There has been a near avalanche of shopping data released over the past several days, much of it documenting the rise of mobile devices in driving traffic and e-commerce purchases. Various estimates ranged from 23% to nearly 40% of traffic coming from mobile over the course of the weekend.
One of the clear winners of the Black Friday weekend shopping bonanza was the iPad. Apple and other retailers offered gift cards as incentives to buy the devices. In combination with general consumer demand that strategy seems to have paid off for Apple.
According to Localytics, which looked at over one million devices before and after Black Friday weekend, the iPad Air in particular saw very strong growth: 51% vs. the week before. So did the Mini and iPhone 5c. Admittedly the iPad Air is growing from a smaller base, although the device had a very strong launch.
The data in the chart above also don't reflect iPads purchased as holiday gifts and not yet opened/activated. So there are probably many more that were purchased than what's represented on this chart.
The top Android tablet was the Kindle Fire, which saw its own aggressive $50 discount from Amazon. The only other Android tablet to show growth is the Galaxy Tab 2, which was heavily discounted online and at several retail stores.
In October Apple announced that 170 million iPads had been sold to date. Given the momentum being reported, it's very likely that Apple will sell 20 million iPads (collectively) in the holiday quarter.
Google is the world's largest mobile advertising company. However after Google there are only a few big players on a US or global basis. Google doesn't disclose mobile revenues as a separate line item.
According to the IAB, US mobile ad revenues in the first half of 2013 were roughly $3 billion. That means we can probably expect between $6.5 and $6.8 billion for the full year 2013.
Online just 10 companies accounted for 70% of total online ad revenue in Q2 2013. In mobile, ad revenues are even more concentrated in a smaller group of companies.
Google's mobile revenues are probably, conservatively, in the range of 15% of its total ad revenue, which will come in around $49 or $50 billion globally for the full year. Let's also assume that roughly 50% of Google's mobile revenue comes from the US market. That would all mean Google would have about $3.6 billion in US mobile ad revenue this year. It could be more, however.
Facebook, Twitter and Pandora all report the portion of their advertising revenue that is generated from mobile devices. Facebook has by far the most mobile ad revenue of the group, which is likely to come in a little over $3 billion for the year. Twitter has said that 70% of its revenue is coming from mobile -- and most of that is from the US market.
The mobile component of total ad revenue for Facebook, Twitter and Pandora collectively will be roughly $4 billion for calendar 2013. It's not clear what percentage of Facebook's mobile ad revenue is from the US; however it's likely to be a substantial portion at this stage.
Accordingly, putting together my estimates for US mobile ad revenues from Google, Facebook, Twitter and Pandora takes us to about 90% of projected US mobile ad revenue for the year. Ad networks such as YP, Millennial and a couple of others fill in the rest.
As you're aware Twitter filed its public S-1 statement this afternoon. There's a great deal of interesting material in it. The company said that in 2010 revenue was roughly $28 million. Last year it was $317 million. This year it could well exceed $500 million, reflecting triple-digit ad revenue growth.
The following are the important mobile-related stats disclosed in the S-1 filing (mostly verbatim statements):
In 2010 74% of Twitter's revenue came from data licensing and the remainder from ads. In 2012 85% of revenue came from ads and 15% from data licensing, reflecting a huge shift in the sources of revenue for the company.
Given that Twitter has a still relatively small number of users in the US and internationally there's plenty of room for growth -- domestically and abroad.
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.
This morning the Pew Internet & American Life project released new data on teen app usage and mobile privacy. The big "takeaway" is that teens care very much about privacy and have taken action against (deleted) mobile apps they feel unnecessarily or gratuitously collect personal information or location data.
Pew says that 78% of teens have a mobile phone (though not all have smartphones) and 23% have tablets. The teen smartphone penetration number is probably 58%, given that's the number of teens who have downloaded mobile apps.
Just over half (51%) "have avoided apps due to privacy concerns" while 26% have uninstalled an app because it was collecting personal data. And 46% of teen mobile users have turned off location tracking features (on their phone or in an app) out of concern for privacy.
Teens are more forgiving of apps that seek location data where there's a logical and clear justification for the information (e.g., maps). Girls are more likely to disable location tracking than boys; 59% of girls vs. 37% of boys have done so.
Separately but still on the theme of privacy, Facebook announced today that it would give more control to Facebook mobile log-in users over what information is shared by third party apps on the Facebook Timeline and News Feed. Here's what the company said today in its announcement:
Although Facebook Login is widely used, we understand people’s concerns about apps posting on their Timeline or to their friends. For the past several months, we’ve been rolling out a new version of Facebook Login on mobile to address these concerns.
With this new update, mobile apps using Facebook Login must now separately ask you for permission to post back to Facebook.
Don’t want to share your music playlist or workout routine with friends? You can choose to skip sharing altogether.
Clearly separating sharing means people can decide whether they only want to use Facebook Login for fast registration without also sharing back to Facebook. If you want to share later, you still can.
This involuntary sharing element was a selling point for publishers and developers but a turn-off to many users. It became a significant barrier for some to using Facebook log-in for third party apps/sites.
By separating sharing from social log-ins Facebook hopes to remove friction for many people who might log in with Facebook but don't today for privacy reasons. I'm in that group.
To say that Facebook's mobile ad revenue growth has been impressive is an understatement. It has been, what you might call, meteoric.
In the course of a 12 month period the company has gone from less than 10% of ad revenue from mobile to 41% in Q2 of this year. By the end of this year (or very early next) 50% of Facebook's ad revenue will likely come from mobile. (By comparison, in 2012 more than half of Twitter's ad revenues came from mobile.)
In Q2 '13 Facebook made more than $650 million in mobile ad revenue. If current trends continue expect Facebook to have a $1 billion mobile quarter by 1H 2014 (and possibly Q1 earnings). That would enable the company to claim a $4 billion annual mobile-ad revenue run rate.
Based on averages and simple math, Facebook made roughly $0.80 per mobile user in Q2 on a global basis -- up from $0.50 in Q1 of this year. However developed markets offer more revenue than emerging markets and so the revenue generated per mobile user will vary considerably from market to market in practice.
In 2010 we asked "How Long Before Facebook is a Mobile Ad Network?" and predicted that when Facebook turned on mobile ads it would immediately become the largest mobile "network."
As formidable as Facebook is becoming in mobile Google is still dominant globally. Incredibly, Mountain View is expected to capture more than 50% of mobile revenues on a global basis this year. Facebook claims a much smaller percentage of mobile revenues, but still ranks as the number two player in mobile advertising today.
There's considerable data (see, e.g., comScore) that indicate Facebook is the most popular mobile app in the US market. That extends beyond unique visitors to engagement and time spent.
Time spent with the Facebook mobile app outstrips every other individual app by a large margin. Earlier this year comScore found that 23% of all time spent with mobile apps was on Facebook. Nielsen has similar figures.
Source: comScore (Q1 2013)
Confirming just how popular Facebook's app is relative to other mobile apps are new survey findings from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The company asked 500 smartphone users and 1,000 tablet owners in the US about which mobile apps they used most often.
The question was: "What are the three apps you use most frequently?" There were no suggested responses (no multiple choice answers). The question was completely open-ended. Below are the results:
Among other interesting things Google Maps doesn't make an appearance in the surve results. Yet Nielsen and comScore data reflect that Google Maps is one of the most popular apps and the most popular location-based app. Mysteriously it doesn't appear here at all -- unless it's considered part of "Google." There's no clear explanation why.
Source: comScore (Q1 2013)
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:
Below is the distribution of location/audience targeting methodologies employed by Verve's customer-advertisers:
TV is arguably the lone traditional medium that been able to retain its premium ad rates and audience reach (mostly), while other media have suffered fragmenting audiences and declining ad revenues. But the fact that millions still watch TV doesn't necessarily mean TV advertising has the power and impact it once did.
A recent study from ad network InMobi, involving 15,000 users from 14 global markets including China, Europe, the US and several African countries, argues that consumers now spend more time with mobile media than TV (there are competing data that show TV is still on top).
The survey found TV to still be the most influential single medium, followed by PC/online and then mobile. Other traditional media lagged behind in their influence over purchase decisions. The following reflects the percentage of survey respondents who reported that the medium "significantly influenced" their purchase behavior:
The data above are not broken out by country. Undoubtedly there would be variation, potentially significant variation, accordingly.
With respect to TV, however, users are now widely "second screening" -- that is, diverting their attention from the programming and advertising to focus on some activity happening on their smartphones or tablets. Two-thirds of the TV audience is now doing this on a global basis, with younger users (<35) being the most likely to multiscreen (graphic above).
What are they doing on those second screens? The survey says they're on social networks or otherwise messaging friends (see graphic below). Note that a substantial number are "searching for information about products" they saw on TV. This represents both a new opportunity for brands and TV advertisers generally.
Marketers now must be conscious that a significant portion, indeed the majority, of the TV audience is going to "look away" at their smartphones or tablets. Marketers must have a mobile optimized presence on search and social media. But beyond simple presence, TV advertisers need to make it easy for mobile users at home to find their products or services easily (the many hashtags used in Super Bowl TV ads is one example).
TV advertisers can drive email sign-ups/opt-ins, app downloads as well direct purchases with the right offers and TV-ad messaging. In addition, with coordination and planning mobile can be used to measure TV ad effectiveness as well.
The larger point is that fewer and fewer TV viewers (especially those under 35) are watching TV or online video without a mobile device nearby. That allows them to either take action on ads they see -- or totally ignore them.
Mobile commerce, at least on smartphones, is partly held back by the UX challenges of forms and inputting credit card digits. Amazon does well in so-called "m-commerce" in part because it has millions of user credit cards on file making the mobile check-out process nearly painless (it also has a trusted brand).
Mobile check-out is part of the larger problem of being compelled to repeatedly sign in to accounts on a mobile device. Though some sign-in credentials are remembered by mobile browsers users are constantly being asked to input usernames and passwords. It's incredibly frustrating.
Nuance (and others) have tried to address this problem with voice authentication in lieu of manual password entry (one of the topics on the agenda at the upcoming Voice Biometrics conference in San Francisco next week). To date, however, voice authentication has seen limited adoption in mobile applications.
Separately Facebook has sought to become the universal log-in, to address the challenges of pain of creating multiple accounts and passwords -- particularly in mobile. Google is now starting to challenge Facebook in that arena, according to a recent study from Janrain.
Many people are disinclined to use Facebook to log-in to third party websites or accounts because of privacy concerns (uncertainty over what might be communicated to their networks). Enter PayPal log-in (and its mobile express checkout solution).
This solves a couple problems for publishers/developers and consumers. First it offers an alternative, single set of log-in credentials offering consumers more privacy than Facebook. It also offers a commerce solution that, like Amazon, avoids the "16 digit problem" of manually entering information on mobile sites.
Amazon and Google both offer comparable and competing solutions for third party merchants. But PayPal is in a strong position to become both a single sign-on and mobile checkout leader. The eBay division needs to aggressively promote mobile express checkout to merchants and the security and privacy benefits and ease-of-use of PayPal log-in to consumers, which will be a significant marketing challenge.
As part of that effort PayPal also needs to do something of a reintroduction of itself generally to consumers at large. Its brand needs to be "beefed up." However among "digital wallets" PayPal by far has the greatest consumer awareness, which the company can use in its argument to merchants.
Facebook's "launcher" Home isn't available for any of the smartphones I own: HTC 8X, Nexus 4 and iPhone. Thus I haven't been able to "live with it."
But when I saw it unveiled several weeks ago at the Facebook Home press event I was impressed by the design. I found it very imaginative and creative. I thought also that it might represent a new way forward for some developers and publishers with smartphone software. I even suggested that Yahoo might want to emulate it.
Apparently most people who've actually used Facebook Home for any length of time don't share my enthusiasm. The app is overwhelmingly negatively reviewed on Google Play. Out of more than 14,000 ratings and reviews it gets an average score of 2.2 -- with the single largest group (7,576 users) giving it 1 star.
This isn't merely the work of "haters" as some of the favorable reviews and comments suggest. There are significant flaws in the user experience.
While many people praised Home as a good initial release, others complained about poor performance and a negative impact on battery life. Still others complained that it made other Android apps and widgets difficult to access. And some wanted more capabilities and functionality than what Facebook is currently delivering.
There's lots of highly specific feedback for Facebook in the comments offered. If Home is to avoid a quick death and survive the company should look closely and adopt some of the suggestions.
A week ahead of the actual mobile ad numbers from the IAB IDC has released its estimates of 2012 US mobile advertising, as well as projections for 2013. The company says that mobile ad revenues were $4.5 billion in 2012 and will reach $7 billion this year. Our view is that the actual 2012 number will come in just under $4 billion.
According to IDC, search advertising represented 61% of mobile ad revenues in 2012 or $2.8 billion, while display brought in $1.7 billion or 39%. Directionally those numbers are right though the precise proportions may be off. For example, IDC's estimates of Google's share of search advertising is 79%, which is too low. It's more like 94%.
The most interesting part of IDC's figures and analysis is its juxtaposition between social networks (publishers) and mobile ad networks. Here are IDC's 2012 mobile ad revenue estimates for the major social networks/publishers (Pandora isn't a social network obviously):
And here are the IDC-estimated mobile display ad-network revenues:
The argument is that publishers/social networks have beaten the mobile ad networks. Online publishers essentially lost out over time to the ad networks on the PC internet because of traffic fragmentation and limited reach of most publisher sites vs. networks. The question is: will this happen again as real-time bidding and mobile exchanges become established? Or will major sites/publishers retain their ability to capture and control significant mobile ad dollars?
One point to be made here is that sites like Facebook and Twitter offer a multiplatform solution (and so does Google) that enables marketers to reach users on the PC and mobile simultaneously and usually with a single buy and single ad creative. That represents an efficiency advantage over most ad networks.
Yesterday Facebook introduced its homescreen Android makeover-takeover strategy: Facebook Home. It comes both fully integrated into a phone (HTC First) and as an app download. As you know it replaces the standard Android home and lock screen experiences with a proprietary Facebook environment.
Mark Zuckerberg and others at the press event yesterday confirmed that there would eventually be ads in its "Cover Feed." Cover Feed is the new photo-centric dynamic feed that constitutes much of the experience of Home. It includes Facebook content and select "Open Graph" partner content (e.g., Foursquare, Instagram).
Facebook stressed that it was working to make sure that any ads that eventually do appear (probably within a year, depending on adoption) would be consistent with the aesthetic experience and of sufficiently high quality. We're starting to see more ads in the mobile news feed that are of, shall we say, uneven quality.
However Cover Feed ads have the potential to be quite effective. If they're scarce and if Facebook uses strict standards they could become the equivalent of "Super Bowl ads for mobile." That of course will largely depend on how widely Facebook Home is adopted. There's early survey data that suggests limited demand -- but surveys don't always tell the whole story and can be contradicted by actual behavior.
In the past there have been several startups that sought to offer home or idle screen ads on mobile devices. All failed for various reasons (not enough scale, insufficient ad quality, limited advertiser demand/adoption). Today, to my knowledge, Amazon's Kindle (multiple devices) is the only place where such ads exist at any kind of scale. The picture above, at right is an example of a "Special Offer" on Kindle Fire.
I could find no data about the general consumer attitude toward these ads -- though there is plenty of online discussion about opting out. I also was unable to find any discussion or data about the efficacy of these ads and whether they perform for advertisers.
For many of the reasons already cited it's way too early to project how much Facebook could earn from Home ads. But if there are millions of users who adopt Home in the US and around the world, the ads could generate broad exposure (like TV advertising) and significant potential revenue for Facebook.
An interesting secondary question arises: if the most active mobile users migrate to Home (and use the app less often), do ads on Home then effectively cannibalize ads on the Facebook app in the conventional news feed?
Image credit: lovemyfire.com
Facebook is the leading app on the iPhone. But does that popularity as an app mean that Facebook would have success with its own branded handset?
Next week on April 4 Facebook seems poised to introduce some version of the long-rumored "Facebook phone." The speculation is that it will be an HTC-made handset carrying a "forked" version of Android. We'll see. But I'm extremely skeptical that anything like can succeed at scale.
HTC previously made two Android handsets in 2011 with deeper Facebook integration: the ChaCha and the Salsa. They both flopped. INQ has also made social-media-centric handsets since 2009, which have not done especially well.
Let's assume that everything on the hypothetical HTC handset is deeply integrated with Facebook: contacts, dialer, camera, maps, apps, messaging and so on. Let's also assume that everything works elegantly. It's highly unlikely that there will be mass-market demand for this phone.
Most people are not so involved with Facebook that they would turn over this most important piece of personal technology to the company. There will also be the inevitable privacy questions and concerns ("Is Facebook tracking me?"). Most people I know are quite content to use a Facebook app on their smartphones. The notion of an entire handset devoted to Facebook seems excessive and unnecessary.
Perhaps the phone will offer some unique and impressive functionality or be priced extremely aggressively. Perhaps "younger people" will be interested. I remain very doubtful, however, that the majority of users will want to buy a smartphone so closely aligned with a single social network.
While a few ads shown during yesterday's Super Bowl were noteworthy most were a bust -- and largely a waste of the nearly $4 million it reportedly cost to buy airtime during the game. Matt McGee at Marketing Land did a nice job of tracking and reporting on social media mentions or "calls to action" on most of the ads (Twitter and hashtags were most common).
Oreo is emerging as one of the big winners, with its fast reaction to the game's 30+ minute power outage.
Yet for all the energy put into associating ads with hashtags and social media, there was an almost total absence of explicit mentions or references to mobile. The only mobile app mention that I was aware of came on a quickly shown credits screen during an ad for the forthcoming Star Trek sequel (upper right image). Exact Target confirmed my own informal sense of that yesterday.
A large percentage of people watching the game in the US were smartphone owners. As you already know, and as Nielsen and others have confirmed, there's a very high level of "second screen" behavior among smartphone owners. These Super Bowl ads were a huge opportunity to drive app downloads for brands. And other than the Star Trek mention, which raced by in less than a second, nobody talked about apps at all.
One might have expected real estate company Century 21 to mention its mobile site or app in its several mediocre commercials given that so many people use mobile during their house hunting. But they did not. I could go on with numerous other examples.
Perhaps the assumption among the agencies that produced these commercials was that people would be using Twitter or Facebook on their smartphones or tablets and the mobile call to action was thus implied. Yet it's more likely that marketers didn't really know what to do with mobile specifically and so were simply silent on the subject.
Facebook delivered the goods this afternoon. The company beat analysts' estimates and reported quarterly revenues of $1.56 billion and $5.09 billion for the year. Advertising revenue for the year was roughly $4.3 billion.
Despite the beat, Facebook shares were down after hours.
Advertising revenue for Q4 was $1.33 billion, or 84 percent of total revenue. Impressively mobile advertising represented 23% of total ad revenue, which is up from 14% the previous quarter.Even more significantly Facebook said that mobile daily active users exceeded web daily users in Q4 for the first time. CEO Mark Zuckerberg characterized Facebook as "a mobile company" accordingly.
There were 680 million mobile monthly active users in Q4 (compared with just over 1 billion in total). Of those 157 million were mobile only users.
Independent analyst Ben Evans has teased out a range of Facebook mobile usage and user data, partly derived from the company's own public statements and partly from his own calculations. You can read what he says here. Below I use some of his data and one of his charts.
Mobile users as of Q3 2012 (mostly public numbers):
Accordingly, roughly 44% of Facebook's global user base doesn't access the site on mobile according to the company's own data. However that figure is likely to get smaller over the next 12 - 24 months and become a very small minority.
Evans estimates the following smartphone app usage for Facebook (based on Q3 data above):
Below is a chart from Evans showing the relative growth of Facebook access on the various mobile platforms from September 2011 to September 2012:
Assuming these numbers are accurate you can see the reversal of positions of the iPhone and Android since last year, which makes sense. However the larger point is that a majority of Facebook users now access the site via mobile.
Facebook has argued that mobile is ultimately a much larger revenue opportunity than the PC. The following verbatim Facebook remarks come from the Q3 earnings call transcript:
Social and paid-search ad platform Kenshoo came out with data today that argue the percentage of ad revenue coming from mobile is now up to 20.3%.
Facebook is expected to generate roughly $1.5 billion in overall revenue in Q4. Not all of it is ad revenue, however. Roughly $260 or so million would be attributable to mobile if the 20.3% figure holds and the forecast is correct.
Google sees lower CPC prices on mobile paid search ads but better performance on mobile devices vs. the PC. However Facebook is experiencing the opposite phenomenon, according to Kenshoo. It sees higher mobile prices but lower engagement vs. the desktop.
Social networks and social-mobile apps are undeniably mainstream at this point. Indeed, mobile is where much of the growth is happening for social media. A new report, compiled from Q2 data and issued by Nielsen, illustrates this and compares time spent and access by media device.
What the data show is that the amount of time people are spending with mobile devices (vs. PC) is growing and that mobile apps continue to be where mobile time is concentrated. Along with smartphone and tablet penetration, mobile time overall has grown vs. 2011 but growth has been concentrated in mobile apps. They see roughly 79% of consumer time with mobile media and the mobile internet.
Mobile media time overall is now roughly 43% of the time spent on PCs as of Q2 2012.
Mobile use of social networks tends to show slightly higher levels of engagement than on the PC. In mobile, as on the PC, women tend to be more engaged than men. But the most engaged groups are slightly different in each category.
The most engaged group of mobile social media users is the 25 - 34 age range, whereas on the PC it's the 18 - 24 year old cohort.
The following chart illustrates that among the major social sites, Facebook dramatically leads in terms of time spent (although Instagram isn't present on this list). In addition, time is roughly divided 85% mobile apps vs. 15% mobile web. And while the ratios are slightly different for each social media publishers the directional trend is the same -- toward mobile apps.
Nielsen also looked at the major ways in which consumers connect to the Internet generally. It found that the PC was still the dominant way but that PC penetration was down slightly since a year ago. By contrast, as you might expect, mobile access to the Internet has grown significantly on smartphones and especially on tablets.
Marketers who continue to ignore or only nominally address smartphone and tablet users -- especially app users -- are losing access to an increasingly large user base and may be doing their brands and reputations harm in the process.
Bango says this will allow users to buy game credits, apps and other virtual goods through "frictionless operator billing, paying on their phone, without the need to register personal details."
Bango also has deals with Google (Play), Amazon, BlackBerry App World and Opera's Mobile Store. The company added that its conversion rates are higher than the industry average for carrier billing:
Conventional operator billing is expected to achieve a 40% conversion rate. Put simply, most mobile commerce customers who click ‘buy’, do not successfully buy. Billing with the Bango payment platform delivers an average conversion rate of 77%. Most users who click ‘buy’, do buy.
While carrier billing is useful in countries where there are many "unbanked" or where the specific transaction is likely to be conducted by a younger user, in the US and much of Europe credit cards are a preferred method of payment by most adults.
Carrier billing is much more widely available than other forms of mobile payments for obvious reasons. However carrier fees are much higher typically than credit card fees and settlement can take months depending on the country.
Even though Facebook eliminated Facebook Credits, which was a surprise to me, it's possible that Facebook will eventually acquire a mobile payments provider. Bango's market cap, for example, is only $118 million. Facebook could buy the company and associated revenue stream, as well as a set of global carrier relationships -- instantly.
Amazon is the king of mobile retail; Wal-Mart is the leader of offline check-ins. Last week there were two sets of parallel data released that provided some insight into how consumers are using mobile devices, both for "m-commerce" and in stores.
Data from comScore found that among US smartphone owners “4 out of 5″ are going to retail site/apps on their handsets. Some of this is in-store price and review checking.
ComScore put the total number of mobile-retail visitors at roughly 86 million. Unsurprisingly Amazon was the leading retail destination with an audience of almost 50 million smartphone owners.
These mobile-retail site visitors were both somewhat younger and more affluent than corresponding retail site visitors on PCs.
The number four mobile retailer on the list above, Wal-Mart, is the leader when it comes to in-store check-ins. According to data compiled by LocalResponse this summer from Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp and Instagram, Saturday is the most popular day to check in followed by Friday and then Sunday. Most check-ins occurred in the afternoon or early evening.
LocalResponse also found that men were more likely than women to check in. However gender check-ins by store varied, with Target being the most popular store for women. BestBuy was the most popular check-in retail location for men.
While some retailers are creating incentives for users to check-in, this should be exploited much more aggressively both to get people into stores and as a corresponding analytics tool to indicate the success of various promotions. Hashtags, offers and other mechanisms could be used to track specific promotions. In addition, users could be "messaged" (on Twitter) or otherwise notified (i.e., on Foursquare) while in stores with further promotions and rewards.
In general traditional retailers have yet to fully recognize the potential and utilize social media check-ins for in-store loyalty and sales purposes.