Tuesday, 24 November 2009

What next for Location Based Services (LBS)?

Back in 2003 I got very excited about the potential of Location Based Services (LBS) having seen what DoCoMo had done using cellular triangulation on pre GPS phones. The big debate was, and still is, whether business would be able to evolve the technology enough to engage users and drive revenues. The mobile operators led the way in locating users, Google then led the way on location based mapping and more recently a number of apps have embraced free to user geocoded content, but none have yet managed to move beyond the simple act of discovery - namely the ability to help users discover things nearby.

So I suppose the questions to be answered are what will make users become loyal to these applications, and is there a sustainable business model around providing such applications.

Until recently LBS has evolved slowly, with each advance overcoming a technical barrier. First came network based location to identify the location of the handset. That costs money each time you asked the network to locate someone and when number portability arrived that cost increased, requiring multiple network queries to, first identify the users new network and then their location. Then as Smartphones arrived, based on platforms such as the iPhone and most recently Android, we saw handset based location, by computing the longitude and latitude on GPS equipped handsets.

However someone’s location only has true benefit to the user, when the device or network geodata can be matched with appropriate geotagged content. Only in the last 2 years has sufficient geocoded content become available as the content world has woken up to the potential of LBS. Now we have a proliferation of LBS apps – most of which are free to the user - addressing the question “I’m here, where’s my nearest...”

Competing in an overcrowded LBS apps market means an ever increasing need to differentiate. With everyone offering similar content categories for users to discover things, the LBS app space is quickly becoming diluted with users spoilt for choice. I passionately believe that the way to win in LBS is to develop apps around the user’s needs. As we have seen, they already have a wealth of information addressing what’s near to them, but what do they do then? How do they organize all that information and how do they let their friends know what they’re doing?

It is in addressing these areas – planning and sharing - that the answer to differentiation lies and where I believe the market will evolve to.

People’s lives don’t only exist on their mobile. When I’m at home I use my PC and laptop. It’s also in the comfort of my home that I tend to organize what I’m doing. This might be surfing the web whilst watching the TV to organize a night out with mates, a weekend away with my wife or as seems increasingly frequent of late a stag do. The issue I have with doing this is constantly having multiple web pages open at the same time, covering multiple themes such as places to stay, places to eat, travel, weather, activities the list goes on. When it comes to finalizing the details, I tend to spend an age finding the relevant information and then collating it into a single plan.

People need a means to organize all the information they discover, moving it into a single and dedicated space that ultimately becomes the plan. Something they can share with themselves by pushing to their mobile so that it’s there when they need it most – when out and about – and something that they can share with those they need to; their friends, wife or even fellow stags. And as people get closer to the event, they need the means to get feedback and alternatives from those they are meeting, to edit that plan, and the ability to share the updated plan with everyone.

Through the ability to share, LBS can optimize reach as users share their plans with their personal networks. This viral effect will introduce new people to the application. By initially engaging them via the credibility of a message from someone they know and trust, they are more likely to view the plan. From there they can link back into the full service to have a look for themselves thus continually driving traffic – the key metric that drives the predominantly advertising based business models we see today.

Recently, Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle, the creators of the Web 2.0 Summit, released a paper focusing on the intersection of social web technologies with the emerging Internet of things (real world objects connected to the Internet). They argue that humans are producing sensor data of their own, in particular on their mobile phones via microphones, cameras, and recently compasses, so applications are no longer being driven solely by humans typing on keyboards but, increasingly, by sensors.

This provides another means of driving the business model. By collating human input and sensory data as people use a service, we can understand a user’s preferences, meaning applications can proactively suggest things users will like. The more relevant recommendations become and the more information finds the user rather than the other way round, the more people will engage, thus driving revenues. Of course privacy will provide the next major barrier for LBS to overcome, but if apps provide users value and respect the use of their data via an opt-in approach, then that barrier will ultimately be overcome.

So LBS are finally here and given current popularity, seem here to stay. But business needs to evolve apps to address the needs of their audiences. In extending the current focus on discovery by adding capability to create and manage plans and to share with others, business will better engage their target audiences and increase traffic to drive their business models.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

are you a Yummy or a Yuppie?

Recently, here at iome we undertook some research into users of our service and have identified what we like to call "Yummies". This group of users are most likely to use our service and embrace new technologies.

Why don't you see what you are?



Wednesday, 9 September 2009

How to develop a mobile marketing campaign

As marketers, it is important to keep up to date with our audience’s preferred medium for consuming information, messages and content. With information available from many varying sources, from traditional print publications, radio or TV, through to the Internet, there is no doubt that the number of ‘touch points’ with the consumer has increased and this trend is set to continue as technology advances.

More recently, as handheld devices have become ever more sophisticated, people are becoming increasingly reliant on digesting more and more data via their mobile than ever before.

Recent research from AdMob has shown that iPhone users are now accessing the mobile web more regularly than they read print newspapers, with 58 per cent now opting to pick up their handheld rather than buy a paper. Just over 45 per cent also favour their smartphone over radio and 32 per cent prefer this more than watching TV. These statistics demonstrate that this important medium is changing traditional advertising models and should not be ignored.

The first element of any successful mobile marketing campaign, indeed any campaign, is targeting. The advent of location-based services and related technologies now offers marketers and brands a new ability to deliver content to someone with immediacy, via their mobile device.

Using Wi-Fi hotspots and other methods, we now have the ability to understand where people are located through their mobile phone. The net result of this technology means marketing via mobile devices becomes a highly targeted medium due to the ability to tailor campaigns based on the where-abouts of your audience.

In addition to having an understanding of your target audience’s location, I believe there is a second factor that will drive the success of your mobile campaign: personalisation. The key here is to ensure you offer your audience the ability to provide personal preference data, via an opt-in scheme.

That way, not only will you have an understanding of the individual’s location but you can tailor your campaigns to their personal likes and dislikes, therefore enabling much closer interaction.

By developing a marketing campaign that is underpinned by technology that can manage these two factors, your response rates, and therefore your ROI, will greatly increase as people will see you are delivering more of an individualised service rather than simply advertising a blanket message to them.

There is, however, a careful balance between delivering useful material and exploiting this technology so I would urge caution to anyone embarking on this form of marketing for the first time, as it may become potentially damaging to your brand if you are considered to be ‘spamming’ the recipient’s mobile phone with unnecessary or irrelevant information. After all, the mobile is still very ‘personal’ to people so it is important to get this balance right from the start.

From our own research at iome, we have found 63% of mobile phone users like to access the web via their mobile, with 36% accessing it on a daily basis. In addition, 84% of respondents feel that location-based services are a good idea and three quarters of respondents like the idea of receiving offers via their mobiles, which are linked to where they are.

We are working with BT and Westminster City Council to provide a location-based service that people can register with to receive personalised, relevant information regarding the West End of London. It is able to direct residents, tourists, commuters and business visitors to information that matches their preferences, from being able to view what’s on locally through to being able to make bookings and purchase ticket.

By inputting some personal data upfront, the BT MyPlace service can not only help people plan ahead, but can send information directly to their mobile phone as they travel around Westminster and beyond.

There is scope for this to be extended in future with new services that offer the ability to send discount vouchers to individuals based on both their preferences and location.

So, for example if someone has specified that they enjoy eating out at Italian restaurants, the technology behind the service would enable restaurateurs to send coupons to them as they approach the street where the establishment is located. This could then be redeemed when making a purchase on the day.

Finally, another point mentioning is the added benefit of being able to easily track the results of your mobile marketing campaign. Similar to internet marketing and advertising, data is easily accessible regarding response rates, click-throughs, purchases and visitor numbers if you are directing people to a dedicated mobile internet site.

Ultimately, you need to consider if mobile marketing is appropriate to your business and target demographic. In embarking on a campaign of this nature, it will certainly differentiate your brand from competitors and has the possibility of extending and deepening the relationship with your audience if conducted appropriately.

Today, mobile marketing and advertising is a very small percentage of any marketing budget, if at all, however I am convinced it will follow the same pattern as internet marketing and advertising, as consumers adapt their way of accessing information and the usability of mobile devices continue to improve.

If you are considerate and sensible at implementing a marketing campaign via mobile it could provide to be an extremely effective tool. The real power is when you have a big picture understanding of your audience, through personalisation and location.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Is it really functionality over form?

An interesting statistic came out of the latest iome survey which made me think is it really about functionality or just habit i.e. using devices we are most comfortable with?

We posed the question "are you more into how your mobile phone looks over functionality?" 70.9% of respondants answered that it is all about what the device can do opposed to 29.1% who stated looks were more important.

This response is not surprising in itself you may think, however when we looked 32% of respondents currently own a Nokia, which are well known for their ease of use rather than rich functionality... This begs the question "are users getting confused between function and usability?

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Our survey reveals new generations of "Yummies" fear desert island effect

A recent iome survey into the social impact of mobile phones has identified the UK’s deep rooted emotional bond with handheld devices that gives mobile phones a vital role in our social lives. Almost a third of respondents (31 per cent) confirmed they would feel “completely lost” and “isolated” if they mislaid their mobile phone, with a further 25 per cent stating that the loss of a mobile would cut them off from their friends and family and have a major impact on their social life. Just 12 per cent of people surveyed believed that they would benefit from losing their mobile, stating that it would make them “feel free”, “less distracted” and able to “lead a richer life”.

from this piece of research we have identified a new segment of young, mobile internet enabled socialisers: “Yummies”.

Over two thirds of the survey respondents are now frequently using their mobile phones to access the Internet. Of these, 81 per cent use their mobile to get maps and directions and 70 per cent use their mobile to stay in touch with friends and family via social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

One in 80 mobile internet enabled respondents admitted to using their mobile phones to enjoy their vices: including accessing adult content and online gambling sites.

Our survey has demonstrated that following on from the Yuppies of the 1980’s, often identifiable by holding loud business conversations on large ostentatious mobile phones, we now have a new generation of Yummies who rely on their mobile phone as the main interface with their social network and the sole repository of their contacts. In fact our survey respondents seem to harbour a deep fear of losing their phone in case they are cast into a digital wilderness, cut off from interaction and updates from their friends and family.

So keen are people to stay in touch that their mobile literally goes everywhere with them: a fifth of the survey respondents admitted to dropping their mobile phone down the toilet.

Future features on mobile users’ wish lists included being able to watch live TV broadcasts on their phone, having integrated satellite navigation and an everlasting battery, to more unusual suggestions such as incorporating an electric shaver for ‘grooming on the go’ and science fiction requests for teleportation from their mobile phone.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Are we less connected than ever before?

It has been on my mind for sometime that in this "always-on, digital world" we are supposedly better connected than ever before, however in reality is this really the case?

We can now interact with our family, friends and colleagues 24 hours a day via many devices and methods but does this mean our relationships are better for it?

Recent press has spoken of Facebook and how it doesn't encourage friendships in the traditional sense and that the focus for Gen Y is quantity of friends rather than quality. Is this because we now have so many digital touch-points? are we becoming the "over-communicated" generation?

I was thinking about the last time I actually popped in to see a friend for a coffee so we could have a face to face catch up, it has been some weeks now as I prefer to check-in using IM, text and Facebook, what did I do before these tools? Have my relationships changed since using these?

We are no longer judging people by their facial expressions, tone of voice or body language but
increasingly by the emoticon at the end of their post

Friday, 24 July 2009

Google ad exchange

Looks like the next big thing for online publishers and advertisers.

Will Google ad exchange support mobile advertising?