Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category

As we get close to the end of another year, walk with me into the not-too-distant future for a moment…

It’s taken some time, but mobile barcode scanning and comparison shopping is a common activity among consumers. Barcode scanners are a standard feature of most retail apps, providing access to in depth product information, reviews and immediate feedback from social connections. However, in-aisle comparison shopping  is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Future Isn’t Now, But It’s Soon

If you live in New York, you can now get a taste of the future of mobile payments at any Starbucks via the mobile Starbucks card app. After doing so since launch about a month ago, I put mobile payments in the same bucket as a DVR and RSS reader, you can live without it until you try it. Then life changes forever. Mobile payments are without a doubt a big part of our future. Starbucks will be the proof of concept for others as they roll out mobile payments globally over the next couple of years.

Combine the convenience and personal shopping assistance value of a connected mobile device with the growing self checkout trend at retail, and the future paints its own picture. We’ll see more stand alone apps like Aisle Buyer, and self checkout functionality being added to existing retail apps in the coming year. This should excite you both as both a marketer and as a consumer. Here’s a quick idea of how it works:

There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills

There are a number of companies vying for a piece of the mobile  payments pie ranging from banks to technology companies. Apple and other mobile companies are betting on NFC (Near Field Communication), a contactless data connection between devices within four inches of each other. This technology will be standard in the next round of mobile devices. Payments can either be connected to your mobile account or processed through one of several mobile payment providers. Mobile self checkout via apps could  use this functionality or bypass these mobile payment providers and use the merchant bank of the retailers’ choice, but potentially still make use of NFC for other aspects of the consumer experience. Either way, mobile payments are on the way. Of course,  the pace of  evolution is dependent on further smart phone penetration and a new round of phones (even non smart phones) with built in NFC technology in order for mobile payments to scale.

New Retail Technology Trifecta

Imagine a world where you can walk into a store, self checkout via mobile app, as you approach the store exit you bag your goods, swipe an NFC reader that scans your mobile receipt and works in conjunction with an an RFID reader that scans your bag for the corresponding RFID tags attached to all items or packaging to confirm that what you are walking out of the store with is in fact paid for. This reality is not more than 2 – 3  years away.

 

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At the risk of sounding cliche, welcome to a new decade of marketing. Indeed it is an exciting time to be a marketer. The past decade may prove to be the most pivotal ever in terms of the changes in how we communicate with consumers. It was also the decade of aggregation – or better put, the decade that killed the “big idea”. The era of the big idea is over (in the context of marketing communication). Since the explosion of digital marketing during the last decade, the new big idea morphed into an aggregation of many smaller “ideas”. This aggregation has a bigger impact than any one “big idea” ever could, by distributing risk and providing more chances to develop successful approaches.

Marketing evolution continues in 2010, and here are some of the areas to keep your eyes on.

Mobile Forges Forward

We keep joking about how “this year has been the year of mobile for the last few years”. Well, we’re waist deep the age of mobile and moving further along every day. We’ve crossed the proverbial tipping point. The handsets and data speeds provide better experiences, and the data plans are affordable. Over 60 million US consumers access the web via mobile device.  Globally we’re on track for more people to access the mobile web than the PC web (of course I’ll need to save that post for Jan 2020). The thing is, the distribution of this access is skewed, significantly towards the iPhone. While the iPhone catalyzed mobile web usage, competition is not far behind with the Droid, Pre, new Blackberries and other devices to come in 2010. Consumers are using, and even paying for mobile applications and mobile websites that provide value. Of course, as with any marketing channels, there are plenty of misguided executions that do not focus on the consumer, provide little value and flop. Unfortunately oftentimes the medium gets blamed for poor strategy on the part of the marketer and/or agency. Provide experiential or utility-based value to consumers and you’ll reap the rewards of consumer engagement. Additionally, keep your sights set on the convergence of mobile and social experiences as well. This will prove big in 2010.

Location Based Applications

As consumers become more comfortable with GPS enabled smart phones and the first generation of applications that incorporate GPS into the experience, the marketing opportunities that utilize geo-location data will come to fruition. However, it will be 100% predicated on permission, transparency and trust. Of course the recurring theme of providing actual value to the consumer experience is key as well. An early success story is FourSquare, which combines social actions and geo-tagging. But FourSquare is definitely not for everyone. Marketers will have to provide utility in order to gain access to consumers’ private lives and  geo-location data. A few bad apples can spoil the bunch very easily here. Where your brand attributes meet consumers’ needs is a good crossroads to  aim for. Note: If would be interesting to see Facebook acquire and incorporate FourSquare into their current platform.

Real Time Search & Social Search

As social media has become ingrained in the digital media experience for consumers and marketers alike, real time search was inevitable. Information is distributed via so many channels including consumers’ social media feeds, that not including real time data in search results created a void in the relevancy of search results at the major engines. Google’s roll out of social search results from “people in your social circle” also fills the void that was otherwise filled directly from the social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Real time search will indeed make search results more relevant, but the algorithms for filtering signal to noise will be an interesting evolution to watch and participate in.  The implications for marketers is a new era of SEO that ties even more tightly into social media.

Social Media Expands Its Journey

There are two major areas to keep an eye on here. First is the portable social graph. Facebook Connect really took off in 2009, and 2010 marks the tipping point for social graph / data portability. The social graph is just beginning to become part of the overarching digital platform. Through this ubiquity consumers are empowered, taking the influence and social activities of their social connections with them everywhere they go (well not everywhere, but soon enough). Check out one of my favorite implementations of Facebook Connect so far in the Prototype trailer. Try it out. It takes a minute to load, but it’s worth the wait.

The social graph has become portable on the PC-based and mobile web, and the second area to keep an eye on is the expansion of the social graph to your television. Samsung was the first to release high end flat screen TV’s with internet based widgets that allow you to access Twitter on your TV (currently via Yahoo, but inevitably this will become more open very soon). Expect the social graph to become a standard part of our TV viewing experience in the future (note: not in 2010).

Multiple Attribution

While all marketers would agree that reaching consumers at multiple marketing touch points is essential, most marketers still maintain disparate data systems and utilize the last ad standard protocol when it comes to attribution of influence or conversion.  Multiple attribution tracking capabilities have existed at the major ad servers for a couple of years now, provide a solution to attribution modeling, yet are underutilized by the industry. Third parties, such as ClearSaleing, also offer dashboard, reporting and analytics platforms to provide multiple attribution reporting for marketers. Let’s face it, we are constantly increasing the number of digital marketing channels we are working in and as an industry our analytical capability, or more accurately – marketers’ and agencies’ willingness to utilize the tools available,  has been lagging behind . Some of the dashboard tools can also incorporate a limited set of non digital channels as well. If you are not using a multiple attribution system currently, make 2010 the year to do so. There is simply no excuse not to.

The Privacy Issue Marches On

Privacy is always a heated topic. This has been true since the dawn of digital data collection. The issue is over-hyped by the media and advocacy groups, however there are some underlying truths to the hype. As we have seen with the privacy policy changes on Facebook over the last year, if nothing else, consumers do pay attention and now have the means to spread the word quickly.  As digital marketing technologies evolved, more parties gained access to more data. Although most of this data does not actually contain personally identifiable (PII)  data, in some instances it can be associated with other data assets that do. Tying the  vast amounts of anonymous and PII data together will become a bigger focus of the FTC and advocacy groups as the portable social graph  continues to morph the internet as we knew it into one big social web. The FTC warned the industry in 2009 that a day of reckoning was near, and that the self governance was not working due to a lack of enforcement. The industry will have to take the issue more seriously in 2010 or the government will do so for us.

Augmented Reality

For the uninitiated, augmented reality (AR) is conceptually any technology that ties the real and virtual world’s together. For the mobile device, AR will utilize the built in GPS, compass and video camera, creating an unlimited potential to layer content onto any physical location in the real world. On the PC, AR utilizes the webcam to overlay data, usually in the form of a virtual hologram. Most of the augmented reality executions to-date have focused on the novelty factor and have not provided consumers with much actual value. The few mobile AR applications available, including Yelp, are beginning to provide actual utility. I see a bright future there. On the PC side of things, the USPS Priority Mail box simulator is by far the most useful application of PC/webcam based AR implementation to date.

The key to AR is to hone in on the utility aspect, and provide real value to the consumer. (That concept is starting to sound awfully familiar, huh)

Long Live Display

Display ads get a bad rap. The reality is that online advertising works, and not only for direct response. While search see’s the lion’s share of industry ad spending, display is a standard part of the mix and will continue to be for the long term. That is not to say that display doesn’t have its issues. Lack of creative prowess, challenges with media currency and an inefficient process still plague the industry, but all are common topics of conversation and ad hoc work-arounds are being implemented every day. Most agencies and media buyers have had to develop large infrastructures to support the inefficiency of digital media. Clients constantly challenge the process and costs. Yet very little industry-level research is being conducted to better the situation. The IAB, nor any other industry body has set forth to develop the correlational research required to make advertisers feel more comfortable about the market-level impact of online advertising. The last industry-level research was released almost 10 years ago. Some individual agencies embark on this type of research on a client by client basis, but there is little public domain research readily available for most marketers, who for the most part, park the vast majority of their brand budgets elsewhere. Hopefully in 2010 we will see more industry collaboration to develop research and studies and the tools and systems to create more efficiency in the media buying and management process, without commoditizing it.

Even with all that said, display ads do work at creating influence, this can be and is measured by many marketers and agencies, and display is a standard part of the media mix just like any other medium. The degree of inclusion is what is in question, and hopefully we will at least see more discussion and proposed improvements that make advertisers confident to allocate more brand dollars online.

The Elephant in The Room … The Economy

All indicators lead to a slow and steady economic recovery ahead of us.  But this will happen at a different pace for each category and client. The reality for digital marketing is that most marketers have not been and won’t be experimenting much, and focusing on the more accountable (read – DR) focused channels and tactics. I do expect budgets to open up for social media and mobile. Amid the greatest recession of our lives we witnessed the explosive growth of social media. Some marketers had the budgets to allocate proper resources to understanding, monitoring and integrating social media into their corporate culture, while others put forth a minimal effort and yielded an equal impact. The brands that embraced social media have developed social voices separate from their brand voices and are on their way to becoming accepted social brands. Most are still playing catch-up, and we’ll see a lot of that in 2010.

So there you have it, some areas to keep your sights set on for 2010 and beyond. Have any additional thoughts about what else will be big in 2010? Post your ideas in the comments.

interactive_quickOrder_2Aren’t the constant glimpses of the future in our everyday lives awesome. I just downloaded the new Starbucks applications on my iPhone and caught one of those glimpses.  Note: I’m not sure why they split these apps into two, I was unhappy that this now takes up two spots on my iPhone deck and the two apps should have been one – just one of those dumb things smart marketers do. But I digress and don’t want to take away from the innovation here.

One of the apps is exactly what you would expect from Starbucks – you can find store locations, hours and features and you can build your regular drinks and share them with friends so they have your order for the next coffee run (for the record the Dunkin’ Run app offered that utility first). It’s clean, it’s intuitive, it’s a great app that we’d expect. The second app however is a mobile version of the popular Starbucks card, and this is where you can glimpse into the future with me. Close you eyes and join along (well, metaphorically. please don’t close your eyes or you can’t finish reading this post.)

In 16 test stores (8 in Silicon Valley and 8 in Seattle) mobile Starbucks card users will actually be able to pay for their orders at point of sale (POS) with their iPhones. Starbucks has installed special barcode scanners  that are capable of scanning semacodes, which would be created by the card holder for each order. Quite literally, your iPhone becomes a mobile Starbucks card. 

interactive_quickOrder_3

So – why is scanning a barcode innovative you say? Well, conceptually it’s not. But the challenge we have faced with mobile coupons and barcode scanning stem from the fact that the mobile handset emits light and the barcode displayed is an image that is being emitted as part of the light. Current barcode scanners at POS everywhere cannot scan a code on a handset! It is an issue that many smart technologists are working on solving, and present a market-level opportunity. JC Penny, as an example, is the first national retailer experimenting with the deployment of mobile coupon scanners. It’s big news, albeit only a test in 16 stores for now (not sure what’s up with these 16 store tests). The stores required new scanners – to be specific, the Motorola DS9808 digital imager scanner, which can read 1D, 2D and PDF-417 bar codes. I trust that we’ll all agree that once mobile coupons and barcodes can be scanned at (POS) at retail everywhere, we will see another boost in mobile participation from consumers and marketers alike. Call it coupon clipping 2.0. This aint your grandma’s couponing!

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mobile-socialFollowing last week’s DigiDay Social & DigiDay Mobile conferences,  I had a chance to brainstorm about how social and mobile marketing were becoming such interconnected bedfellows. The trend is only strengthening.

Consumers are looking for experiential and utility value in social and mobile channels. The experiences we provide consumers are converging, and becoming less about the channel, platform or destination, and more about experience itself (I’d argue that it was always that way),  the development, distribution and measurement of these distributed experiences must strive for complete interoperability.

Currently, devices and platforms have various protocols and standards that make this a lot of work for developers, and more importantly, a major expense for companies. The end result – few companies have a consistent digital experience to offer consumers that transcends any platform or device the consumer chooses. Consumers want this, marketers want this.

Enter Adobe…yes, Adobe.

Apparently Adobe plans on creating uniformity across social and mobile applications.  Essentially a developer could build flash-based apps in a to-be-released authoring tool, that will be customized to deliver experiences to consumers in each native environment. Sounds like the holy grail of a uniform experience across various social platforms and channels. Of course the acquisition of Omniture will provide deep analytics into the performance of these distributed experiences. Adobe, I applaud you for taking this stand.

Not The First Time

Flash has been the basis of rich experiences online for over a decade. And why wouldn’t the makers of Flash want to maintain and even bolster this ubiquitous position? Those who have been in the digital media space for sometime remember when Macromedia (original brand that developed Flash) partnered with Doubleclick to develop DART Motif. Well, Macromedia’s involvement was limited, but the strategy was the same – create a level of uniformity between otherwise disparate systems that develop and deliver Flash-based experiences. Times have changed, and Adobe has far more skin in the game now. This is a big play. This can be a major boon for the  entire ecosystem – developers, marketers, content providers, and of course consumers.

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Augmented reality, recently in experimentation mode and mocked at by many in the advertising industry as a gimmick, just grew up.

Layar is the first official augmented reality app, and guess what – it’s not available for the iPhone…yet. So I downloaded it onto my wife’s Android phone (thanks baby), and I am proud to say that the future is now folks. Augmented reality in mobile apps mark the beginning of something HUGE.

For the uninitiated, augmented reality (AR) is conceptually any technology that ties the real and virtual world’s together. For the mobile device, AR will utilize the built in GPS, compass and video camera, creating an unlimited potential to layer content onto any physical location in the real world.

This promo video from Layar and the video from Yelp below are great examples of the potential. I’m excited!

Yelp is officially the first iPhone application that supports augmented reality, however, it seems to be a hidden  feature in the app since it’s technically not supposed to be ready for prime time yet. If you have an iPhone 3Gs, download the Yelp app, shake the hone three times and the AR icon will appear. I know it sounds silly, but it’s actually kind of a cool way to unlock the feature. Really, I’m not trying to make a fool of you shaking your iPhone all about. Now you can point your iPhone at a restaurant and the reviews come up – sans searching. Did I mention this was going to be HUGE! Kudos for Yelp for implementing the perfect complimentary feature for their app early. They are going to kick butt with this.

And I think this is the first full fledge AR iPhone app, which is a version of the New York City subway map – outstanding!

Some examples of the first generation of AR application in marketing are sort of snoresville (except the Star Trek one, check that out below). There is definitely a novelty factor to it, but I don’t see these AR ads going very far. It’s just more of the same, with a twist – but still feeble attempts by marketers at getting consumers to care more about their ads versus providing experiences that consumers truly value. Here’s how it worked — A print ad or computer print out, is held up to your webcam (yes all of the existing marketing applications of AR require the use of your webcam), and you can then see and interact with a three dimensional advertisement on your screen. “Hey buy my stuff (in 3D)”

Here is an example of one of the Best Buy circulars that incorporated AR (you can also see more on the Best Buy in 3D website)

BB

The GE Smart Grid ad (one of the first US-based AR ads) was more of a brand campaign and included a neat interactive component.

Super cool Star Trek Trailer (I’m not a Trekie, but totally geeked out on this one)

My buddy Adam Broitman’s new firm Circ.us recently launched an AR game as a marketing asset for A&E Television’s Chris Angel. I like the application of AR in a game format. People want to play games, they don’t necessarily want to interact with advertising as much.

So there you have it folks. With the new mobile operating systems’ ability to handle this type of technology, we are about to witness an explosion of innovation that will benefit consumers and marketers alike. Think about it…any physical location, anywhere in the world can be layered with content (information, reviews, photos, videos, commerce).

 The future of augmented reality is now!

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dgdYesterday I had the honor of being the emcee for two half day conferences, DigiDay Mobile & DigiDay Social. During hard economic times, the turnout for these conferences was actually almost shocking. I was amazed to see a standing room only crowd as early as 7:45am.  This was the first mobile and social media conference for DM2 Events (soon to be renamed DigiDay Events, I believe), run by Nick Friese, formerly of MediaPost & OMMA.

If you couldn’t make it in person, there were many attendees in the audience posting play-by-play sound bytes via Twitter, and others blogging about it. Presentations will be available via slideshare as well.

While it was a long day chock full of interesting presentations, I’ll whittle it down to a few paragraphs…

DigiDay Mobile

The mobile conference kicked off the morning discussing the elephant in the room – the economy. The main take away was that although many marketers still look at mobile as an experimental channel, usage and adoption among consumers is still increasing. The ability to easily integrate mobile into an overall marketing mix presents tremendous opportunities to engage consumers.

The presentation that resonated most with me and many of the conference attendees was by Jeremy Wright from Nokia (co-founder of Enpocket, which was acquired by Nokia several years ago). Jeremy provided a truly global perspective of how ubiquitous and powerful the mobile channel has become, how in emerging markets the mobile web is THE web, how the world is becoming clickable, and how reach matters (imagine that).

DigiDay Social

This was a fun event to emcee. Social media marketing is the hottest topic in the marketing world today. Everything is becoming infused with social media tools and experiences, and the tipping point on diving into the social media world is behind us. It is no longer a “nice to have” capability for an agency, nor an ancillary tactic for marketers – social media marketing has become its own discipline and requires the strategic planning and acumen as any other marketing discipline.

The opening keynote for the social media conference was Scott Monty from Ford.  Scott has become a social media brand himself and has helped Ford become a leader in social media for the automotive category. His keynote focused on how Ford uses various social channels to connect with consumers. Ford’s positioning is “Drive One” and their social media positioning is “Meet One”.

Other notable presentations included a case study by Don Steele, VP Digital Marketing for MTV Networks, who preached engaging consumers where they habituate online. The four pillars of MTVN’s social strategy: Organic, Smart, Engaging, Honest. It was great to hear about how MTV works within and monitors social networks, social bookmarks, picture and video sharing sites, Wikipedia and more. This was one of the few holistic presentations I’ve heard in a while. Way to go Don!

The panel on social media measurement and ROI, as expected, was a highly tweeted panel. Although there are no standards for measuring social media ROI, it’s become a given that as any business investment, it has to have a return, even if the return is hard to measure and part of a bigger picture – which of course social media is on both counts.

The last panel of the day was about “What are you doing/buying right now? Where can you get the best ROI on your social marketing investment?” – this panel reflected the advertising side of social media, a topic not discussed for most of the day that focused on the marketing applications versus advertising. Although audience members probably wanted to walk away with a short list on what to buy beyond Facebook and MySpace, not many specifics were discussed. Although mainly focused on advertising, the panel reminded the audience that social media is still about providing value to the consumer  and engaging them in the right manner. A solid point driven home was that the “click” is inherently an anti-social behavior – why make someone move away from a social activity they are participating in (not that anyone is foolish enough to use clicks to measure anything, right?!?). Panlist Eric Wheeler, CEO of 33Across helped to end the panel with a great line that he quoted from David Olgilvy  “Never stand between a client and their drink.”… and a lively cocktail hour (or two) followed!

See you at the next event!

dartmobileIn a move that will surely help to further propel mobile display advertising, OMD, Omnicom’s media buying agency, has officially become the first [influential] agency to mandate that mobile publishers accept 3rd party ad serving tags and bill off of the 3rd party numbers.

Can I get an “amen!”

Mobile 3rd party ad serving is still in its infancy. But it’s moves like this, albeit potentially a bit premature for mandates from what I am hearing about discrepancies between 3rd party and publisher ad servers, that will help force the market to move forward.

Controlling the serving and tracking of campaigns has been part of agencies’ DNA for years now. 3rd party ad serving becoming the standard for mobile is inevitable. Doubleclick and others have been experimenting with mobile ad serving for several years now, but the mobile display ecosystem never seemed quite ripe enough for major roll outs (I guess).

Let’s recap why agencies (and advertisers) use 3rd party ad servers:

– To have immediate access to and glean insight from robust metrics not provided by, nor prioritized by publishers

– To measure all placements on an apples to apples basis and to provide an audit

– To gain more control over creative changes

Since next year has been the year for mobile marketing for at least the last three years, we are at the cusp of finally seeing this prophecy come to fruition. Of course SMS and app marketing are revelling in all their post tipping point glory. If OMD’s move is indicative of where the other major agencies are heading, display, and video are right behind them.