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Most Smartphone Commerce Happening in the House

As apps and websites become optimized for mobile commerce, and as the "credit card problem" is addressed (see TheFind and Jumio), there will be more buying on smartphones. Most retailers and brands currently assume smartphone transactions happen on the go or in stores (or on other devices). In the home e-commerce is supposed to be the domain of PCs (and increasingly tablets).

The conventional wisdom is that smartphones are more heavily used for shopping out of home and that's been supported by prior survey data. Yet data released yesterday by Nielsen tell a somewhat different and more nuanced story.

Americans are indeed buying things on their smartphones (24%) but they're mostly doing it at home: 72% of people making purchases on their smartphones did so at home and not "on the go," as one would have expected. Only 3% of smartphone owners buying things on their devices did so in stores; 6% did so in their cars. The remainder, 18%, fall into an unidentified "other" bucket. 

It's interesting that smartphones are so widely used for commerce-related activities (store locators) on the go but buying happens at home. Nielsen doesn't offer any real explanation however. It may be that the "immediacy" and availability of the device make it a preferred option for some. 

There's also no data about audience segments. It would be interesting to see if these at-home smartphone transactors are younger, older and whether they have other devices available to them. 

Regardless this is another "wake up call" arguing that marketers and retailers need to quickly optimize e-commerce experiences for smartphones. 

Acxiom, 4INFO Announce Deal for CRM-Based Mobile Ad Targeting

The reinvented 4INFO announced a deal with Acxiom this morning that is consistent with the way mobile and the broader digital advertising markets are evolving: advanced targeting and in-store/sales lift measurement.

According to the release, "The partnership provides US consumer brands new levels of mobile advertising precision and confidence for customer relationship campaigns, including the ability to measure results where it counts — at the cash register." Accordingly, companies will be able to use their own data to target existing customers (and prospects) on mobile devices -- and then track response to the point of sale and see direct sales impact.

Facebook has a similar product and relationship with Acxiom. At Facebook "Custom Audiences" allows companies to find and target their own customers on the site or in mobile. Catalina has a deal with 4INFO that leverages the former's purchase history data so that third party CPG companies and others can target buyers of specific products/product categories. But the 4INFO-Acxiom CRM-based targeting and sales measurement may be a first (other than Facebook) in mobile. 

Behind the scenes the advertiser's CRM/customer data (or Acxiom audience data) are matched with 4INFO's database on a 1:1 basis. 4INFO claims profiles of 152 million mobile devices covering 101 million US households.

4INFO will also be making Acxiom audience segments data available to its "AdHaven Bullseye" advertisers. Most of the ad inventory 4INFO uses come from mobile exchanges. 

It's worth repeating; what's significant about the announcement are the ways that it's a kind of harbinger of the future:

  1. Increasingly sophisticated and precise mobile targeting
  2. Ability to measure in-store/sales impact 

As I've argued elsewhere in-store/sales measurement will become an almost mandatory requirement of many mobile campaigns (depending on the objectives). There are now multiple companies including Placed, PlaceIQ, uSamp and others offering the capacity to measure in-store lift from mobile campaigns. Being tied into CRM databases offers even greater accuracy in terms of measuring sales impact. 

Once these methodologies become more widely available and understood, advertisers will demand them. Placed and PlaceIQ will be talking about ad tracking to the point of sale and in-store measurement at Place 2013. The early bird conference rate expires this week. To take advantage register today

Pew: Roughly 122 Million Bank Online, 83 Million in Mobile

The Pew Internet & American Life Project issued an online banking report (based on US consumer survey findings) earlier this week. Pew found that 61% of internet users said they banked online and 35% of "cell phone owners" also said they used their mobile devices to do some of their banking.

The total adult US internet population is roughly 200 million (give or take a few million). Using rough math and Pew's survey findings, that would mean approximately 122 million people were engaged in online banking in the US. Mobile phone penetration (including non-smartphones) among the US adult population is over 100% according to CTIA.

That means, using the Pew survey data, that roughly 83 million adults in the US are doing mobile banking. Although the percentages in the chart below seem far apart, the actual population numbers are much closer.  

Online and mobile banking 

According to Pew younger, non-white US adults are more likely to do mobile banking than their white peers:

Young adults (ages 18-29) and whites report the most significant increases for online banking. In 2010, 55% of 18-29 year-olds said they banked online; in 2013, 66% of that group did so. In 2010, 47% of whites said they banked online; in 2013, 54% of that group did so.

Younger adults are also leading the mobile banking trend. However, in contrast with online banking trends, non-white cell phone owners are more likely than whites to engage in mobile banking.

What's interesting to consider is whether online banking will lead to more comfort with mobile bill paying generally and later mobile commerce and payments beyond that. However one factor here is that people mostly trust their banks, and their willingness to conduct financial transactions on mobile devices will depend (for now) on their relationship to the brand or provider in question.  

M-Commerce Approaching 10% of E-Commerce

Comscore has published Q2 e-commerce estimates for the US. I discuss those figures over at Screenwerk. The quarterly total is just under $50 billion ($49.8 billion). Of interest here are the "m-commerce" estimates provided by comScore: $4.7 billion in Q2. 

Here's what the firm said about mobile e-commerce: "Consumers spent an additional $4.7 billion in mobile commerce (m-commerce) via smartphones and tablets, an increase of 24% over the past year." That means, according to comScore, m-commerce was about 9.4% of e-commerce spending, which is in turn about 5.5% of total US retail. 

The firm doesn't detail what percentage of m-commerce is coming from tablets vs. transactions on smartphones. However there are relatively few e-commerce transactions completed on smartphones, though that is growing.

E-commerce on tablets is much like e-commerce on a PC; there is relatively little friction vs. the experience on smartphones. Indeed, most e-commerce sites have not done a good job optimizing their shopping experiences for smartphones.  

I'm sure that comScore doesn't have this number but what would be most interesting is the dollar impact of smartphone usage on retail spending, either online or in the store. Smartphones now are an integral part of the shopping process and especially used in stores.

Siva Kumar, CEO of TheFind, told me earlier this week that 70% of the smartphone searches on TheFind's app are happening in stores. Accordingly smartphones are playing a major role in consumer decision making and having a much larger impact on purchase decisions than the still-modest "m-commerce" figures would suggest. 

Has Android 'Peaked' in the US?

Android's share (of smartphone shipments) across the globe is gaining momentum according to the latest IDC numbers. By contrast there's evidence that Android's US share may have "peaked" according to analysis from Asymco's Horace Dediu. 

Below are IDC's estimates showing global market share for Q2 by shipments: 

  • Android: 79.3% (2012: 69.1%)
  • iOS: 13.2%  (2012: 16.6%)
  • Windows Phone: 3.7%  (2012: 3.1%)
  • BlackBerry: 2.9%  (2012: 4.9%) 
  • Others: 1%  (2012: 6.2%) 

Thus Android stands near 80% of global smartphone shipments, which aren't identical with sales. But it's a directional indication of actual sales.  

However in the US market the story is different; Android's share is flat (per comScore): 

smartphone market share june by OS 

Dediu points out that over the past six to eight months in the US the iPhone has gained more usage than Android (11M vs. 6.6M users). So it would appear that Apple's US and international fortunes have significantly diverged. 

However we also have research from CIRP, which finds (via survey data) that "first time smartphone buyers" in the US (meaning those buying smartphones for the first time now) tend to be older and more price sensitive. They buy "secondary Android brands" (e.g., LG) and keep their phones longer. 

Apple's strategy for more price-sensitive consumers has been the iPhone 4 and 4S, which has been reasonably successful to date. However rumors suggest a low-cost "plastic" iPhone for emerging markets and more price-conscious consumers. 

When looked at in the context of overall computer operating systems (including the PC), Android will be the dominant OS by 2015 on a global basis -- far outstripping Windows. By comparision, Apple's overall OS share (iOS + Mac OS) is expected to nearly match Windows. 

Nielsen: US Smartphone Penetration Now 62%

Nielsen revised slightly upward its smartphone penetration data for the US market. Last quarter the figure was 61%; as of today Nielsen says that 62% of American adults own smartphones. 

Kantar research has been arguing that their data show the rise of Windows Phones in the US. However the Nielsen numbers reflect that in Q2 Windows Phones had just 2.3% market share. BlackBerry had 3%. And the remainder, 92%, was divided between the iPhone and Android. 

Apple continues to be the single leading smartphone OEM, followed by Samsung. Motorola, HTC and LG are closely arrayed after that.  

file

Motorola is hoping to "reboot" its brand and sales with the new Moto X. What's perhaps most fascinating about the handset is that it targets women specifically, by positioning the phone as a personal fashion accessory.

Motorola's former (pre-Google) strategy had been very spec- and male-centric. The company had even attacked the iPhone at one point for being a "princess." At least with this model (Moto X) it's a dramatic shift for the company. 

Conflicting Claims: Which Smartphone Is More 'Satisfying'?

Last week the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released findings asserting that the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note II beat the iPhone 5 for customer satisfaction. The Galaxy S4 was not part of the study, which was conducted before the device's release. Somewhat Ironically, Korean consumers said the opposite: that they preferred Apple devices to Samsung's. 

Here are the US ACSI scores by device: 

Smartphone Customer Satisfaction 2013

Survey questions addressed the following areas:

  • Design (including weight and screen size)
  • General handset features
  • Video and audio quality
  • Software and ease of use (including OS and UI) 

What's interesting is that Apple rates higher than Samsung overall in the ACSI company scores -- though Samsung has closed the gap vs. 2012: 

 

Apple more handily beats Samsung in the JD Power ratings, where the iPhone 5 contributed to Apple's overall 2013 smartphone win. In the JD Power satisfaction scoring, Samsung is at the bottom of the group. How can these conflicting scores (within the ACSI and between ACSI and JD Power) be reconciled?

 

The ACSI report offers no real explanation for the Galaxy and Galaxy Note wins. Other than screen specs, Samsung's phones are not the highest quality Android devices on the market. Arguably HTC, LG and perhaps Motorola have stronger offerings from an overall quality perspective. However Samsung outspends them all (combined) on marketing, which has been the chief driver of the Galaxy line's success. 

My suspicion is that consumers are responding to screen size more than any other single variable or factor in rating the Galaxy S3 and Note II above the iPhone. This underscores the larger-screen imperative that Apple now confronts. The company needs to produce an iPhone with a larger screen. And according to multiple rumors, that will happen with the iPhone 6 though not the "5S," which is supposed to retain its current screen of just over 4 inches.

The new Google-Motorola Moto X chose not match the S4 and go to 5 inches after the company did considerable consumer research and arrived at 4.7 inches as the optimal screen span. Accordingly, an ideal screen size for a smartphone is probably right in-between the current iPhone 5 (4 inches) and the Galaxy S4 (5 inches). 

Moto X: Google Turns the Whole Phone into a Personal Assistant

There are a number of interesting things about Googlerola's just-released Moto X. First, it emphasizes design over specs. The latter had always been the hallmark of Motorola's previous Android ("Droid") phones. The new phone also allows for an unprecedented degree of customization:

  • 22 phone back covers (including wood)
  • 7 trim-band colors
  • White or black front/face

In fact, the way the phone is presented on the Motorola site makes it effectively into a fashion accessory. However that's how many people do treat their smartphones today. The customization, which is smart, is apparently made possible because the phone is manufactured in Texas (rather than China). 

But beyond those things, the phone can be activated or invoked without touching it. Users can speak commands to the phone and get responses or create reminders, set alarms and so on. Like Google Glass, Google Now can be initiated with a "wake up" phrase: "OK Google Now." This effectively turns the entire phone into a personal assistant. The TV spot linked below demonstrates this positioning and the functionality in action.

Previously Google Now and voice actions on Android devices had to be initiated by touching the screen: swiping up or touching the microphone icon. That's not required here (I haven't had a chance to use the device). Google/Motorola are using this "always ready" assistant capability to make the device stand out from both the iPhone and other Android devices. Below is one of the new TV commercials for the Moto X, which showcases how Google Now is now being "personified" -- much more like Siri than in the past.

Moto X is priced at $199 with a two-year carrier contract in the US. There will be a Google Play edition but there's no word at this point on unlocked pricing.

Facebook Winning App Game, Where's Google Maps?

There's considerable data (see, e.g., comScore) that indicate Facebook is the most popular mobile app in the US market. That extends beyond unique visitors to engagement and time spent.

Time spent with the Facebook mobile app outstrips every other individual app by a large margin. Earlier this year comScore found that 23% of all time spent with mobile apps was on Facebook. Nielsen has similar figures.

Facebook & Google: Mobile Apps by Share

Source: comScore (Q1 2013) 

Confirming just how popular Facebook's app is relative to other mobile apps are new survey findings from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The company asked 500 smartphone users and 1,000 tablet owners in the US about which mobile apps they used most often. 

The question was: "What are the three apps you use most frequently?" There were no suggested responses (no multiple choice answers). The question was completely open-ended. Below are the results: 

Among other interesting things Google Maps doesn't make an appearance in the surve results. Yet Nielsen and comScore data reflect that Google Maps is one of the most popular apps and the most popular location-based app. Mysteriously it doesn't appear here at all -- unless it's considered part of "Google." There's no clear explanation why.

Top US Mobile Apps Ranked by Unique Visitors

Source: comScore (Q1 2013)

Why the Future of Mobile Payments Looks More Like OpenTable than ISIS

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that carrier-backed and NFC-based mobile payments venture ISIS would begin rolling out nationally:

The nearly three-year-old venture, known as Isis, plans to announce Wednesday that it will launch the payment service nationwide later this year after nine months of testing . . . 

Isis said that the pilot tests' findings will be incorporated into the latest version of the system. Among other things, the test showed that active users tapped their phones for payment more than 10 times a month. Two-thirds of active users chose to receive offers and messages from specific brands, according to the test results.

While mobile payments will eventually be widespread -- different global markets are seeing varying rates of development and adoption -- the near-term future of mobile payments in the US looks less like ISIS and much more like OpenTable's new (vertical) payments offering.

The NY Times yesterday reported that the restaurant reservations app will soon incorporate no-frills mobile payments:

The payment process, still in testing, will be straightforward, Matthew Roberts, chief executive of OpenTable, said in an interview. At the end of a meal, the diner would open the OpenTable app and pay the check with the tap of a button. The diner can review the check, adjust the tip and finish the payment.

“There’s no scanning, there’s no bar codes, there’s no geeky stuff,” Mr. Roberts said. He said that OpenTable would not take a cut of each transaction if a diner paid with the app. The restaurant would be charged the typical interchange fee for a credit card transaction. The simple transactions through the app are another way to attract people to use OpenTable, which charges restaurants for reservations made through the service as well as a monthly service charge for using its equipment.

In individual store and specific vertical contexts mobile payments are starting to take hold in the US. That's because consumers see concrete value or convenience in using mobile apps to pay (parking is my favorite example). Arguably the most successful example of mobile payments in the US to date is the Starbucks app.

As a general matter, however, credit cards remain very easy to use and there's no common standard or experience available across merchants. Most US consumers don't see a justification for mobile payments in the abstract. But "in the moment" or in very specific situations consumers can recognize their value. 

The transition to NFC-based payments will probably still take years in the US market -- unless the next iPhone enables them (ISIS wants to expand to iOS). But there's a significant, immediate opportunity for vertical apps like OpenTable to cultivate consumer mobile payments usage. Mobile payments through the OpenTable app also may create more loyalty and frequency vs. competitors such as Yelp or TripAdvisor.

I believe that these very concrete use cases will help train consumers to trust and adopt mobile wallets/payments, which will eventually pave the way for services such as ISIS or Google Wallet. However it will be 3 - 5 years before there's strong, national consumer usage (and merchant adoption) of these "horizontal" payments offerings. 

By contrast people will be using OpenTable payments as soon as OpenTable flips the switch. 

Mobile Credit-Card Scanning Should Be Ubiquitous

Dan Miller and I took a briefing with Jumio this morning. Jumio is an authentication and identity management platform (mischaracterized originally as "augmented reality"). The company has been around since 2010. 

It has two major products that rely on the same technology. Netswipe helps facilitate transactions on mobile apps and Netverify enables accurate remote identity authentication for fraud prevention. I'll focus on the former but the latter is very impressive and worthy of its own discussion later.

Jumio works in the same way that Card.io did. Using an SDK developers embed the Jumio solution within their apps. When the consumer is ready to complete a transaction or check out (book a room, flight or make another kind of purchase), she merely scans the desired credit card and enters the CVV number manually. The transaction takes a fraction of the time that would otherwise be required if she were to key in 16 digits, enter her address information, etc. 

If you've already got your credit card and related information on file (see, e.g., Amazon, iTunes) there's less of a need for this approach. However developers should offer it to new customers as a way to generally eliminate barriers for consumers, and capture credit card details for faster checkout next time.

Jumio competitor Card.io was acquired by PayPal one year ago, leaving Jumio as the lone independent vendor of this type card-scanning technology. Every mobile publisher and developer should be using Jumio or Card.io to improve conversion rates and the customer experience. Beyond mobile transaction-abandonment, frustrating users reflects poorly on the brand according to many studies.

Accordingly, every mobile developer should be using a mobile card-scanning solution as one way to remove friction from mobile transactions. It's not clear why they might not, except for perhaps for ignorance, lethargy and inertia. I could also imagine this approach as an alternative to card swipes in stores, although that's less necessary.  

Jumio has adopted a flat-fee SaaS model. Customers pay a fixed monthly fee for an unlimited number of transactions. 

It's rare instance where consumer and merchant interests are entirely aligned. But here they are: more secure and faster transactions for the merchant and consumer, as well as fewer charge backs and fraud. It's kind of a "no brainer." 

Below is a promotion video that explains the Jumio Netswipe offering: 

Facebook Mobile Ad Revs Now 41% of Total

Facebook announced its Q2 2013 revenues a few minutes ago. Overall the company beat analysts' expectations with $1.81 billion in total revenue. Advertising supplied $1.6 billion of that total with payments and fees providing $214 million.

The big suprise was mobile, which was responsible for 41% of total ad revenue (or $656 million) -- up from 30% last quarter. Here are the mobile numbers: 

  • Mobile monthly active users grew to 819 million
  • Daily mobile users in Q2 were 469 million
  • There were 219 million mobile only users

Facebook monthly mobile users

The company said on its earnings call that it's investing in "mobile, measurement and product innovation." The company said it has the most effective mobile ad products and is in a position to lead the mobile ad market. Indeed the company is second only to Google now in mobile advertising revenue. 

Apple's $35.3 billion Quarter Visualized

Apple just reported a $35.3 billion quarter, which was somewhat better than a year ago and beat financial analyst expectations -- largely on the strength of iPhone sales. The company also announced profit was $6.9 billion (vs. $8.8 billion a year ago). Sales outside North America accounted for 57% of revenue.

The company sold 31.2 million iPhones (vs. 26 million a year ago). But it sold fewer iPads than expected:14.6 million. Mac sales were down but Macs outperformed the PC industry as a whole, which is slumping badly. 

Below are two charts that show the distribution of revenues by segment/geography and by product line (figures in $billions): 

Unit sales of iPads were a concern for many financial analysts. The company sold 14.6 million tablet devices compared with 17 million last year and more than 19 million last quarter. While this implies market share erosion or shift away from the iPad, today Chitika released data showing that in North America at least, the iPad's web traffic share had grown since April and now stands at just over 84%. 

June iPad traffic

Source: Chitika

While Apple continues to generate huge quarterly revenues growth has slowed or declined in some cases. Accordingly there's enormous pressure from investors to bring out new products or create new product categories: TV, wearables, etc. On the earnings call Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said, “We are on track to have a very busy fall" though he wouldn't elaborate.

New iPads and iPhones are expected to be introduced. There may even be "surprise" products such as the rumored iWatch. 

Report: Apple Considering Building a 'Phablet'

The term "phablet," used to describe devices that operate like a phone but approach the size of small tablets, is horrible. But what may be more horrible is that Apple is reportedly considering creating one, potentially mimicking Samsung's strategy of a range of devices of differing screen sizes. 

Samsung is throwing a lot of mobile device spaghetti at the refrigerator, metaphorically speaking, to see what sticks with consumers. One might even describe its strategy as "incoherent." Nonetheless Apple may be moving toward introducing more devices with various screen sizes. That's according to an article in the Wall Street Journal:

The tests with suppliers seem to suggest that Apple is exploring ways to capture diversifying customer needs when many mobile device makers offer smartphones and tablets in various sizes.

In addition to potentially developing a device in-between the iPhone and current iPad mini, Apple is also apparently experimenting with larger screens for iPads. Most of these prototype experiments probably won't come to market.  

The huge-screened Samsung Galaxy Note has proven popular; however it's unclear how many units have sold. Indeed, Samsung has been the primary creator of market demand for larger-screen smartphones. And now Apple is feeling pressure to respond with a larger-screen iPhone. However that's not likely to be the 5S, due out later this year.

It might make sense for Apple to offer two iPhones: one with the current screen (small) and one with a 5-inch screen (large). However beyond that it makes little sense for Apple to go.

When Steve Jobs rejoined Apple as CEO 1997 one of the first things he did was to simplify Apple's product lineup, which had become cluttered and confusing to consumers. This is the danger if Apple tries to follow Samsung and create multiple device screen sizes.

Consumers do want a larger-screen iPhone but they haven't been asking for multiple devices of incrementally larger screens. It's also not clear that anyone wants or cares about a larger iPad. Maybe one with a slightly larger screen would be interesting but that would need to entirely replace the current iPad.

It makes sense for Apple to have four devices at most: iPhone (two screen sizes perhaps), iPad Mini and iPad. Beyond this the product lineup becomes muddled and confusing. And to the extent that Apple seeks to imitate Samsung's approach it may indicate the company has lost confidence in its vision. 

Nokia Sells More Lumia Handsets but Not in North America

Nokia's results this morning are something of a Rorschach test. You either see them as evidence that Nokia has stalled and Windows isn't going to save the company or you can see some momentum and success -- as a promise of more future success. 

Nokia's Q2 revenue was €5.7 billion ($7.5 billion), which was down vs. last quarter (3%) and last year (24%). Lumia sales were up 32% vs. last quarter to 7.4 million units. Overall the company sold 61 million phones, almost 90% of which are not smartphones however.

Nokia said the 7.4 million Lumia unit sales reflected strong demand for the Windows Phone based handsets. However in North America the company sold roughly 500,000 devices vs. 600,000 last quarter. Accordingly demand in North America is flat, while Windows remains under 5% in terms of market share. Nokia has had more success in Europe and other markets where its brand is stronger.  

Yet Nokia has now pulled into the number three smartphone slot after Android and iOS. BlackBerry reported selling 6.8 million phones last quarter. Becoming number three was an expressed goal when Nokia selected Windows as its exclusive OS. However the question now becomes can it do better?  

My view is that Nokia will be compelled -- notwithstanding contractual exclusivity with Microsoft -- to adopt Android at some point in the not-too-distant future or remain stuck in what amounts to neutral. 

Update: The Verge reports that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was concerned that if the company chose Android that it would lose to Samsung. Thus it chose Windows Phone as its exclusive OS. That has been a very mixed experience for Nokia, obviously. I believe that Nokia with its brand and marketing resources would have been in a position to challenge Samsung for Android dominance. 

But the early window of opportunity, so to speak, has now closed for Nokia. 

Study: 97% of Mobile Search in Gas & Convenience Category Happens in Apps

In honor of the blazing US summer and road trips, xAd and Telmetrics have released more data from their "Mobile Path-to-Purchase Study," this time on consumer behavior in the "Gas & Convenience" category. The study, which combined a mobile user survey (n=2,000) and consumer behavior data (n=6,000), was conducted by Nielsen earlier this year.

As might be expected the study reflects the very mobile-centric nature of the category, which includes convenience store visits, gas purchases and minor automotive service (i.e., oil changes). 

Below are the study's key findings:

  • 85% of time in the category "is spent on a smartphone with most conducting gas price comparisons/searches"  
  • 97% of mobile search happens within an app vs. mobile web (e.g., GasBuddy)
  • 80% of smartphone search and 40% of tablet search happens on the go (out of home) 
  • 88% plan to buy within the same day (2/3 within the hour) but only 10% have a specific place/business in mind
  • Location and price were the two factors that most influenced conversions (75% sought a location within five miles)

Interestingly, the study reported that "Gas & Convenience searchers spend an average of 6 minutes per mobile search session," which is 50% more than "the average Retail mobile search session." 

The study also found that Gas & Convenience users were very open to influence and receptive to mobile advertising, especially if the ad pertains to a nearby location and/or offers a deal or coupon. 

Chinese Smartphone Maker TCL Selects Nuance's Swype as Default Keyboard for U.S. Market

As the global market for smartphones matures, it is clear that the default keyboard platform is going to be key for product differentiation. That's why it is so interesting that up-and-coming Chinese OEM, TCL Communications Technology Holdings Ltd, has expanded its licensing agreement with Nuance, making Swype the default keyboard for its line of Android-based smartphones sold in the U.S. In its latest report of device shipments, TCL claims sales volume of smartphones grew 126% in June, when compared to the same month last year, exceeding 1.3 million units. Of the nearly 21 million phones sold globally in the first six months of 2013, over 18 million were sold outside the Chinese domestic market. 4.3 million were smartphones, selling under the he Alcatel OneTouch brand as well as TCL's own Idol X branding.

Like Samsung, TCL is a well-diversified consumer electronics manufacturer with a major presence in the flat-screen TV market. Its management expects the geographic expansion of its smartphone sales to fuel growth and profits in the coming years. If it does so, it will be at the expense of Samsung, HTC and Google's own Motorola brand. Matt Revis, Vice President of Dragon Devices at Nuance, points out that the company had its choice of a number of less expensive alternatives to Swype to support touch-based input, including the "free" default keyboard that ships with the Android operating system.

"This is representative of a situation where you have a company that is positioned to grow globally and looking for an innovation partner to make it a category leader," Revis explained. "They are working with Nuance."

Indeed, it is a signal event for Nuance and Swype, which is already available for free download from Google Play. While Nuance would not provide revenue estimates for the licensing agreement, the impact can be expected to be significant, given TCL's ambitious growth expectations in the coming year. A virtuous circle has been established whereby an aggressive manufacturer recognizes that innovation will be key to growth and has recognized the need to cement a relationship with a firm that has been steadily investing in improving the technologies that support touch-based and multimodal input - both through internal development and acquisition.

PCs in Q2: 'Worst Performance in 11 Years'

Against the backdrop of a sweeping reorganization at Microsoft, intended to promote greater collaboration and faster time-to-market, hardware tracker IHS reported that PCs "delivered the worst second-quarter performance in 11 years."

The firm said that global PC shipments were down 7% vs. a year ago. IDC reported in Q1 that PC shipments were down 14% year over year. I suspect that when the IDC and Gartner hardware figures are released we'll see greater declines for Q2 than what IHS is reporting. 

IHS said that during the first half PC sales, globally, suffered "a harsh 11.2% contraction compared to the same six-month period a year ago." 

Tablets and smartphones have clearly eaten into the PC market and put downward price pressure on PCs. PC replacement cycles are getting longer. A more intangible thing has also happened: PCs have ceased to be shiny new objects coveted by consumers.

They've become instead pure utilitarian items without the ability to evoke the device-desire they once had. 

Retailers Fail to Connect with Customers Via In-Store Technologies

While countless retailer apps and mobile websites are designed specifically to deliver an "omnichannel" experience -- tracking a customer through the lifecycle of a purchase -- retailers are missing out on opportunities to engage customers through in-store technologies, says a new report by EKN Research.

A survey of more than 60 large retailers found just 13% of retailers are offering in-store features for mobile apps indicating a significant gap in leveraging the use of smartphones or mobile devices for customer engagement.

In terms of providing the infrastructure for ubiquitous connectivity, only 1 in 5 retailers currently offer free in-store wi-fi, with 42% of retailers having no intention of ever offering free wi-fi in stores.

InStore_Technologies_Jul8

Mobile technologies may offer new opportunities for customers but many retailers are not willing to make the investment. The report finds that IT spending on store technologies will remain relatively flat in the next three years, representing 31% of the total IT budget in 2013. Though the share is expected to increase to 35% by 2016.

"In 2013, increasing store operations efficiency remains retailers’ top goal from investments in store technologies. Running an efficient store should be table stakes for mature retailers, and their top goal should focus more directly on improving customer engagement. EKN views this as evidence that the focus hasn’t yet shifted for a majority of the retailers."

This news comes on the heels of a recent comScore report that found 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.

And previous data suggest a majority of mobile users are accessing retailers' websites for in-store sales or customer service functions.

We'll be exploring the current pulse of retailers and in-store marketing technologies at our upcoming Place Conference this October in San Francisco.

IAB: Mobile Advertising Worth $8.9 Billion Globally in 2012

The IAB released a global mobile advertising report for 2012 this morning. It reflects ad share by region and ad format. The IAB sizes the global mobile advertising market at $8.9 billion (€6.9 billion) in 2012.

The North American mobile advertising market was worth $3.5 billion in 2012. It lagged just behind APAC and should overtake that region this year. 

The following are the values of the other global-regional markets: 

  • Asia-Pacific: 40.2% ($3,558 million/€2,769 million)
  • Western Europe: 16.9% ($1,499 million/€1,167 million)
  • Central Europe: 1.3% ($112 million/€87 million)
  • Middle East & Africa: 1.2% ($109 million/€85 million)
  • Latin America: 0.6% ($50 million/€39 million)

Mobile paid search (read: Google) is the dominant form of mobile advertising on a global basis and in most individual regional markets according to the IAB:

With the possible exception of Latin America, with its more limited smartphone penetration, SMS-based advertising is shrinking around the globe. 

Despite mobile paid-search's global dominance, search and mobile display are seeing comparable growth rates:

Google is clearly one of the beneficiaries of these trends but so will be Facebook, Twitter and a few ad networks. Fewer than 10 companies are in a position to control three-fourths of the global-mobile ad marketing in 2013.