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Google Becomes More Like Siri, As Siri Becomes More Like Google

It's fascinating to watch Google evolve from a "search engine" into something much more interesting and complex. The rise of mobile, the launch of Google Now, the improvements in voice search and the more recent, conceptual introduction of what Google is calling "conversational search" all point to where search at Google is headed.

The search metaphor is giving way to the personal assistant metaphor. The entry of Siri in the market roughly two years ago was the trigger of the transition.

Google search boss Amit Singhal was deeply enamored of Star Trek as a boy and, like others at Google, has openly fantasized about building the "Star Trek computer." In other words, a computer one could simply speak to naturally and get correct and complete information. 

Google Now, also sometimes called "predictive search," tries to go beyond that purely "conversational" scenario by anticipating user needs and interests based on big data and personal search history (and movements). Google Now is highly imperfect but when it works it's impressive. 

While Google has only recently sought to move in the direction of "personal assistant," Siri has always been an "assistant" but only recently aspired to be a search utility. Siri was explicitly conceived as a tool that would enable the accomplishment of specific tasks and not simply the retrieval and display of information.

As Apple has added more structured data feeds to what Siri can access it has improved -- much of Siri's value for users still comes from controlling the device and initiating calls, texts and emails rather than "searching" -- however the great "Achilles heel" for Siri has been its limited dataset and lack of flexibility. 

Although it wasn't true when Siri was first introduced, Google has now exceeded Siri by bringing its web-search capabilities and into the virtual assistant equation. Google has a much deeper (albeit mostly unstructured) knowledge base to call upon vs. Apple. Thus for numerous questions where Siri didn't have a structured response it would have to default to web search (i.e., Google): "I didn't understand XYZ [query], shall I search the web for XYZ."

Google would then ride to the rescue. In the Google universe it can bring increasingly structured answers to the same user queries but also its full index as a backup. 

With the coming integration of Twitter, Wikipedia and especially Bing into Siri's roster of data sources with iOS7, Apple adds a full web index and much more breadth to what Siri can do without having to hand off to a third party search engine (i.e., Google). And unlike current scenarios where users typically have to explicitly ask Siri to "search the web" to obtain XYZ information, soon they'll just ask for "XYZ" -- and Bing will supply the necessary or desired information.

The deal has potential to dramatically broaden Siri's utility and usage frequency. Equally it could, if successful, significantly increase search query volume coming to Bing from iPhone users. The integration will need to be very "elegant" to win over users, who are accustomed to either using apps or Google in the Safari toolbar to "search the web" on the iPhone. Users will need to be educated about Siri's new capabilities.

The integration of Bing's search capabilities is a "crossing the Rubicon" of sorts for Apple as it declares that comprehensive data and search capabilities are necessary to fully deliver on the promise of the personal-virtual assistant. 

Pew: 81 Million US Adults Own Tablets

According to telephone survey data (n=2,252) released this morning by The Pew Internet & Life Project, 34% of US adults now own tablets. What that means as a practical matter is: 81 million adults. There may also be 20 million more people in the US under 18 who own tablets. (Our house has four.) 

I think it's relatively safe to say that if the number of tablets in the US isn't yet 100 million it's extremely close.  

A large majority of tablet owners are substituting tablets for PC usage in many instances and either buying fewer PCs overall or delaying PC replacement for a much longer period. This morning Apple will open its developer conference. A upgraded iPad/Mini is not expected to be among the announcements but it's possible. 

. Pew tablet ownership

As with other device categories, the story is largely the same with tablets. Penetration rates are higher among college educated (49%) and more affluent adults (56%). Affluent means at least $75,000 in income.   

The chart above reflects the growth of tablets since 2010 when only 3% reported tablet ownership. It's possible that by Q4 of 2014 half of the US adult population will have tablets (and 75% of affluents).

Global tablet shipments this year are expected to exceed those of laptop computers according to IDC. IDC also argues most of those sales will be at the lower end of the market (size, price).

Last week both Pew and Nielsen reported that 61% of mobile subscribers now own smartphones.  

It's Official: 61% of US Mobile Subscribers Have Smartphones

Earlier this week survey data from the Pew Internet Project argued that 61% of US adult mobile subscribers now own smartphones. Today Nielsen announced agreement with that number:

More than three out of five (61%) mobile subscribers in the U.S. owned a smartphone during the most recent three-month period (March-May 2013), up more than 10 percent since smartphones became the mobile majority in early 2012.

Comscore, for its part, says that the percentage of mobile users with smartphones is slightly less: 58%. Overall we're talking about 140 - 150 million people in the US now with smartphones.

In terms of OS market share, Nielsen reports that Android has 53% of the US smartphone market, while Apple controls 40%.

By comparison comScore says that it's 52% (Android) to 39% (Apple). Kantar (a market research division of WPP) shows a generally similar set of market share metrics for Android and iOS (iPhone).

comscore smartphones April 2013 US market

Source: comScore 

Kantar mobile market share data

Source: Kantar Worldpanel ComTech  

Where these market-share data disagree is with respect to Windows and BlackBerry. Nielsen says Windows Phone has 2% of the US smartphone market, while comScore says it's 3% and Kantar says it's closing in on 6%. 

If we look at actual web traffic in the US, the relationship between Android and iOS flips. (Here iOS may well include the iPad.) Internationally Android is ahead.

The following are StatCounter data showing traffic being driven by each of the major mobile operating systems:

US market:

  • iOS: 54%
  • Android: 40%
  • Windows Phone: 1.3%
  • Other: 4.7%

Globally:

  • Android: 38%
  • iOS: 26%
  • Symbian: 8%
  • BlackBerry: 3.5%
  • Windows Phone: 1.3%
  • Other: 23%

 

Place Conference 2014

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July 22, 2014 | New York City, NY

Place 2014 offers the perfect venue to learn how indoor positioning, offline analytics and advanced mobile-location targeting will change the way that retailers, venue owners, manufacturers and brands think about operations, marketing and the customer experience

Place 2014 will bring together the entire spectrum of companies building the indoor marketing ecosystem. Retailers, technology vendors, mobile developers, data providers, advertisers, agencies, and investors will come together for the only event of its kind anywhere.

-------------------
I2Go: Mobile + Location is a news and advisory service provided by Opus Research.

For more information:
Pete Headrick
e | pheadrick@opusresearch.net
p | +1-415-904-7666


Growing Consumer Interest for In-Store Delivery of Mobile Coupons, Says Study

A new report by comScore shows how mobile and social channels are changing online buying habits and how retailers can benefit in delivering a blend of choices for consumers including mobile coupons.

The study, Pulse of the Online Shopper , notes a variety of flexible options for consumers – 46 percent said they are less likely to comparison shop when using a retailer's mobile app and 44% want the ability to buy online and pick up their purchases in a stores.

Of particular note, consumers are open to communications from retailers on their mobile devices with 47% of shoppers willing to have a retailer to send a coupon to their smartphone when they are in-store or nearby. This trend underscores the potential role of indoor marketing technologies.

comscore_infographic

Regarding mobile channels, the report states:

Mobile is quickly becoming the preferred e-commerce channel as 7 out of 10 online consumers access multi-channel retailers through a digital channel. Of those mobile shoppers, 30% prefer to use a smartphone or tablet. Also, 50% of online shoppers who own a smartphone and nearly 60% who own a tablet make purchases on these devices.

More than 3,000 U.S. consumers were surveyed on their online shopping habits and the report was commissioned by UPS. A copy of the executive summary and white paper can be downloaded here.

Is Windows Already Past "Point of No Return"?

No one should ever bet against Microsoft. But amid a flurry of new Android based "convertables" and tablets (some of which were announced today), Windows is facing a tougher fight than ever. Only the enterprise and Office stand between the company and a dire-looking market.

PC sales are off and it doesn't appear they'll turn around soon. Yet, Microsoft is hoping that its 8.1 Windows update fixes many of the problems and complaints with Windows 8, which have contributed to disappointing sales. Microsoft, with its many billions in quarterly revenues, is clearly the ironic underdog in the new world of mobile computing. 

Redmond got a bit of good news from WPP research subsidiary Kantar Worldpanel ComTech earlier today. The firm found that Windows Phones had gained nearly 2 points since a year ago (however comScore data show much smaller gains). It's not clear, however, whether the needle is really moving for Microsoft given that Windows Phones generate less than 2% of all mobile OS based web traffic in the US. 

Kantar mobile market share data

Source: Kantar Worldpanel

The company's Surface tablets have also been a disappointment thus far. RT starts at $499 and Pro starts at $899. Both are going to need to come down by at least $200 before most consumers will consider them.

ASUS today said it was releasing a 7-inch tablet for $149 (outside the US there will be a 8GB version for the equivalent of $129). ASUS is the maker of the popular Nexus 7. Over time a large percentage of tablet sales will be concentrated in the 7-inch to 8-inch range and those tablets will almost without exception -- the exception being the iPad -- be priced below $200. 

Regardless of how full featured Surface tablets are price is a major driver of purchase behavior.

Accordingly, in response to declining tablet prices and sluggish sales, Microsoft is going to lower its software licensing fees to enable hardware OEMs to bring down prices of their Windows devices. But it may not be enough to boost sales. In addition the absence of a native version Office on the iPad or Android hasn't boosted Surface either. 

One interesting question to ask is whether Microsoft's past success has mostly relied on its ubiquity and near-monopoly status as an operating system (together with Office). If there's even a shred of truth in that question it's a serious problem because once people are no longer "compelled" to buy Windows machines a substantial number of them won't.

The following slide, presented as part of venture capitalist Mary Meeker's semi-annual internet trends report, is very surprising and revealing:

When mobile operating systems are included in the universe of computing platforms, Microsoft now has a minority share (35%). If mobile devices are removed from the equation Microsoft still dominates on the PC. 

In order for Microsoft to gain share in mobile, as well as deliver Windows OS growth, there will need to be some significant quality improvements in the overall UX but equally some meaningful price reductions. Even so, it's probably already too late for Microsoft to regain its former position in the market.  

Mobile Campaigns That Use Location Outperform Standard Campaigns by 2X to 3X

Location-based mobile ad network Verve Mobile released a "State of the Market: Location Powered Mobile Advertising" report this morning. It focuses on the fast-food and casual dining restaurant category and offers several case studies that show the lift provided by location targeting. 

Here are a few datapoints from the report: 

  • QSR/casual dining campaigns that leveraged location data performed 2x those that didn’t
  • Nearly 70% of all QSR/casual dining campaigns leveraged location targeting
  • Verve's case studies, using location targeting (display ads), show 3% and 4% CTRs, which is quite high for display.

Below is the distribution of location/audience targeting methodologies employed by Verve's customer-advertisers:

In the pie chart above, geo-fence means relatively precise targeting around business locations. Geo-aware means broader location targeting such as city or DMA level. And audience targeting is demographic or psychographic segments or profiles (e.g., soccer moms, vacation travelers, sports enthusiasts) inferred from location. 

Verve also reported that "location targeted advertising [ ] revealed a greater than 3X lift in foot traffic to the advertiser’s locations. Not only did exposure to the ad increase the likelihood a user would visit an advertiser location, it also decreased the likelihood a user would go to a competitor’s location by more than 20%."

Accordingly the major takeaways are the following:

  • Adding location increases consumer engagement and response rates by at least 2X
  • Location related copy and mapping/geo-precise landing pages can drive 3X foot traffic vs. ads that don't employ this type of ad creative or techniques

Lack of Tablet Optimization a Greater Barrier to Retail T-Commerce than Security Fears

In March Harris Interactive conducted a survey on behalf of shopping site TheFind. There were slightly more than 2,000 US adult respondents. Among them 572 respondents owned tablets.

The survey revealed what one might expect: retail shopping and e-commerce are increasingly happening on tablets. However users are often frustrated by websites and checkout experiences that aren't tablet friendly. This trumps payment security as a reason for not conducting t-commerce according to the survey.

Here are the main findings (reflected in the "infographic" on the right): 

  • 87% of tablet shoppers use the devices to browse/search for products online and do price comparison shopping   
  • 71% purchase products on their tablets
  • 41% buy an item on their tablets at least once a month and 12% more often than once a week
  • 37% of tablet shoppers say "they are using them more to shop now than they were 12 months ago"
  • 49% of tablet shoppers report "their biggest pet peeve is that retailers’ websites and apps aren't optimized for tablets"
  • The main reason that people say the tablet isn't their preferred shopping device is because "retailers’ tablet apps/sites don’t offer the same experience as their standard websites" (40% cite this)
  • 35% are frustrated by the checkout process on tablet sites/apps
  • 28% cite security as a reason for not shopping on tablets
  • 68% of tablet owners "would be interested in using a shopping app on their tablets;" however, in a seemingly contradictory finding, consumers tend to visit retailer websites (48%) more than retailer shopping apps (12%)

There were no findings about responsive web design and whether users consider that to be "tablet friendly." In many cases responsive design is not as mobile friendly as a dedicated site.  

In the "retail vertical" more consumers use or turn to to mobile websites than apps. That may be because of a lack of awareness of retailer apps. However the behavior flies in the face of general consumer trends, where 80% of mobile media time is spent in apps vs 20% on the mobile web.  

Survey: 63% of Smartphone Shoppers Would Rather Buy in Physical Stores

Content management software company Kentico recently conducted a mobile-shopping survey (n=300 US adults). The sample size is small and so the results must be viewed cautiously. However there were a few interesting findings. 

Among them, the survey found that 85% of smartphone owners do comparison shopping (products, prices). However "only" 45% do so in stores. A recent report from Nielsen, xAd and Telmetrics argued that only 6% of mobile users "showroomed." Interestingly, most of the Kentico survey respondents (63%) said they would rather buy locally, in a physical store vs. online.

In terms of the mobile user/mobile commerce experience, as might be expected, the usability of websites was a major variable:

Whether or not an online shopper clicks ‘buy’ isn’t solely dependent on products or pricing: 78% of smartphone owners, 75% of tablet owners and 69% of laptop owners say it also comes down to the look and feel of a company’s mobile website . . . Word of mouth (28%), company websites (25%) and in-store experience (18%) weighed most heavily on strengthening or eroding brand affinity.

These respondents felt that PCs and laptops provided a better online shopping experience overall than tablets or smartphones.

Which device provide the best shopping experiences?:

  • 48% (desktop) computers
  • 40% laptops
  • 9% tablets
  • 3% smartphones

A significant minority (44%) of users said that they would never return to websites that featured bad user experiences (not optimized for mobile). This is not a surprise and echoed by other findings already in the market.

Despite Android Device Dominance iOS Devices Drive Much More Web Traffic

Online marketing firm Monetate puts out a quarterly report, like an increasing number of digital marketing firms today. Using customer data, its "EQ1" (2013) report offers a range of metrics, including e-commerce conversions by channel/platform and average order value. It also breaks out traffic by device category and browser. 

This report like others shows that iOS devices are generating a great deal more web traffic than their Android counterparts, which is mysterious given Android's market share dominance. In addition Monetate now shows roughly equal distribution between tablet and smartphone-generated traffic.

According to the chart below smartphone and tablet traffic has roughly doubled since Q1 2012. Tablets are now driving slightly more web traffic to Monetate customers than smartphones. Over all "mobile" traffic is 21%. 

Despite Android's market-share lead the iPhone is responsible for almost two-thirds of smartphone-based traffic to Monetate-client websites. In the tablet arena Monetate says that just under 90% of traffic is coming from the iPad, with Android tablets (including Kindle Fire) generating just under 11%.  

One of the more interesting charts shows browser market share. What we can observe from the data in the chart below are the following: 

  • The decline of IE; Firefox has also lost ground
  • The growth of mobile Safari and slight decline of desktop Safari (together equaling 27% combined market share) 
  • The Android browser has gained a little under 2 points and mobile Chrome has grown to just under 1% share since last year
  • Opera almost doesn't register 
  • Kindle's browser share is flat

If all the Android browsers are combined (assuming that mobile Chrome is mostly Android users) we see that Android's aggregate browser share is just over 5%. If PC browsers are excluded it would be larger however. 

According to StatCounter, among mobile browsers only, mobile Safari has about 53% market share to Android's roughly 36% (with 11% combined other). Notably Chrome has 3.2% according to StatCounter. 

Various theories have been advanced about why iOS devices are responsible for more web traffic than their Android counterparts, given Android's market share lead (in the smartphone arena). But none of them are entirely satisfactory. 

Study: Second Screening of TV Now Done by Majority

TV is arguably the lone traditional medium that been able to retain its premium ad rates and audience reach (mostly), while other media have suffered fragmenting audiences and declining ad revenues. But the fact that millions still watch TV doesn't necessarily mean TV advertising has the power and impact it once did.

A recent study from ad network InMobi, involving 15,000 users from 14 global markets including China, Europe, the US and several African countries, argues that consumers now spend more time with mobile media than TV (there are competing data that show TV is still on top). 

The survey found TV to still be the most influential single medium, followed by PC/online and then mobile. Other traditional media lagged behind in their influence over purchase decisions. The following reflects the percentage of survey respondents who reported that the medium "significantly influenced" their purchase behavior: 

  • TV -- 48%
  • Online/laptop -- 43%
  • Mobile -- 40% 
  • Magazines/newspapers -- 31%
  • In-store ads -- 18%
  • Outdoor/billboard -- 11%
  • Radio -- 10%  

The data above are not broken out by country. Undoubtedly there would be variation, potentially significant variation, accordingly.

With respect to TV, however, users are now widely "second screening" -- that is, diverting their attention from the programming and advertising to focus on some activity happening on their smartphones or tablets. Two-thirds of the TV audience is now doing this on a global basis, with younger users (<35) being the most likely to multiscreen (graphic above).

What are they doing on those second screens? The survey says they're on social networks or otherwise messaging friends (see graphic below). Note that a substantial number are "searching for information about products" they saw on TV. This represents both a new opportunity for brands and TV advertisers generally. 

Marketers now must be conscious that a significant portion, indeed the majority, of the TV audience is going to "look away" at their smartphones or tablets. Marketers must have a mobile optimized presence on search and social media. But beyond simple presence, TV advertisers need to make it easy for mobile users at home to find their products or services easily (the many hashtags used in Super Bowl TV ads is one example). 

TV advertisers can drive email sign-ups/opt-ins, app downloads as well direct purchases with the right offers and TV-ad messaging. In addition, with coordination and planning mobile can be used to measure TV ad effectiveness as well.

The larger point is that fewer and fewer TV viewers (especially those under 35) are watching TV or online video without a mobile device nearby. That allows them to either take action on ads they see -- or totally ignore them. 

Survey: 52% of Recent Travel Booked in Mobile vs. 48% on PC

Location-based and WiFi ad network JiWire is out with its Q1 insights report. The document contains a range of information drawn from surveys of mobile users who access the internet at mostly JiWire-powered WiFi hotspots. This quarter the company zeroes in on behavior in the travel vertical and examines multi-screen activity and cross-platform conversions accordingly.  

We know that travel is a very mobile-centric vertical with lots of apps for smartphones and tablets. And JiWire confirms extensive multi-device usage for travel research and purchases:  

  • Almost 50% of active mobile consumers are using smartphones & tablets for travel research
  • While laptops remain the preferred device for travel ... 27% [are] already saying they use their smartphone to make travel-related purchases. 
  • Nearly 50% of consumers will spend $500 or more in a mobile-travel booking context
  • 52% of travel booked within the past three months was on a smartphone or tablet vs. 48% on laptops

Next comes a fascinating chart showing the multi-screen purchase process in travel (a microcosm of consumer behavior more generally). Google documented this phenomenon previously in research showing that 90% of consumers move “sequentially” between different screens throughout the same day.

Below is the JiWire chart showing how consumers start on one device and often convert on another:

Below is the comparable Google chart:

Google found, generically, that more people started research on a smartphone than any other device category. This is generally consistent with the Nielsen-xAd-Telmetrics data released today. However, in travel laptops still command the majority of activity according to JiWire -- but not by much. As mentioned above, more travel booked in the past 90 days has come from mobile than the PC (52% to 48%). 

JiWire also investigated what variables influenced travel-purchase decisions and how those purchases were researched and completed on mobile devices. Leisure travelers were more impacted by discounts; business travelers were influenced by loyalty programs and company policies. (This finding has obvious mobile marketing implications.)

As reflected in the chart above, travel aggregator apps (e.g., Kayak) and branded airline apps (e.g., United) were more often used than mobile websites for travel bookings. This makes sense because the user experience is likely to be better and credit card and other personal information may be stored, expediting the checkout process. People who are required to fill out lots of fields, including credit card information are less likely to complete those transactions in mobile. 

Another factor impacting the findings regarding app vs. mobile usage is the probability that many of the people surveyed are frequent travelers and are more likely to have apps on their mobile devices than occasional leisure travelers who may be less aware of their app options. 

Study: As Many As 54 Million May Be Mainly Mobile Retail Shoppers

The latest installment of "Mobile Path to Purchase" research from Nielsen, xAd and Telmetrics drills down into retail-shopping attitudes and behaviors. As with the broader study, previously released, the findings show a significant percentage of users are doing shopping research exclusively on mobile devices. 

The Mobile Path to Purchase study is in its second year. The findings are based on an online survey of 2,000 US smartphone and tablet owners and “observed consumer behaviors from Nielsen’s Smartphone Analytics Panel of 6,000 Apple and Android users.”

According to the report, 42% of smartphone and tablet owners did not consult PCs at all as part of their retail shopping research. The broader study found the overall number to be 46%, who didn't use PCs. This is a staggering data point in my opinion.

Nielsen mobile retail shopping

Source: Nielsen, xAd, Telmetrics Mobile Path to Purchase study 2013

If we extrapolate these "mobile only" numbers, assuming they're representative, we're talking about a potential audience of perhaps 54 million in the US who may be relying primarily or exclusively on smartphones and tablets to shop.  

Other noteworthy findings from the study include: 

  • High conversions: More than 55% of mobile retail shoppers ultimately make a purchase
  • Immediacy:30% of smartphone owners and 25% of tablet users sought to make purchases within one hour. However a larger percentage of tablet owners (41%) "take a month or longer to make a purchase."
  • Where conversions happen: 77% of smartphone-based purchase activity happen locally, in stores. Tablet conversions are more evenly distributed: 39% in stores, 32% on PCs and 24% on tablets themselves.

The retail report also seeks to debunk a couple of "myths" about mobile usage. The first is that smartphones are used predominantly "on the go" and/or near the point-of-sale. The study found that smartphones were used throughout the pre-purchase research process and that the largest percentage of use was in fact "at the start" of shopping rather than near the end. 

Nielsen mobile shopping behavior

Source: Nielsen, xAd, Telmetrics Mobile Path to Purchase study 2013

The second "myth" debunked (though not quite as easily) is the notion that most smartphone owners are "showrooming" whenever they shop. The report says that showrooming (in-store price-comparison shopping) is relatively rare and practiced by a very small minority of users:

Only 6 percent of smartphone users conducted their most recent mobile retail search in-store . . . Mobile shoppers are in fact using their devices for comparison-shopping before and after an in-store visit. 

However previous survey findings from the Pew Internet Project and Google argue that significant numbers of smartphone owners do compare prices while in stores. For example, Pew's research found that 72% of smartphone owners used their devices while in retail stores. And the more recent Google-sponsored study reported the top in-store smartphone activities were the following:

  1. Price comparisons
  2. Finding offers and promotions
  3. Finding locations of other stores
  4. Finding hours

What the Nielsen-xAd-Telmetrics data argue is that most of this type of activity occurs before or after someone goes into a store. It may be that the wording of the questions influenced these results, though it may not be possible to entirely reconcile the conflicting findings. Regardless, the more important point is that smartphones and tablets are heavily used by consumers as part of their shopping research.

Accordingly, retailers that are not aggressively addressing the mobile audience are completely missing huge numbers of people and potential sales. 

Google Makes Downpayment on the 'Star Trek Computer'

At the Google developer conference in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, Google demonstrated "conversational search" on the PC. It was one of the clear highlights of the nearly three-hour keynote. What the demo showed was Google's voice search (and audio read back) capability together with "context awareness" of previous query results.

For years Google has very self consciously been trying to replicate the "Star Trek computer." Now Google is making some meaningful strides toward that objective. 

In the demonstration at the Google event, we saw the capacity to search for a person, place or thing and then do follow-up searches using pronouns or otherwise building on the previous query. The Google representative spoke to the computer and planned a trip to the Northern California beach community of Santa Cruz. She spoke queries to her PC and got voice-response answers from the Google "assistant."

This kind of "context awareness" or "conversational" capability is present to varying degrees in Siri today (and other "assistants") as well as other "AI" driven call center and customer service solutions. 

Following the lead of Siri and then going beyond it, Google is transforming conventional search into a personal assistant experience. This is the clear future direction of the market. Google's voice search and Google Now information or answer "cards" illustrate this trajectory. As of late yesterday some of those same capabilities have been brought over to the Chrome browser on the PC.   

If users update their Chrome browsers to the latest version they'll find a prominent new voice-search experience on Google.com (it isn't yet available from the URL bar search). Many of the answers or results are "read back" to you (where there's an answer card or Knowledge Graph entry). However this doesn't happen all the time. And in my quick testing, the ability to follow up with secondary searches using pronouns and queries referencing previous results was very limited. 

Still, the spoken read-back (as in mobile search) is fun and as Google develops this contextual and conversational capability further you may be inclined to start having more verbal interactions with your computer. 

Apple Bests Others but Loses Satisfaction Points, Samsung Gains

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) has released new data on mobile phone satisfaction. Apple (iPhone) comes out on top, as it does in the JD Power surveys. However the iPhone has lost two satisfaction points, while Samung jumped seven points, since last year.

The iPhone may be losing ground because Android devices are being released more frequently with a range of feature improvements and form factors. For example, the iPhone 5's screen, which was enlarged vs. the 4S, looks puny by comparison to some of the Samsung devices.  

Most other competitors on the ACSI list gained vs. last year except LG, HTC and BlackBerry. Immediately below are the ACSI rankings. 

 

For comparison purposes, here are the JD Power rankings. After Apple, Nokia came in second beating Samsung. Motorola, second in ACSI's list above, was fourth overall in the JD Power rankings. 

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 6.33.48 AM 

The ACSI people will tell you that satisfaction ratings matter because they're broadly predictive of future sales performance. I accept that as sound. However the data from year one have not always correctly predicted market share or sales performance in year two. One case in point is online search, where ratings declines for Google have not translated into market share loses and vice versa for other competitors.

It's also worth noting that the satisfaction rankings differences between JD Power and ACSI are probably the result of a focus on different criteria and different questions to consumers. Thus both lists may not be entirely complete measures of consumer satisfaction. However the iPhone did top both lists, which is significant. 

Google Checkout Is Dead, Long Live Google Wallet

The relationship between Google Wallet and Google Checkout has always been a bit confusing. Essentially Checkout was Google's PayPal competitor for merchant payment processing. It has been around for roughly seven years. It never really got traction, in part because Google didn't aggressively promote it.

Google Wallet is Google's mobile payments platform, the major component of which has been in-store NFC payments. It also hasn't seen much adoption, though that may change. It also can be used to store coupons and offers. 

Some time ago Google merged Checkout into Wallet. This was a bid to unify the two products. The pitch to consumers was "one wallet for online and in-store shopping." And that's still the pitch. It's the merchant side of things that has changed.  

Yesterday Google announced that it was shuttering Checkout (I thought the product name had gone away). The company said it will continue processing payments online until November of this year. Thereafter merchants will need a new payment processor. Google is sending people to Braintree, Shopify and Freshbooks. 

If merchants do have current payment processing Google is encouraging them to apply for what it calls "Google Wallet Instant Buy." The idea is to remove friction from mobile buying by eliminating the need to enter credit card data and other related information (e.g., billing/shipping address). The solution is directed at Android app developers. (I suspect Apple will eventually do something similar with iTunes.) 

Entering credit card data and related shipping/billing information on a smartphone is a major barrier to so-called "m-commerce." More than 90% of mobile users abandon shopping carts, partly for this reason. Security is another concern for many. However if Google Wallet Instant Buy is widely adopted by Android developers (there are no additional fees or changes from Google) it could have a major positive effect on mobile buying. Stored credit card data in one of the factors that has enabled Amazon to become the mobile commerce leader.

Google has also introduced a Google Wallet Objects API, which allows merchants to integrate their loyalty programs into Wallet and more broadly promote them to Google users. And, as we previously indicated, Google has also introduced the easiest possible P2P send money solution through Google Wallet (via email attachment).  

Google has thrown in the towel around merchant payment processing (Checkout). But it has introduced pretty compelling new features for consumers and merchants that should make Wallet a much stronger and more broadly useful product.  

Aruba Networks Acquires Indoor Location Firm Meridian

Wireless equipment maker Aruba Networks is acquiring privately held Meridian Apps, developers of indoor GPS technologies. Aruba will combine its network-based Wi-Fi technology with Meridian’s software platform for smartphones and tablets to create services for use in public venues. Terms of the deal were undisclosed.

“GPS-based wayfinding solutions are extraordinarily popular, but they don’t work well indoors,” said Keerti Melkote, founder and Chief Technology Officer at Aruba Networks said in a statement. “We intend to address that gap by creating ‘indoor GPS’ using Aruba’s Wi-Fi infrastructure and Meridian’s wayfinding platform … This is a clear opportunity for Wi-Fi to become not only an enabling platform for BYOD, but now across industries, a revenue-producing, customer engagement platform for the business.”

The Meridian enterprise software platform targets large, indoor facilities -- including the Art Institute of Chicago and Macy's store in New York City -- to build custom-made mobile applications that help people get around in public places.

Meridian opened up it platform last November, introducing a pair of SDKs, Nav Kit and Blue Dotto. The company, based in Portland, Oregon, had previously announced a partnership with Aruba Networks competitor Cisco.

For its part, Cisco unveiled Wi-Fi location services and analytics last November, thanks to its acquisition of ThinkSmart Technologies. The features are included in Cisco's Mobility Services Engine built in conjunction with mobile chip maker Qualcomm and AT&T. Cisco has also partnered with IBM for its "Mobile Concierge" service, which enables integrated web applications to be displayed on mobile devices and provides analytics to deliver a customized shopping experience with coupons and promotions.

Indoor Location Apps on the Rise for Retailers

In-store mapping provider aisle411 announced this week that its smartphone app is currently in use by more than 12,000 retail stores, including Walgreens, The Home Depot, Hy-Vee, Price Shoppoer, and Shop 'n Save, among others.

The mobile application provides directions to specific products and offers searchable store maps. Engaging consumers through in-store mobile apps holds considerable promise for retailers, says Nathan Pettyjohn, CEO of aisle411. "Offline Commerce, or purchases occurring at a physical store, make up approximately 90 percent of all retail purchases. aisle411's mobile platform digitizes the in-store shopping experience so that shoppers can find and buy everything that they came in the store to purchase."

Indeed a growing number of technology companies are offering in-store mapping and customer engagement platforms, collecting data about mobility patterns and giving customers information to make better point-of-purchase decisions. Don Dodge, Developer Advocate at Google helping developers build new applications on Google platforms and technologies, sees enormous opportunities in the future of indoor location technologies, saying it will be a huge market, "bigger than Maps or GPS".

Among the growing number of market entrants for indoor location technologies, beyond aisle411, include Wifarer, Meridian, Point Inside, VisibleBrands, Micello, and several others.

With Apple's recent acquisition of WiFiSlam for $20 million, the indoor positioning and indoor marketing industry is heating up. We'll be watching the market closely as retailers begin to embrace indoor marketing technologies and map the potential use cases going forward.

Can "Send Money" By Email Reinvigorate Google Wallet?

Yesterday at the Google developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco Google relatively quietly launched a new feature of Google Wallet -- send money by email. It represents, hands down, the simplest way to transfer money between people. And it could become wildly successful provided that Google promotes the service and explains how it works. 

It requires a Google Wallet account and an associated payment method (credit card, bank account). It doesn't require a Gmail account to send or receive. However it's easiest if there is a Gmail account. Gmail is the most popular webmail service now on a global basis. 

Google was reportedly going to announce a plastic payment card at I/O but that was scuttled at the last minute (apparently because of a poorly functioning demo for CEO Larry Page). Competitor PayPal offers a physical payment card for in-store usage, linked to PayPal payment methods (credit card, bank account). It's not clear how widely it's used. My suspicion is not at all.

Google's payment card was a renewed bid for relevance and adoption for Google Wallet. It may still launch after the "bugs are worked out." Its NFC-based mobile wallet has seen limited adoption and usage. And awareness of Google Wallet is well behind PayPal. 

Instead of the plastic card Google announced "send money." Essentially users just send money as they would an email attachment.  Users select the "attach money" icon in Gmail (not yet available but rolling out soon in the US to adults 18 and over), indicate the amount desired and the "from account" via a pull-down menu (credit card, bank account, Google Play balance). Then hit send. 

Sending money via email is currently only available on the PC. However users can send money from Google Wallet directly on their phones.

It's free for users to receive money. And it's free to send from your bank account. Sending a payment from a credit or debit card will trigger a 2.9% charge, just as if you had used your card in the "real world" at a point of sale. Google says it also offers "Purchase Protection ... against eligible unauthorized payments."

This is a pretty compelling way to send money, although there are a few adoption and potential trust issues that must be overcome. If Google can do that and educate people about the benefits it could become a huge success and make Google Wallet a hub for mobile payments vs. its current status as an "also-ran."

Millennial Media Q1: $49M, on Track for $230M+ in 2013

Millennial Media reported Q1 earnings yesterday afternoon. The company said that its revenue grew to $49.4 million from $32.9 million in Q1 2012. However the company saw a $3.8 million net income loss vs. a $4 million loss a year ago.

Non-US revenue was 18.4% vs. 12.1% in Q1 of 2012. Second quarter revenue guidance was $58 million to $60 million.

The company said that its network reached 420 million monthly unique users globally, including approximately 160 million monthly unique users in the United States. Millennial also said that its network was enabled on 42,000 mobile apps. 

CFO Michael Avon said on the earnings call that geotargeted, demographically and behaviorally targeted ads were "growing faster than the overall growth rate of the market." 

The company cited IDC's estimates that its mobile ad revenues in the US "were second only to Google." FY2012 revenues for Millennial Media were $177.7 million. However Facebook made $391 million in mobile ad revenue in 2012 and is on track to do nearly $1 billion this year. 

Directory publisher and local-mobile ad network provider YP said that it had $350 million in mobile ad revenue in 2012.