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New Hyperlocal Opportunities as TV Goes Social and Mobile

11 Sep


For years now, we’ve been sounding the death knell of traditional television in favor of online and mobile viewing. But the demise of TV just hasn’t happened. According to Mike Proulx, co-author of Social TV: How Marketers Can Reach and Engage Audiences by Connecting Television to the Web, Social Media, and Mobile: “What Nielsen has been reporting for the past couple of years,” he says, “is we’re now watching more TV than we’ve ever been, in spite of the rise of both online and mobile video viewing.”

According to Proulx, between 60-70% of people, also have a second screen device, such as a laptop, an iPad, or a mobile device, when they’re watching TV.

A recent example of this is the relationship between Twitter and the networks. @CBSBigBrother has been leveraging the service to bring fans even closer to the on-screen action. For the first time ever in prime-time reality television, followers can influence components of the show via a Twitter vote! Now in it’s 14th season, Big Brother has started to incorporate Twitter directly into the broadcast – from showing live Tweets from viewers on air to allowing viewers to influence components of the show decided by a live Twitter vote.

The Role of Location
Looking further at the role location plays in TV leads us to two key areas of opportunity.

The first is the collection of locationdata from Twitter and other social TV platforms enabling networks to identify high and low geographic engagement regions — and leading to responses in the form of ad spend to supplement coverage in underperforming areas.

The second is the relationship between the viewers’ location and the presentation of offers/deals by brands with directions to locations at which the consumer can purchase/interact with those brands.

We’ve seen several examples of this type of engagement recently. From platforms like Shazam connecting users to commercials from Coca-Cola during the Olympics on NBC, or Toyota during the Super Bowl, to Foursquare-like platforms such as GetGlue and Miso focused on content check-ins and rewards with brand partners like the Gap and Pepsi.

The Demographic Brands Want
A new study from Horowitz Associates – Multiplatform Content and Services 2012, looks at the relationship between social media and television.  The study shows that social media disproportionately impacts the viewing behaviors of younger consumers: One-quarter (24 per cent) of 18-34 year old adults and 30 per cent of 15-to-17-year-olds have started watching a show on TV because of something they saw online or through social media, compared to 16 per cent of total 18+ adult consumers surveyed.

For advertisers, especially those that have physical locations (retailers, financial institutions, restaurateurs’, etc.) at which consumers can interact with them, it’s paramount that they explore the new abilities afforded between television viewership and mobile location services to drive traffic to those locations.  This younger consumer is clamoring to become a brand advocate and constantly seeking new ways to interact with the brands they love.

The Online Viewing Opportunity
When you consider OTT providers and network operators such as Netflix, who regard TV as an on-demand service, much of their focus around a social strategy has centered on building forums to support their non-linear content.

Netflix allows users to let their family, friends and associates know what they’re watching and make recommendations. Word-of-mouth marketing has become an invaluable tool for most brands, so social recommendations and conversations are extremely useful for operators. As more content is created, the valued seal of approval from a friend will be an important selection mechanism in the viewing selection process.

The opportunity for these providers and the brands that may choose to advertise with them lies in their ability to gather and analyze IP-based geo-location data. Working with companies like Digital Element that delivers these services, brands will be able to provide hyperlocally targeted content and ads online, in much the same way that Nielsen supports them in traditional television.

As content becomes much more accessible on these devices, the sky’s the limit on what the notion of TV really is, and that’s why it’s going to survive.

People all too often think of TV as the physical TV set, but in my opinion, TV is about programming and content — and whereand how we experience that content is up to our individual preferences. Television clearly isn’t going away. In fact, thanks to social media, mobile and location services it’s entering a new renaissance.


How Real Estate Agents Are Using LBS to Connect Buyers and Sellers

4 Sep

Real estate has always been about “location, location, location,” but that maxim is truer now than ever. Mobile apps and location-based services are increasingly becoming an important part of a real estate agent’s marketing arsenal, and an important part of the way prospective buyers find places to live.

Leveraging the Check-In
Facebook and Foursquare present interesting networking tools for location-based engagement. The ability to know where consumers are via check-ins or to identify others around you presents a great opportunity for real estate professionals.

For agents it presents the ability to broadcast their open houses and other events in real time to a quickly growing base of mobile-engaged users. Best of all, the cost of rolling out campaigns on Facebook or Foursquare is often negligible or even free. And prospective clients that see your updates in real-time can react immediately if they are interested in a property.

Real Estate Advertising on the Rise
“The agent of the near future is likely to be the most socially-savvy, mobile-connected business in town,” stated Borrell Associates’ 2012 Real Estate Advertising Outlook report. The report suggests that targeted display ads will eclipse email to be the primary ad format, making up nearly half (47%) of ad spending, while video advertising will double to 22%. Both ad types are expected to flourish as real-estate advertisers turn to emerging platforms, like social media and mobile, to connect with prospects and improve ROI.

An estimated 62% of real-estate agents maintain a social site, with an average of 535 friends and followers each — a third less than the typical small and medium-sized business. But the local media research firm expects social to play a growing role in advertising.

On the mobile front, agents are early adopters. They are 38% more likely than the average SMB to have used mobile marketing in the past year, and 53% more likely to be planning use before the end of 2012. Falling costs and off-the-shelf solutions should help more realtors establish a mobile presence in the coming years.

The Power of a Code
Xpress Realty, a Milwaukee firm, recently launched Xpress Connect, an online marketing program that incorporates Microsoft Tags (a QR code like feature).  Xpress Connect integrates a number of disparate methods for connecting home sellers and buyers through the Internet via mobile technology. Each property listed for sale in the Xpress Connect program has its own dedicated website, YouTube video feature, and social media listings along with various online advertising opportunities.

The social media marketing platform also offers Microsoft Tag signage through its Smart Sign program, directing customers scanning the Microsoft Tag directly to the property’s unique website. It’s location-based marketing at its finest.

Another company, FloorPlanOnline, offers an iPad app that allows potential homebuyers to interact with properties before they view them in person. Users scan a dedicated QR code that then links interested parties to the FloorPlanOnline sample tour. Homebuyers can then view floor plans, photos, videos, and more.

The app works on any tablet device, not just the iPad, and can also be accessed via the Internet. The company also offers advice for listing agents on how to maximize the experience for your property, and offers a scannable QR code directing to a sample tour. Integrating Microsoft Tags and QR codes allows real estate firms to create an online presence for their properties and reach potential buyers all over the globe with a single click or scan.

Layering Data on Maps and Beyond
UK-based is all about enriching the consumer’s experience via a mobile handset. Users of the mobile offering can open an augmented reality app on their iPhone, and by looking through their viewfinder at buildings directly around them, see property information is displayed on screen such as price, direction and distance from the user’s location.

Lastly, there’s PadMapper an apartment rental search engine in the market with over a million visitors each month. PadMapper’s offers real time filtering and a unique browser interface that displays apartment listings as the user moves around a full screen map. Zooming into the map loads more listings in that area, zooming out broadens the search. Listings are filtered out or allowed back into the results as filter sliders are moved. PadMapper delivers apartment listings from hundreds of Internet listing and classified sites, assuring its users a robust search experience.

No matter your choice, check-ins via Foursquare or Facebook, QR codes on your signage or augmented reality property finders, mobile and location based tools can no longer be ignored as valuable tools for the real estate marketing professional.

LBS Marketing Spotlight: Restaurants

28 Aug

With today’s consumers always connected and always looking for convenience, it seems obvious that that restaurant owners would want to engage them on the mobile battlefront. New data from Nielsen found that 47 percent of all smartphone owners, used mobile apps Shopping/Commerce category in June. While these results are not specific to restaurants, they indicate that consumers want deals, and that they want to easily interact with businesses without having to jump through hoops.

Creating Loyalty
Restaurants that want to stay ahead of the curve need to utilize their mobile apps as a source for offering programs for loyal diners. According to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Industry Forecast, 57% of adult consumers are more likely to choose restaurants that offer a loyalty rewards program. Meanwhile, 40% are using smartphones to look at menus and order take-out.

Whether you build your own app or choose to use of the vast array of mobile and location-based solutions in the marketplace, is a difficult question.  Whatever your decision, digital menus, restaurant locators and online ordering are now the bare minimum that consumers expect. Serious thought should be given to location-based deals, group discounts, mobile payments and loyalty program integration. However, a restaurant that wants to create true loyal customers needs to integrate all of your program elements to the app as well.  Make sure you allow diners to check their point status, receive rewards and be able to store them in one place.

One innovative way example of this is Kansas City-based Front Flip.  The company has essentially created a digital punchcard system that owner/operators can use to incent sales during slow times and reward repeat business for loyal customers.

According to CEO Scott Beckner “Users can download Front Flip, then scan Flip Codes at participating retailers to get a virtual scratch card that offers a chance at a prize. For businesses, Front Flip offers access to customer data and helps them keep and reward customers through targeted mobile outreach.” Companies like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Hooters, 54th Street Grill are already using it.

Track and Target Your Best Customers
A loyalty program that’s integrated in a mobile app can track based on frequency or spend, depending on what fits your restaurant best. You can tailor personalized offerings to their app based on what you know about them from their activity. Then you can fully understand your best customers and reward them for their patronage within one centralized system.

Extending loyalty to payments
It’s not only about rewards and specials to incent customers, but increasing about making it easy to transact too. In April the TGI Fridays chain released new apps for iPhone and Android that lets customers start a tab, keep track of their bill, and pay it right from their phone. Currently, 350 of the chain’s 600 locations nationwide are now accepting the new mobile payment method.

“This new app puts the Friday experience at guests’ fingertips – whether they’re looking for the closest Friday’s to celebrate and indulge or if they want to pay their bar tab quickly,” Ricky Richardson, chief operating officer at T.G.I. Friday’s, said in a statement.

The app’s payment functionality is powered by a platform called TabbedOut, which launched earlier this year at SWSW in Austin, Texas. The app automatically integrates with Friday’s point of sale software, allowing customers to pay their bill without the need for additional hardware.

These are just a couple of examples of how restaurants can start engaging customers using mobile and hyperlocal services, but it’s clear that mobile marketing is going to be key for restaurants in the future.

Location-Aware Games Are Engaging Consumers — And Marketers

7 Aug

According to a new research by, more than $12 billion was generated by mobile gaming in 2011 with 34% of the top grossing apps in the app store leveraging a freemium model.  Once someone is hooked, they’ll continue to spend a few dollars to continue to enhance their play. On average freemium games make $12.92 a month per user. This type of behavior is what is making the business of games so profitable.

Now marketers are jumping on board by advertising with the big players. Rovio‘s Angry Birds makes $6 million per month from ads alone. The next step could be more brands teaming up with game developers to create popular mobile games. Not only could it make a tidy profit, but it will get more eyes on its product.

Not long ago, Rovio added location-based integration to enhance game play for users when they visit real-world locations. The feature, called Magic Places, builds off a previously announced near-field-communication feature for certain Nokia phones, allowing a very limited number of users to unlock additional levels when they tap two NFC phones together or tap an NFC tag at a location.

With Magic Places, when users arrive at a location with GPS-enabled smartphones, they are able to trigger new content such as Mighty Eagle, the most powerful character in the game, as well as a raft of never-before-released game content.Users are then further able to compete with other players on a localized leaderboard for each venue. Stepping back, Rovio is looking to turn Magic into a broad platform that will be built into all of its products, spurring real world interactivity through NFC, GPS, and other technologies.

In a recent interview, a product manager for Angry Birds Magic, Ramine Darabiha, said “the idea for Magic Places is to build more fun into the game, turning what is often an activity played in isolation into something you do in the real world. He said Rovio is not interested in turning every location into a “Magic” venue, but is looking to use the location option selectively to enhance game play for users. The key is to find places that complement the game and make the experience more memorable for users.

One retail brand already taking advantage of Magic Places is Barnes and Noble.  Last summer the company announced that you could take your Nook Color into a physical Barnes & Noble store and use the Mighty Eagle for free to clear levels in Angry Birds. The Angry Birds Nook app costs $2.99, but there is no cost for using the Mighty Eagle in stores.

This kind of partnership can become a great method for retailers to drive additional foot traffic and sales, while at the same time helping gaming companies that rely on in-app purchases to grow their revenues through retailer subsidy.

Two weeks ago, the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles got into the game by also partnering with Rovio. The Wall Street Journal reported that an Eagles-themed spinoff of the game is in the works, and that we can also expect to see many of the game’s explosive birds appearing on the scoreboards at Lincoln Financial Field after Philadelphia sacks, touchdowns and the like.

And even Starbucks customers playing Angry Birds on their smartphones could soon get access to free content and see their high scores reflected on an electronic leader board, if a reported partnership comes through in the next couple of months.

Starbucks has ramped up its in-store digital offerings recently, looking to make use of its WiFi network and customers’ increasing use of digital devices. The coffee retailer has long offered a free song download with a beverage purchase, but recently has started to offer free apps, book excerpts and maybe even TV shows and mobile games.

The concept however, isn’t limited to Rovio and just big brand retailers.  A new startup called Kiip recognizes that people hate ads but like free stuff. It’s a concept that has fuelled enough growth that it now requires a digital wallet for users to keep track of all the offers on the network

Essentially, Kiip says that when you perform well in mobile game or app, you can be rewarded with a free coffee or a music download or whatever makes sense.  Best of all Kiip doesn’t build their own games or apps; they simply layer their platform on top of others, helping to monetize them.

Apps like MapMyRun, HomeRun, and MegaJump have already started using it.  This means that any developer and any brand (big or small) can get on board with mobile gaming and rewards that drive business.

It’s clear that the relationship between the worlds of mobile gaming and bricks and motor retail is just beginning — but what a fun and exciting way to engage new customers in the things they’re already doing!

LBS Marketing Spotlight: Golf Courses

31 Jul


It wasn’t that long ago that a mobile phone on the golf course would be frowned upon, but it appears that the days of “phone free” greens might soon be over.

Golfers’ cries for gadgets are making headway — and they offer a built-in opportunity for course owner/operators to make mobile and location-based services an integral part of their marketing mix. An LBS approach can help to increase loyalty, engage more golfers and appeal to their love of the game by connecting with them and the tools their already using.

We’re already seeing a loosening of restrictions around mobile phone usage that will pave the way for marketing opportunities. This past week, the British heads of The Open Championship lifted a ban on mobile phone usage, freeing up the use of cell phones at the tournament for the first time in six years. The ban was originally issued because players found the obnoxious ringtones of fans’ cell phones distracting, and ultimately damaging to their performance. This will lead to much wider use of phones at major tournaments and on the everyday courses as well — and golf marketers must be ready.

So what’s the game plan?

The club opportunity
There are many ways to leverage the power of mobile to engage golfers and fans alike. Here are just a few:

– Request a tee time
– Book a special event
– Click to call for directions
– Engage in push notifications (group text messages)
– Order food & beverage before you finish a round
– View course maps(s) & rates
– Find courses nearby
– Take advantage of special promotions/discounts
– Follow your club on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube
– View membership opportunities

At the very least, if you operate a club you should claim your business on Foursquare and/or Facebook places. Chances are that folks are already checking-in there and you can use this information to get a better understanding of your customers’ behavior and what motivates them.

Retailer’s Perspective
Specialty retailer Golfsmith that is using mobile cloud technology from Moovweb to run its experimental mobile website and iPhone app. Golfsmith’s desktop website features premier branded golf merchandise, as well as its proprietary products, promoted with marketing techniques, including HD video, faceted search, daily deals and media-rich landing pages.

According to Jamey Maki, director of e-commerce & online experience, “With over 20 percent of our Web traffic now coming from mobile, our mobile e-commerce strategy is rapidly evolving, and the need for high-end, interactive mobile retail experiences among our discriminating customers had outgrown our existing infrastructure.”

Don’t Forget the Sponsors
Last month, Travelers Insurance struck an advertising deal with The Weather Channel to home in on the 250,000-some people expected to be in attendance at the Travelers Championship. Consumers in the Cromwell, Conn., area were greeted by Travelers’ trademark red umbrella logo and were targeted based on either the zip code they’ve registered on their phone or, in the case of iPhone and Android users, by the GPS coordinates accessed through the app on their devices.

With geo-location information increasing available, the ability to find new customers and sponsors has never been easier. The time to tee off on mobile is now.

How Marketers Can Connect With Moms on a Hyperlocal Level

10 Jul

Moms have embraced mobile — email, apps, SMS, voice, and the mobile web — in a big way. This isn’t a burgeoning trend. It’s the reality right now.

Recently BabyCenter surveyed over 5,000 mothers for their Mobile Mom Report, and found that moms are 18 percent more likely than the general public to have a smartphone. And they are using them all day, every day. From researching family health questions to scheduling and documenting her kids’ lives to diffusing her child’s meltdown in the checkout line, mom’s smartphone is her constant companion. It helps her save time and money, and it plays into her sense of humor.


The RedRover App is a private social networking website and application where you share events and whereabouts with your real friends in real time. Founder Kathryn Tucker says, “Brands are very important to RedRover. Of all demographics, moms understand best the reciprocal relationship they have with the brands they trust and rely on to provide goods and services to their families. They want to hear from their favorite brands. But the ad model, as we know it’s broken. It feels false and manipulative and is more often than not ineffectual. Can’t something better exist? There’s an incredible opportunity right now to initiate a more interactive, genuine form of communication between brands and consumers. A channel that is playful and useful, one where both sides can feel good about the exchange.”

On the new RedRover platform, which launches in September, brands will have a unique new channel through which to speak to moms, and importantly, to hear back from them. RedRover, in essence, is a publishing medium through which anyone hosting a time-based event — whether it be an institution with a great, kid-friendly activity or a brand — is able to reach moms that want to hear from them. It’s mobile, friendly and solves “What should I do with my kids today?” as well as “I am in this location at this time, what information is useful to me here?”

For brands, it would appear that mobile is the way to a busy mom’s heart: usage of mobile for product/brand recommendations nearly doubled in 2011 to 33 percent. With moms relying on smartphones more than ever before, brands may want to think about upping their mobile targeting ad campaigns to reach moms directly at the point of purchase through apps like RedRover.


Another great app for parents is Hashtag Mom. It’s ten o’clock, do you know where your kids are? Moms who use the “Hashtag Mom” app do. While it’s not yet a branded app, HashtagMom is one those great tools that solves an obvious problem — how does a mom check in on her kids when they’re not quite old enough to fly solo, but a few years past needing mom for every social outing? In fact, the app is so simple and straightforward that it begs the question — why didn’t a mom-focused brand think of it first? After all, had a brand built “Hashtag Mom,” the app could have scored them a free media bonanza on sites like TechCrunch, MSN, and CNET, to name just a few.

Here’s how the app works. Using Foursquare’s location-based service, the app allows kids to check-in anywhere with the message “#mom.” After that, mom gets either a call or text to let her know that her child is safe.

Any app that helps moms and their teenage kids avoid scenes has got to be indispensible. And for brand marketers looking to use mobile to connect with moms, this relatively simple, straightforward app is a case study in utility.


One brand, Bravado, which makes nursing bras, launched their own mobile app that helps moms find locations that are friendly for breastfeeding. In fact, it’s a perfect example of an app being totally on brand. But three things really set “Your Breastfeeding-Friendly Locator” apart and make it a hit with moms.

First, the app serves an obvious need. Finding places to breastfeed isn’t easy. And the difficulty of breastfeeding while away from home is something a lot of moms talk about, even though few brands take the time to listen. That’s where Bravado won big with this app. They listened to an ongoing conversation moms have been having for a while, and then the brand took specific action to address a common concern: Where can you easily breast-feed while outside of the home?

Second, the app’s content is driven by moms, for moms. Locations are selected and rated by the user community, which also has the ability to share tips and reviews on some of their favorite finds. Crowdsourcing makes the information highly useful, but it also gives moms a sense of the wider Bravado community, which in turn fosters a deeper connection to the brand.


Today is the mobile inflection point, especially for mom. She’s already out there — smartphone in hand — staying in-the-know, scanning barcodes, checking in, sharing news and information with friends. Brands that can give mom superpowers through useful, context-savvy, fun mobile tools will find their own value soaring. Mobile ensures brands never miss a mom, location ensures she can get what she needs in the shortest possible distance.

Are QR Codes Here to Stay?

3 Jul

QR codes play an increasingly important role in the B2C marketing world. According to one 2012 study from Chief Marketer, marketing use of QR code and barcode scans grew to 68% of the firms surveyed — up 15% from last year. That makes it the top mobile marketing tactic.

Another study from The Temkin Group, found that 24% of U.S. consumers use QR codes. The coded images are extremely popular among a younger demographic who readily embrace mobile technology.

QR Codes Do What Very Few Other Technologies Can Do
They create a flexible, easy to use interface between print/physical and online content. Whether you’re talking about print ads, business cards, trade show content or direct mail, QR codes make it easy to move your customers from print to online — and thus into your marketing automation environment.

From a hyperlocal perspective, QR codes can be a powerful tool too. It’s important to consider them as an engagement vehicle to drive traffic to your local destination, whatever that may be. Local store, local event, doctor’s office or coffee shop — they can be leveraged to increase footfall and ultimately revenue.

Brands Are Embracing the Technology
Retail clothing chain Express is putting mobile in the center of its direct mail strategy, with a new initiative that lets consumers shop featured looks using QR codes and SMS.

Over the last few weeks, mailers were sent out as part of a campaign running through June 29 that promotes Express’ line of denim. The Express mobile bar codes appear on the back side of the six-page mailers in the bottom left-hand corner with an SMS call-to-action below. Users who scan the QR code are taken to a campaign-specific page on Express’ mobile site that showcases 12 pairs of jeans for men and women.

Another brand, Guinness, wanted to get more people talking about the brand, so they gave local bars some new pint glasses. At first glance, the glasses looked like a regular pints- but bartenders and patrons learned that when they were filled with a Guinness, the glasses were actually printed with a QR code. Created by BBDO NY, the QR code could only be scanned when a Guinness was in the pint glass; regular beer didn’t create enough contrast, and when nothing was in the glass, the QR code just looked like a creatively etched design on the side of the cup. When bar-goers scanned the QR code with their smartphones, the app shared the news to friends that they were enjoying a Guinness via twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, and Instagram updates.

Scanning the QR code even sent out the bar-goers’ locations — with the hope being that friends who saw the updates would join their pals at the bar for more Guinness drinking.

Get Creative in Your Application
Whether you are a big brand like Guinness or a small business, QR codes can be a great way to communicate information in a simple, cost effective manner.

Here are some quick ideas on other potential uses:

▪ Show them a video of your product or service in action. Visuals like this are perfect for smartphones.

▪ Show a customer testimonial or a 30 second collage of customer testimonials. Social proof in action!

▪ Link them to a digital version of your brochure

▪ Place QR stickers on your printed brochures that were created before you found out about QR codes

▪ Place them on the back of envelopes you send to your best customers, when they scan it, it’s a personal thank you message from you

It’s clear that QR codes are relevant and useful, however, there is a potential pitfall that must be considered — QR landing pages that deliver disconnected and/or dead-end content. Remember that a QR code landing page isn’t a destination. It’s a front door. Make sure your customers can open it and that it leads to somewhere interesting.

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.