Archive | June, 2012

How Push Notifications on Mobile Are Changing Hyperlocal

26 Jun

When you think about mobile today, its hard not to think about a time when your phone buzzes and you look down and see a text message that informs you that you are roaming and should buy an additional data plan or that there is a great deal nearby. Push notifications have come a long way in the last 24 months.

As businesses and brands we can no longer ignore the potential available to us to reach large audiences via this simple engagement model.

Xtify, a leader in this space announced last week that its platform recorded over 1 billion monthly location updates for the first time in May. Xtify’s push notifications are used by leading brands to engage their mobile audience, influence customer engagement, and drive purchase activity. Xtify’s platform works worldwide for native iOS, Android and BlackBerry smartphone and tablet applications as well as apps developed with Adobe’s PhoneGap platform.

Perhaps more intriguing is that their data suggests that smart notifications sent using Xtify’s real-time location-triggering technology have demonstrated sustained action rates 3 times that of non-geo triggered messages. This indicates that a location-specific alert is much more effective in reaching an audience that can be influenced to drive traffic to your intended destination.

According to CNET, Apple has added push notification-support for Government alerts (“AMBER Alerts” and “Emergency Alerts”) in iOS 6. As you can see in the associated image, two new toggles — one for “AMBER Alerts,” and another for “Emergency Alerts” — have appeared in the “Notifications” section of the built-in Settings app in iOS 6. Users have the option of enabling what they presume to be push notifications for these two alert-types, meaning that in the event of an emergency, users would receive a notification on their iDevice.

There are many subtleties to the push notification conversation. How, when and why to deploy push notifications depends, on the type of app (a news app, social app or game, for instance) but also on the type of platform they are being pushed from. Android, iOS and Windows Phone all handle push differently and that can be a source of frustration for developers.

The consensus among many developers is that the way push works on Android is the most preferable in terms of user experience. For instance, if an app sends 20 push notifications to an Android smartphone, only the most recent notification will show in the users’ message tray.

Whereas in iOS notifications almost always arrive in real time and are gathered in a drop-down notification tray that was released with iOS 5.0. iOS notifications are also the most intrusive. Unlike Android, all notifications are shown in the tray, and they tend to build on top of each other.

Apps like those from The Weather Channel and Words With Friends have shown that push notifications can be very effective . If there is severe weather, like a large tornado coming my way, you best believe I want a timely push notification. The Weather Channel is parsimonious about how it sends notifications, usually only pushing news when something dramatic is about to happen. Words With Friends is the best example of a game using push to tell a player when it is their turn. It is one of the features that makes the game so addictive.

Coming at it from another angle, we have all seen in-app ads in several shapes and sizes and in all of their screen hogging glory. Enter Airpush, which has introduced their own style of push notification advertising, a new method to deliver ads that will supposedly increase click-through rates (CTR) up to 40 percent without interrupting the users’ in-app experience. This type of ad service offers a platform that utilizes the drop-down notification window of your Android device to deliver ads. Put another way, instead of serving an in the app, they push an ad into the notification tray, which is always on.  No need to make sure you’ve launched the app

It remains to be seen whether this is simply over the top and will be construed as spam by consumers, but smart businesses should no doubt be testing this type of advertising now.

Since consumers likely have their phones with them at all times, sending a push notification to alert consumers of an app update or sale opportunity can serve to drive the brand to the forefront of consumers’ minds. In addition, brands can take advantage of location-based technology to interact with consumers if they are in a certain area or if they enter a store.

One such brand, Saks Fifth Avenue sends push notifications to consumers who have downloaded its app. The brand’s messages span everything from available products to in-store events.


Local Payments for Local Merchants

18 Jun


Mobile payments platforms are quickly emerging as a viable solution for small businesses seeking to conduct transactions without paying the high fees typically associated with a traditional merchant terminal.

One of the star players in this space is Square which has been used by a variety of individuals and businesses, from charities to taxis to food trucks, political campaigns and merchants in farmers markets (just to name a few). This type of service is especially good for any business that typically transacts in cash but would like to accept credits cards without paying huge fees.

As reported a last month, Square is now processing $5 billion in annual payments (or around $416 million in payments per month), which is up from $4 billion in annual payments in March. And payment volume is up 25 percent over the past month. The company also just started making funds available in merchants’ bank accounts the next business morning (for any sales made before 5:00 pm), while other merchant processors can take 2 to 5 business days to get merchants their money.

If you are a T-Mobile customer it’s even easier as they have become the first carrier to offer Square credit card readers to their retail business customers.. Under the company’s new campaign, stores equipped with T-Mobile smartphones.

And yet another sign that the solution is working, just this week iPad electronic health record (EHR) platform provider drchrono announced the integration of Square to its platform, providing a full mobile practice management solution for doctors.  This is ideal for those working on a temporary, freelance basis in medical facilities, and medical professionals who make a lot of house calls.

With Square yet to reveal when or where it might offer its mobile payment service outside of the US, we need to elsewhere to fill the gap in other markets. Sweden’s iZettle, which often gets compared to Square, is now doing just that.  They are by far the dominant player in Europe.  While Square caters to the U.S. market with a swipe-card reader, iZettle providers a chip/pin typer reader, which is the stardard in Europe.

The iZettle service works similar to Square, in that a merchant plugs a card-reading dongle into an iOS device to process a card payment using an app downloaded to the device. Instead of reading the magnetic strip on the back of the card, iZettle reads the chip — these are now near-ubiquitous in Europe and tend to be more secure. Like other card payment services, you sign on the device screen to complete a payment, and the funds are deposited in a merchant account the next day.

Another new entrant in the space is payments veteran PayPal. The company’s PayPal Here card reader and app is already making  waves in the U.S. and was launched simultaneously in several international markets, including Hong Kong, Australia and Canada.

PayPal Here is essentially a free thumb-sized card reader and app from PayPal that turns iPhones into a secure mobile payment system, allowing any business or individual to accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards, as well as PayPal payments on smartphones, anywhere, anytime.

The consumer app also allows you to check-in (ala Foursquare) with a participating merchant close by, making mobile-to-mobile PayPal payments possible in person.

Aside from the consumer convenience, the attraction among merchants is the flat 2.7% transaction fee (compared to Square’s 2.75% in the U.S.), with no annual, monthly or any other sort of fees.

Bottom line is that any local merchant that seeking to reduce credit card processing fees, or that historically only deals in cash and could benefit from that added ability to accept credit cards should consider these solutions.

Fashion Brands Using Online Images to Drive Local Commerce

5 Jun


The fashion industry has always been one step ahead of everyone else when it comes to marketing. Having moved seamlessly from Sears catalogs to email blasts to flash sales and mobile geofences, clothing brands know that you need to stay top-of-mind if you’re hoping to get people to pay top dollar for the latest season’s duds.

Major brands have experimented with a wide variety of digital tools to burnish their brand. Gap Stylemixer is building wardrobes, Ralph Lauren is designing customized rugby shirts, and Chanel is showcasing their fashion show — all on apps built for mobile. Meanwhile, location-based apps and social media are starting to filter into digital fashion marketing as well.

For smaller merchants perhaps lessons can be learned from the likes of luxury shoe retailer Bergdorf Goodman.  In September 2011, the brand partnered with Morpheus Media, for its “Shoes About Town” Instagram campaign, which depicted the secret lives of shoes purchased from the luxury retailer.

“Bergdorf Goodman has been using Instagram for quite some time and loves the platform, especially the way the community responds to the retailer’s New York City, fashion-based content,” says Shenan Reed, chief marketing officer at Morpheus Media. “One of the trends that has inspired us most to use APIs is the ability to take existing technologies and build off of them with your own customized spin. … Bergdorf Goodman is very forward thinking in their use of user generated content, especially for a luxury brand. When the time came to celebrate the opening of their new Shoe Salon and their latest Shoe book, Instagram just seemed like a perfect fit. We know the Bergdorf Goodman consumer loves their shoes, and we really wanted to create an interactive program that celebrated the shoe-obsessed.”

The campaign was absolutely charming and addictive for the shoe-obsessed. Photos are submitted through Instagram using the hashtag #BGShoes, and then the image is placed on Bergdorf’s map of Manhattan, depending on the geo-location of the photographer. The map may only represent Manhattan, but the retailer is aggregating content for this campaign from all over the world.

“We definitely wanted it to be a global campaign,” says Reed. “After all, shoe obsession truly knows no bounds. Since there is only one physical store location, the brand holds their NYC roots near and dear to everything they do. Photos taken within Manhattan were placed directly in that location on the map, but any other entries you see scattered around the page are were receive from outside NYC and around the world. The global community and mobile based nature of Instagram was actually part of what made it so compelling.”

In addition to the Instagram API, the campaign to launch Bergdorf’s second floor Shoe Salon included QR codes in print, in store and on store windows driving users to the application. Morpheus Media seeded the content with photos of the latest shoes for their Shoe Book around New York City.

Another example of this is from Toronto-based Shopcastr. The service has been described as a “Pinterest for practical items.” Store owners can feature their products (antiques, art, bikes, fashion, food, and more) for users to “love” and, ultimately, buy in-store. Shopcastr works by having storeowners and users clip or snap photos of compelling products and then upload them to the site. As a result, Shopcastr becomes a kind of Pinterest-style DIY catalogue for retailers, letting stores display their wares in a way that is both novel and easy. A system like this can enable any business, even one without a website to visually share their products and to draw new customers in.  And unlike Pinterest, if you see something you like, you can actually go around the corner and buy it.

Snapette is yet another player in the space.  It’s like the “Foodspotting for fashion” You can snap photos of your favorite bag, top, shoes accessory, pair of jeans or other fashion item, choose your location, comment on where you found the product (i.e. what store), and post this to Snapette. And other users can browse products near their current location or by their favorite store, or brand. You can also see what items are trending globally, or by their specific location. And other users can comment on photos and share tips and recommendations. Each user has a “virtual closet” profile page that collects and showcases photos of items they’ve Snapped, Like and Want, and you can also post your “Snapettes” on Facebook and Tumbler.

All of these platforms demonstrate the power of the picture and can be used by any retailer — big or small — to build awareness around their products and ultimately build both virtual and real customer communities that will result in real revenue. Bottom line: a picture is certainly worth a thousand words — but marry that with social media, location services and smart retailers and you’ve got a powerful platform.