Thought Starters: Content that has got me thinking 7

The following provides a roundup of some of the articles and thought pieces which have got me thinking recently.

Pratik Dholakiya profiles different scientific studies into social media, highlighting some important findings. Among the conclusions are the following: consumer to consumer interactions on Facebook assets that are particularly important in influencing sales; the development of viral content should be framed in terms of retaining as well as expanding your audience; and community activities (eg forums) have a crucial role in contributing to sales when compared to traditional media.

GlobalWebIndex have produced a short report looking at the global penetration of different social networks, which are growing fastest, with regional and age breakdowns.

GWI Social Summary January 2014, Global Web Index

Epidemiological methods are used to predict the future decline of Facebook (apparently significant between 2015 and 2017) by researchers from Princeton University. More information on the research over at AllFacebook although there are some dissenting views.

David Meyer points to over eager social marketers as handicapping the newly launched social network Jelly before its even had a chance to build up a decent audience.

asda-jelly-tiger-bread-250-201_250

Joy of Tech provides a wry take on Google’s recent acquisition of the Nest Labs home automation company.

Joy of Tech

Matt Cutts looks at the demise of guest blogging as it becomes more and more associated with spammy SEO.

Marc Andreessen wrote an essay in the New York Times which gives a welcome introduction into the wider potential of Bitcoins particularly in terms of payments. Glenn Fleishman who has already written an article on Bitcoins for the Economist, wrote a response in Medium to Andreessen’s essay calling out various inaccuracies and/0r inconsistencies. Both are well worth a read.

Whilst there’s been a lot of attention on the monetisation strategies of Line, WeChat and other mobile messaging platforms, WhatsApp continues to grow at a rapid rate according to the latest Mashable report.

WhatsApp Doubles Active Users in 10 Months

GigaOm looks at the case of a business person who was outed as transgender in a investigative report in Grantland which may have contributed to her committing suicide. Aside from the ethics of disclosing someone’s gender, it also points to the ability for stories published online to have a much greater reach and impact than the print equivalent. Christina Kahrl has written a follow on piece in Grantland looking at the mistakes made in the publication of the piece vis-a-vis which is similarly worth a read.

Chris McKinlay took an extraordinarily analytical approach to finding a match on OkCupid. The Wired story makes for an interesting analysis of how big data can be used in a more personal setting.

For those of you who have caught Spike Jonze’s new film Her (which I thoroughly recommend), New York magazine has had a look at how far off we are from having a Samantha like virtual assistant.

 

Taking a Mobile First Approach to Retail

I gave the following presentation recently on the application of Mobile First within a retail environment. You can find the accompanying text and references in the post below.

Slide 1: Cell Towers by Rebecca Rothfus

Slide 2:  There’s no escaping the fact that mobile is here as smartphone and tablet penetration increases.

Slide 3:  Mobile is now taking the lion’s share of growth in ecommerce sales with tablets performing strongly and sales from smartphones growing particularly fast.

Tipping point reached in e-Retail, as mobile now accounts for all online growth, IMRG, 2013,

Slide 4:  Whilst sales are on the increase, it’s also important to look at mobile as an important contributor to offline and online sales.

The growing influence of mobile in store, Deloitte, 2013,

Slide 5:  I’ve taken a broader view of mobile first, looking at how retailers can better enable their offering to mobile and tablet users. It’s important to note that the retail sector is not homogenous and different strategies are going to work better for different parts of the industry.

Slide 6:  Mobile and tablet devices are getting more and more capable, but their form factor provide some limitations. Among these are more limited keyboard, smaller screen size and less powerful process. This raises the need for a digital presence that’s built with these constraints in mind.

On top of this, further impetus is driven by Google’s search optimisation policy which is penalising websites with slow mobile load times.

2014: the mobile SEO timebomb, Econsultancy, 2013

Slide 7:  Despite mobile device’s technical limitations, consumers expect their mobile devices to deliver a similar level of performance to their desktop equivalent.

The World Has Gone Multi-Screen, Google, 2013

Slide 8: The different formats of mobiles, tablets and PCs provide different optimum use cases.

The mobile screen is great for snack sized content. Tablet screen is a more lean back medium which is great for consuming media. PCs on the other hand are often described as lean forward medium where the user is better orientated to interacting with the content.

But for mobile devices, it’s not all about limitations as they’re increasingly loaded with a range of sensors which give them capabilities not provided by your PC.

There is a real need for digital resources to be designed in a way that reflects these differences. 

From Smartphones to Tablets – The Changing Landscape, immobi, 2013

Slide 9:  Mobile First asks designers to ensure that their designs will work within these constraints and not simply provide a lesser experience.

This has seen the growth of adaptive and responsive web design and…

Slide 10:  The emergence of card based user design formats, all of which look to adapt readily to the different devices form factors.

Designing for mobile use also means legible typography, content that renders in both portrait and landscape, concise content, avoidance of plugins such as Flash, click to call functionality and the minimising of user text input.

Why cards are the future of the web, Intercom,

Slide 11:  It’s also important to remember it’s not simply about the visual appearance but also ensuring that consumers have an easy way to navigate to where they want. This means a user experience designed for navigating by touch and meta data designed to enable the mobile searcher to quickly get from A to B.

The Mobile Playbook, Google, 2013

Slide 12:  The constraints of mobile mobile devices also make payments more difficult than on your typical PC. So it’s well worth giving thought to services such as Amazon Payments and Paypal which reduce the obstacles to purchase for mobile users.

We’re also beginning to see new models of payments emerge with initiatives such as Starbucks’ Tweet a Coffee and the use of mobile messaging platforms to make payments.

The future of mobile payments, Medium,

2014: the year of ‘Buy with Google’? Econsultancy

Hugo Barra, Vice President, Xiaomi Global & Loic Le Meur, LeWeb, 2013

Social commerce, the influence of China and other tech trends for Southeast Asia in 2014, TheNextWeb,

Slide 13:  It’s also important to consider native apps. These typically enable a great degree of personalisation, can make better use of phones’ native functionality, can be used offline and are typically quicker to start up.

Ocado on the Go, Ocado

Slide 14:  Mobile apps also provide a means of getting consumers to engage with your brand outside of just the purchase process. Content that informs and or entertains has the opportunity to put multiple shop windows in front of the consumer. Examples of these include Tesco’s meal planner or for a more light hearted approach, American retailer Home Depot’s mobile game.

It’s important to stress given the increasingly crowded nature of the app ecosystem, you cannot adopt a build and they will come approach.

Tesco Food, iTunes,

Corso’s Cornhole Challenge, Home Depot, iTunes,

Home Depot tackles mobile gaming to score sales, Mobile Commerce Daily,

Slide 15:  Consumers are faced with an endless array of choices, so the content needs to be compelling and the app needs to work well or consumers will simply go elsewhere.

Any mobile app developed needs to be promoted as it’s rare for a resource to go viral without a bit of a foot up.

Mobile app based strategy is not without its hurdles given that development is platform specific leading to the exclusion of users on other platforms. 

As an example, Android has the greater penetration in the UK but research points to iOS users making greater use of their devices’ functionality including spending more online. There’s also evidence that points to different audience profiles for the different mobile platforms.

Finally, Android has a more fragmented environment with a much wider range of devices and operating systems complicating any app roll out.

Android and iOS Demographics In The US, AVC, 2013,

Alert: Mobile Traffic and Sales Surge on Christmas Day 2013, IBM, 2013

Building Android first, Kidogo,

App Store Distribution, Apple,

Dashboards, Android,

The horrible state of Android fragmentation, iDownloadBlog,

Slide 17:  Whilst the majority of social networks function on PCs, it’s often on mobiles and tablets where they come into their own, particularly when it comes to the sharing of content and it’s on these devices we’re seeing the strongest growth.

Mobile users are nearly twice as likely to share content on social networks as desktop users, Social Media Marketing: The ROI is not MIA, Mobile Marketing Watch, 2013

Facebook’s Monthly Active Users Up 23% to 1.11B; Daily Users Up 26% To 665M; Mobile MAUs Up 54% To 751M, TechCrunch, 2013,

Slide 18:  This raises the need to optimise social channels for mobile users.

Whilst many of the principles remain the same as for desktop, there is even greater emphasis on brevity of content and the use of strong imagery to catch the eye of users.

Mobile users are nearly twice as likely to share content on social networks as desktop users, Social Media Marketing: The ROI is not MIA, Mobile Marketing Watch, 2013

UK retailers make a splash on Twitter as Christmas nears, Twitter Advertising Blog, 2013,

See yourself in Times Sq. on #NYE! Twitter, https://twitter.com/MasterCard/status/416657951428857856

What You Need To Know About Facebook Mobile Ads, Entrepreneur, 2013,

Slide 19:  Instagram, Vine and Snapchat are all built on Mobile First principles and provide great opportunities to reach consumers in a way that takes the best advantage of the limited screen space of the mobile phone with paid and earned media campaigns.

Are mobile social ads overhyped? Mobile Marketer, 2013

Co-op claims retail ‘first’ with Snapchat campaign, Marketing, 2013

Nordstrom: Vine on Vine, Brands on Vine, 2013

Slide 20:  Pinterest has been a powerful generator of retail traffic with the platform offering a strong mobile presence. Driving traffic to Pinterest provides a great means of increasing consumer engagement with retailer’s brand and potentially to purchase. 

It’s also important to consider other opportunities in the social space with Polyvore in particular standing out with its ability to generate sales traffic.

Mobile users are nearly twice as likely to share content on social networks as desktop users, Social Media Marketing: The ROI is not MIA, Mobile Marketing Watch, 2013

One social network you’ve never heard of drives 20% of all social commerce, VentureBeat, 2013 ,

New iPad and iPhone Updates: Collections, Shop on iPad and More, Polyvore Blog,

Slide 22:  Despite the growing penetration of mobile and tablets, the media world has still to adjust their spend to reflect this change. 

At a basic level, adding the use of mobile media in conjunction with traditional advertising brings an incremental lift in marketing campaigns.

Study: Mobile Video Ads Complement TV Campaigns, AdColony, 2012

Slide 23:  But where the concept of cross media activity really comes into its own is where different media are used together, increasing consumers’ engagement with the message.

The World Has Gone Multi-Screen, Google, 2013,

Slide 24:  A good example of this is the use of augmented reality apps, bringing traditional static media to life and providing a response channel for consumers.

Tesco Homeplus ‘Virtual Supermarket’, Streething, 2011,

Layar Creator brings interactive augmented reality to print media, The Verge, 2012,

Track My Macca, Protein, 2013

Slide 25:  We are also seeing the integration of mobile functionality into television advertising that goes well beyond simply providing a URL or hashtag.

Twitter now provides the opportunity to target advertising at Twitter users who have identified themselves as watching a particular programme, Kia is asking users to play tennis against their television and mobile app Shazam is being used as a response channel for viewers. We’re likely to see a whole lot more of these initiatives going forward.

TV conversation targeting launches in the UK and US: Coming soon to Brazil, Canada, France, and Spain, Twitter Advertising Blog, 2013,

Kia Game On Tennis, Google Play,

Expedia drives mobile bookings via TV campaign, trip-a-day giveaway, Mobile Commerce Daily, 2013,

Slide 26:  Where it gets really exciting is when different digital screens are combined creating an altogether richer interactive experience. Google has been doing this with its Chrome Experiments, and Orange had a go at it with it’s Hello 2014 campaign that ran over New Year’s Eve.

This multiscreening approach offers real potential but doesn’t come without its own problems.

The varied nature of mobile devices brings technical challenges, although the rise of HTML5, WebGL and other technologies are proving important enablers. More generally, different media platforms have been developed on different principles and cross media platforms are requiring the development of common frameworks.

hello 2014, Orange,

Orange Rings in the New Year with a Dual-Screen Experience, Counsel, 2014

Slide 27:  One of the key differentiators of mobile is its portability, raising place as an important variable. Location based services provide retailers with the opportunity to help get consumers into physical stores and keep them returning.

To put this in perspective 57% of smartphone users look for information at least once a week and 25% of smartphone users look for information daily.

Google statistics quoted in Optimizing Your Local Presence for Mobile Search (and vice versa!), Distilled, 2013

Slide 28:  Retailers need to ensure their physical stores are findable, with locations in online map services, retailers own mobile properties and location based services such as Fourquare and Facebook Mobile.

Attract new customers with local ads on the Google Maps app, Inside AdWords, 2013,

Tesco Groceries, iTunes,

 Slide 29:  Building on the earlier location based services is the finding of products, services and information instore using third party resources such as Google maps or via owned media.

Let indoor Google Maps be your guide this holiday shopping season, Google Maps, 2012,

Lowe’s personalizes mobile shopping via in-store app features, Mobile Commerce Daily, 2013

Slide 30:  It’s also worth encouraging customers to check in via Foursquare and Facebook, providing the retailer with free publicity across the consumer’s social networks.

Location based marketing is seen by many as a godsend, offering the opportunity to reach consumers when it takes them the least effort to purchase. The problem is that close proximity alone is not necessarily a good indicator of whether the consumer would make a good prospect. The best results come when location is paired with other variables to give a robust means of targeting consumers. We also need to be acutely aware of overloading consumers with marketing messages which could lead to their abandonment of this channel.

Powerful yet simple to use, Foursquare for Business,

Slide 32:  Mobile is coming to play a significant role in the instore retail environment.

The growing influence of mobile in store, Deloitte, 2013,

Slide 33:  Mobile apps like Amazon’s Price Check have raised the spectre of showrooming, as ecommerce operators aim to turn bricks and mortar shops into the display stands for their own operations.

And there is plenty of evidence to support consumers using their mobiles to check prices.

The Mobile Playbook, Google, 2013

Slide 34:  But international research by the Columbia Business School points to consumers engaging in a broad range of activities instore and it’s not simply a case of try there and buy elsewhere.

Showrooming and the Rise of the Mobile-Assisted Shopper, Columbia Business School, 2013,

Slide 35:  The use of instore maps provides a means of getting consumers to your goods and services, but where smartphones really come into their own is enriching the retail environment. This has traditionally required the sometimes clumsy process of scanning QR codes but NFC and Bluetooth Low Engery Beacons are providing a more seamless experience for mobile users.

This provides smartphone users with the opportunity to find out further information about the store and its products and services. Like an Amazon user, an instore shopper has the potential to pull down consumer and expert reviews, product demonstration videos and comparisons whilst keeping within the retailers’s digital and physical environment.

Apple’s iBeacon and NFC, DigitalLab, 2013,

Slide 36: We are also seeing smartphones used to deliver offers, promotions and rewards. A lot of noise is currently being made about the introduction of beacon based programmes enabling users to receive location specific deals, discounts and recommendations.

What is shopBeacon?   shopkick

Cartwheel by Target, Target

Macy’s Dips Toes in Brave New Marketing World, TechNewsWorld, 2013

Slide 37:  Mobile payments is another area we are seeing a significant change, offering consumers an easier way to purchase instore whilst avoiding unnecessary queues.

There are a range of solutions currently on offer, with mobile payment providers such as Google Wallet, Paypal, Masterpass and Square but it’s in the area of retailer specific solutions that we’re seeing the greatest success.

When considering mobile payments and beacon based initiatives, it’s also important to think about how any instore promotions will be integrated with retailer’s loyalty programmes and discounting campaigns which are also increasingly mobile enabled.

Like the use of instore beacons, mobile payments is very much a nascent field in which we’re seeing a rapid evolution of best practice.

Apple Store, iTunes,

KFC’s Mobile Shopping App sees 90pc of users placing orders via mobile, Mobile Commerce Daily, 2013,

KFC Fasttrack, iTunes

Walmart, iTunes,

2014: the year of ‘Buy with Google’? Econsultancy, 2014

I’m Still Waiting for My Phone to Become My Wallet, New York Times, 2013

Target leverages Facebook to bolster downloads for new mobile deals app, Mobile Commerce Daily, 2013

Slide 39:  The above quote comes from the New York Times paints a rather unwelcoming picture for the bricks and mortar retailer, but it’s not all bad. Mobile has the real potential to strengthen the hands of retailers with a physical presence. A more positive note was recently sung by IBM who have touted buying local as one of the key forecasted trends over the next five years driven by the opportunities of a more digital enriched shopping experience.

eBay’s Strategy for Taking On Amazon, New York Times, 2013

Buying local will beat online, IBM, 2013

MY DIGITAL FOOTPRINT: PINTEREST

This is second post in a series of pieces profiling the different digital tools I’m using to organise information and digitally publish. As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been a heavy user of Delicious for some time.

Whilst Delicious is great for structuring a large pool of information, it is a text driven platform  is not so useful when you are looking for visual inspiration or assets, which is where Pinterest comes in.  I joined the service in 2010, but it’s only been in the last year that I really began using it regularly, using it as an asset bank for presentations and reports.

The service relies on the use of non hierarchical ‘boards’ with no tagging of content, limiting the ability to develop a more detailed taxonomy. This means that I’m now faced  with a constantly expanding number of boards (currently stands at 275), but the sheer simplicity of the system does mean you spend more time adding content and less time managing it.  The process of adding content is made painless by the use of a Chrome extension.

The service limits users to three private boards which ensures that Pinterest users’ efforts are typically shared for one and all, but it  provides a real limitation for projects where privacy is important.

I’ve attempted to try and order the layout the boards on my profile page to better enable retrieving content. This sees different arrays of folders structured within alphabetical sequence,  just don’t expect anything as robust as the Dewey Decimal System or the Library of Congress Subject Headings.

The first array of boards looks largely at tactics (eg Blogging, Personalisation), the second array  looks at marketing campaigns by theme (eg Humour Based Campaigns, Neo-Luddism Based Campaigns), the third array looks at more descriptive material that typically relates to technology (eg Device Usage and Ownership, Demographics), the fourth array looks at different market sectors (eg RetailTelecoms) and the final array is my playground where you’ll find an assortment of material that has caught my mind (eg ColourMan vs Nature, Old FutureRuin Porn).

You will often find indexed pictures/videos in more than one board. An example would be an infographic that looked at wearable computing including Google Glass which you will find  in the Wearable & Wetware  and Enhanced Eyewear boards. Not necessarily the most elegant of solutions, but it works for me.

You’re encouraged to follow, although the rather broad array of content means that you’re probably much better off following a board than the whole stream.

Thought Starters: Content that has got me thinking 6

The following provides a roundup of articles and thought pieces which have got me thinking recently.

It’s over eight months since the launch of the Google Glass Explorer programme and we have some more considered reviews of their use now available. Marco Arment doesn’t so much as review Google Glass as argue that it doesn’t offer any real enhancement beyond that provided by computer internet connectivity and smartphone (although arguably people said the same about tablets when they launched).

Robert Scoble paints a rather negative picture, pointing to shortcomings in the number of apps, user interface, battery life and lack of Facebook functionality among other things.

Mat Honan in Wired strikes a more optimistic tone seeing the form factor as something we’ll see a lot more despite negative reactions on the part of other consumers to Glass wearers and poor quality of third party apps available (although Google Now is described as amazing).

Bitcoin is also a subject area that’s been getting a lot of coverage lately reflecting its soaring value (with the odd wobble) through 2013.

Bitcoin: Price v hype
Bitcoin: Price v hype

Stephen Mihm writing for Bloomberg points to the threat that governments pose to Bitcoin’s viability, pointing to historical examples of where alternative currencies have been shut down by the state.

Brad Delong looks at how competition from Bitcoin alternatives could put an end to the enviable returns for investors as investors jump ship to Namecoin, Litecoin, Peercoin or even Dogecoin.

Chris Dixon provides a rather different perspective, arguing that Bitcoin (and other associated cryptocurrencies) provide an important enabler for digital enterprises, given the brake the payments industry is having on emerging digital practices and models.

Mike Bracken looks at gov.uk project and how responsive digital delivery sees delivery informs policy rather than simply being dictated by it in an agile development environment.

Interesting article from Chester Ng hypothesising what it would be like if Microsoft forked Android which would would provide Microsoft with access to the rich environment of apps that is currently lacking with the Windows Phone.

Craig Mod writing for the New Yorker looks at how advances in smartphones are making most cameras obsolete, particularly as we share photography digitally across our digital networks.

Goodbye, Camera
Goodbye, Camera

Thoughtful essay from Nathan Jurgenson on how disconnecting ourselves won’t lead us to a more authentic self. Taking a more satirical approach is Ethan Kuperberg’s look at deactivating your Facebook account in the New Yorker.

Print publications are facing a hard time with declining readership as people spend more time with their digital screens. Bruce Handy and Dasha Tolstikova look at how print can reposition itself to increase its allure.

Restart the Presses!
Restart the Presses!