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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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?
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.
Location-based ad network Verve Mobile announced a Series C investment this morning of $15 million led by Nokia Growth Partners. This brings to more than $21 million the funding raised to date by Verve.
The company is one of several location-based mobile ad networks. An incomplete list of others includes xAd, YP, LSN Mobile, Telenav/ThinkNear, Marchex. In addition, all the major mobile ad networks offer varying flavors of geotargeting.
While local-mobile advertising holds enormous promise, most mobile display revenue forecasts associated with the segment are overblown for many reasons. They often contain overly simplistic assumptions or fail to recognize the complexity of the space and challenges that must be first overcome to realize its potential.
In addition to local "infrastructure" challenges and the difficulty of proving ROI from mostly offline conversions, a major challenge facing local-mobile advertising is poor or sloppy mobile ad creative. Weak mobile creative is a problem with mobile advertising in general but it's especially true in the local space. The following are a few examples of the "current state of the art."
Beyond the fact that there's no call to action on the Tiffany's banner above, the landing page showcases various types of jewelry for e-commerce sales. However it's highly unlikely that a consumer would click on the ad and then buy a necklace or other jewelry item within the ad. People might go to the Tiffany's site later and buy there.
However, what's much more likely is that someone would peruse the jewelry online but buy later in a local store. Unfortunately the store locator is yet another page down and generally buried. It should be much more prominently displayed on the landing page and connected to maps and directions.
The ad above was presented on the AP news app. One problem is that the ad copy is small and challenging to read. However, what's more problematic is the way that the ad dumps users into an HTML5 version of Google Maps without any context, branding or additional information.
It's a map to lead you to a dealer (one infers) but you don't actually know what you're looking at or how it connects to the ad clicked on.
Immediately above is a Radio Shack ad that appeared in a local newspaper app. Like the Tiffany's ad it's really promoting e-commerce. Radio Shack has hundreds of local stores but nowhere -- not anywhere -- in the ad is there an obvious store locator. Again, the majority of users are unlikely to buy directly through the ad. The lack of a store finder is a missed opportunity.
These are just three recent examples among many others of the many problems with mobile display and local-mobile display advertising in particular.
Google today introduced some major changes to AdWords to both make it easier to manage campaigns across multiple screens and to enabled more "nuanced" bidding and targeting. There's a very complete discussion at Search Engine Land.
A cynic or skeptic would argue the changes are directed primarily at bringing more advertisers into mobile and bringing mobile revenues up for Google (although advertisers can effectively still opt out of mobile).
One of the major changes is that advertisers can now make mutiple bids ("bid adjustments") for a single ad based on variables such as device, location and time of day. Mobile bids will be set at desktop/PC levels -- mobile CPCs are lower than desktop CPCs -- and advertisers will have to actively reduce them if they want to bid less for mobile clicks.
Some may see this as "strong arm tactics" by Google to raise mobile search revenues. However the company believes it's simply adapting AdWords capabilities for a new multi-screen environment.
Below are some of the main bullets (slightly edited) from the Google Inside AdWords blog explaining the new features:
Bid adjustments: With bid adjustments, you can manage bids for your ads across devices, locations, time of day and more — all from a single campaign.
Example: A breakfast cafe wants to reach people nearby searching for "coffee" or "breakfast" on a smartphone. Using bid adjustments, with three simple entries, they can bid 25% higher for people searching a half-mile away, 20% lower for searches after 11am, and 50% higher for searches on smartphones. These bid adjustments can apply to all ads and all keywords in one single campaign.
Dynamic creative: People on the go or near your store may be looking for different things than someone sitting at their desk. With enhanced campaigns, you’ll show ads across devices with the right ad text, sitelink, app or extension, without having to edit each campaign for every possible combination of devices, location and time of day.
Example: A national retailer with both physical locations and a website can show ads with click-to-call and location extensions for people searching on their smartphones, while showing an ad for their e-commerce website to people searching on a PC — all within a single campaign.
New conversion metrics: Potential customers may see your ad and download your app, or they may call you. It’s been hard for marketers to easily measure and compare these interactions. To help you measure the full value of your campaigns, enhanced campaigns enables you to easily count calls and app downloads as conversions in your AdWords reports.
Example: You can count phone calls of 60 seconds or longer that result from a click-to-call ad as a conversion in your AdWords reports, and compare them to other conversions like leads, sales and downloads.
All of these enhancements are designed to make search advertising both easier and more effective for marketers in a larger, more fragmented device universe. By the same token Google is trying to generate more money from its mobile advertisers and clicks, something it has struggled somewhat to do.
In its last quarterly earnings Google reported that average CPCs decreased 6 percent vs. Q4 2011 (attributable almost exclusively to mobile).
A new Pew survey (n=1,003 US adults) found that 58% of all mobile phone owners (feature + smartphones) used their handsets as part of in-store shopping during holiday 2012. More specifically, 72% of smartphone owners did so. Google research and InsightExpress have found even higher smartphone numbers: 82% to 90%+.
What kinds of things did these mobile phone owners do in stores? Mostly they called other people, but they also checked prices and product reviews.
Pew says 46% of all mobile users called others to get input on a purchase; 28% looked at product reviews and 27% compared prices on their phones (presumably there was some overlap among the categories). Of those who conducted price comparisons, roughly 48% didn't buy in the store, while 46% did make a purchase:
Interpreting these data is tricky. That's because we don't really know the mindset of these people when they entered the store. Accordingly we don't know the full impact of the pricing information they discovered.
We can make the assumption that 64% of these respondents (of the 27%) had some level of existing purchase intent when they went to the store -- because they ultimately did make a purchase. As mentioned, 46% percent bought at the store and 18% bought elsewhere (another store, online).
Another way to interpret these data is to say that 48% of the the people who did in-store mobile price checks decided not to buy there (my headline). It's probably safe to infer that at least 18% of these people were negatively swayed by the price data they saw on their phones -- they bought online or at another store -- although the actual number may be quite a bit higher and include some or all of the 30% who decided not to buy at all.
We don't have any sense of how this price-check group compares with the larger survey population. Did the larger group buy at higher or lower rates than the price checkers? We don't know.
One can see what one wants in these data. Without a sense of what people were thinking ahead of time we can really only guess at the full impact of in-store mobile phone usage. Yet it's clear from the totality of available information that "showrooming" is a real thing and that retailers need to aggressively address it.
For users who updated their iOS devices to 6.1 yesterday Fandango is now the commerce partner for movie ticket sales via Siri. If you look up movies using Siri you get the Rotten Tomatoes powered list with an option to buy using Fandango. If you don't have the Fandango app on your device you'll be prompted to install it to complete the transaction.
Fandango has reported that mobile now accounts for more than 30% of ticket sales. That will undoubtedly increase with Siri and iOS integration.
There are many Siri critics out there but the process of looking up a movie and (now) buying a ticket is pretty compelling. In fact this may well become the primary way that many iOS users buy movie tickets in the future. Once a credit card is on file with Fandango it's going to be faster and easier than conducting the same transaction even on the PC.
In addition, there's Apple Passbook integration post purchase.
This is yet another "mobile payments" point solution (it's really e-commerce on a mobile device) that will get people comfortable with the idea of using their phones to conduct transactions and pay for things. The convenience and value here are obvious to consumers.
I keep reading very aggressive projections about local-mobile advertising from BIA and others. Rather than grounded in reality today, these forecasts are built on a set of "optimistic" but simple assumptions about how the market will inevitably develop. For example, one assumption is that national ad dollars from brands and retailers that sell locally will pour into mobile and that their mobile ads will necessarily be geotargeted or localized.
While all forecasts must make assumptions about the future, my belief is that many of the assumptions being made about mobile are crude at best or simply incorrect. I'm a big proponent of location-based marketing and have written extensively about how geotargeted ads and ads with localized creative outperform conventional or "generic" national advertising. There's no question about consumer demand for local information. The question is whether and how advertisers can match or exploit that demand.
There remains a great deal of friction and many challenges to overcome before these big local-mobile forecasts can come true. There are also several "unexpected" things that may change the direction of the marketplace. I go into a few of those things below. In truth the majority of the localized mobile advertising today is happening in search. The platform is mature, the demand and the tools are there. The value is obvious to all involved. That's why Google is making the most money in mobile advertising today. (Facebook is also going to make a lot of money in mobile, some of which will be localized.) By contrast, local-mobile display is in its infancy.
There are two mobile ad networks generating and syndicating a large percentage of the local display inventory that you're likely to encounter: xAd and YP. CityGrid is out there and so are Verve, LSN, Telenav/ThinkNear and a couple of others. Marchex is there too with pay-per-call; however much of that is driving mobile callers to national call centers. Among the major ad networks Millennial, JumpTap and AdMob (Google) all offer local targeting. Often that targeting doesn't extend beyond state or DMA-level precision.
The emerging exchanges and RTB platforms all offer location as part of a laundry list of targeting capabilities. Indeed, location is likely to simply become one of many targeting variables on most networks and exchanges.
Some people have described the competition for business owners in the mobile payments segment as a "race to the bottom" in terms of credit card processing fees. Indeed, there are now at least 10 mobile payments or POS vendors targeting small businesses that are undercutting traditional credit card processing fees. The include LevelUp, Groupon, Square, PayPal Here, GoPago and others.
Clearly this is not the company's long-term strategy. It's trying to create more bar "inventory" for consumers in the hope of driving app adoption and expanding beyond San Francisco, it's only current market. However the zero credit-card processing fee is a major incentive for bars to sign up and use the system.
Coaster is another example of something I've written about multiple times: vertical or point solutions that offer self-evident value to consumers and will drive adoption of mobile payments. My favorite example is mobile parking payments but Coaster is a pretty good example.
By using Coaster smartphone owners can order, pay and tip at bars without giving over their credit cards directly or waiting in line. I've not yet used the app myself. However Coaster offers concrete and obvious value for bar patrons (and bar owners).
These kinds of vertical scenarios or "point solutions" will educate consumers and get them comfortable with mobile payments, paving the way for broader adoption of "horizontal" solutions such as Google Wallet. Exposure to a positive veritcal payments experience will tend to accelerate broader payments adoption.
By contrast people often don't see the reason or need for "mobile wallets" in the abstract.
How interested are you in using your mobile phone to pay for things, and replace cash or your credit cards?
Source: Opus Research (August, 2012; n=1,501 US adults)
The IAB just released its second mobile shopping report, including its ranking of the most "mobile savvy" cities in the US. Houston, remarkably, comes out on top for a second year. Houston is also the "fattest city in America" according to Men's Fitness magazine.
The mobile shopping study also found surprisingly high numbers of users who owned "connected devices" (tablet and/or smartphone). The numbers here are much higher than Nielsen and comScore figures for smartphone ownership. According to the data the San Francisco Bay Area had the highest smart device penetration at 78%. Among the top DMAs Detroit was lowest with 62%. I suspect these numbers are not entirely representative of the mobile subscriber population and a bit high -- though perhaps not radically so.
The IAB report, which draws from a variety of survey and data sources, confirms that smartphone users are aggressive and engaged mobile shoppers but they generally don't buy things on those devices (tablets are different). The IAB (citing comScore) reports that 86% of US smartphone owners visited retailer websites or used retailer mobile apps in July.
The graphic above doesn't entirely make sense (81% vs. 85.9%) but it makes the larger point that most smartphone owners are accessing retail information on their devices.
In stores smartphone owners use their devices to communicate with other people about intended purchases, check prices and product information and look for deals. However only 5% in this survey bought anything with their mobile handsets.
The report also confirms that most tablets are not used "on the go," while shopping. However that may change with the advent of carrier-supported 7-inch tablets and the 5-inch Galaxy Note (also obnoxiously known as a "Phablet").
This is just one more set of data that underscore the importance of being "mobile ready" and fully understanding how mobile can be used for customer acquisition and customer service, even in stores. Mobile is an instrument of "showrooming" but it can also be an avenue for customer service and retention among traditional retailers. Yet most are simply not ready.
Almost daily my inbox is hit with a new study or report that expresses a similar theme: businesses large and small aren't ready for mobile shoppers. However one would expect retailers to have invested and be prepared for the coming multi-screen holiday season. Not so, says an informal usability study from Keynote systems.
Keynote examined major retail and e-commerce sites on iPhones, Android devices and BlackBerry handsets. It found numerous problems and inconsistencies from device to device. The inference is that retailers aren't actually testing their own sites on the various platforms and operating systems.
Some of the problems Keynote identified are minor (copy not optimally presented) but some are major (broken search functionality). Furthermore many of the retailers didn't seem to be addressing the tablet audience. Keynote explained, "We also looked at Target on the iPad 3 and see that they probably haven’t been testing on a tablet and are content to delivering their desktop site to a tablet on good faith."
Tablets drive actual online conversions, whereas smartphones are mostly used to check reviews, price information and locate and contact stores. Tablet conversions are as high or higher than on PCs and average order value from tablets is higher than on the PC. It's critical for retailers and etailers to address the tablet audience specifically.
Most retailers appear to believe that their sites will "work" for tablet users. That's true in many cases but a tablet-optimized retail experience would almost certainly drive more online sales and increased user satisfaction.
According to Skava only 7% of retailers currently have tablet-friendly sites. Accordingly this year may turn out to be a missed opportunity for most retailers when it comes to mobile and tablet users. Here's Keynote's conclusion, which is simply common sense:
Early testing of both mobile websites in preparation for the holiday season would have prepared these top retailers for the judgmental mobile shopper this season. With holiday shopping looming and ready to begin in just days, it seems that these top retailers are already running into hurdles that may affect their holiday sales goals.
This month's Millennial Media "SMART" report takes a closer look at the behavior and goals of mobile advertisers in the restaurants and retail vertical. Apparel retailers and fast food/national restaurant chains are the two largest categories of advertisers on the Millennial network in this segment.
Citing June comScore data Millennial reported that "Females spend nearly twice as much time on mobile Retail & Restaurant apps and mobile websites as men do."
The main campaign goal of both sets of advertisers was to drive foot traffic into local stores. Accordingly retail and restaurant advertisers were more interested than average in getting people to store locators and maps on landing pages, as well as exposing promotions (coupons). The were also interested in generating mobile commerce. However unless there's a stored credit card on file there will probably be no m-commerce.
These restaurant and retail advertisers were much less interested than average in driving application downloads. This apparent lack of interest in getting apps onto the smartphones of their customers and prospects reflects a misunderstanding of the role apps can play in stimulating sales and improving retention and customer service.
Finally Millennial reported that restaurants and retail was the number three category in terms of ad spending on its network -- more than automotive, travel or CPG:
Earlier today Google released an update for its iOS search app, which had been in iTunes approval limbo for seemingly several months. The new app works on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. At first it doesn't appear to be much different from the previous version. However there are two major changes and improvements: voice search with spoken answers and knowledge "cards."
While earlier versions of the Google search app for iOS had speech-to-text input, the new app includes the Siri-like spoken results that Google introduced for Android devices months ago. If Google has a structured result from its "Knowledge Graph" database, the female assistant voice will read it back. If not, Google will simply provide a more traditional list of web links.
Typically these structured results are presented as "cards." They can include images and other rich information and constitute "answers," where Google is confident of the result. Google introduced this "assistant-powered" voice search capability and knowledge cards in Android 4.1 in early Q2 (we're now up to 4.2). Accordingly the differences between the Google experience on iOS and Android are now less pronounced -- so to speak.
The one missing piece from the new iOS app (which Google probably cannot execute on iOS) is Google Now. Google Now is the company's predictive search capability that combines users' search histories, time of day, location, calendar information and other signals to provide personalized and other contextually relevant information (e.g., traffic, flight times, nearby restaurants) -- without requiring the user to affirmatively conduct a search.
It doesn't always work. But when it does it's very impressive.
Google is the dominant mobile search provider across platforms, with a nearly 95% share in the US market. In a Q2 consumer survey about mobile search, conducted by Opus (n=503 US iPhone 4S owners), 19.3% of respondents indicated they used the Google search app. The remaining majority (roughly 70%) of users either entered queries in the search box in the Safari toolbar (where Google is the default) or they went to Google.com to search the mobile web.
Related: Google now says that there are in excess of 700,000 Android mobile apps. That number is now at or near parity with Apple.
Google inadvertently released its Q3 revenues early today. The company reported that consolidated revenues (including Motorola) were $14.1 billion, a 45% increase vs. last year. Google said that Motorola brought in $2.58 billion. However there was an operating loss of $527 million. Indeed it was argulaby the weak link in the Q3 earnings report.
Minus Motorola, Google's revenues were $11.5 billion with 67% of that coming from Google sites vs. its third party network and other revenue sources. Paid search clicks grew roughly 33% vs 2011. However cost per clicks (CPCs) were down about 15% vs. last year.
While Google has yet to directly address this, the reason for the lower CPCs is likely the growth of mobile search and the shift of some categories of queries to mobile devices from the PC.
Mobile search volumes have grown significantly; however marketers value mobile clicks less than PC search clicks. The main reason is the challenge of proving ROI. Consistently we see that mobile click-through rates (CTR) are higher than on the PC. But "conversions" are much lower.
Part of the reason may be the infamous "fat finger" problem. But the larger issue is how marketers are defining and tracking conversions. The e-commerce-centric way of thinking about conversions just doesn't work for mobile. Most users don't transact on their smartphones. They go into stores -- where 95% of retail spending happens -- or they follow up on PCs and tablets later to buy.
Because marketers can't generally track in-store transactions or later PC/tablet conversions they assign a low ROI to smartphone based queries. This in turn causes them to bid less on those keywords.
In the local segment, there's a shift going on from PC map-based queries to smartphones. A Google representative recently said that up to 50% of mobile search queries carry a local intent. And comScore recently documented that trend and argued that map-based search on the PC had peaked and was now in decline:
In the past six months alone, according to comScore Mobile Metrix, the number of smartphone visitors to Maps websites and apps has jumped 24% to 92 million unique visitors – a monthly penetration of 83% among smartphone users . . .Searches with a Mapping/Navigation intent on the Big 5 Engines are down 34% over the past 15 months, going from 74.8 million to 49.5 million in August. comScore Search Planner shows that search clicks to Map/Navigation sites show an even steeper decline, down 41% to just 55.2 million in August.
We're likely to continue to see a flattening of local search volumes on the PC and a continuing shift to mobile devices (mobile web and apps). Nobody really knows how much local search query volume is flowing through mobile apps. However a January 2012 survey found that half of smartphone owners conducted local search in apps, with Google Maps being the leading app.
Once marketers more fully embrace mobile and get more sophisticated about ROI we should see the price of mobile advertising and mobile CPCs increase. Google of course will be one of the chief beneficiaries of such a development.
TeleNav has been generally in the business of personal navigation devices and smartphone apps. Over the past couple of years the company has also gotten into mobile advertising, taking ads from the YP and xAd networks, in addition to increasingly selling its own ads to brands and franchises. The ads are all location based or geotargeted.
TeleNav decided it wanted to get into local-mobile advertising in earnest and has announced the acquisition of ad network ThinkNear. The price was $22.5 million in cash and stock. The ThinkNear team now joins TeleNav.
ThinkNear offers precise geotargeting and what it calls "situational targeting," which is a mix of context and audience targeting:
ThinkNear helps advertisers reach consumers within 100 meters of any location, which is more precise than the zip code and designated market area (DMA) targeting typically offered by most ad networks. The ThinkNear network reaches tens of millions of customers across more than seven billion impressions per month. The precision and scale of ThinkNear allows advertisers to take advantage of the most distinctive aspects of mobile phones, which more than 85 percent of American adults now own.
ThinkNear's targeting technology also enables Situational Targeting, which takes into account where consumers are, what they are doing, and what is happening around them. For example, a sports memorabilia store can target an NFL fan with an advertisement for a nearby sale on branded jackets, blankets and umbrellas while the fan is tailgating on a cold and rainy day. Hyper-local Situational Targeting provides consumers with ads that are more relevant to their real-time needs and interests as they go about their day.
The company also announced that ThinkNear would become Scout Advertising, which includes search and display inventory. (Scout is TeleNav's smartphone app/consumer navigation brand.) ThinkNear sources some of its inventory from the various mobile "exchanges."
Scout Advertising is essentially a more complete and extensive version of the "hyper-local" ad network Navteq (Nokia) was trying to build. However Navteq appears to no longer be in the business of advertising.
In addition to the usual metrics, Scout Advertising can also tell a marketer whether the consumer actually arrived at his/her destination. Thus business models can be click, impression and arrival-based. TeleNav also says that its CTRs are "well above online and mobile industry averages, and over 40% of customers who click on an ad will ultimately take action to drive to an advertiser's location."
While most ad networks offer geotargeting, with varying degrees of accuracy (but generally not lat-long), TeleNav/ThinkNear join a short list of ad networks that can deliver much more granular location targeting. Indeed, its current (or perhaps former) partners, YP and xAd, are now its most direct local-mobile competitors.
In-app messaging provider Urban Airship has just introduced a very interesting new product: Location Messaging. This is the fruit of the company's acquisition of SimpleGeo last year.
Geofencing (Placecast) and ad geotargeting (xAd, YP) have existed for some time. However Urban Airship's new product offers very precise location targeted messaging -- with the ability to mix in other audience segmentation data as well:
As a result publishers/developers are able target specific types of users by location. There's a wide array of possibilities in terms of the way this can be deployed, for loyalty or yield management purposes or to stimulate new sales. There are two qualifications: users must have the publisher's app installed and s/he must have opted in to receive push notifications.
Urban Airship has created 2.5 million "pre-defined geofences" for publishers. However they can also define (or exclude) their own custom geofences. These can be as wide as a metro area (or larger I suppose) or as precise as a park or city block.
There's lots of hand-wringing going on about publishers being unable to sufficiently monetize mobile. However, mobile push notifications offer a terrific opportunity for brands and offline businesses to drive increased sales -- if used judiciously. Accordingly the company shared some performance data with me. It was impressive.
Urban Airship said it beta-tested Location Messaging this summer during the Olympics. The company reported on its blog that "The Official London 2012 app . . . utilized Urban Airship Location Messaging to send more than 10 million location-based push messages to people in . . . Olympic venues." In addition, "Nearly 60% of app users had location-sharing enabled and location-based pushes achieved clickthrough rates of around 60 percent."
Urban Airship CMO Brent Heiggelke pointed out that despite the potential effectiveness of Location Messaging brands and marketers must be extremely careful about the content of messages they send and their frequency or risk having their notifications shut off or apps uninstalled by end users.
Google introduced a new YouTube app for the iPhone today, ahead of the release of iOS 6 which removes YouTube from the group of pre-installed apps on the device. There are a number of feature improvements over the current built-in YouTube app.
Depending on your perspective, one of those "improvements" will be pre-roll ads. The current YouTube app didn't feature any advertising, thus depriving Google of a potentially significant mobile ad revenue stream. The new app will have ads and pre-roll.
Here are some screenshots of the new YouTube app:
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the current and new YouTube apps for the iPhone:
The new app is nice and a bit simpler visually. But what's more interesting is what it suggests about another potential Google app for the iPhone: Maps. The question is whether (or more likely when) Google will introduce a more complete mapping app for iOS.
Just as it does with the pre-installed YouTube app, Apple iOS 6 will remove Google completely from mapping on the iPhone, replacing it with Apple's new mapping application. That could mean a potentially significant loss of local query volume for Google -- unless the company dramatically improves its HTML5 mapping experience and/or releases a new iOS Google Maps app.
There's a small possibility that if Google were to submit a new Maps app to Cupertino it might get blocked as trying to replace a core feature of the device. However there are numerous third-party mapping apps that already exist for the iPhone so I doubt it. In the event Google did submit a new iOS mapping app it would ironically mean a much better Google Maps experience for the iPhone than has been the case to date. In all probability it would also include Google Navigation, which had been missing or withheld from maps on the iPhone.
Google's dilemma is that it uses Maps and Navigation for Android as something of a competitive differentiator vs. the iPhone. If Google were to provide the same functionality to Apple it would potentially remove that particular incentive to buy Android devices.
Nokia is spearheading what's being called "The In-Location Alliance." The purpose of the new quasi-trade group is to "drive innovation and market adoption of high accuracy indoor positioning and related services." The assumption is that more accurate indoor positioning will create new markets and new revenue opportunities.
According to the press release out this morning: "The Alliance will focus on creating solutions offering high accuracy, low power consumption, mobility, implementability and usability. It will create an ecosystem that stimulates innovation, enhances service delivery, and accelerates the adoption of solutions and technologies that optimize the mobile experience."
There are 22 companies listed as founding members: Broadcom, CSR, Dialog Semiconductor, Eptisa, Geomobile, Genasys, Indra, Insiteo, Nokia, Nomadic Solutions, Nordic Semiconductor, Nordic Technology Group, NowOn, Primax Electronics, Qualcomm, RapidBlue Solutions, Samsung Electronics, Seolane Innovation, Sony Mobile Communications, TamperSeal AB, Team Action Zone and Visioglobe.
The release also indicates the alliance will promote open standards and systems to allow for broad participation by non-member vendors and third parties.
There are a number of companies already operating in the indoor positioning segment, including Google, Microsoft, Wifarer, Point Inside, Aisle411 and others. Interestingly none of them are on the list above. No carrier is part of this inagural group either. However, the alliance is inviting any and all interested parties to join.
Notwithstanding the promise of new business models, that's one of the central questions: how will some of these companies make money? The superficial response is "deals and advertising." Privacy is also another major issue. However I suspect that can be addressed with an opt-in approach, much in the way that Apple does with iPhone apps requesting to use location.
With today's keynote announcements coming out of the Apple developer conference the company has expanded Siri's range of capabilities, including into navigation and local search. The latter accompanies the introduction of new Apple Maps, which entirely replace Google's mapping product as the default provider on iOS devices.
When Apple bought Siri it did a wider range of things than what Apple introduced a year ago with the iPhone 4S. Siri's original plan was to integrate numerous third party APIs and allow Siri to be a front end for task completion across a range of categories. As of today that earlier vision is partially restored.
There now more datasets available to Siri (sports, movies, app search, local search). Users can also, once again, make OpenTable restaurant reservations. In addition users will be able to find/launch apps using Siri.
With Apple Maps the company now enters the local search market in a big way. Without having the benefit of having used the product, I can only speak in the abstract. However it appears very competitive. There are a wide range of data providers that Apple appears to be working with across a broad array of international markets, including TomTom, Yelp, Localeze, Acxiom, Urban Mapping and Waze.
Assuming a relatively good product, Apple would quickly become the number two player in local-mobile search. And having Siri as the front-end to this experience will potentially reinforce Siri usage and introduce people to the broader concept of Siri as a search tool or potential Google substitute in many instances. While Siri already could already offer directions and find nearby businesses it didn't provide a very good local search experience overall.
To see how widely seen and used Siri was as a search tool, we recently conducted a survey (n=503, 6/12) of iPhone users and asked them:
Which of the following do you use MOST OFTEN to search the web on your phone?
According to these results more people use Siri to search than use Bing or Yahoo. Siri could inch up that ladder if people begin to understand how the tool can be used beyond the relatively narrow range of functions it has been used for to date -- and if Apple rewards people with good results.