Instagram Tells Us Mobile Phones Are For Communication At News Event

Instagram’s ‘Instagram Direct’ announcement this morning left me speechless, as I followed the live feed (thank you CNET) from the West Coast. First, let me disclose that I am middle-aged. I’m 45 years of age. What does this mean? I remember AIM in the late nineties. I remember the days when chat sessions evaporated. I remember my first cell phone in 1997 and texting my friends – mostly in Europe at that time. The idea of communicating with people I know first and foremost is not new to me. It is very comfortable – more so than Tweeting or posting.

Bottom line: This is a “catch-up” move for Instagram.

1) Mobile phones have always been about communicating with friends and people we know. The magic of mobile phones early on was that a person’s phone number was their ID. It made it so easy to send SMS or MMS messages.

2) Instagram has 150M downloads, and half of their users are active daily. That is awesome. However, its competitors globally – Kakao Talk, WeChat, etc. – have two to three times that number. Apps like WeChat already allow users to share videos, photos, messages, cartoons, voice clips, etc. to individuals, groups, groups created around an event, etc.

3) Messaging will help them earn more mobile media minutes. I spoke with Chris Hill at Mobidia last week, and he shared some of their data on usage minutes. In their sample from mid-October, Kakao Talk had more than 200 minutes of usage per week, WhatsApp was just shy of 200, while Kik Messenger, LINE, and WeChat fell just below 100 minutes of use per week. If they were to post ads as a means of monetization, minutes spent is key.

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Snapchat Rejects Facebook's $3B Bid

If you believe the idiom "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," then Snapchat believes it will be worth more than $6B to a future buyer — or the public through an IPO. The service is appealing not just for the UI but also for the limited time the content is stored. That appeals to me as a middle-aged adult, let alone to a teen with poor judgement who may be applying for college or a job in a few years. We've probably all felt awkward at some point about something someone posted. 

If you believe the movie "The Social Network," Mark Zuckerberg was also advised to turn down early offers. Remember the shockwaves that rippled down the West coast when Microsoft invested $240M in the fall of 2007 for what is now a 1.6% stake or $1.36B valuation? (See Source

I am not our social media expert. I am also not our primary mobile marketing expert, though I've covered it extensively at times. This POV is from a mobile analyst who has spent a lot of time looking at social networks on mobile devices. 

Here's what we do know:

- There are about 7 billion people on earth. 

- 6 billion of them have mobile phones.

- 1 billion (and growing) of them have smartphones, with nearly 400m of those in China.

- People communicate, consume media, and transact on mobile phones — in that order.

- Mobile phones sit at the core of our social graph. We create photos and we share good times with friends. I don't often post while I am sitting at home working. I post when I am out and about doing fun things that I want to share. 

What drives a $6B+ valuation beyond pure speculation, optimism, and wishful thinking?

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Mobile Shifts Into Real-Time Gear

When I was 4 or 5 years old, I remember going to the bank with my Mom. She’d say, “hey, let’s go. I need to make a quick trip to the bank to deposit a check.” It was a big deal that the bank had a drive thru. We’d pull up in the car. My mom would manually roll down the window. A teller would speak to us. My mom would reach out and take the plastic tube. She’d drop in a few checks, put the tube back into the machine and it would be sucked back into the building. A couple minutes later, the pneumatics would work their magic, and money and a lollipop would appear. We’d drive back home. All in, maybe this trip took 20 minutes.

It took 20 minutes to deposit a check. My mom was thrilled – besides that she didn’t have to get out of her car, the bank was even open on Saturdays. I only missed one episode of Sesame Street. She was satisfied with this experience for probably two decades.

Fast forward 40 years. If it takes me more than 20 seconds to deposit a check, (And, yes, my 93 year old grandmother still sends me paper checks), I’m twitching … I’m staring at the app on my phone and wondering how the bank could get it so wrong. Just two years ago, I was fine with walking over to the bank and using the ATM.

Two things are changing. One, consumers expect to do things quickly. Two, their expectations of you – their bank, their store, their hotel – are shifting very, very quickly as the result of mobile.

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Prepare For The Mobile Revolution

Mobile is fundamentally changing how businesses need to think about customer and employee engagement. Why? Consumers and employees expect anywhere anytime access to information and services in their moment of need. They expect highly contextual or relevant experiences that allow them to complete tasks quickly.

Mobile strategies have moved well beyond shrinking desktop experiences down to small screens.

I get asked a lot, “Well, who is doing this well?” My answer: “Very few companies.” Sophistication in mobile services has become less obvious. Companies with a solid vision are working hard in the background to put infrastructure in place – to create a services layer and APIs – that allows access to their core. As Scott Wilson of United so eloquently said, “We needed a single source of truth.” I would add that you need one ready to deliver real-time information in a consumer's or employee’s context. Expect it to handle a lot of volume as well.

When it comes to benchmarking, too many business professionals are sitting in their inflatable kayaks on the surface of the Gulf of Alaska. They can’t see below the surface to see what their competitors are doing. They treat mobile as a project rather than a product.

 

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Why Mobile Myopia Threatens Your Business

In August 2013, Uber – a service that connects passengers in need of a ride to drivers with a few taps within their mobile phone app – was valued at $3.4B despite only $125M in projected revenue for 2013. They have raised $360M. Why is their valuation so high? Because they have transformed a customer experience through mobile and disrupted an industry ecosystem. Companies in Silicon Valley talk about “uber-izing” their customer experience. Uber has become an English verb.

Uber isn’t simply a mobile app. Their goal wasn’t to do something in mobile. Uber is a business that harnesses mobile technology and phones to deliver a phenomenal service. They used mobile to achieve a much bigger goal.

eBusiness and marketing professionals need to shift their thinking as well. Too many focus on mobile as a goal unto itself. They treat mobile as a project rather than an enabler of new services or, more broadly, new engagement models with customers.

Business professionals fund mobile as a project rather than as a product or core element of their infrastructure required to compete today and in the future. Sadly, among eBusiness professionals surveyed by Forrester, 56% spend $1M or less annually on mobile – barely enough for a mobile website and an entry-level mobile app.

The shift in thinking required begins with understanding the full impact that mobile can have on your business. mCommerce, for example, is not the big opportunity for most retailers. The big opportunity lies in influencing brick-and-mortar commerce by driving customers into your stores and getting them to buy more stuff.

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When Will Mobile Web Traffic Surpass PC Traffic For You?

A few of our clients have shared with us their mobile traffic and forecasts. Quite a few - especially retailers - expect mobile (in this case phones and tablets) to surpass non-mobile traffic by Black Friday if it hasn't happened already. This tipping point will be the catalyst for many discussions:

- What web site is my primary web site? Or is there such a thing if I use responsive design tactics?

- How should I be dividing my resources among screens? The backend infrastructure is shared, but PC front end work still takes the lion's share of resources. 

- Is consumer use of the web changing? 

- Is overall usage climbing with mobile? or is mobile or tablets cannibalizing PC traffic? 

Take a look at Branding Brand's report for more stats and information. It's loaded with good stuff. 

 

Mobile Services Help Wipe Out Dengue Fever

Mobile services in the developed world let people share pictures of themselves in the park or scroll through a retailer’s mobile site on the morning commute. For people in emerging countries, their influence can be more profound. A story recently covered by The Economist shows how mobile is being used to not only change, but also save lives.

In Pakistan’s second-most populated city, Lahore, the number of confirmed dengue patients fell from 21,292 (with 350 deaths) in 2011 to just 255 (no deaths) in 12 months after authorities drafted in mobile handsets to fight off mosquitoes. Officials equipped over one thousand city workers with cheap smartphones and had them record the anti-dengue treatment work they were carrying out around the city, whilst tagging their location. This created an online map showing where and when dengue was infecting people, whilst helping to predict where it would next flare up so that fogging treatment could be better targeted.

An important element of this is about people trusting in mobiles capabilities; whether it’s leading them to a nearby restaurant or protecting their credit card information. A study in medical journal, Lancet demonstrated that sending text messages to remind Kenyan patients to take their HIV drugs correctly improved adherence to the therapy by 12%. A recent trial by American firm, WellDoc found that a behavioral psychology m-health scheme that gives advice to diabetics had more effect than putting them on the leading diabetes drug.

Over the next few months Forrester will be conducting some research in this space and are continuingly looking for interesting examples, so please forward any along.

Google Acquires Waze: What It Means

Maps are only growing in importance as they become the primary portal on mobile phones for a growing list of information and services. As Apple showed us last year, it's critical to own maps - and to do maps well, particularly as a growing percentage of time is spent discovering, accessing, and engaging content within maps. With that said, it's not immediately clear to me what justifies a $1B+ (reported) price tag for Google’s acquisition of Waze, but I'll assume they did great due diligence or offered a high price to get a deal done.   

For instance, many companies do acquisitions for audience, but Google's audience - even just on Android or Google Maps is substantial. Waze's website says 30M users; other sources say 50M. Apparently, engagement among users is high ... but is it well distributed? Are there enough active users in each market for the same excellent experience?

However, Waze does add new features that Google Maps doesn't already have e.g., the ability of users to report traffic issues, police cameras, broken down vehicles - you name it. Layering user-generated content into maps in real time in a way that makes sense and is useful to everyone at that place at that moment is not typical. Mobile needs to be highly contextual in ways people are beginning to understand, but are really struggling to implement well.  It also increases speed to market if Google/Android team were otherwise developing this on their own.

With maps integrated into every retail, travel, banking, insurance, (ok go down the list) app on your phone, I don’t think any company can have too much map technology, or too many engineers/developers for maps and navigation technology. 

Augmented Reality - Using Games As A Marketing Tool To Drive Traffic To Your Physical Locations

This is my last, "I saw this cool thing in mobile today" blog for the week.

Check out this video

The video is called "Field Trip" and shows off some of the features of Google's Field Trip app. It's a short, but extremely compelling video that shows how mobile can be used to personalize your world - whether it is a wander about the bay area (this video) or your childhood home. You can consume someone else's story or tell your own story. Not to be creepy and it isn't Halloween, but what if you could use augmented reality - digital overlay of content triggered by location or recognizing an object/symbol - of grave stones? Visiting a cemetary could be SO cool. Visting your apparel shop, grocery store, airport lounge, restaurant, bank branch, healthcare clinic could also be cool IF you use your imagination. 

Google's Ingress game layers both content and a game onto the physical world. (watch the video)

What's in it for the eBusiness professional? 

I'm not necessarily suggesting a scavenger hunt in your store. Ingress + Hint Water did pull this off - not a hunt, but what is a game that combines digital with the physical world as a game board? I remember when Starbucks ran a scavenger hunt that started with a SMS-based trivia game more than five years ago. It was a huge hit. 

Check out this campaign

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How Important Is Getting Your App On Your Customer's Phone?

I'm traveling to Atlanta next week. Today - Friday - I decided late in the day to book a hotel room finally. 

I'm sitting at my desk. I'm figuring there will be some time on hold. I'm multi-tasking ... so I use my PC to do a quick search, find some nearby hotels and get a couple of phone numbers. I'll use my office phone with a headset and my hands will still be free to edit a document. 

I start with brand A. I place the first call and talk to an idiotic IVR that puts me into a doom loop. I hang up. I call back and get a person. The person can't book a discounted rate so gives me another phone number to write down. I write it down. I throw it in the trash.

I shift to brand B. I place the call to the hotel. A man answers. He transfers me to an IVR asking for my home phone number. I don't understand. I hang up. I call back. The same man answers. I said, "I think there must have been a mistake. I thought you placed me on hold, but I got dropped into an IVR." Man replies, "oh no - that IS our reservation system." I reply, "you don't have people making reservations." He replies, "No - just the hotel reservation system - the IVR." I reply, "I don't make reservations with IVR's." I hang up. (Sorry - but it's insanely tedious - at least in this case ... my home phone number??? C'mon - they don't need that to book my room)

I pick up my phone and click on my "hotel icon" to open the app. Within 2 minutes, I've booked a hotel - all of my information stored - and spent $750. 

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