Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Shopping On Your Smartphone

The holiday season is upon us again, but this time it looks like smartphones will be ringing up about 28 percent of holiday shopping sales or, $127 billion of the $447 billion the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that U.S. consumers will spend this season.  There are lots of Apps, ranging from those that provide direction and maps, to credits and coupons, and others that combine the social networking aspect.

As people are looking for more deals, they'll be using their iPhones, Android and Blackberry devices to not only search for deals online, but to also find deals in their local shopping malls, where comparison shopping can be done on the spot. There are various shopping Apps that will you help you do this, such as the Micello Indoor Map for malls. It does for malls what Google maps does for the world. Micello provides an interactive map that allows you to locate products inside a mall and get walking directions to the store.  It's available on Android, iPad, iPhone, but as yet it is only available for about 15 shopping centers.  Another App, Shopkick, combines rewards or "kickbucks'' (redeemable credits), the moment you walk past a sensor at the door of one of its partners. You can also earn kickbucks by scanning the product barcode with your iPhone camera at participating retailers.  Some of the deals are as high as $75 kicbucks at BestBuy for example.

MyShopanion combines social networking with shopping.  You can bring your closest friends with you by snapping a shot of the product or the barcode, broadcast it on Facebook or Twitter, or even email your community of friends.  Since two-thirds of the largest purchases in a household are influenced by family and friends, you really are bringing them along with you.  This App allows you to push the information right to all your social networks at once.

Check out the iTunes store to get these Apps.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Facebook Takes Top Spot For Online Ads

With so many choices and such limited budgets especially for small business, it seems like a bewildering task to decide where to advertise. But not anymore.  Facebook has taken the top slot when it comes to online advertising producing 297 billion online display ad impressions last quarter alone. According to Comscore, Facebook delivered almost 1.3 trillion display Ads during this period.

Yahoo took the second spot, with 140 billion impressions and 11% of the market, while Microsoft ranked third, with 64 billion hits and a 5% share. It seems everyone is chasing Facebook's success.  So if you haven't launched a Facebook Page, then you are missing some serious opportunities in the online space. And if you already have a Facebook Page, it's time to start experimenting with some Ads.  You don't need huge budgets.

A small business can experiment with just a few hundred dollars by being very selective and targeting relevant demographic groups.  For example, you can target by location, age, interests and various other target filters. When you consider that your audience is likely to have a smartphone, Facebook offers you mobile advertising that can really be effective for capturing potential customers in your neighborhood at precisely the moment they are seeking to buy a product or service. This is a much less crowded space for advertisers than traditional forms of advertising.

For more on how to create a social media campaign strategy, read "Social Media Marketing For Small Business", a step by step guide, by Audrey Peters.  Available on Amazon Kindle and iPad in the iBookstore. Post a comment or question here or, contact me directly.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Slide-out Keyboard For Your iPhone?

Ever wished you could have a slide-out keyboard for your smartphone but were not attracted to the Android platform? Well now there is a solution for Apple iPhone fans who just don't like the virtual keyboard. To be really productive when typing text whether an email or accessing Twitter or Facebook, it can be really slow without a real keyboard. (As for women with nails, it's nearly impossible to type accurately on a virtual keyboard.)

The KeyBoard Buddy iPhone Case clips onto your iPhone and connects via Bluetooth. It sells for $69.99 The low-profile keyboard slides out smoothly allowing you to easily transition between the Apple iPhone 4’s touch screen and a physical keyboard.  It is conveniently designed to provide quick access to all of the iPhone 4's controls such as the camera at the back and the ports and it comes with a USB cable for charging.  

While other bluetooth solutions have existed for some time, like the foldable wireless keyboard, nothing is quite as portable and convenient as a slide-out keyboard attached to your iPhone.  All in all a great solution for an already super smartphone. Now if only Apple would take note and provide an iPhone with this option already built-in?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Turn Your iPad Into Your Laptop

For those of you who have purchased an iPad and are loving it but miss the usability of your laptop, a great solution can turn your iPad into your laptop.  Well almost and at a cheaper price than a MacBook Air (no matter how beautiful that product is).  For around $60, you can get an iPad Bluetooth Keyboard and case that transforms your iPad into a much more productive mobile device, especially if you've been frustrated with touchscreen typing.

By using this case, the iPad rests on a built in stand (with various comfortable angles) in a horizontal position resembling a netbook. The keyboard has a silicone cover thus providing protection against occasional spills while you're working in a coffee shop.  The keyboard itself has a noticeable tactile feedback so it feels just like you are typing again instead of tapping, and it's a fully functional keyboard with home, volume and search buttons. The case is made of soft leather and closes with a magnetic clasp. Now you are truly mobile and the whole thing weighs just 2.75lbs, which is less than the new 13" MacBook Air.  The fully charged lithium battery will give you about 90 hours of continuous use and has a USB charger. It's easy to carry and great to work on. Who needs a netbook?

Monday, November 8, 2010

iPhone Challenging Blackberry In Corporate Sector

With consumer sales so strong for the iPhone, it's inevitable that business people are steering away from the ubiquitous corporate preferred mobile device, the Blackberry.  Blackberries have long been the preferred smartphone device for business people, politicians and even bankers, due to its secure mail server capabilities.  But the use of smartphones for personal (consumer use) and business use are merging, and no one wants to carry two devices.

For the iPhone to really compete against Blackberry, security needs to increase and in fact the banks are testing software designed to make the iPhone secure enough for corporates.  The other factor that is accelerating the use of iPhones is cost; Blackberries cost more to run due to their monthly service charges.  Dell has said it is dropping Blackberry smartphones and will replace it with its own new line of smartphones, citing the Company would save 25% on communications costs alone.

A recent survey by Bernstein Research found 83 percent of U.S. businesses allow employees to use non-BlackBerry alternatives to access corporate email. With Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and UBS, all saying they are considering allowing employees to use iPhones or other alternatives to the standard-issue BlackBerry, things are not looking too good for RIM's market share.  Of course, RIM has stated otherwise, that it is adding corporate subscribers. According to IDC, RIM's market share has fallen by 4 percent in the last third quarter compared to a year ago.

The surging popularity of consumer smartphones such as the iPhone allow corporate email access for business users, and if companies no longer need to supply the device, this could add up to a major I.T. cost saving. Bank of America has around 290,000 employees, while Citi employs some 258,000 and the British bank Standard Chartered already allows its employs the choice of using their iPhones.

Adding to this trend is the capability of wi-fi and FaceTime, and you can see how more productive the iPhone is for business users both at the office and while traveling.  With FaceTime soon to be available on the desktop and of course the iPad, it's really difficult for RIM to compete with this tight integration.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ski Resorts Launch iPhone, Android App

Going skiing this season?  There an App for that.  With 28 percent of the U.S. mobile market now using a smartphone,  it makes sense that ski resorts should be looking at mobile marketing and social media as the focus of their marketing strategy. And that is exactly what Colorado resorts are doing, from Facebook presence to geo-tagging on Twitter, all designed to inform and make the trip more engaging for the visitor.

Vail Resorts, Inc. for example, will launch EpicMix for iPhone and Android in December, an App that allows skiers and snowboarders to share their ski experience on Facebook as well as publish information on snowfall, slopes etc. If visitors link their Facebook account to EpicMix, they will be able to get alerts about when their friends are on the mountain too and send them messages.

Vail Resorts is also using Facebook for exclusive deals that won't be available anywhere else. They are even taking geo-tagging one step further by utilizing radio frequency identification tags (RFID) on lift tickets and season passes. The RFID tags and new scanners on lift towers let EpicMix track customers' ski days and vertical feet logged, both at resorts in Colorado and California.

RTP, the ski software company, is beefing up the Realski iPhone application that acts as an interactive trail map for dozens of North American resorts. Users hold up a newer iPhone to see a video image of whatever a skier is viewing on the mountain, and tags of nearby trails, restaurants and restrooms digitally pop up on the screen.

Even if you don't ski, it's still a useful App for the visitor who wants to connect with friends both at the resort and back home.  There's also a kid friendly version too.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mobile iPhone App For Public Libraries

Public libraries might seem to be very 20th century, but they still provide a service to many communities everywhere.  They have provided free wi-fi and computer access for sometime, but apart from that nothing much has changed to bring libraries into the 21st century, until now.  Vancouver public library (Canada), is probably one of the first to really embrace new technology, by launching a mobile App for the iPhone.

Now you can browse the library's catalog on your Apple mobile device in a very user friendly format and find the location of the book .  The App has a GPS functionality map to locate exactly where the nearest library is to you, with the book you selected. Basic website access to library catalogs has been available for a while, but it is hardly attractive nor user friendly.

What has also been a missed opportunity, are reader reviews.  Why not encourage your borrowers to write reviews on the books they have loaned?  Well now you can write and review books with this new App.  If we're going to pay for a public service, it makes sense to make it as functional, accessible and enjoyable as possible.  Maybe such an App might encourage other community interaction on a very local level, whether it's to announce children's reading events, or book review meet-ups or any other special events the Library could host.  Just by making such an App available, let social interaction naturally bring people together.

The next feature to add would be the ability to read electronic books, with a mechanism of expiration that automatically deleted the download from your device after the permitted loan period.  Now that would bring libraries into the mobile digital age.

The App is free in the iTunes store.


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