Utilizing NFC - The Implementation Matters As Much If Not More Than The Technology

Julie Ask

First, I do not attempt to "break" each new implementation of a technology. It simply happens because the implementation has not been thought through. Companies rolling out new services on mobile phones need to think through the user experience. With payments this is even more important. If customers don't feel comfortable with a process they've tried, they will be hesitant to trust and return.

This experience described below is not mobile, but it involves NFC, and one can easily imagine a scenario involving cell phones which could go horribly wrong.

I drove myself to SFO (San Francisco airport) last week for a one-day business trip. I pulled up to the gate at the entrance of the parking garage to collect my ticket. Suddenly, my Speedpass "beeps." I think, "What?"

I roll down my window and there stands a parking garage attendant. She confirms that I want to use this prepaid SpeedPass to pay for my parking. (Please keep in mind that the cost of parking for one day will exceed the average balance that I carry on the card that I use to cross bridges in the Bay Area about once a month.) I tell her that I do NOT want to use SpeedPass to pay - I want to use my American Express card. (Ok, SpeedPass tied to my Amex card, but I don't want to use it this way.) She asks why as she undoes the recording of the time/date on my SpeedPass. I tell her that I am traveling for business and need a receipt. Duh?  She scowls and punches a bunch of buttons on the machine so that it spits out a ticket for me.

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Mobile Boarding Passes - Second Attempt in May 2009

Julie Ask

First, there are several people using the mobile boarding pass - all carrying around thick, smartphone-esque devices with large color screens. Walked up to the TSA agent checking ID's. She had a machine. I just waved my cell phone in front of the scanner, and my information popped up on a single, monochrome text line. She cross-referenced with my ID, and I was on my way. Easy.

Mobile Coupons - Advertised on TV, Seriously

Julie Ask

I was watching TV with my grandmother in Colo, IA (population is under 1000 people) last weekend when a locally made TV commercial came on TV advertising mobile coupons at the local grocer - Dahl's.  The channel was either ESPN or one of the local networks - I don't remember, but my grandmother only watches the news, sports, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune so we weren't too far down the cable long tail.  Most of you probably have Tivo (or DVR) and speed past these locally made commercials - or all commercials. The commercial was reminiscent of one from local car dealers.

Anyway, I couldn't believe that they were advertising coupons on cell phones. I went to their web site, and there was a promotion to join Dahl's Mobile Club. I clicked on the link and was taken to a local radio/TV station web site that read more like a news site sponsored by Dahl's. A banner ad on that page took me to a page where I could enter my phone number and carrier. They advised me that I would receive about one text message per week with a special offer.

The coupons are being powered by Vesta Mobile Solutions.  They are based in Baltimore, MD so Dahl's 12 locations in central Iowa are a bit far from home. I'm definitely curious to hear how mobile coupons are going for Dahl's. With the adoption rate so low overall, one doesn't typically imagine much uptake - if Dahl's has numbers anywhere near the national average, their real numbers would be small. However, they are advertising on TV - first I've seen so hopefully this is driving higher adoption levels for them. That is a higher level of commitment than we see from most implementing mobile coupons -

Apple Targets Small Business Owners

Julie Ask

I was watching TV last night when one of Apple's iPhone commercials targeting a "persona" or segment came on TV. Love these commercials. Growing their user base requires them to move beyond early adopters.

This one was targeting small business owners. They showed credit card processing (cool!), label printing (ok, that seems hard) and FedEx shipment tracking (ok, very, very useful again and not just for small business owners).  I imagine these applications get a lot more interesting with 3.0.

Who will they target next? Doctors? Sales people? Dog owners? Zookeepers? Distributors? Restaurant managers? Ok, sounds far-fetched, but why not? The vast majority of cell phones in the workplace are brought to work by the individual. Let's see more of these commercials - we all need more reasons why our employers should volunteer to pay our monthly data plans. Help us rationalize the purchase and monthly service plans with productivity applications.

E*TRADE Releases iPhone Application Today

Julie Ask

If you're looking for a best practice on developing mobile strategies, take a look at what E*TRADE is doing. They had a successful launch of an application for Blackberry devices last summer. They are following that today with the release of an application for the iPhone and iPod Touch. See their press release. They have some good numbers on how well their mobile service has done to date. Forrester Research will be publishing a more in-depth analysis later this month. Stay tuned.

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Why SMS is Perfect Choice for Teen Sex Questions

Julie Ask

I saw this article in the New York Times this morning about a program being run by Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina and based in Durham. A similar program exists in California.

Great strategy for communicating with teenagers.  Here's why:

- Cell phones are personal devices, and the majority of teens have them. They are also "private" devices in that teens can send and receive messages without anyone knowing what they are doing.

- The majority of teens are on their parents' cell phone plan. They don't necessarily have a data plan for browsing the Internet - only a minority do, and any purchase of a downloadable application would likely show up as a line item on their parents' bill. They send HUNDREDS of text messages each month. Who would notice one or two to an agency asking questions about sex.

- More than 99% of cell phone are capable of SMS and the majority of teens use SMS so the agency achieves maximum reach.

- Many teens are on "all you cat eat" SMS plans - or should be. In any case, a single SMS does not tend to be expensive. So there is little if any incremental cost to the end user.

- SMS is carrier-independent. The service (information provided) doesn't need to be tested on various carrier networks for phones - it simlpy works on all phones.

- Someone covers the cost of the short code as well as driving awareness of the service, but in the grand scheme of things, it is not that expensive.

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One Billion Application Downloads

Julie Ask

Last week, the number of downloads to Apple's iPhones and iPod Touches finally topped one billion. That is an impressive number coming from approximately 30 million devices in the market. 

The word "iPhone" in the title of any newspaper article or otherwise turns heads and sells. I would offer, however, that the impact of the iPhone and its potential have been under-hyped.  I believe that the impact on the industry is comparable to that of SMS.  May not seem that way today, but it will in the course of time.

Here is a partial list of what it has accomplished so far. Apple has:

- Taught carriers that they don't need to own the end customer experience to profit from those customers.
- Demonstrated that consumers will pay for an experience that is unique and extraordinary.  
- Shown carriers that they do well serving the average customer, but aren't equipped to serve each segment best.
- Taught consumers how to download applications to their cell phones.
- Taught consumers that their cell phones could do more than voice calls or text messaging
- Created a platform and a business model that is truly compelling to developers.
- Taught US consumers what "3G" is and accelerated demand for it.
- Weren't afraid to leverage their existing 60+ million billing relationships
- Shown us we don't need "open" for a great consumer experience
- Have ever consumer brand in the country thinking they need an iPhone application

I look forward to 3.0 and its possibilities.  I don't think enough is being said about what Apple has achieved.

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Making Money on iPhone Applications (Stanza)

Julie Ask

Ok, I admit that I used the word "iPhone" in the title to seek attention, but it is true. My first experiences with Stanza were on my iPhone. A friend suggested that I download the application. Free download. I often asked, "what is the business model?" Selling the technology is one possibility. The creators of Stanza have made a lot of money on an iPhone application. See release.

More seriously, it is an interesting play for Amazon. Heavy users of a service/function on a portable device - whether a PND, MP3 player, etc. - lean towards buying dedicated devices. I have a Kindle, and I love it. I have the Kindle application on my iPhone, but I don't use it. Casual users of these services will buy and use devices that are multi-purpose. Moreover, users don't want to worry about file formats. Lexcycle fills in some of these gaps.

Content players need distribution, content strategies and business models that span the range of portable devices. Adoption outside of laptops and cell phones is limited today, but devices such as portable media players, netbooks, etc. are filling in the space in-between. 

Mobile strategies extend beyond a cell phone presence - more so for media companies today than those in other industries.

Mobile is Changing the Lives of Your Customers

Julie Ask

Think back to mid-nineties. How many of you had cell phones? They were more of a luxury item for most of us. Towards the end of the nineties they became a nice-to-have. Now, if you walk out the door and you don't have your phone, you go back inside and get it.

In the mean time, cell phones have become pervasive in regions around the world where no one thought the economics would make sense. When I visited western Kenya in 1996, I met some Masai warriors - a group of nomads living much as they did 200 years ago. They have herds of cows and goats. They live in huts with no running water or electricity.

When I returned 10 years later in 2006, they were still living in huts without running water or electricity. However, they all had cell phones and were using them to make phone calls, send text messages, etc.

Cell phones are no longer used simply for talking or texting in Africa let alone in the US, Asia and Europe where we have access to high speed wireless networks and affordable data plans. Cell phones are changing the lives of your customers. You need a strategy to engage with them on their cell phones.

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