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The Next Generation of Apps Will be All About You

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I had a dream last night that I was hiking along a stream with my family.  The same path we’ve hiked and geocached dozens of times. Except this time, Siri’s voice interrupted our hike and asked if we’d like to play a game.

An app I had downloaded came on, and using GPS, our hiking history, and topographical maps of the area, had created a real time obstacle course, complete with the map, times to achieve, and “land mine” rocks to avoid.  The “App” had proactively invaded our routine hike by creating a totally new experience.

When I awoke I wondered if I had read this, or if it was truly a dream. Concluding that it was a dream, I knew the article that helped to “inspire” it, and perhaps, playing a little too much Candy Crush may have lead to the creation of the “land mines”.

Earlier in the week, I had read about fitness apps that, for the first time, were positively impacting behaviors. I thought it was noteworthy because even with time spent on mobile devices continuing to grow, we have not invited them into our lives as an active participant, although my teenager may disagree with me.  In 2013, Gartner reported consumers spent an average of 2 hours and 28 minutes per day on devices (phone and tablet), and 80% of that time spent inside apps.

Apps have been in “ondemand” mode waiting for us to engage. They haven’t been invited “in” because, for the most part, they haven’t been smart enough to provide us with value.  With the era of the “internet of everything” we are entering a new world of connectedness.  With devices able to communicate with each other, and soon apps, is this the beginning of new phase of app development?

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An era that goes beyond the first generation of “dumb” apps, similar to “dumb terminals” of yesteryear, in that they, with a few exceptions, mostly games, are nothing more than version of existing websites that have been optimized for mobile devices.

Next generation “smart” apps will have the potential to become an active part of our lives by tracking, and understanding our unique behaviors and habits, to creative highly personalized recommendations and experiences.  But by 2017, Gartner predicts that mobile apps will have been downloaded more than 268 billion times, and mobile users will provide personalized data streams to more than 100 apps and service every day

Our mobile devices, which many of us carry 24/7, can remember where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and when we did it.  They can listen in on our conversations, as we’ve learned, and can access data we have stored on the device and in the cloud.

As a result, be on the watch for the following in the near future:

  • The emergence of “small data” – the value and functionality of your mobile device will shift from connectivity to data capture and transfer.  In a sense, your phone will act as your own “black box” recording your daily activity, similar to a flight recorder.  Apple and Google have the ability to track activity across devices so that most of your waken hours will be captured.
  • A “listening” mode on your phoneit already exists the difference is that it will be a setting you control (instead of others).  This will add a layer of richness to the data that is already being collected and enable apps to pick their spots to intervene with information, recommendation, etc.
  • Highly personalized experiences - apps will leverage multiple sources of data and with artificial intelligence begin to create experiences and recommendations in real time, much of it designed around our daily lives and routines.
  • Intelligent Ads – yes, someone has to pay for the free apps and advertisers will be at the ready.  As the apps get smarter, so will marketers! Ads will appear at the right time, with relevant offers based on your interest, past buying behavior, and preferences.   Some will be rewards based on certain behaviors, and other offers will incent them.

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Signs of these types of apps are starting to appear.  Apps like the Sleep Cycle alarm clock, that gently wakes you by analyzing your sleep patterns.  Using your iPhone as an accelerometer, Sleep Cycle monitors your movement to determine which sleep phase you are in (see the image on the right). Once learned, the phone alarm then wakes you with soothing sounds in your lightest sleep phase.

Think of the convenience of having an app on your phone listen in on conversations when you’re traveling abroad and translate, in real time, in the dialect of that region.  Or, as in my dream, the value of taking a routine outing and creating a totally new and highly engaging experience.

Of course progress comes with a cost.  Increasing the availability of personal data also increases the threat of those who would like to get their hands on it.  In fact, it will slow the progress of this smart app generation.  That said, we will see improved security built into devices, and hopefully, there will be “an app for that” as well.

The “Stanley Cup” of B2B Social Media

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Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 1.19.54 PMThis time of year, America’s third or fourth (depending on where you live) most popular sport gets its moment in the sun.   The Stanley Cup finals begin this week and the nation’s attention turns to ice, hockey sticks, pucks, and maybe mullets.

For business marketers, the “holy grail,” or in this case the “Stanley Cup,” has been trying to demonstrate the business impact of social media.  Not defined by adoption, usage, or engagement, but by influence.  Proving that social media and/or social networks can influence buyer behavior.   New insight suggests that it might be time to lace up the skates and put on the pads.

Word of mouth (WOM), defined by person-to-person communication be that in person or over the phone, is and has always been the most used, and most influential channel for business buyers.  Sometimes also described and measured as NPS (Net Promoter Score), it is the “Wayne Gretsky” of driving influence among decision makers, both in new acquisition, and for renewal.

Unlike WOM, Social Media has struggled with demonstrating influence.  Adoption and usage rates continue to grow, but the impact on B2B decision makers has been difficult to nearly impossible to measure (btw – this is not unlike other, more established media channels).

That was until now. Research from Buyersphere may give us a clue to how social media may influence decision makers in the near future, and it has given us a couple of “hockey sticks” and a “puck” to play with.

According to Buyersphere’s Annual Survey of B2B Buyer Behavior, even though buyers mention social media (and providers such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin) when asked to rate their usage and the usefulness of channels when searching for vendors, they fall off the grid when asked to evaluate their influence.  As you would expect, word of mouth came out on top.

Diving deeper into the research, it revealed a few game changing findings.  Twenty to thirty year olds (Gen Y), act like no other previous generations.  The first “hockey stick” is somewhat known — twenty-something business buyers are roughly twice as likely to seek information or advice from social media as the generation before them (31-40 year olds).   And almost four times more likely to than the baby boomers (51-60 year olds).

Slide1The second hockey stick, and the one that may end up being somewhat problematic for marketers, is that 49% of Millennials stated that they wanted to create and publish their own professional content.   They not only want your content, but they also want to be able to disassemble it and repackage it with their own point of view.

And finally, the puck to play with is that buyers under 30 are the only group that describe word of mouth as social media first, and then phone or in person.  Close to 50% of Gen Y buyers defined WOM as any social media, in person or phone, mentioned by only 33% of the respondents.  Buyers 40-50 by contrast, define WOM as in person or phone 60% of the time with any social media platform only 23%.

Game On

Marketers most powerful and influential channel is now being redefined, and this presents the best opportunity to date to demonstrate the impact of social media on buyer behavior.  “To skate to where the puck is going to be” as Gresky used to say, we need to plan now.

To define the approach we need to understand the components of “social media” that are often lumped together – social networks and social media.  Social networks refer to the connection among users and their social structure (friend, business acquaintance, etc.).

Social media is defined as the online channel used to generate, access and distribute content.  The distinction is important because of the way different generations of business buyers use and value them.  This is key to unlocking influence.

We know that their social network heavily influences Gen Y, more than any other generation.  We know that half of them want to produce and share their own content, 60% upload content to the web, and 62% rate products and services on the web.

So for Enterprise accounts, where Gen Y is 5-10 years from occupying the C-Suite, take a lesson from McDonalds and “grow your own customers.”  Get Gen Y hooked on your content by involving them in your brand and making your content modular so it’s easy to repackage and share.  The route to influence is through cause marketing efforts delivered via mobile devices.  Thirty-seven percent of Millennials say they are drawn to products with co-branded campaigns.

For small businesses, which Gen Y owns close to 1 out of 3, according to the Executive Council of Small Business (ECSB), the goal should be to make them advocate for your brand, product or services to their network.  To do that, focus on issue resolution, the number one loyalty driver.  For prospects, provide them with information that is useful.

According to the ECSB, the number one pain point for all small business owners is sales and customer acquisition; being twice as prevalent among Gen Y owners.  Specifically, lead generation and successfully competing with other small business owners.  Help them understand how your products and services can help them grow their business.

Even though there is potential for social media to deliver a real, tangible business impact, it will be similar to this championship series.  It’s not going to be quick, expect to lose a game or two along the way, and to be successful you’ll need to take many shots on goal…hell, you may even lose a tooth or get a “shiner.”

5 Mobile Advertising Trends for the Holiday Shopping Season

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Black Friday is like the “annual report” for mobile advertising – a yearly snapshot of how mobile ads are progressing and evolving. The big challenges are perennial – the gap between time spent on mobile and ad dollars allocated, consumer perception of mobile ads as annoying and intrusive, and low click rates. But every Black Friday, innovations and learnings from the past year move the needle on these challenges.

I asked John Shomaker, the CEO of AdJuggler, a digital ad management technology and media services company, for five trends we’re likely to see during this year’s shopping season:

1. Smart, hyper-local mobile campaigns will create a new shopping experience.  Mobile advertisers are figuring out more effective hyper-local, geo-targeting campaigns that reflect the way consumers want to combine in-store shopping with product research on their smartphones. According to Shomaker: “Consumers want to find deals on their mobile devices they can use in physical stores they’re out visiting. Smart mobile advertisers are geo-targeting the perimeter of their physical store locations, and those of their competitors, with ads that offer special in-store promotions. Layer on top of that contextual relevance like keyword targeting and you can serve a product-specific creative that links to a relevant product page and promotion on the store’s mobile website or app, enhancing the in-store experience. The mobile ad and its click-through becomes an extension of the path the user is on; it’s no longer annoying and intrusive.”

2. Behavioral relevance will scale to reach holiday shoppers.                         “Targeting mobile users by behavioral segments, such as those from BlueKai, and executing these campaigns at scale using real-time bidding [RTB] is making us better at being relevant,” according to Shomaker. Pulling in social “likes” and shares and adding those to the audience segmentation model further improve the relevance of behavioral targeting. As mobile ads become less annoying and more relevant, clicks increase, thus creating an empirical basis for more mobile ad spend.

3. Successes are likely to occur in social, local and mobile.                                 John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers coined “SoLoMo,” to predict huge business value as social, local and mobile converge.  Doerr’s view is that on Black Friday, we’re going to see SoLoMo become reality. The Wall Street Journal reported that this past year, P.F. Chang’s “Lunar New Year” promotion saw 1 million people in one hour click, retweet or otherwise interact with a promoted tweet offering dining rewards to users, including those who searched on “Chinese New Year.” Shomaker says: “We saw that 70 percent of the audience response to this SoLoMo campaign was via a mobile device. P.F. Chang immediately shifted the entire campaign budget to mobile.”

4. Consumers will overcome the “fear factor.”                                                           IAB Rising Stars Program keeps user context and teaches audiences that it’s “awesome” to click mobile ads. Users fear the unknown, and this likely plays a role in today’s low response to mobile ads. Will clicking a mobile ad take you out of your app and lose your context? Not so, according to Shomaker. “The ads aren’t designed like that, because no one wants an ad to take them away from the place they want to be. The ‘IAB Rising Star’ ad units will allay those fears.” The Mobile Filmstrip unit, Pull unit, Adhesion Banner, Full-Page Flex unit, and the Slider unit take great care to bring brand assets into the ad rather than requiring a jump outside the app or a loss of context. It also all leverages touch, to keep mobile users engaged and in control.

5. Integration of mobile ads into multichannel campaigns will result in better lift.    It’s widely believed that Black Friday will be a “multichannel holiday” because advertisers have learned to improve lift by integrating smartphone ads, tablet ads, Web, TV, even earned media/owned media/paid media campaigns to improve lift. “This last one is especially worth watching,” states Shomaker. “Display campaigns [i.e., paid media] now can feature a call to action in the social experience – for example, preference sharing or a social game. The interstitial page of the ad links to a social media marketing application, which is located at a deep link within the brand’s Facebook page [owned media]. Users ‘like’ the brand and socially share their preferences with all users in their social graph [earned media].”  

This lift in social sharing, or earned-media lift, has proved important to marketers. The odds of a Facebook fan purchasing something from a brand are 5.3 times higher than for non-fans, according to Forrester Research’s report “The Facebook Factor.”

All told, mobile promises to become a much larger part of the marketing mix this Black Friday. It will also provide a window into how quickly the third screen gets adopted into commerce as a whole. Happy shopping.

How the 2012 Election is Driving Mobile Marketing Innovation

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The 2012 Presidential election will be the most expensive in history.  According to the New York Times the candidates will raise and spend over $1 billion dollars seeking office.  For marketers, this election will yield a windfall of new ideas.  Political campaigns are to marketing innovation what big defense budgets are to technology innovation.

2012 Campaign Spend

As the result of massive advertising budgets, high adoption rates of social media and penetration of smartphones, expect to see groundbreaking innovation in mobile advertising.

Areas to watch:

  • Hyper-local targeting – the Obama campaign team has developed an app that links a Google map to the neighborhood volunteers are working.  The map contains blue flags at homes to be knocked, including scripts for approaching individual voters.

  • Mobile geo targeting – during a concert in Grant Park in Chicago the Romney team placed display ads on smartphones of those concertgoers and others in the vicinity.  In TIME magazine recent The Wireless Edition, Patrick Ruffani, the Republican digital consultant said; “We weren’t paying for the entire city.”
  • Mobile payments – the Obama team developed a new program called “Quick Donate.”  Supporters can contribute repeat donations by sending the number of dollars they want to donate via a text message.
  • Social Sharing – Romney’s With Mitt app allows supports to choose from a number of “With Mitt” templates to upload a photo from their phones and quickly share it on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Real time data – both camps have apps to enable volunteers to report real time activities and interactions with voters.  Vote Builder, the democratic voter database, ensures that no two people are sent to the same address.  If a volunteer wants to canvass an area, they can click to download a list of households in their general radius.  Phones prompt volunteers to report back their results so that future campaign communications, like DM, can be targeted.
  • Engagement - Romney’s campaign team captured valuable information from supporters who downloaded the Mitt’s VP app.  The app promised to inform supporters “first” about the vice president pick.  Unfortunately, the news media beat them to it, but it will allow Romney’s team to push notifications throughout the campaign to supporter’s smartphones.

With less than 10 weeks remaining in a tightly contested election expect more innovations to come.  With over 160 million Americans on Facebook and 53% of mobile phone owners having smartphones today, mobile digital campaigning is changing the way political strategists are engaging audiences and investing advertising dollars.

For marketers, it’s mobile marketing R&D that we could never afford, and will bear fruit for new ideas and campaigns for years to come.  Regardless of who wins the election, the real winners from this year’s campaign will be the folks without the billion dollar-marketing budget.