Walmart Takes Contextual, Pragmatic Approach To Mobile

Walmart's Global Head of Mobile, Gibu Thomas, just got off stage here at CTIA in Las Vegas. He offered an overview of Walmart's approach to mobile which, based on our research, is dead on. It's solid. (I dropped in a partial/paraphrased transcript below; read the details if you'd like, but a summary/analysis is up top here). At times I felt like he was following our research stream because the language was so similar; he even quoted James McQuivey from 1999: "When consumers adopt new technologies, they do old things in new ways. When they internalize technology, they begin to do new things." 

(And I'll sound like a bit of a broken record here as I've said so much of this before. The difference now is that retailers like Walmart are implementing and talking about the results.) 

- Mobile opportunity ($) > eCommerce opportunity. The opportunity in mobile is not primarily mCommerce, a number that Sucharita Mulpuru and Forrester Research put at 8% of eCommerce sales in 2016. In 2016, eCommerce will be about 10% of retail sales. The mobile-influenced number at more than $700B (forecast) in the US makes mobile-influenced sales the bigger number. The opportunity in mobile is a combination of a) influencing sales ($$$) and b) giving consumers the ability to buy anywhere/anytime ($). You can't just shrink/squeeze an experience onto a small device; this is too mini-eCommerce-centric and misses the bigger opportunity. 

- Consumers who use mobile devices are more engaged and spend more. OK: there is a bit of a chicken or egg here. Do more loyal, frequent shoppers download your app? Or do consumers become more loyal once they download your app? The answer is both. At Walmart, mobile app users spend 40% more each month and make two more trips per month. Our highly engaged users spend 77% more each month and make four more trips per month than the non-mobile user.

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Google Glass -- What eBusiness Professionals Need To Know -- This Early

Google Glass owners were in the minority last week at Google I/O 2013, but I still felt left out not having a pair. I was one of the “have-nots” this past week. It’s still very early days for Google Glass, but there is enough insight into the potential for eBusiness professionals to begin thinking about the possibilities. Some may argue that Google Glass is a fantasy product at $1,500 that will never take off, but a lot of people doubted the tablet and iPad as well. In any case, it's safe to assume that more and more devices will have interactive, connected displays. These displays may be flexible — they may be a wristwatch. The same thinking around highly contextual information delivered in small bits still applies. 

First session on Google Glass development was oversold, so to speak. There was standing room only with at least one overflow room. Intense. I was also fortunate to attend a women’s maker event the evening before with Jean Wang (see video of event and Jean story). She shared the history of the devices.

 

I’m sitting in the “Fireside Chat” session as I type this blog post. I can literally feel the temperature rising as the bodies crowd in. It’s 15 minutes before the start . . . and they are already turning people away. It’s intense, like trying to get into Iron Man 3 on the opening weekend. There can’t possibly be a product attracting more attention right now.

Vision for Google Glass: “Technology is there when you need it. It’s not when you don’t.”

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Context Is King In Mobile

 

If you are at the deYoung museum in San Francisco and do a search on “painting,” you might be looking for a Van Gogh. If you are in Home Depot and do a search on “painting,” you likely need supplies for your weekend project.

 

I heard the term “invisible search terms” today at Google I/O in the Indoor Location session. While you may not type in “Impressionism” or “supplies” with paint, a smart application – or search function, in this case – can take a pretty good guess at what you want based on where you are.

 

In a report I wrote in 2011, I talked about layering intelligence on top of location – yes, you have my lat/long, but what does it mean? And how do you use that intelligence to make services and content relevant to me?

 

I’m at Google I/O, and the discussion continues around how to use context to make applications smarter. 

Mobile Context Moves To Forefront On Android (From Google I/O)

Mobile services must be contextual. Screens are small. Interfaces are limited. Consumers are task-oriented. “I want to pay a bill” or “I need to make this shopping list before my son is finished with soccer practice." Total context – the sum of everything you know about a consumer, including what he/she is experiencing now – must be used to create the relevancy in the delivery of content and services.

Context can help shorten the number of steps on a phone to complete a task. We already see this with companies like Apple – the application switches to “store mode.” Starwood Hotels switches its app to 'travel mode' when a guest is within 48 hours of a stay. Services we only envisioned two years ago are real today.

Why don’t more companies use mobile context? Our research tells us it's lack of bandwidth; executing on the basics keeps us busy enough. It’s also hard to do – and most enterprises don’t have the right analytics or metrics in place to measure the impact.

Google rolled out a number of tools/features for developers today to make using context easier. It’s exactly what we need.

Here’s the list:

1)  Geofencing within apps: This allows developers to set up 100 geofenced areas. It will be excellent for local services and smaller brands (plus media companies). Too few for large national brands with hundreds or thousands of locations.

2)  Google Activity: It abstracts the context of walking, running, cycling, making it easier for developers to use motion context.

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Top 10 Ways My Mobile Travel Apps Disappointed On Travel Day

Is it me or my expectations? My mobile travel applications have only improved over the past 12 months (and I mean this sincerely), but my disappointment has never been so acute. Why? My expectations have never been higher. I access information more frequently (see Ted Schadler's and John McCarthy's Engagement report -- they quantify this), and I expect more accuracy. In the absence of tethering my computer or tablet to to my mobile-phone-turned-hotspot (difficult on the move), I turn to my mobile phone for services. "Immediacy" is what makes mobile so valuable. If I can't get real-time, accurate information on the go, then how useful are the mobile services? 

11. (an extra) When I use the mobile app to add the boarding pass to Passbook, why does only one of two boarding passes go there when I have a connecting flight?

10. I uploaded an update to the loyalty program from the hotel chain. It deleted all of my account information. Awesome. Really guys?

9. I searched the mobile app, mobile web, and full web for a way to recover my account number - not possible in my 10 minutes of searching. Only possible to get password. 

8. I called customer service (hotel brand) while sitting on the plane to get my account number. They asked me to state my password out loud (while on the crowded plane). I gave them the password, and they told me it was incorrect. They proceeded to ask for all of my additional security information (e.g., mother's maiden name). "We have these rules in place to protect your privacy and ensure the security of your account." I'm thinking, "My hotel frequent stay account??? It's easier to get my user name and password from my bank!!" Terrible user experience. 

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2013's Must Read On Mobile Application Development

How many of you are still outsourcing your mobile application development because your internal technology "just doesn't get it"? I interviewed 25 eBusiness professionals in 2012 about their approach to mobile and how their challenges were evolving. (The first piece is due out soon, with more to follow quickly.) A lot of eBusiness professionals think their success hinges on "owning" the mobile development team directly (internal) or through an agency (external). Their worst-case scenario is funding the mobile development even if the team doesn't roll directly up to them. Reasons offered include:

"They move too slowly."

"They are in India. How are we seriously supposed to be agile with the distance?"

"Mobile isn't a high enough priority." 

"Their idea of an excellent customer experience and ours is like 'Men Are From Mars And Women Are From Venus' - we're not even on the same planet, let alone speaking the same language." 

I talk to our eBusiness clients a lot about "context" and how it will define the future of mobile. Consumers will become very task-oriented on mobile devices and they will expect their mobile phone to personalize or make the real world richer and more relevant to them. There are already great examples in the travel industry, with retail, banking, insurance, healthcare, and many other industries beginning to push the envelope. What has held them back have been development resources and an IT team that can support their vision. 

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In Canada, Mobile Initiatives Show A Positive Impact On ROI

Last week, we had the opportunity to have a conversation with one of the world’s, and certainly Canada’s, largest premier coalition loyalty programs, the AIR MILES Reward Program. It has penetrated two-thirds of Canadian households, with 10 million active Collector accounts in Canada. AIR MILES is also deeply entrenched in the mobile landscape, having launched the first coalition loyalty program app of its kind in Canada for mobile and tablet, which has since had more than 800,000 downloads. Here are a few nuggets from what we learned about Canada’s increasingly sophisticated mobile landscape:

  • Immediacy reigns. The most used feature in the application is real-time updates. Mobile phone users pull out their phone throughout the day to access real-time and geo-specific updates on deals and offers at nearby participating retailers. Activity shows that the habit influences the consumer’s decision about where to shop and drives in-store sales.   
  • iOS users are the most active by far. Compared to Android and RIM users, iOS users are by far the most active on their mobile phones. More than 80% of the downloads are from an iPhone with that group being most active.
  • Mobile engagement drives ROI. When it comes to mobile,any engagement level is positive. This loyalty program found that when users engage with the mobile app, their in-store spend increases anywhere between 5% and 21%.
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Using Mobile Phones To Augment Our Reality

I was standing out in Union Square in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. It brought back memories of my "crazy lady in Macy's" journey. This time, I was standing on the sidewalk in front of Forever 21. Capturing the looks of those passing by watching me use my phone to look at the shop window could have been more interesting than what I was capturing on my screen. I give marketers and retailers credit for pushing the envelope and experimenting with mobile technology. Unfortunately, it seems like we are not a LOT further along than we were a year ago. Some combination of the CPUs, GPUs, and networks cannot keep up with the tracking to overlay much more than 2D images. The experiences are triggered from a narrow band or library of symbols, graphics, and pictures. 

Retailers shouldn't be discouraged from using AR; AR is a very good tool to facilitate the discovery and consumption of simple content. 

I also believe that AR is well suited for entertainment and amusement - a good way to engage with the consumer base and offer an enhanced experience. 

Check out the muppets Band-Aids. 

Also check out the Zappar t-shirts being sold; the cost of the service is low, with Zappar sharing in product revenue. Their time-to-market is short in terms of preparing the content. Their app is already in the app store - altogether, very low barriers to entry to use AR with your products. 

 

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How Sophisticated Is Your Approach To Mobile?

Today, Forrester published an updated study to help eBusiness professionals understand how their peers in other companies with more experience are taking on mobile. The report (which clients can find here) is titled "Mobile Maturity Equates To Mobile Competency."

In the study, Forrester put eBusiness professionals into one of three groups based on the maturity of their mobile strategy - how many years a strategy had been in place. From there, the report provides an in-depth comparison of the approach to developing mobile strategies, level of collaboration, staffing, use of technology, spend, key performance metrics used, and approach to development.

A few key takeaways:

- Senior leaderships is essential. Only 54% of companies just getting started with mobile feel their company sees mobile as a strategic initiative. In comparison, 87% of eBusiness professionals with a more established plan have this support.

- eBusiness professionals with more experience are more likely to build in-house. They understand that mobile services cannot be one-off projects. Mobile services are assets, touchpoints, channels, and more that require infrastructure and ongoing maintenance and improvements. They also use consultants or agencies but lean toward custom builds to get the most out of the medium.

- eBusiness professionals often lead with iOS applications, followed by Android. Less than 10% of experienced eBusiness professionals build for BlackBerry or Windows today.

- Experienced eBusiness professionals have a process in place to develop strategy that either is mobile POST or strongly resembles mobile POST.

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Windows Phone 8 - What Does It Mean For eCommerce Professionals?

I attended the Windows Phone media event in San Francisco today. The filter I put on was, "What does this mean for the eBusiness professional?" VERY few of the executives we have surveyed are building experiences or applications for the Windows platform today (and yes, you could argue that in part that is because they knew Windows Phone 8 was coming and wouldn't be backwards-compatible, but, honestly, mostly it is because there are so few Windows phones in the US relative to Android and iOS). Only 21% of the executives we surveyed a year ago were using Windows with another 27% planning to do so (see this report). 

There is a lot of talk - mostly at a high level - about how you have to define different experiences for iOS and Android because expectations are different, consumers use the devices differently, etc. The most interesting aspect of the Windows Phone 8 event today was the "live" tiles. I have seen similar in the past with Nokia devices - streaming Facebook updates, news, etc. to "live" tiles on my home screen.

What I haven't seen yet is a good use case for "live tiles" for eBusiness professionals. Everyone is chatting about push-based notifications - they are contextual, they deep-link into the application, they drive usage of the application, etc. These "live" tiles with streaming content or media could be even more interesting. Microsoft today showed examples with Groupon and other discount/deal providers. As a bank, you don't want to display someone's balance. As an insurance provider, you don't want to post "a bill is due" or "we're not paying out your claim." You might want to post content around hurricanes and the potential danger. Retailers and travel companies can post deals. 

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