fire but the reviews are generally fair to negative, except in the context of its price: "a good tablet for the price" is the consensus. And consumers are responding to that price in large numbers. Amazon will sell millions of Kindle Fire tablets to existing Kindle owners and to some would-be iPad buyers seduced by the $199 price and the assurances of the Amazon brand.

Amazon is also intending to release a larger version of the Kindle Fire next year, though it won't be quite as large as the iPad. Putting aside the Nook and hypothetical Windows tablets, Amazon's Kindle Fire is instantly the most successful tablet after the iPad by a huge margin.

Screen shot 2011-11-21 at 10.41.56 AM

Until someone else comes along with a cheaper, better Android tablet Amazon owns the market. So when the dust settles early next year after holiday sales are over it will effectively be a two tablet market: Apple vs. Amazon. I say "Apple vs. Amazon" because Amazon has effectively obscured all Android (and Google) branding. Most people buying a Kindle Fire don't know or care that they're buying an "Android device." 

It's possible that Samsung or HTC will build a competitive tablet featuring Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich"). But the current crop of Gingerbread and Honeycomb tablets simply "blow" (as they say in the vernacular) by comparison to the iPad. It would also be very challenging for any Android tablet maker to match Amazon's pricing given that the company is effectively taking a loss -- sellig the device for less than it costs to make on the assumption that it will increase product and content sales for Amazon.

There is a scenario where wireless carriers give away some future, stellar Android tablet in exchange for two year contract commitments. However, consumers are basically loathe to enter into a second set of wireless contracts beyond the ones they already have for their smartphones. WiFi tablets are more popular than carrier-subsidized tablets. It's therefore a much longer shot.

Recent consumer surveys from Retrevo, Nielsen and ChangeWave have shown increasing demand for tablets, with the iPad leading the group but with Kindle also in the clear second position.

As tablets replace PCs for some people the question of how other PC OEMs repond to the Apple-Amazon challenge becomes a major, strategic question. As Samsung, Dell and others have already shown, they can't (so far) match Apple on quality or hardware-software integration. And they can't match Amazon on price.

Thus until the forseeable future it's a two tablet race. And right now Amazon owns Android. 

The Decline of RIM and 'Consumerization' of IT

One of the big trends of the past few years has been the "consumerization of enterprise IT." This manifests in various ways, including the emergence of enterprise "social" tools that mimic consumer sites and user experiences (e.g., Salesforce's Chatter). Another way in which enterprise IT is changing is that workers now have more choice about the devices that they can use on the network.

RIM's stronghold and bulwark against irrelevance had been the corporate IT department, but that's no longer the case. The iPhone is now the top smartphone in the enterprise according to a new survey, the iPass 2011 Mobile Enterprise Report (based on 2,300 responses from workers at 1,100 enterprises globally).

Below are a selection of data presented in the survey report:

  • 95 percent of mobile workers now have smartphones, up from 85 percent in 2010
  • 91 percent use their smartphones for work, compared to 69 percent in 2010
  • Tablet ownership has grown to 44 percent of mobile employees, up from 33 percent in Q2 of 2011
  • The iPhone is now the top smartphone in the enterprise with 45 percent market share among mobile workers, up from 31 percent in 2010.
  • Only 28 percent of mobile workers are given no choice when it comes to smartphone selection; the majority of enterprises offer their employees some choice (62 percent) – 44 percent can select from a list of smartphones, and an additional 19 percent can use any device they choose to access corporate resources.

Current enterprise smartphone share:

 Screen shot 2011-11-17 at 9.21.01 AM

Intention to buy smartphones in 2012:

 Screen shot 2011-11-17 at 9.07.17 AM

Current tablet share in the enterprise: 

 Screen shot 2011-11-17 at 9.07.37 AM

Another interesting finding is that a growing number of workers (especially younger workers) leave their laptops at the office more frequently. Roughly 42% of workers said they left their business laptops at the office at least several days a week because they have alternative devices at home. 

Question: Do you leave your business laptop at work on weekends/evenings and just use your smartphone or tablet?

Screen shot 2011-11-17 at 9.08.01 AM
In tandem with the above finding the survey discovered that roughly 25% of respondents said they were using their laptops less today than a year ago. 

Gap Enables Google Wallet in 65 SF Bay Area Locations

The Gap has enabled Google Wallet at 65 San Fransisco Bay Area stores (Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Banana Republic Factory Stores and Gap Outlet). You can still only pay with MasterCard and a Google Prepaid Card, which you can fill with another credit card. Eventually Google wall "accept" all sorts of cards into Wallet. 

To promote the initiative Gap is giving Google Wallet users 15% off. The deal is presented in the Google Wallet app, in the "offers" area.

Screen shot 2011-11-16 at 10.58.39 AM

Google doesn't "see" any of the transactions today (and may never see them precisely). It only knows a transaction was made and the city in which it was made. It doesn't know the amount, the item or the store. However the Gap, in this case, knows all that information. 

Beyond the fact that this represents a convenience for the consumer it offers a powerful analytics capability to the marketer. In the not-too-distant future brands and marketers will be able to track promotions and ads to the point of sale with services like Google Wallet. In a lower-tech way Foursquare offers a similar capability through check-ins. The larger point is that NFC, check-ins and point of sale integration are starting to enable marketers to get more visibility on online-->offline transactions (or traditional media to POS). This is a major development and the arrival of a new form of analytics. 

By the day there's some new mobile payments announcement it seems. Indeed, the world of mobile payments is starting to get pretty noisy and potentially confusing to merchants and consumers. Visa, Amex, Mastercard, Verifone, Google, Apple, mobile carriers, eBay/PayPal, Square, Intuit and others are all competing for consumer and merchant attention. While not all of these players are directly competing, many of them are.

On the merchant side there need to be standards or at least compatible systems to enable mass consumer adoption of mobile payments. Fragmentation or different standards and systems will confuse and frustrate merchants and consumers alike, and only delay adoption. 

Very small merchants and service providers will likely turn to simple-to-adopt services like Square. Larger entities will ultimately adopt NFC-based systems I suspect. Broad adoption by retailers like the Gap helps the cause accordingly.

See related: PayPal Brand Weakness Standing in Way of Otherwise Compelling Shopping Vision


Free Webinar Tomorrow: The Convergence of Local & Mobile Advertising

Tomorrow at 1 US Eastern, 10 Pacific is our free webinar: The Convergence of Local and Mobile Marketing. I'll be providing a broad market overview on the following issues:

  • Smartphone and mobile Internet adoption
  • Local-mobile user behavior
  • Tablet adoption
  • Mobile advertising projections
  • SMB demand for mobile marketing  

AT&T Interactive’s Executive Director of Product Management Matthew Goldman will offer their view of the mobile market "on the ground." What are consumers really doing in mobile and what are they looking for? How are they responding to mobile ads? And, beyond surveys, is there truly demand among SMBs for mobile marketing? If so, where is that demand concentrated? 

We'll also take questions from the audience on these and related issues. If you're operating in the local-mobile segment or selling to small business advertisers you won't want to miss it.

To attend you must first register here