August 9, 2012

Foursquare Evolves Beyond the Check-In

When you are married with three kids a date night becomes a luxury for which you seldom have time. I, therefore, always take advantage of opportunities when they are presented, like last weekend.  Given its rave reviews, we decided to see “The Dark Knight Rises.” When we got to the theater, I pulled out my iPhone and checked-in using Foursquare, as I always do. Fast forward – the movie was excellent and I highly recommend it. As we exited the theatre, I pulled out my phone again to check out nearby places to eat, once again turning to Foursquare.  This time, however, as I opened the explore tab, I was greeted by something new.

A local restaurant, just two blocks away, apparently discovered that I was in the area and let me know that two of my friends had eaten there recently and liked it. In addition, they notified me of a current special they were running.  This combination of social recommendations and an offer were enough to get us in the door, allowing us to have an excellent meal after our excellent movie.

Welcome to the world of Foursquare and its local updates and promoted updates.

Since its launch three years ago, Foursquare now has more than 20 million active monthly users, 1 million verified merchants and over 2 billion check-ins.  Foursquare has amassed a bank of consumer data that has few rivals. For years merchants have had access to that wealth of information including granular data such as male/female demographic breakdown, frequent customers, time since check-in, etc., but have had no viable avenue for utilizing it with the exception of large, blanket promotions.

Foursquare is changing that and giving merchants two new extremely powerful tools.  On July 18, Foursquare announced Local Updates which allowed business to contact their customers directly, offering deals and incentives to those who have expressed interest in the business through check-ins or other comments.  A week later, the company announced Promoted Updates, which allows businesses to push out recommendations to potential customers that are essentially advertisements to a mobile consumer base.

Foursquare is positioning this as a Google search-type tool.  When conducting a “regular” search a person inputs a query, showing their intent, which is replied to with relevant search results.  In similar fashion, a Foursquare user is expressing intent by opening the app and going to the “Explore” tab to find information relevant to what is around them.  This is a large step forward in contextual marketing that uses social data to customize communications to consumers.

Both of these update tools show that Foursquare is serious about monetizing its platform and is very well positioned to do so.  Brands and consumers can expect to see further moves from the app-centered around consumer targeting.

The age of hyper-local consumer targeting is here and Foursquare is among the leaders of the pack in providing customized communications options for businesses.

Here are a few things brands, especially national retailers with large local footprints, should consider:

  • Customizing communications to consumers on this level will drive foot traffic to local stores
  • Offering specials and discounts through Foursquare limits losses that can be experienced through “normal” couponing/discounting sites
  • Engaging on the Foursquare platform opens door to a wealth of social data surrounding brands and their locations

Foursquare has shown that it is a viable platform for reaching consumers and engaging them on a local level.  National brands need to enter into that field through localized, contextual offers and communications or risk losing consumers to the businesses that do.

Categories: Mobile social media

June 13, 2012

Has Apple Put Google in the Crosshairs?

Sunday evening, while flipping through the channels searching for something decent to watch, I came across what must have been the 1 millionth screening of War Games.  As you’d imagine, I paused to watch this 1983 gem of bad moviemaking, centered around nuclear war.  With Apple’s developers conference starting the next day, the movie reminded me of a quote from Steve Job’s biography where he said, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

On Monday at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, the company made many announcements about new MacBooks, operating systems and expanded Siri capabilities and their version of a mobile payment system called Passbook.  Scott Forstall, the SVP for iPhone software, also ran through some features of the upcoming iOS 6, many of which seem to be targeted directly at Google and perhaps signaling the first shots in Steve Job’s aforementioned “war.”

Most significant to search — and Google — was the announcement of the new Maps app, Apple’s mapping product that will be part of the iOS 6 update this fall.  Apple’s press release about the product detailed features of the Maps app, including turn-by-turn navigation, real-time traffic information and local search information for businesses, including Yelp ratings and reviews.  Most iPhone users currently default to Google Maps for local search information, but this new app could completely change that by greatly diminishing Google’s current dominance of mobile search.

Furthermore, according to Apple, the Maps app will be available on iPhones, iPads and iPods.  The prediction by eMarketer that iPad users will grow to 53.2 million this year, and that by 2015 more than one-third of internet users will have such a device, makes the Apple announcement even more significant.

Apple is even shutting Google out of the loop when it comes to providing local data, including business and crowd-sourcing information.  According to an Apple copyright page, sources for information include:

  • TomTom
  • Acxiom
  • LeadDog
  • Localeze
  • Wave
  • Yelp

While the buzz surrounding these changes is based on statements and demos, it appears that the new Apple Maps app offers competition for the products Google has in place.  Furthermore, Maps paired with a smarter Siri signal that Apple is moving forcefully into the search business.  Considering Apple’s strong track record with consumer adoption, this could very well be the beginning of significant changes in search and trouble for Google.

February 2, 2012

Does Your Site Make A Mobile Phone Fly?

Last week, I was at the mall with my teenage daughter as she searched for a dress for her winter formal. Basically, she and my credit card were in one part of the mall, while I wandered around a different part until she was ready for the dad limo to ferry her back home.  As I passed one popular store, a mobile phone went bouncing down the hall next to me.  It did not take long to identify the phone’s owner; he was sitting outside said store looking…ah…frustrated.  Returning his phone to him, I discovered he threw the phone after making five failed attempts to purchase something from the retailer’s mobile site.

Two questions immediately came to mind:

  • Is the general mobile experience really that bad?
  • How can a company avoid being the mobile site that sends a phone flying by?

We know mobile adoption is off the charts with nine out every 10 people in the U.S. owning a mobile phone and Nielsen pegging early 2012 as the point when smartphones will be the majority.  Not only is everyone now armed with a mobile device, but we cling to them harder than a lifelong NRA member does to their favorite pistol as 83% of Americans never leave home without their mobile phone.

Consumers are clamoring to engage brands on a mobile level and research shows their expectations are rarely being met; most retailers are unprepared for the expanding mobile marketplace.   A study by Harris Interactive reveals 85% of consumers expect their mobile experience to be better than the experience they would have on a desktop website. Roughly 80% of retailers (both online and brick and mortar) do not have dedicated mobile or mobile-enabled sites.  The bulk of these retailers are sending mobile traffic  to desktop-enabled sites.  At the beginning of the mobile push, this was acceptable as the traffic was in the infancy stage.  Today, not having a mobile site is akin to not having a website, circa 2000.

Unfortunately, 84% of mobile users who have conducted mobile transactions have problems. The Harris study also revealed that more adult mobile users are frustrated by a bad mobile experience (58%) than by going to the DMV (50%) or by being stuck in traffic (56%).

How do consumers respond to a bad mobile experience?

  • 43% say they would abandon the transaction and try again later on a computer
  • 16% would be more likely to buy from a competitor
  • 12% would abandon the transaction and try a competitors mobile site
  • 63% would be less likely to buy from the same company via other purchase channels

The last statistic should be a resounding wake-up call to all brands.  By delivering a bad mobile experience, you are risking more than half your potential customer base.  This loss would not be from a site or a particular store, but from an overall loss of brand fans, regardless of location.

So what is a mobile neglectful brand supposed to do?  Here are three key recommendations to help save your brand from being tossed into the mobile consumer trash bin:

  1. Invest immediately in mobile development.  This does not mean convert a few pages of your site o fit in the size of a mobile screen, but to make it a true mobile website.  Make it as easy for a consumer to conduct all of the same operations on your site from their mobile device as they  would on a desktop.
  2. Engage paid mobile search traffic. If you currently engage in PPC advertising and are a retailer with physical locations, you can still capture those paid clicks by activating click- to -call paid search ads.  These ads only show the phone number as clickable, not the URL, so you can capture those clicks with a call to your locations.
  3. Enhance presence on sites with ready mobile presence. Many directory, review and social sites are mobile-ready.  Retailers with large local presences can optimize the traffic of these secondary sources to mobile searchers.  Ensuring business listings are optimized, reviews are addressed and social commentary is replied to will go a long way in driving mobile traffic through the doors.

By the way, the gentlemen in the mall who was teaching his phone to fly did finally make his purchase.  He went to a competitor of the original store, at the other end of the mall.

Categories: Mobile