When the Apple iPhone App Store launched a couple of years ago, we saw a flurry of marketing applications released. Some were exceptional. Many were average. iPhone apps were "hot," and consumer brands rushed to build them. They were somewhat expensive with most of the return based on press mentions and buzz. Brands felt that the perception of tech-savviness generated by the presence of an iPhone application would enhance their brand. I think they were right, but soon consumers began to expect iPhone applications. Initally, the iPhone didn't offer much reach. The iPod touch helped build the numbers. Apple's most recent announcement put total sales at over 80 million. Pretty good.
Two years ago, consumers mostly used their cell phones for communication. They also listened to some music and got a bit of weather, traffic and news. Now ... they do just about anything. They shop. They research products. They blog. They look up recipes. Are they doing so in large numbers? No, not yet. Consumers are a lot more likely to do more complex tasks on smartphones like the iPhone. The stakes are much higher for marketers - the potential return is higher with the ability to generate real leads and sales.
Here we are in 2010. Apple recently announced sales of 1 million iPads. Forrester believes that number will at least triple by year end. Apple has launched the iAd platform and promised consumers an engaging media experience that will include advertising, but not be disrupted by it. iAd includes the iPhone platform. iPads add another dimension or canvas that will unleash advertiser/agency creativity. We are now seeing our first marketing (first perhaps) and commerce (secondary?) applications. They are engaging. They offer rich media. They are interactive. They offer opportunities to link to videos, music, social networking sites, and shopping.
The increasing popularity of Apple’s iPhone and iPad – neither of which supports Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight – has piqued interest in HTML5 as an open source solution for creating Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). Steve Jobs’ recent attack on Flash as being unfit for the iPhone calls into question the long-term value of player-based application platforms. But can HTML5 really replace Flash and Silverlight?
To understand the user experience pros and cons of HTML5, Rich Gans – one of our Researchers serving customer experience professionals – talked to designers and developers at Cynergy Systems, EffectiveUI, Roundarch, and Yahoo! who are building complex online functionality. We have just published the results of this research in a report entitled “HTML 5: Is There Any Truth To The Hype?”
The truth is that while HTML5 is promising and can help improve experiences for text-based content, it is not yet a viable alternative to player-based technologies for designing rich, highly functional user experiences.
The downside to using HTML5 today is that it:
Could lead to inconsistent experiences across today’s browsers
Will require that users download a browser that supports the technology
Compromises performance for graphics-heavy experiences
However, there are a few places where HTML5 can help improve user experiences today, including:
Experiences for people with disabilities
Apps that are solely intended for Apple devices
Producing text-heavy sites that require text resizing
If you are in the mobile industry and you've never heard of Foursquare, there is something wrong with the way you keep up to date on new trends. Indeed, Foursquare is one of the most hyped social location services, enabling users to "check-in" to locations in the real world from pubs, bars and restaurants (through to any conceivable location) - sharing them with updates on social sites like Twitter or Facebook, wrapping points and benefiting from potential discounts. Foursquare recently announced it had passed the 1M users mark. The rate of growth is indeed quite strong, bearing in mind the company had just 170,000 users at the end of 2009. According to TechCrunch, Yahoo! was rumored to have made an offer above $80M to acquire the start-up! I am not a financial analyst, but let's say $100M for just 1M users seems high at first sight. So what makes it so valuable and why is foursquare being perceived as the new Twitter? Here are a few thoughts:
- First of all, foursquare is not the only one in town but is probably the one with the most active PR team. It struck some interesting deals with Metro newspapers, with TV channel Bravo, with Vodafone in the UK (on-deck and via SMS promotion) and more recently with even the Financial Times, if we believe business insiders. What makes it quite successful is its entertainment-centric approach. It is quite addictive as it is primarily an interactive game. There are others (not only Gowalla) such as MyTown (a sort of a real-world monopoly), which passed the 2 million active users mark a few days ago!
I just returned home from a trip to Bangkok and Bhutan. Civil unrest in Bangkok kept me from wandering as much as I would have liked. I had a lot of opportunity in Bhutan, however, to wander about and talk to people. As a bit of a background, Bhutan is a land-locked country bordered mostly by India to the south and China to the north. Much of the northern portion where we traveled is covered by mountains, so wireless is the primary infrastructure for communications. The average annual income is about $1,300, so they are not a wealthy nation. They've only been allowed access to TV and the Internet for about 10 years.
A consumer brand might argue that in a country where the annual income is only $1,300 and little infrastructure exists for the import of goods, there isn't much point in marketing -- let alone a digital marketing strategy that includes mobile. Countries like these are opening up, however, and their wealth is growing. Personal care products and Coca-Cola was on the shelves in most of the small shops we passed. In a country where cell phones certainly outnumber PCs and cellular connections (even if prepaid) must outnumber fixed, mobile has to be part of the mix.
Teenagers had cell phones. One of my guides had a Nokia N73 and the other had a Nokia Xpress Music. These aren't dumb or cheap text-only phones. They have high-resolution screens and are capable of music, videos and Internet. (My guide was checking and posting to Facebook DAILY.) Monks had cell phones. Women selling vegetables in open-air markets had cell phones.
I was the photographer at a wedding this weekend. We used the KIN phone to take photos throughout the course of the day - hair styling, make-up, and the event. We also exchanged a lot of messages: "We're running late! Someone else has to go pick up the cake," etc. Here's a quick snapshot of the Web page below.
We saw Nokia do this with with their Lifeblog a number of years ago. The KIN Studio has similarities. I would have to say I was sitting on the fence a bit re the dictated cloud services approach to the KIN photos. Over the weekend, I was happy that I didn't have to say "ok, now sync" or upload them one at a time - I liked that it just happened. Would have been fun for everyone at the event to have one of these phones.
A couple of weeks ago I published a Data Digest on European consumers’ media consumption. One of the questions that always comes up when I present this data to clients is how focused consumers are when they're watching TV or using the Internet. Our Technographics® data shows that consumers aren't focused at all: About 40% of US youth were watching TV the last time that they used the Internet, and a third were texting.
But consumers don’t just multitask across different channels; they also do many different things on the PC at the same time. We asked European consumers the following question: "Which of the following activities do you regularly do at the same time when you’re using your PC (by that we mean that you are combining multiple activities)?" About half of European youth use IM when using the Internet, and about 60% listen to music. Undivided attention is something that's hard to find these days.
I had the pleasure of hosting an IT Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) workshop, “Building the Business Case for Social Media in B2B Marketing” at our London office this week. There were 12 IT services marketers attending, and we all enjoyed very informative presentations led by Moira Clark, Professor of Strategic Marketing at Henley Business School. Moira has lots of practical experience and did extensive research work for Cisco in 2009. We also heard from DNX Ltd, a marketing agency with several tech vendor clients, as well from LinkedIn.
I certainly learned a lot personally about using social media - there was quite a bit of “hands-on” work: assessing a company’s social media strategy, comparing listening platforms, and launching a community. Here are some of the highlights that I remember most (and consider me an experienced tech marketer now trying to understand the impact of social media on the marketing mix).
As part of a larger project that Harley Manning explained in a recent blog post, I've published a document that evaluated the customer experience at six top Canadian Bank Web sites. The premise was simple: we wanted to test how easy it is for a user who wants to find a checking account at a bank with a local branch that has weekend hours. We also wanted to know the fee structure and minimum balance requirements.
How did the sites perform? Overall, they did poorly, with no site achieving a passing score on our Web Site User Experience Review methodology. All of the bank sites we reviewed provided the necessary content and function needed to complete the goal, but none of them did so in a way that was contextual, findable, understandable, and trustworthy. Specific problems that plagued the sites included missing or misplaced content and function, inefficient task flows, and poor use of space, to name a few.
On the plus side, each of the sites provided a lesson for others to learn from. For example, while National Bank of Canada scored lowest in our evaluation, its page that sets up the application process clearly lists eligibility criteria, the information required to open an account, and a clear list of the steps in the online application process.
Efficient Frontier announced last week its official entry into display advertising with a platform that integrates biddable display with search marketing, real-time bidding capabilities, and the Efficient Frontier trademark portfolio approach to optimization that uses predictive modeling to forecast performance outcomes.
I think this certainly indicates further momentum into the world of biddable display media, and eventually biddable media in all formats. See more about Forrester's thoughts on dynamic media buying and what it will mean for media buying on and offline in the report, Demystifying the DSP.
I think the platform from Efficient Frontier addresses a much needed combination -- that of paid search and biddable display media. But I also think that this platform, competing ones -- like those developed by Vivaki -- and demand-side platforms are in “version 1.” Not a bad place to be at the early stage of an emerging opportunity. But I do expect that all of these tools will refine over the next two years. I think they will continue to add data sources, more inventory, additional and easier to use functionality, better metrics, and better reporting. But v.2 will develop only after advertisers begin testing dynamic media buying and can show technology players what additional depth and breadth they need.
I've just had the chance in the past few hours to really play with the device. I find myself smiling each time a new SMS bubble pops up. I love it. I also like seeing my friends' faces on my phone. I love being able to navigate my content and messages via my friends. Loved how easy it was to set up my email, Facebook, and Twitter. Packaging rocks ... and is recyclable. What is subtle in this device, in my opinion, is how intuitive the UI is. The UI looks and feels similar to others I have seen, but I was able to pick up this phone and use it without reading the instructions.
My colleague Charles Golvin will provide a more in-depth analysis of the device itself.
From a social networking/media perspective, the KIN is a good start, but I hope to see more with upcoming releases, especially around helping people build their social graph. I don't put this burden on Microsoft alone, but on the industry and all handset manufacturers. The content we create needs more meta data or labels. We need logic to mesh this content together and navigate through it. It's great that I can navigate to my friends' status and messages through my contacts (and KIN's UI is a lot of fun). I also want to navigate through my photos and location. Location should be table stakes for photo/status/review (restaurant/bar) content and the logic shouldn't flow in just one direction. Based on my location (simple location or map), I want to see who is nearby or what restaurants my friends liked. Navigating through my friends, I want to see what restaurants they liked. I want to group photos by location. I want to group photos by friends. These are just a few examples. With every product and service developed, one can't have everything. There are cost, time and design trade-offs. I completely understand that the KIN and DROID and others couldn't get everything done in v1.0. I look forward to the next version.