Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reward Cards On Your iPhone

Carrying all those membership store reward cards has always been inconvenient. With CardStar's iPhone App, you can now access all your scannable cards, deals and retailer information from your smartphone. No more searching for the right card at check out or finding you left it at home. The App gives you realtime access to coupons and special offers.

It works by entering one membership number into CardStar's website which creates a digital card. The App basically consolidates all your cards in a mobile App eliminating the need to search for special deals every time you are in a store.

Retailers participating in this program include, CVS, BestBuy, PetCo and about 2,000 more merchants. When you are in a store, all you do is access the App to see what's on offer. Clearly geo-targeting is an intrinsic part of the application. From the retailer's perspective, this kind of App helps foster customer loyalty and engagement in the shopping experience, and a ton of analytical data too.

The App is also available on the Android and Blackberry platforms and Verizon recently invested $400,000 in Cardstar. We can expect to see more developments in the mobile wallet and mobile payments space too. Verizon is in fact teaming up with AT&T and T-Mobile to test a mobile payment service that will allow customers to pay directly via their smartphone. That certainly suggests that cellphone companies know mobile marketing and mobile Apps are the future.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

iPad Going To Law School

The adoption of the Apple iPad as an educational tool was inevitable, based on its price, size and mobile ease of use. We've already seen a few educational institutions such as, Stanford School of Medicine include a free iPad in its welcome kit, so why not Law schools? The Monterey College of Law in California is the first law school in the U.S. to adopt the iPad as part of its curriculum. The College is running a pilot program developed in association with BAR BRI, the country’s largest bar exam review company, that will provide every law student with an iPad.

It's interesting that both medicine and law have been sectors of industry that have really lagged when it comes to adoption of computer technology.  Now suddenly, they are using the most leading edge devices bringing real productivity.  

With so many students now combining full time-work with part-time education, especially online courses, the iPad becomes a useful productivity tool that helps balance work, study and home life. It's far easier to carry around an iPad and use break times during the day to continue education online. 

Apple was always popular in the education sector and targeted specific programs for students in terms of price.  The strategy of acquiring young users who would transition to further Apple products as they grew older has worked well for Apple.  (Once you use a Mac - you're usually smitten and no going back to Microsoft.) Now, the younger demographic are also smartphone users, so if the iPad is a new introduction to Apple, expect more iPhone sales.  

Educational institutions are also offered a volume purchase discount on most Apple products, including the iPad.  As for netbooks - why bother?  All the netbook manufacturers are scrambling to launch their own version of an iPad.  But this train has already left the station!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Hidden Details In Skype IPO

Today, Google announced a GMail App enabling voice calls for free in the US and Canada - from computer to phone connections.  This is a direct aim at Skype's market. However, the big opportunity is in the enterprise sector which is where Skype is headed. Skype is hooking up with corporate networks and connecting with companies like ShoreTel.  

Here’s the key passage from Skype’s IPO filing:

We believe the business communications market represents a large opportunity for Skype. Approximately 37% of over 40,000 of our connected users surveyed in the first quarter of 2010 told us that they use our product platform occasionally or often for business-related purposes. We believe there is a significant opportunity to better serve the communications needs of the small and medium enterprise segment, as well as larger enterprise customers, by focusing on user needs in this market and developing additional products specifically tailored to business users. We plan to address this opportunity through the following initiatives:
  • Introduce new business-focused products. We have released two products to better serve and grow revenue in the enterprise market: Skype Manager, which allows businesses to create Skype accounts, purchase our paid products and manage and pay for the use of Skype products by their employees, and Skype Connect, which allows businesses to connect their private telephone branch exchange (PBX) over the Internet to Skype’s peer-to-peer user network to achieve low-cost calling. Skype Connect already has over 2,400 active global customers, and has already been certified by Avaya, Cisco, SIPfoundry and ShoreTel, among others, as interoperable with their products.
  • Build a new sales force, support team and management tools. We are investing to develop our business features and functionality and are exploring options such as adding more robust technical support, video and data conferencing, and collaboration solutions. We are also growing our business sales team to be able to focus on selling these products in the business market.
The traditional phone companies should be worried with competition from both Skype and Google.  

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mobile Banking Coming To Your Smartphone

While customers seem to want more flexibility and control over their money, security has been a big issue on smartphones. Nevertheless, there are Apps being created for iPhones, Android and other mobile devices, that allow customers to check balances and transactions by sending a text message request. Bank of America for example has signed up 5 million of its customers since its mobile service debuted in 2007.  

Wells Fargo on the other hand has launched a multiple platform strategy allowing customers to access their accounts by:
- sending an SMS to a short code;
- going on the Bank's mobile website;
- or by using mobile Apps (iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Palm). 

Wells Fargo credit card customers can sign up for a text alert every time their Visa card is involved in a transaction.  So depending on how the customer feels like engaging Wells Fargo has produced a number of options, which is a clever strategy that allows the market to evolve as per the customer needs and wants.  Even if you are not comfortable with mobile banking per se, at least the text message alerts are a way to stay on top of any fraudulent activity almost immediately.  

True mobile banking with the ability to swipe your phone and complete a credit card transaction is also coming. Bank of America is currently testing such a system. It is a sophisticated technology requiring the installation of a chip in your smartphone and a software application. The chip emits a radio signal that is received by a device at the retailer. Customers either tap the device or wave their phone nearby.  This pilot program starts in New York City in September 2010. 

I still have to wonder what happens when you lose your smartphone?  You not only lose your personal data but it seems like you lose all your credit cards too - in one fell swoop.  This seems like a perfect opportunity for the bad guys to snatch your phone. Having some sort of Pin number to complete the transaction makes sense to me.  And while you can remotely call your phone to wipe out the data, a thief can still do a lot of damage with that mobile credit card before you are able to activate a 'destroy sequence'.  What are your thoughts?  Convenience or sheer madness? 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Facebook Goes Geolocation

Facebook has released a new feature called  "Places", which allows you to directly "check in" at any location, without the use of a third-party App to do so.  It basically allows you to broadcast your location to friends in your network.  Retail marketers clearly will love the ability to know where you are shopping and direct relevant promotions however, individuals may find this just a little intrusive and possibly even 'creepy'.

Has technology actually gone too far?
If you are concerned about your privacy you will need to go into your account to deactivate this feature.  Once again, Facebook takes the stance of limited privacy by default until you go in and say otherwise.  To use the App on your iPhone or Android phone, you need to go to touch.facebook.com.

Frankly, this may be geo-location gone too far.  One has to wonder about all sorts of legal implications such as the use of evidence in a bad situation or even stalking.  Geolocation has its place in mobile marketing where you decide to opt-in promotions in a safe environment or private relationship between you and the company. Broadcasting your location in an open way is not likely to take off, even among the younger demographic who are concerned about their privacy, according to several industry surveys.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One Of The Best iPhone Apps For Busy Moms

The smartphone is coming of age and becoming an integral part of our lives, whether you're a business executives or a busy mother trying to juggle your family's grocery shopping and planning healthy meals.  One of the most practical Apps around has just been launched by Rachael Ray (Food Network personality) for the iPhone, called "Tasty Bytes".  It includes a 200 recipe database and combines a shopping list feature, that basically takes the ingredients from the recipes you select and converts it into a shopping list.  Getting your food shopping this organized makes it a breeze to eat healthy.  And who takes a recipe book with you when shopping or forgets the list at home? 

The App is only $1.99 in the iTunes store.  Other nice features are the ability to email a recipe, search the database by meal type, holidays, cooking style and even ingredients.  This is just one simple way that the smartphone, in particular the iPhone with over 200,000 Apps, is able to bring organization into our lives and transform daily tasks into something a little bit more creative and exciting.  I'm sure there will be other celebrities that follow suit with their own App,  but the key is to provide something a consumer really needs and that enhances their daily life.  

With a food/recipe and shopping list App, marketers and retailers can find ways to add mobile marketing, location based coupons, and even combine social networks into the mix, so you can also tell your friends about your recipe or even share a menu.  

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mobile Marketing Budgets Set To Explode In 2011

A recent survey by the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) predicts that mobile marketing budgets will double in 2011. Mobile marketing spend is still a small piece of total advertising expenditure, at $2.3 B but those surveyed indicate expenditure is likely to top $5.5 B next year. This is hardly surprising since smartphone sales are already beginning to replace older basic cell phones as contracts expire. The consumer sees a value in spending $199 (price point for the best smartphones) today, as opposed to two years ago.
  • Mobile websites and apps are expected to become more popular as well, with anticipated adoption rates of 83 percent and 71 percent, respectively. 
  • The MMA also anticipates marketers will invest more in location-based features - in fact this is the area of biggest growth. 
  • SMS appears to be in for an increase of 141 percent in spending. 
  • Spending on mobile video is expected to increase by 137 percent. 
The drivers in the marketplace are the continued release of Android phones and the Apple 'effect' - the iPad and iPhone 4.  The drivers in the retail sector is the desire to capture 'first mover advantage' and increase the engagement with customers, according to a Forbes Insight Study in July 2010.  Even a small business can utilize mobile marketing with a minimal expenditure using Google Mobile AdWords.  

For more on Social Media Marketing for Small Business, check out the iBookstore. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

iPad Becoming Standard Equipment At Med Schools

The Apple iPad, initially perceived as a beautiful consumer gadget must have, has transitioned into a serious business and education tool.  Stanford School of Medicine has just announced that incoming students in the Class of  2014 will get an  iPad as part of their welcome kit.  The School cited that:  “iPad allows students to view and annotate course content electronically, facilitating advance preparation as well as in-class note-taking in a highly portable, sharable and searchable format.”

Even though the school has admitted that they don't really know how the students will be using the iPad, there's no question that the device will offer flexibility in accessing so much information for students, from class to lab to viewing multi-media and evidence based data.  Once students get used to working in a certain way with technology, it's  likely to be a part of their working life in a medical institution or private clinic.  The sheer mobility offered by the iPad allows the physician to be more efficient, offer a personalized service to patients and even, more interactive using the multimedia capabilities of an iPad in a friendlier environment.  

UC Irvine School of Medicine is also following suit with free iPads for students but providing additional content including: course outlines and handouts, slide presentations and first-year textbooks in a digital format that allows highlighting and notation,  access to audio and video libraries as well as podcasts. And technological advances such as digital stethoscopes and handheld ultrasound units are currently being configured.

At last, perhaps the medical industry might be catching up with technology, efficiencies and ultimately, better patient care.  As for Apple, the iPad is a real game changer in so many ways.  And this is only the beginning of a new computing revolution that will see other hardware manufacturers follow rather than lead. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Business Is Not Using Social Media Wisely

A recent study by Wildfire (a research company) in the UK, looking at the social media activities of the 50 fastest growing tech companies, found that while over 90% of the companies had a presence on two or more social networks, only a small minority were actually using social media to be 'social'.  About 74% of the companies in this survey had an official Twitter account, but less than half actually ever responded to a single tweet.  These companies appear to be using Twitter to distribute press releases, or one-way marketing.  A major opportunity is being missed.  The power of the social media platform enables a company to engage in socializing to build brands, awareness, develop customer relations, conduct valuable research and generally market their products.  

Companies are embarking on acknowledging social media such as Twitter, but essentially they are ill-equipped in the method of socializing or using the media as a conversation tool.  Until they do, the results of their efforts will be minimal.  You can learn  more about how to use this tool by reading: Social Media Marketing For Small Business which is available for iPad or Kindle or,  click here for a consultation.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Smartphone In-Car Usage to Increase Significantly

A recent Survey by Frost and Sullivan predicts that the number of cars connected to the internet via the smartphone will exceed 5 million by 2015, in just North America alone. There is a gradual shift to this hybrid model of connecting a smartphone from inside a car (or hybrid connected telematics).  In fact Ford Synch has played a big part in this consumer shift, especially in the 'Gen Y' demographic who are driving the use of mobile Internet on smartphones.   Downloading apps from sites like Apple is becoming increasingly popular in North America and Europe.

Gen Y will continue to account for at least a quarter of the total population until 2030, but in South Asia, Gen Y will likely represent over 40 per cent of the population by 2030.  This is clearly a huge opportunity for vehicle manufacturers and for Internet radio which is the most popular App in cars at present.  

Should the satellite radio companies be worried?  Yes, if they continue to price monthly subscriptions at $13 a month.  That price level  can no longer be justified by many and in fact Sirius has been declining for about 2 years.  Internet radio is essentially free and customizable.  There are many good services to choose from such as Pandora or Slacker which are essentially free, but offer true customization for a small subscription.  However, you will have to watch the data consumption rates if you are on an AT&T plan.  The sensible option is the subscription service for Slacker Radio which gives you offline listening by caching and storing the music. Slacker Plus is $3.99 a month which is considerably lower than satellite radio subscription.  The App is free and works with iPhone, Android and Palm.  Alternatively, listening to previously downloaded podcasts is truly free and you can connect your iPhone with an accessory, enabling you to listen through a free FM station.  

There's no question that your smartphone is going to be your in-car device for navigation and now for music and podcasts too.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Another Blow For Blackberry

This week we heard about the UAE and then Saudi Arabia banning RIM Blackberry phones based on security issues. Basically these countries have rather specific requirements - servers cannot be based overseas where governments cannot trace the data. So it's really secure for the user but apparently not for certain governments. There are around 500,000 BlackBerry users in the UAE and around 750,000 BlackBerry users in Saudi Arabia.  The ban will also affect visitors to the country and even travelers in transit, which does pose a serious problem for business users. 

Following on from this news, the EU has just announced it will switch its 32,000 workers to HTC and iPhones, citing these are more desirable platforms for voice and mail apps.  Certainly, RIM's past dominance is being challenged with these new generation multimedia smartphones.  Reviews of the new Blackberry Torch don't seem to indicate that this phone will lure Android or iPhones users and is likely only to appeal to diehard Blackberry fans.  

RIM has until October this year to remedy the problem, which means placing servers inside the particular country to enable government to monitor and access, for reasons of national security.  

Monday, August 2, 2010

Google Chases Yelp With Geo-Targeted Ads On Android

Mobile marketers now have a whole new platform to consider for campaigns - Google Places App. Basically, this expands the use of Google Maps by overlaying the maps with the pinpoint location of local businesses, places of interest, hotels, bars etc. Google Places becomes an icon on the Android phone for the consumer.  Last year, Yelp turned down an offer from Google for $550 million.  With Google Maps, Place and tight integration into the Android platform, you have to wonder what was the CEO of Yelp thinking.  

For local businesses, all they have to do is register their business for free in Google Place. A restaurant can even include its menu, enter what types of credit card it accepts, promotional coupons etc. Of great value to the business is the access to web data and the ability to analyze consumer responses, such as where people are coming from, the search terms they used, what was most popular on the menu and if that had an impact on attracting the customer. Indeed, it may even alert the business owner to another opportunity to open up in a different part of town, especially a restaurant. 

Four million businesses have already claimed their Place Page on Google through the Local Business Center, and advertising starts at just $25 a month.  This is a great opportunity for local businesses to enter the location based marketing world.  My advice is to test campaigns and continue to use other social media as part of your campaign strategy.   For a step by step guide click here.

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