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, theAIR 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%.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Forrester just released a new report, “The State Of Mobile Technology Adoption.” The report will allow eBusiness professionals to benchmark their annual spending, mobile services, and approach to building mobile services among their peers in North America and Europe.
One of the biggest takeaways from the research is that eBusiness professionals lack the funding they need to build mobile services, integrate mobile services with their back-end infrastructure, and build out teams with the right skills in-house. Consider that:
· 56% of eBusiness professionals spend less than $500K annually on their mobile services.
· Only 24% spend more than $1M – the base level for a good native application and mobile website.
From a technology standpoint:
· 40% are building applications in-house, with 12% licensing a platform to do so.
· 62% are building mobile websites in-house, with 46% relying on their IT team directly.
· 68% have native applications – far more than are using hybrid applications (most of the budgets would have to be here to fund these efforts).
I listened to the Mark Zuckerberg interview from the TechCrunch Disrupt event in San Francisco this week.
There were a few choice quotes (I'll paraphrase them here - these are not literally a transcription. You can find the video/audio on the TechCrunch site):
"The biggest mistake we made (with our mobile services) was relying too much on HTML5 and for too long."
"We finally realized that a good enough mobile experience would fall short. We needed a great mobile experience. The only path to great is native on iOS and Android."
"Our mobile users are more engaged and use our services more frequently."
"All of our code is for mobile."
"We'll build native code for iOS and Android." (And it is building for iOS first)
"Ads can't be standalone on a sidebar in mobile. They need to be integrated into our product."
"We reorganized. A year ago, 90% of the code check-ins were from the core mobile team. Now 90% comes from other parts of the organization."
"We reorganized. We were in functional silos. We now have product teams (responsible for delivery)."
"A Facebook phone doesn't make any sense."
Some context. Certainly, Facebook is unique with it being a media-centric company and very global. It does need mobile Web to reach much of its audience - now nearing 950M. For many companies, mobile Web will continue to be a relatively low-cost, broad-reach play to get to most of the phones. Mobile Web doesn't go away, but it is not where the differentiation will happen - at least in the near term.
I was sitting on a United Airlines flight from PDX to SFO last weekend. The usual "Jeff Smisek" video came on welcoming the passengers, providing us with information about how the transition is going and thanking us for choosing United. For the first time in more than a year, I lifted my head from my printed material (no electronics during taxi, takeoff, and landing) to watch the video and listen. He was talking about United's mobile services AND the feature set. Whoa.
Jeff Smisek has been welcoming passengers on to United flights since just after the acquisition - I think he talked for 6 to 8 months about getting the planes painted with their new logo. Then there was the full merger of the crews and upgrades to the plane interior, etc. I had long ago stopped paying attention . . . like most passengers flying 100x/year, I just want to get where I'm going on time safely, and I bring my own food and entertainment on board.
I just couldn't believe that the CEO of a Fortune 100 company was discussing their mobile services. I have photos from United's jetways that are less than two years old offering push notifications to pagers. Yeah, email and pagers.
Mr. Smisek - I commend you. The vast majority of Fortune 500 companies have senior level buy-in for their mobile strategy. Seldom, however, does a CEO become such an advocate. I was thrilled to see the video and the associated support. Like all frequent travelers, I rely heavily on my mobile phone for updates and information. Your mobile team is outstanding and has a phenomenal vision for how mobile should serve your passengers and staff. I was happy to see the recognition.
I saw this article today on augmented reality. It doesn't use the phone — it uses Google Goggles, but you can imagine it as an application on a mobile phone.
The AR glasses makes the food products you see look bigger through the lenses so users eat less. [See article.] You can imagine more scenarios, though, with a mobile phone along with its processing power and contextual information about the user. If I walk in to a sandwich shop, for example, I can scan the options with my phone to find a sandwich that fits my calorie and nutritional requirements. (I spend a lot of time in airports so would love this). Certainly if I pick up a candy bar, I can read the nutritional information or calorie count.
I go back to trying to answer this question, "how does access to real-time information improve our lives — and not simply addict me to accessing information constantly like checking email or Facebook updates?" Health, wellness, and financial services among others are where I see some bigger opportunities.
One of the key things that differentiates mobile phones from any other device is their ability to deliver a constant stream of real time data coupled with the processing capability to help consumers make a wealth of decisions based on this information. Tablets — we're going to leave home without them, and the majority of connections are over Wi-Fi. Wearable technology collects real-time information and may have applications/display, but we aren't yet seeing devices with the same flexibilty as the phone. The highly anticipated Pebble may yet be the device, but for today, it is the phone. (My colleague Sarah Rotman Epps writes a lot on these devices — see the rest of her research for more information).
With that fact established, my open question is, "Who is making my life better with this ability to process information near instantaneously to help me live a better, healthier life . . . or at least how I choose to define it?" I think the key to measuring mobile success must lie here — from the perspective of the consumer first before mobile will deliver huge returns in the form of revenue or lower operating costs.
Let’s take a step back, first. You started as the “mobile person” two to three years ago. You siphoned a hundred thousand dollars or so from the eBusiness team budget and got a mobile optimized web site and maybe an application or two built. You measured your success by engagement – web traffic and application downloads. Maybe you measured direct revenue. Life was easy.
Two to three years later, as eBusiness professionals, you’ve got some experience with building, deploying and maintaining mobile services. You’ve added tablets to your portfolio. Hopefully you’ve convinced your organization that you need at least a 7-figure budget. Most industries have seen clear financial returns on these investments so that hasn’t been too hard. As eBusiness professionals working on mobile, you were feeling a lot of love.
In 2011, you benchmarked yourselves versus your competition. You looked at native applications by platform and key functionality on mobile web and applications. You took a deep breath and said, “ok, we’ve done it. We have mobile services. We’ve checked the box. Mobile web traffic and sales are growing. We’re good.” Perhaps others with fewer services are thinking, “I can see what we need to do. I think we can catch up if I can get some budget.”
The thing you are seeing though is – the finish line is out of sight. Mobile has only gotten more complicated – not less. No one feels comfortable. No one feels they can slow down, stop spending, or rest. Anxiety levels are high.