Local Search

Who Will 'Own' the Indoor Channel: Retailers or Google and Facebook?

One of the questions that we'll be addressing on the "Microfencing" (in-store/in-aisle targeting) panel at Place 2013 is "who will own the indoor channel?" The operating assumption is that the venue owners/retailers will control communications and marketing within their indoor environments. But that may not turn out to be true if retailers aren't careful and quick to embrace indoor location. 

An analogy may be the wireless carriers. Once the gatekeepers of all things mobile, they have largely been sidelined and reduced to "commodity" providers of bandwidth. The handset OEMs, platform providers and app developers dominate mobile. 

Earlier today Reuters reported that Cisco was "working with Facebook Inc to offer free Wi-Fi Internet access to consumers at public places such as hotels or retail stores using their Facebook log-in. A visitor could check in at a hotel without having to line-up at a front desk by simply signing in via the Facebook application on a smartphone, Cisco said."

Google is also contemplating its own WiFi infrastructure. By the same token some retailers are hesitant or cautious about embracing indoor location. For example, JC Penney decided to eliminate public WiFi to save $7 million a year. In doing so it shut down its indoor location consumer infrastructure. While it will save some money it won't stop showrooming and may deprive JC Penney of an important marketing and customer service capability. 

If companies such as Facebook and Google, or other third parties, step in and provide the consumer network, chances are very good that consumers will use the Facebook or Google network rather than the store's. That would likely make the Google and Facebook the new gatekeepers of indoor marketing, giving them a significant advantage over retailers and a stronger position when it comes to selling and delivering indoor advertising and promotions. 

Retailers cannot and should not "wait and see" or they may find themselves, like the wireless carriers, on the sidelines of digital marketing activity in their own stores. I could be wrong and there are a number of unknown variables. But retailers stand to lose much if they fail to act. 

We'll fully explore these questions at the Place Conference on Tuesday, October 8:

Microfencing: Targeting In-Aisle Shoppers

Billions of dollars are spent each year by brands and manufacturers trying to influence consumer buying in stores. A percentage of that money will migrate to indoor digital marketing. What conditions must first exist and what will those brand-consumer interactions look like? The panel will explore these questions as well as the contours of the broader indoor marketing experience. 

  • Neg Norton, President, Local Search Association
  • Ben Smith, CEO, Wanderful Media
  • Melissa Tait, VP of Technology, Primacy
  • Erik McMillan, CEO, BrickTrends
  • Asif Khan, Founder, Location Based Marketing Association (Moderator)

 

Apple Shunned NFC, Has Anointed BLE for Indoor Location

I wrote several days ago on my Screenwerk blog about PayPal's new Beacon payments and indoor location initiative. I explained that Apple's decision not to include an NFC chip in the new iPhone means essentially that NFC is marginalized if not dead in the US market. In its place Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) may become the mainstream alternative to what NFC would have enabled (e.g., mobile payments).

PayPal Beacon relies on BLE. At those businesses where a Beacon device is plugged in PayPal users simply check-in. Beacon identifies them and payment is automatically transferred from the default account. Payment happens “hands free” without a tap, swipe or other app interaction. 

Beacon is also PayPal’s entry into indoor location. PayPal will obviously know you’re in a venue and then can do any number of things, including delivering highly specific, indoor marketing messages or ads. PayPal is also making Beacon available to third party developers, who will be able to do similar things accordingly.

Apple's iOS 7, which will be available on September 18 (to older iPhones as well), will permit all eqipped devices to interact with BLE iBeacons in malls, airports, stores and other venues. 

Apple acquired indoor mapping company WiFiSlam earlier this year. That was the "wake up call" for many people to take indoor location seriously. One of the first and obvious applications of iBeacon is indoor mapping. But it doesn't stop there. 

Just as with PayPal's BLE initiative, iBeacon will enable Apple to move into payments and indoor marketing and allow third party developers to leverage those capabilities. With its more than 600 million credit cards on file I've got to believe that Apple will enter mobile payments eventually and BLE will be the way in all likelihood.

More broadly I suspect that iBeacon will popularize and jumpstart indoor location for a host of third party developers. 

For a comprehensive introduction to the indoor location and marketing opportunity, and its broader implications, come to Place 2013.

Placed Introduces Offline Mobile Ad Tracking

Last week Placed introduced Placed Attribution, a mobile ads offline tracking solution. The idea is to used Placed's opt-in panel to measure the impact of mobile ad exposures on in-store visits. PlaceIQ has a similar offering using a different methodology.

Capturing the offline impact of digital ads on store visits (and potentially sales) is really a kind of "holy grail" when it comes to conversion tracking. The ratio of online to offline conversions is skewed heavily in the direction of offline. E-commerce is only 5.5% of offline retail and mobile commerce is approaching 10% of e-commerce.

Yet up to half of offline retail spending may not be impacted by digital media and the internet. Clicks are a terrible metric for mobile advertising, and secondary metrics like map views and calls are better but don't capture the entire picture for marketers.

There's a lot more "visibility" on performance when you can start to measure how digital ads impact offline purchase activity. That's the objective of Placed Attribution. Here are the kind of data to be reported:

  • Store Visits: In-store visits attributed to mobile advertising.
  • Lift – Standard: Impact of audience targeting and ad exposure in driving in-store visits as compared to the baseline population.
  • Audience Features: Demographic and geographic characteristics of audiences exposed to impressions, and those who went in-store.

Some of this will be extrapolated from a sample drawn from Placed's panel. Even so, it represents an advance over most of the ways in which marketers try to model attribution when it comes to mobile ads and offline conversions. Offline/in-store tracking will be common -- even mandatory -- for many categories of mobile ads within 12 - 18 months.

We'll be discussing "Ad Tracking to the Point of Sale" with PlaceIQ, Placed, xAd and Retailigence at the Place Conference on October 8 in San Francisco

Mobile Credit-Card Scanning Should Be Ubiquitous

Dan Miller and I took a briefing with Jumio this morning. Jumio is an authentication and identity management platform (mischaracterized originally as "augmented reality"). The company has been around since 2010. 

It has two major products that rely on the same technology. Netswipe helps facilitate transactions on mobile apps and Netverify enables accurate remote identity authentication for fraud prevention. I'll focus on the former but the latter is very impressive and worthy of its own discussion later.

Jumio works in the same way that Card.io did. Using an SDK developers embed the Jumio solution within their apps. When the consumer is ready to complete a transaction or check out (book a room, flight or make another kind of purchase), she merely scans the desired credit card and enters the CVV number manually. The transaction takes a fraction of the time that would otherwise be required if she were to key in 16 digits, enter her address information, etc. 

If you've already got your credit card and related information on file (see, e.g., Amazon, iTunes) there's less of a need for this approach. However developers should offer it to new customers as a way to generally eliminate barriers for consumers, and capture credit card details for faster checkout next time.

Jumio competitor Card.io was acquired by PayPal one year ago, leaving Jumio as the lone independent vendor of this type card-scanning technology. Every mobile publisher and developer should be using Jumio or Card.io to improve conversion rates and the customer experience. Beyond mobile transaction-abandonment, frustrating users reflects poorly on the brand according to many studies.

Accordingly, every mobile developer should be using a mobile card-scanning solution as one way to remove friction from mobile transactions. It's not clear why they might not, except for perhaps for ignorance, lethargy and inertia. I could also imagine this approach as an alternative to card swipes in stores, although that's less necessary.  

Jumio has adopted a flat-fee SaaS model. Customers pay a fixed monthly fee for an unlimited number of transactions. 

It's rare instance where consumer and merchant interests are entirely aligned. But here they are: more secure and faster transactions for the merchant and consumer, as well as fewer charge backs and fraud. It's kind of a "no brainer." 

Below is a promotion video that explains the Jumio Netswipe offering: 

Study: 97% of Mobile Search in Gas & Convenience Category Happens in Apps

In honor of the blazing US summer and road trips, xAd and Telmetrics have released more data from their "Mobile Path-to-Purchase Study," this time on consumer behavior in the "Gas & Convenience" category. The study, which combined a mobile user survey (n=2,000) and consumer behavior data (n=6,000), was conducted by Nielsen earlier this year.

As might be expected the study reflects the very mobile-centric nature of the category, which includes convenience store visits, gas purchases and minor automotive service (i.e., oil changes). 

Below are the study's key findings:

  • 85% of time in the category "is spent on a smartphone with most conducting gas price comparisons/searches"  
  • 97% of mobile search happens within an app vs. mobile web (e.g., GasBuddy)
  • 80% of smartphone search and 40% of tablet search happens on the go (out of home) 
  • 88% plan to buy within the same day (2/3 within the hour) but only 10% have a specific place/business in mind
  • Location and price were the two factors that most influenced conversions (75% sought a location within five miles)

Interestingly, the study reported that "Gas & Convenience searchers spend an average of 6 minutes per mobile search session," which is 50% more than "the average Retail mobile search session." 

The study also found that Gas & Convenience users were very open to influence and receptive to mobile advertising, especially if the ad pertains to a nearby location and/or offers a deal or coupon. 

Retailers Fail to Connect with Customers Via In-Store Technologies

While countless retailer apps and mobile websites are designed specifically to deliver an "omnichannel" experience -- tracking a customer through the lifecycle of a purchase -- retailers are missing out on opportunities to engage customers through in-store technologies, says a new report by EKN Research.

A survey of more than 60 large retailers found just 13% of retailers are offering in-store features for mobile apps indicating a significant gap in leveraging the use of smartphones or mobile devices for customer engagement.

In terms of providing the infrastructure for ubiquitous connectivity, only 1 in 5 retailers currently offer free in-store wi-fi, with 42% of retailers having no intention of ever offering free wi-fi in stores.

InStore_Technologies_Jul8

Mobile technologies may offer new opportunities for customers but many retailers are not willing to make the investment. The report finds that IT spending on store technologies will remain relatively flat in the next three years, representing 31% of the total IT budget in 2013. Though the share is expected to increase to 35% by 2016.

"In 2013, increasing store operations efficiency remains retailers’ top goal from investments in store technologies. Running an efficient store should be table stakes for mature retailers, and their top goal should focus more directly on improving customer engagement. EKN views this as evidence that the focus hasn’t yet shifted for a majority of the retailers."

This news comes on the heels of a recent comScore report that found consumers are open to communications from retailers on their mobile devices with 47% of shoppers willing to have a retailer to send a coupon to their smartphone when they are in-store or nearby.

And previous data suggest a majority of mobile users are accessing retailers' websites for in-store sales or customer service functions.

We'll be exploring the current pulse of retailers and in-store marketing technologies at our upcoming Place Conference this October in San Francisco.

Growing Consumer Interest for In-Store Delivery of Mobile Coupons, Says Study

A new report by comScore shows how mobile and social channels are changing online buying habits and how retailers can benefit in delivering a blend of choices for consumers including mobile coupons.

The study, Pulse of the Online Shopper , notes a variety of flexible options for consumers – 46 percent said they are less likely to comparison shop when using a retailer's mobile app and 44% want the ability to buy online and pick up their purchases in a stores.

Of particular note, consumers are open to communications from retailers on their mobile devices with 47% of shoppers willing to have a retailer to send a coupon to their smartphone when they are in-store or nearby. This trend underscores the potential role of indoor marketing technologies.

comscore_infographic

Regarding mobile channels, the report states:

Mobile is quickly becoming the preferred e-commerce channel as 7 out of 10 online consumers access multi-channel retailers through a digital channel. Of those mobile shoppers, 30% prefer to use a smartphone or tablet. Also, 50% of online shoppers who own a smartphone and nearly 60% who own a tablet make purchases on these devices.

More than 3,000 U.S. consumers were surveyed on their online shopping habits and the report was commissioned by UPS. A copy of the executive summary and white paper can be downloaded here.

Mobile Campaigns That Use Location Outperform Standard Campaigns by 2X to 3X

Location-based mobile ad network Verve Mobile released a "State of the Market: Location Powered Mobile Advertising" report this morning. It focuses on the fast-food and casual dining restaurant category and offers several case studies that show the lift provided by location targeting. 

Here are a few datapoints from the report: 

  • QSR/casual dining campaigns that leveraged location data performed 2x those that didn’t
  • Nearly 70% of all QSR/casual dining campaigns leveraged location targeting
  • Verve's case studies, using location targeting (display ads), show 3% and 4% CTRs, which is quite high for display.

Below is the distribution of location/audience targeting methodologies employed by Verve's customer-advertisers:

In the pie chart above, geo-fence means relatively precise targeting around business locations. Geo-aware means broader location targeting such as city or DMA level. And audience targeting is demographic or psychographic segments or profiles (e.g., soccer moms, vacation travelers, sports enthusiasts) inferred from location. 

Verve also reported that "location targeted advertising [ ] revealed a greater than 3X lift in foot traffic to the advertiser’s locations. Not only did exposure to the ad increase the likelihood a user would visit an advertiser location, it also decreased the likelihood a user would go to a competitor’s location by more than 20%."

Accordingly the major takeaways are the following:

  • Adding location increases consumer engagement and response rates by at least 2X
  • Location related copy and mapping/geo-precise landing pages can drive 3X foot traffic vs. ads that don't employ this type of ad creative or techniques

Survey: 63% of Smartphone Shoppers Would Rather Buy in Physical Stores

Content management software company Kentico recently conducted a mobile-shopping survey (n=300 US adults). The sample size is small and so the results must be viewed cautiously. However there were a few interesting findings. 

Among them, the survey found that 85% of smartphone owners do comparison shopping (products, prices). However "only" 45% do so in stores. A recent report from Nielsen, xAd and Telmetrics argued that only 6% of mobile users "showroomed." Interestingly, most of the Kentico survey respondents (63%) said they would rather buy locally, in a physical store vs. online.

In terms of the mobile user/mobile commerce experience, as might be expected, the usability of websites was a major variable:

Whether or not an online shopper clicks ‘buy’ isn’t solely dependent on products or pricing: 78% of smartphone owners, 75% of tablet owners and 69% of laptop owners say it also comes down to the look and feel of a company’s mobile website . . . Word of mouth (28%), company websites (25%) and in-store experience (18%) weighed most heavily on strengthening or eroding brand affinity.

These respondents felt that PCs and laptops provided a better online shopping experience overall than tablets or smartphones.

Which device provide the best shopping experiences?:

  • 48% (desktop) computers
  • 40% laptops
  • 9% tablets
  • 3% smartphones

A significant minority (44%) of users said that they would never return to websites that featured bad user experiences (not optimized for mobile). This is not a surprise and echoed by other findings already in the market.

Survey: 52% of Recent Travel Booked in Mobile vs. 48% on PC

Location-based and WiFi ad network JiWire is out with its Q1 insights report. The document contains a range of information drawn from surveys of mobile users who access the internet at mostly JiWire-powered WiFi hotspots. This quarter the company zeroes in on behavior in the travel vertical and examines multi-screen activity and cross-platform conversions accordingly.  

We know that travel is a very mobile-centric vertical with lots of apps for smartphones and tablets. And JiWire confirms extensive multi-device usage for travel research and purchases:  

  • Almost 50% of active mobile consumers are using smartphones & tablets for travel research
  • While laptops remain the preferred device for travel ... 27% [are] already saying they use their smartphone to make travel-related purchases. 
  • Nearly 50% of consumers will spend $500 or more in a mobile-travel booking context
  • 52% of travel booked within the past three months was on a smartphone or tablet vs. 48% on laptops

Next comes a fascinating chart showing the multi-screen purchase process in travel (a microcosm of consumer behavior more generally). Google documented this phenomenon previously in research showing that 90% of consumers move “sequentially” between different screens throughout the same day.

Below is the JiWire chart showing how consumers start on one device and often convert on another:

Below is the comparable Google chart:

Google found, generically, that more people started research on a smartphone than any other device category. This is generally consistent with the Nielsen-xAd-Telmetrics data released today. However, in travel laptops still command the majority of activity according to JiWire -- but not by much. As mentioned above, more travel booked in the past 90 days has come from mobile than the PC (52% to 48%). 

JiWire also investigated what variables influenced travel-purchase decisions and how those purchases were researched and completed on mobile devices. Leisure travelers were more impacted by discounts; business travelers were influenced by loyalty programs and company policies. (This finding has obvious mobile marketing implications.)

As reflected in the chart above, travel aggregator apps (e.g., Kayak) and branded airline apps (e.g., United) were more often used than mobile websites for travel bookings. This makes sense because the user experience is likely to be better and credit card and other personal information may be stored, expediting the checkout process. People who are required to fill out lots of fields, including credit card information are less likely to complete those transactions in mobile. 

Another factor impacting the findings regarding app vs. mobile usage is the probability that many of the people surveyed are frequent travelers and are more likely to have apps on their mobile devices than occasional leisure travelers who may be less aware of their app options. 

Study: As Many As 54 Million May Be Mainly Mobile Retail Shoppers

The latest installment of "Mobile Path to Purchase" research from Nielsen, xAd and Telmetrics drills down into retail-shopping attitudes and behaviors. As with the broader study, previously released, the findings show a significant percentage of users are doing shopping research exclusively on mobile devices. 

The Mobile Path to Purchase study is in its second year. The findings are based on an online survey of 2,000 US smartphone and tablet owners and “observed consumer behaviors from Nielsen’s Smartphone Analytics Panel of 6,000 Apple and Android users.”

According to the report, 42% of smartphone and tablet owners did not consult PCs at all as part of their retail shopping research. The broader study found the overall number to be 46%, who didn't use PCs. This is a staggering data point in my opinion.

Nielsen mobile retail shopping

Source: Nielsen, xAd, Telmetrics Mobile Path to Purchase study 2013

If we extrapolate these "mobile only" numbers, assuming they're representative, we're talking about a potential audience of perhaps 54 million in the US who may be relying primarily or exclusively on smartphones and tablets to shop.  

Other noteworthy findings from the study include: 

  • High conversions: More than 55% of mobile retail shoppers ultimately make a purchase
  • Immediacy:30% of smartphone owners and 25% of tablet users sought to make purchases within one hour. However a larger percentage of tablet owners (41%) "take a month or longer to make a purchase."
  • Where conversions happen: 77% of smartphone-based purchase activity happen locally, in stores. Tablet conversions are more evenly distributed: 39% in stores, 32% on PCs and 24% on tablets themselves.

The retail report also seeks to debunk a couple of "myths" about mobile usage. The first is that smartphones are used predominantly "on the go" and/or near the point-of-sale. The study found that smartphones were used throughout the pre-purchase research process and that the largest percentage of use was in fact "at the start" of shopping rather than near the end. 

Nielsen mobile shopping behavior

Source: Nielsen, xAd, Telmetrics Mobile Path to Purchase study 2013

The second "myth" debunked (though not quite as easily) is the notion that most smartphone owners are "showrooming" whenever they shop. The report says that showrooming (in-store price-comparison shopping) is relatively rare and practiced by a very small minority of users:

Only 6 percent of smartphone users conducted their most recent mobile retail search in-store . . . Mobile shoppers are in fact using their devices for comparison-shopping before and after an in-store visit. 

However previous survey findings from the Pew Internet Project and Google argue that significant numbers of smartphone owners do compare prices while in stores. For example, Pew's research found that 72% of smartphone owners used their devices while in retail stores. And the more recent Google-sponsored study reported the top in-store smartphone activities were the following:

  1. Price comparisons
  2. Finding offers and promotions
  3. Finding locations of other stores
  4. Finding hours

What the Nielsen-xAd-Telmetrics data argue is that most of this type of activity occurs before or after someone goes into a store. It may be that the wording of the questions influenced these results, though it may not be possible to entirely reconcile the conflicting findings. Regardless, the more important point is that smartphones and tablets are heavily used by consumers as part of their shopping research.

Accordingly, retailers that are not aggressively addressing the mobile audience are completely missing huge numbers of people and potential sales. 

Google Makes Downpayment on the 'Star Trek Computer'

At the Google developer conference in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, Google demonstrated "conversational search" on the PC. It was one of the clear highlights of the nearly three-hour keynote. What the demo showed was Google's voice search (and audio read back) capability together with "context awareness" of previous query results.

For years Google has very self consciously been trying to replicate the "Star Trek computer." Now Google is making some meaningful strides toward that objective. 

In the demonstration at the Google event, we saw the capacity to search for a person, place or thing and then do follow-up searches using pronouns or otherwise building on the previous query. The Google representative spoke to the computer and planned a trip to the Northern California beach community of Santa Cruz. She spoke queries to her PC and got voice-response answers from the Google "assistant."

This kind of "context awareness" or "conversational" capability is present to varying degrees in Siri today (and other "assistants") as well as other "AI" driven call center and customer service solutions. 

Following the lead of Siri and then going beyond it, Google is transforming conventional search into a personal assistant experience. This is the clear future direction of the market. Google's voice search and Google Now information or answer "cards" illustrate this trajectory. As of late yesterday some of those same capabilities have been brought over to the Chrome browser on the PC.   

If users update their Chrome browsers to the latest version they'll find a prominent new voice-search experience on Google.com (it isn't yet available from the URL bar search). Many of the answers or results are "read back" to you (where there's an answer card or Knowledge Graph entry). However this doesn't happen all the time. And in my quick testing, the ability to follow up with secondary searches using pronouns and queries referencing previous results was very limited. 

Still, the spoken read-back (as in mobile search) is fun and as Google develops this contextual and conversational capability further you may be inclined to start having more verbal interactions with your computer. 

Indoor Location Apps on the Rise for Retailers

In-store mapping provider aisle411 announced this week that its smartphone app is currently in use by more than 12,000 retail stores, including Walgreens, The Home Depot, Hy-Vee, Price Shoppoer, and Shop 'n Save, among others.

The mobile application provides directions to specific products and offers searchable store maps. Engaging consumers through in-store mobile apps holds considerable promise for retailers, says Nathan Pettyjohn, CEO of aisle411. "Offline Commerce, or purchases occurring at a physical store, make up approximately 90 percent of all retail purchases. aisle411's mobile platform digitizes the in-store shopping experience so that shoppers can find and buy everything that they came in the store to purchase."

Indeed a growing number of technology companies are offering in-store mapping and customer engagement platforms, collecting data about mobility patterns and giving customers information to make better point-of-purchase decisions. Don Dodge, Developer Advocate at Google helping developers build new applications on Google platforms and technologies, sees enormous opportunities in the future of indoor location technologies, saying it will be a huge market, "bigger than Maps or GPS".

Among the growing number of market entrants for indoor location technologies, beyond aisle411, include Wifarer, Meridian, Point Inside, VisibleBrands, Micello, and several others.

With Apple's recent acquisition of WiFiSlam for $20 million, the indoor positioning and indoor marketing industry is heating up. We'll be watching the market closely as retailers begin to embrace indoor marketing technologies and map the potential use cases going forward.

The Sexy-Shocking Number from Nielsen's Mobile Path to Purchase Study

Earlier today xAd put out its quarterly insights report. There were a number of interesting findings and datapoints. The "headline" was that the number of national-advertiser campaigns using more precise geotargeting (more specific than DMA, city or ZIP) had more than doubled over the course of the past 12 months. 

In a very general way this mirrors the movement of the market and the growing sophistication and use of location targeting by marketers. 

xAd Q1 data

There was also a nice case study involving Pinkberry's introduction of a new line of greek yogurt. Pinkberry's objective was to build awareness and drive visits to local stores. It used xAd enhanced geofencing to target users and show ads within 1 mile of store locations. The were a couple of discounts and incentives (coupons) associated with the product launch. 

The display ad clicked-through to a "dynamic landing page specific to the nearest location which features these offers as well as an option to save the coupon, obtain the address, phone number, map, directions and/or more information." According to the case study materials, in two weeks the campaign goals were exceeded by 2X. 

As you can see below, the ad creative was very polished. But the success of the campaign also illustrates how effective the combination of local relevance and offers can be. Indeed, xAd's reported average campaign metrics (for both search and display) outperform the industry averages. 

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 8.52.01 AM

More interesting than the findings in the insights report were the findings released last week in the 2013 US Mobile Path-to-Purchase study, undertaken in cooperation with Telmetrics and Nielsen, which conducted the research.

The Mobile Path to Purchase study is in its second year. The findings are based on an online survey of 2,000 US smartphone and tablet owners and “observed consumer behaviors from Nielsen’s Smartphone Analytics Panel of 6,000 Apple and Android users.”

There were a ton of data that came out of this report, and will continue to be released over time. However the single "blockbuster" finding is that across a range of purchase categories (i.e., Finance, Retail, Insurance, Convenience/Gas) 46% of survey respondents said they relied exclusively on their mobile devices (smartphones and/or tablets) in conducting pre-purchase research online. 

Accordingly, nearly half of the respondents did not use or consult PCs -- at all. I was initially shocked by this. I don't have detailed demographic information about who these people were beyond the fact that they skew younger (18 - 34). But this is a huge finding and one that should scare the stuffing out of any brand or advertiser that isn't actively pursuing a mobile marketing strategy. 

Google Brings Virtual Assistant to iOS 'Now'

Whether we call Google Now "predictive search," "anticipatory search" or a "virtual assistant," the capability is highly useful and improving regularly. Previously exclusive to Android devices with OS 4.1 or higher ("Jelly Bean") Google Now is now available for the iPhone and iPad.

You'll need to download the latest version of the Google Search app to get it.

Google Now is partly Google's answer to Siri (and Passbook) and partly a wholly independent development that takes your search history, your Gmail entries, your calendar, your location and other "context" to deliver a range of personalized information without having to actively search for it.

Google Now for iOS operates in essentially the same way as it does on Android devices: users swipe up from the bottom of the screen to receive customized information cards. The cards feature weather, traffic, stock quotes, recent sports scores, local places of interest, movie showtimes and so on. Below is a complete list of the content/data available through Google Now. 

Google Now comparison iOS vs. Android

Source: Google

The cards on the chart above "missing" from iOS are newer cards that will soon come to iOS. Google confirmed this. 

Those who download and use the service will likely find themselves using it regularly (as I do). While it can sometimes be flawed or inaccurate -- if you travel a lot it will often give you information about the city you just left rather than where you are -- it offers a growing corpus of useful information. As mentioned, it continues to expand and improve. 

Google requires users to sign in to get access to Google Now, so the company will gain mobile usage data it wouldn't otherwise have in the process. It's a very effective way for Google to get iOS users re-engaged with search on their iPhones and iPads. 

A survey we conducted in June of last year (n=503 US iPhone 4S owners 18 and older) found that most people who searched Google on their iPhones didn't use the Google Search app: 

Which of the following do you use MOST OFTEN to search the web on your phone?

  • I visit Google.­com to search: 44.9 percent
  • I use search in the Safari toobar: 26.4 percent
  • I use the Google mobile app: 19.3 percent
  • I use Siri to search the web: 11.1 percent
  • I use Bing and/or Yahoo: 6.6 percent

If this survey were done today we might see slighly different percentages but directionally the results would be similar. It will be interesting to see whether and how the numbers change several months from now -- and whether the introduction of Google Now for iOS has had a meaningful impact on user behavior. 

A Report for Those Who Doubt Mobile ROI

This morning Google released the results of an extensive study conducted among US mobile users with Nielsen in Q4 2012. The survey explores mobile search behavior in particular and uses a combination of interviews, online survey data, diaries and search query logs to get a holistic picture of search activity on smartphones. Tablets weren't part of this research. 

Among the many interesting findings there are two big ones that stand out: 77% of mobile searches happen at home or work, even when there's a PC nearby. And 55% of mobile-search related conversions (call, store visit, purchase) happen within "one hour or less" of query completion.

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 7.26.10 AM

These two stats illustrate two larger "truths" about mobile. The first is that mobile devices are increasingly "primary" for people as a method of internet access. Speed and convenience were cited by respondents as reasons for substituting a smartphone for a PC in a search context. 

Marketers need to be cognizant of the fact that large numbers of people will be using their smartphones (and tablets) at home to search for things, whereas before they might have used a PC. At work people may be motivated by other considerations, such as privacy, to use mobile devices vs. corporate-provided PCs. 

The other "truth" is illustrated by the 55% figure: conversions often happen very quickly after a mobile search. This reinforces the notion of the focused, "need it now" mindset of many mobile search users. Mobile searchers take a variety of actions after completing their queries. They go to websites and do additional research, they make phone calls and they go into stores. They buy things. 

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 8.19.51 AM

But marketers can't see most of that activity, hence the complaints about mobile ROI. Most marketers get confused and "lose the trail" when users go offline. You can track calls and site visits, you can capture email addresses and you can monitor e-commerce transactions via mobile. However it's challenging to get complete visibility on all the ways that mobile is influencing purchase behavior.

The slide above illustrates the range of activities mobile search triggers. But more importantly, Google and Nielsen found that 45% of mobile search queries were undertaken to help make a purchase decision -- so-called "goal oriented" searches. And most of these will result in a conversion, often offline. 

The totality of the data released in this study (download the pdf) show that mobile users are more focused and are typically farther down "in the funnel" than PC users. Mobile (search at least) is clearly driving lots of conversions. Marketers just need to open their minds about what constitutes a "conversion" and get creative about ROI and attribution. 

Otherwise, they're not seeing what's really happening with their customers and how critical a role mobile is playing in the overall marketing and sales process.

Report: National Advertisers Getting More Sophisticated about Local-Mobile Targeting

This morning mobile ad network xAd released its year in review report. The document contains a range of information and data about the company's offerings, including the performance of ad campaigns on its network. The focus of the report is on national advertisers (rather than SMBs). And it presents a picture of marketers getting a great deal more sophisticated about local ad targeting on mobile devices.

As laid out in the report, xAd is now offering a range of local targeting flavors on mobile: behavioral, place-based, POI and event targeting.

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 6.16.04 AM

In the graphic above you can see that from Q1 to Q4 the number of national advertisers using more sophisticated forms of geotargeting increased dramatically from 27% to 81%. In other words only 13% of xAd's national advertiser campaigns in Q4 were using "standard geo," (zip, city, DMA). The remaining 81% were using one of the other more complex targeting methods (all involving location) such as behavioral.

Of the 81% using a more precise form of location targeting, here's the breakdown:

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In the report xAd offers performance metrics for these approaches compared to industry averages. The company says that its targeting methods provide a substantial performance improvement over traditional (non-location targeted) mobile search and display advertising.

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In particular on the display side xAd breaks down how each of its more elaborate forms of location targeting perform. Behaviorial does the best, followed by place-based targeting.

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Finally the following are the top consumer search categories for all of 2012 and the top advertiser categories on the xAd network. The latter are national advertisers and don't include small businesses. There's a general alignment across both columns but it's obviously not 1:1. 

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The company's advertisers tend to be more sophisticated about location and more inclined to experiment with it. It would be great if these advertisers were representative of the entire industry. However they're not. A recent CMO Council survey showed how many agencies and national advertisers still don't "get" location.

The CMO Council survey explored national advertiser "localization" tactics. The overwhelming majority of survey respondents (over 80%) didn’t make the connection between mobile and local:

nationals:  mobile local

Source: CMO Council/Balihoo (n=296 national marketers/agencies)

Perhaps once more national advertisers become aware of the performance lift and case studies associated with location targeting they'll wake up to its potential. In the interim those national advertisers using more sophisticated local-mobile targeting are "conquesting" their competition.

Waze Picks xAd to Deliver Location-Based Ads to Navigation App

Social navigation app Waze and xAd announced a partnership at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today. Waze intends to deliver ads to users "along [the] designated navigation path." The company is not the first to try and do this; Mapquest initiated something similar with national advertisers a couple of years ago but in an incomplete way. 

Waze has a very engaged audience and has benefitted from the initial stumbles and challenges of Apple Maps. It was one of the alternative mapping and navigation apps recommended by Apple. Telenav also mixes location-based ads and navigation in an app. 

According to the press release this morning:  

Through the use of xAd’s proprietary technology, ads can be further targeted based on context factors such as past anonymous search behaviors while leveraging the unique functionality of Waze to serve ads at the most relevant time along their route – when the consumer is likely to see and engage with the offer…. at zero speed. 

In addition to its own social data, Waze integrates social and location-specific content from Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook and YP into its app. Users can choose results from any of these sources when they conduct a local search via Waze.

According to the press statement xAd will be the exclusive provider of both search and display ads in Waze. I was unable to find any example ads this morning in the app. I'm sure the integration will be thoughtful however. Waze recognizes the need to preserve the integrity of the user experience. Too many or irrelevant ads would risk alienating its audience.   

Report: Mobile Now More than One Third of Digital Media Time

Metrics firm comScore is out with a couple of "Digital Future in Focus" reports. They collect the company's data from 2012 into a narrative about marketplace trends. In terms of mobile much of what's in there is familiar: smartphone penetration crossing 50%, tablet ownership growth, Android growth, the rise of apps and so on.

One stat, however, that caught my eye is in the graphic to the right: 37% of digital media time is now spent on smartphones and tablets. By contrast 63% is on the PC. This one data point shows how dramatic the shift to mobile/personal devices has been, in a relatively brief time frame. Most marketers have not fully caught up however.

Top 25 sites

Another interesting chart (above), previously released, is comScore's Top 25 digital properties. It shows PC vs. mobile usage (uniques) for the top sites, as well as the incremental lift provided by the mobile audience. The table also reflects substantial overlapping usage. However in selected cases (i.e., Pandora, Weather.com) there's a major boost in audience via mobile. 

In the report comScore also documents the erosion of PC usage in select "mobile centric" categories. In other words, there's a shift to mobile usage for some part of the audience: 

We have begun to see a marked shift in usage patterns on the traditional desktop-based web. While most mobile content usage remains incremental to existing web behavior, certain content categories particularly well-oriented to mobile usage have witnessed material softness in top-line usage from desktop computers. Over the past two years, categories such as Newspapers (down 5 percent), Maps (down 2 percent), Weather (down 12 percent), Directories (down 23 percent), Comparison Shopping (down 4 percent) and Instant Messengers (down 52 percent) have seen declines despite a 5-percent increase in the total U.S. internet population over that time.

Again the categories that have seen some or substantial migration to mobile: 

  • Instant messengers (PC traffic is down 52% YoY)
  • Directories (23%) -- this category isn't fully defined in the document
  • Weather (12%)
  • Newspapers (5%)
  • Maps (2%)
  • Comparison Shopping (4%)

Survey: Users Look to Mobile Websites for in-Store Customer Service

Earlier this week ForeSee Results, which measures online consumer satisfaction, released a new "Mobile Satisfaction Index." Based on a survey of 6,000 US adults in Q4 2012 the company sought to rank retail mobile sites and apps. Amazon was the winner, followed by Apple.  

Below is ForeSee's list of top 25 ranked retailers and e-tailers according to consumer mobile satisfaction: 

ForeSee Results mobile satisfaction

There's nothing surprising on the list above. Amazon has a great brand and has made huge investments in mobile. What's perhaps surprising is the absence of eBay from the top 25. 

ForeSee also found that 70% of survey respondents were using their mobile phones in stores during shopping. Other surveys have shown higher numbers. In addition, if smartphone users are isolated the numbers are certainly higher (above 80% or 90%). 

Regardless perhaps the most interesting survey finding is that a majority of mobile users said they accessed the retailer's website (though mostly not their apps) while in the store. 

How did you use your mobile phone while in retail stores this holiday season?

  • 62% accessed the store's website on their phone (satisfaction for this group is 79)
  • 37% accessed a competitor's website on their phone (77)
  • 21% accessed a shopping comparison website on their phone (77)
  • 20% accessed the store's mobile shopping app on their phone (79)
  • 11% accessed a competitor's mobile shopping app on their phone (77)

Again: 62% accessed the store's website on their phone. People have always assumed that in-store mobile usage is about buying on Amazon or getting competitive price information. It turns out, not exactly. 

Many of these users are looking to a retailer's mobile website to perform traditional in-store sales or customer service functions. People want more information about products (e.g., reviews) and they're looking for it via the mobile web rather than trying to find a sales person or service rep in the store.

It means that retailers need to develop their mobile sites and apps with the idea that users are often in their own stores and these sites/apps are more likely to be in-store shopping aids than e-commerce sites. They need to think of the in-store experience now as multi-channel. Retailers should also aggressively be using their mobile sites to drive downloads of their apps which should offer an even better experience.

The app then becomes a mobile marketing and loyalty tool for the retailer. 

This may not sound like anything other than self-evident information or advice. But the heavy in-store context of mobile app/site usage requires a shift in retailer thinking. Rather than a parallel or independent channel retailers must consider mobile as a kind of sales assistant that can and should augment the in-store experience as much as anything else.