Category Archives: Mobile

Connectivity’s Matt Booth: SMB Marketing Automation ‘Unfolding Like B2B’

As marketing automation platforms have become more efficient, we’ve seen them being increasingly used by SMBs and multi-location merchants to localize advertising, leads management and promotions with listings, reviews and Websites.

One such platform is provided by Connectivity, which handles presence management for enterprise and franchise groups such as Sky Zone, Pie Five Pizza and Grocery Outlet, as well as “thousands” of SMBs. The 40-person, Burbank-based company was founded in 2005 by IAC/CItyGrid/CItysearch alums Emad Fanous and Erron Silverstein as Yellowbot, a Yelp-like review site/directory. In 2014, the company made a sharp turn towards marketing automation, coinciding with the arrival of my former Kelsey colleague Matt Booth as CEO.

Booth tells me that marketing automation in the B2C space is unfolding in the same manner as B2B companies like HubSpot did several years ago. Basically, there is a central repository of information, and a marketing automation platform that allows businesses to manage their workflow and interact with customers in different ways.

The marketing automation space, of course, has become very competitive. “Many companies have seen the same trends as us,” said Booth. It is “the quality and robustness” of the database that will give companies a leg up, he noted.

To this end, Connectivity has focused especially hard on “very specific vertical segmentation.” It also incorporates calling data. All of it supports the company’s new “Customer Insights” intelligence platform, which automatically creates customer lists using call data and emails sent to businesses. Customer Insights also generates a detailed demographic profile on each lead or customer.

JK Volvo Specialists in Pasadena, for instance, did not previously have an ability to market to its customer base because data was locked into invoicing software that lacked marketing abilities. After using Connectivity’s Customer Insights for a month, the platform built more than 300 customer profiles from incoming call logs. Three months later, more than 2,400 profiles were built including phone numbers extracted from the business’s invoicing software.

Connectivity CEO Matt Booth

Milking the Big Data Around Local Events

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No one has really been able to build much of a business around “events.” While Zvents, Eventful, GoldStar and others have built great, increasingly granular databases of events, business models have never really been developed to leverage that data.

What if the focus was on the meta data around an events database? With mobile based geolocation and wallet information, that’s the quest for Gravy, a northern Virginia company founded in 2011 that has won investments from Gannett and others.

Gravy’s thesis: consumers reveal a great deal about their behavior and psychographics in in their search for events –and that marketers generally don’t leverage event searches.

CEO and Founder Jeff White told us that Gravy never thought of itself as an events discovery platform. “We didn’t want to get into the crowded ocean of events,” he said. But Gravy is set up to capture everything associated with an events search, from points of interest to very precise times of their location and activity.

“This is for the real world,” added White. “It is no different than a Web cookie in the Web world. Sometimes, you are understanding competitive locations. Other times, you are understanding the interests and behaviors of your most loyal customers.”

“Marriott wants to understand when customers are going to competitive properties,” said White. “Wal-Mart wants to understand yoga apparel. Sirius XM wants to market a country music channel to people who have attended country events.”

Gravy, of course, doesn’t have these types of insights to itself. It faces off against a host of Big Data, mapping and mobile search companies that are also providing consumer insights (Ground Signal provides similar insights with its location based data). But what Gravy does have is an integrated offering with the Gannett papers and websites, and other partners.

My Podcast Predictions for 2016: I’m on ‘The Digital CMO with Mike Orren’

Can the daily deals model recover? Will beacons be big in retail? Why is the home services space set to soar? How will custom deals be more sophisticated in the new year? And how can marketers decide which “unicorns” to bet on and which to ignore?

Speakeasy CEO and social and hyperlocal media pioneer Mike Orren interviews me — The Local Onliner — about what’s happening in local and media in 2016 for his new show, The Digital CMO. It runs about 34 minutes….Here’s the podcast link.

SIM Partners’ 3 Cs for Boosting Listings in a Mobile Era: Configuration, Compliance, Conversion

The evolution of the listings business from basic name and address information to one that is a prime generator of leads, targeting and business intelligence is something we’ve watched closely over the past several years. The big listings companies – InfoGroup, Acxiom, Neustar’s Localeze and Factual — have all repositioned themselves for the mobile era, enabling brands and retailers to act on social media activity and location data.

With all the new features added in, however, they don’t have the business to themselves. Yext, Brandify (formerly Where2GetIt), Placeable and Rio have all sought to carve out their own niches in what we used to call “localization.” Another player is SIM Partners, a 75 person SaaS player that has evolved from its roots as a digital agency. The company has just reinforced its efforts via its acquisition of Sycara Local, which helps companies highlight data strategies for local search.

Last week, I had a wide ranging discussion about these macro trends with SIM CEO Jon Schepke, CMO Tari Haro and VP of Product Gib Olander. In their view, listings still anchor everything for the industry. But with mobile exploding and “Near Me” searches doubling in the last year alone, the SIM execs think it is all about scaling and enhancing that data ad content. Successful companies in the space will focus on supporting what SIM believes are the three Cs of listings: “Configuration,” “Compliance” and “Conversion.”

To get there, SIM has launched Velocity, a local marketing automation platform, which includes location data management, publishing, data analytics and other data amplifiers. SIM reports that brands that increased their “listing health” score by 20 percent saw traffic to their location pages increase up to 450 percent and on-page action conversion rates increase by 216 percent.

What’s next for 2016? For many proximity marketing players, the focus will be on implementing wireless beacons. These recognize users and analyze their behavior at specific stores. But SIM is putting its weight more broadly behind a mobile wallet solution. Arguing that beacons will have limited capabilities and deployment, SIM hopes to close the loop for its retailers and brands with the wallet.

Wallets can store and redeeem location-sensitive promotions, in addition to providing consumers with one stop access to reviews and other social media. In tests conducted earlier this year, 30 percent of consumers clicked on promotions and saved them to their wallets.

Prior versions of wallets (Apple Passbook, Google Wallet etc.) haven’t been well used by retailers or consumers, beyond boarding passes. But with so much emphasis on using mobile tools, SIM is convinced there will be a near-term break-through.

The Local Angle to Virtual Reality: NYT Launches with Google Cardboard

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What is the role of virtual reality as a local or vertical marketing channel? It’s an important question for the industry.

What we know is that 360 degree video and other precursor technologies are now being applied for local verticals such as real estate, auto, retail and travel. It is fairly commonplace to get a view of new car interiors by mousing over them. But as processing capabilities improve, video costs decline, hardware production scales, and major companies invest, we’ll see full blown virtual reality being presented as a brand new channel for locally targeted brands. There may also be applications by local governments and others.

We also know that interest levels and industry investment levels in VR are high. A report that includes a consumer survey and industry analysis from Greenlight VR, a new VR consulting firm I am advising, shows that VR has high awareness among men and women (but especially men); there is high interest in VR among all age groups (but especially Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X); and consumers anticipate using VR for a wide range of activities, including gaming, travel, entertainment and training.

In anticipation of a breakthrough, companies such as Facebook, Google, Sony, Samsung, VG and Mattel have invested billions of dollars. In fact, Greenlight VR reports there are 160 U.S VR companies now, up from 120 in 2014. But it’s still a greenfield opportunity with no clear leaders at this point. On the processing front, we’ve also seen major support from Intel, NVIDIA and AMD.

Media companies are just beginning to weigh in as well, seeing a potential growth avenue and, possibly, a new way into video. This weekend, The New York Times launched its NYT VR app for iOS and Android, and delivered free Google Cardboard viewers (each normally priced at $24.95) to nearly 1.15 million Sunday print subscribers.

The inaugural VR programming on the Times app – a Mini Cooper promo and a moving, 10 minute warzone documentary produced with VRSE, a VR storytelling firm — was shot with multiple cameras and let consumers take a 360 degree view of various landscapes with studio quality sound (if using headphones.)

Relying on the inexpensive, Viewmaster-like Google Cardboard reader rather than high end computing platforms (expected to cost $300+,) the NYT programs aren’t offering much more than a self-directed, 360 degree view. You won’t see head tracking tech with this.

But it gets the app and reader into the hands of its early adopter, high-end readership. Its importance can’t be under-estimated. To us, it is a major step for both the NYT and Google, as they strive in their own ways to be immersive, comprehensive media and commerce providers. One wonders how a CBS or ABC affiliate, or a local newspaper, will compete against a Google, Facebook and/or NYT that offers virtual reality options, video, listings, commerce, social media and other open loop/closed loop channels.

Fast Company profiled Greenlight VR’s new report. Here is the link to Greenlight’s purchase page.

From Wired Goodness

Money2020: Payments and The Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things is all about connectivity; it is especially conducive to the world of payments. Branching out from prepaid information on transit cards (i.e. London’s Oyster Card), financial entities have sought to add efficiency, security, reliability and safety to micropayments via Internet of Things tech.

At Money2020 in Las Vegas this week, the demos were alive with iOT. MasterCard and Visa, especially, showcased a wide range of truly useful applications.

Over at MasterCard, contactless card gas pumps, vending machines and coinless washer/dryer machines were highlighted. Regarding the latter, a member of MasterCard’s St. Louis based labs unit noted they had done their homework, interviewing multi-unit apartment owners, who have found it a costly burden to collect coins from machines, prevent coin box break-ins and know when they were needing repair.

Gas pumps, meanwhile – a mainstay of Digital Out of Home applications – were not only seen as logical candidates for contactless payments, but also to manage loyalty points and print out targeted offers to mobile phones. (yes, DooH is made old hat by iOT.) Excentus’ Fuel Rewards – a loyalty program — is a likely beneficiary of such efforts. In 36 months, Fuel Rewards has attracted six million members, who made 22 million transactions.

Visa’s demo highlighted contactless cars, vending machines and coffee stands. Key to the latter: payments were made by contactlessly waving a hand under a scanner. The unique hand data (finger prints etc.) is suggested as a superior alternative to thumb ID. It isn’t seamless, yet. My large hands required several do-overs to get them properly filed. Eye scanners from Eye Verify that measure the whites of your eyes and retinas were also highlighted at the show.

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Money2020: The Payment Leaders and Their Itch to Get into Marketplaces

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The march towards a new generation of marketplaces was clearly in evidence this week in Las Vegas, as the 4th edition of Money2020 attracted a huge, 10,000+ person ecosystem of financial players that all want a piece of the new world of marketing, commerce and logistics.

In the new era, marked by mobile-based services, Uber and Apple Pay have shown the way for new payment processes: the former by tying together geolocation and an e wallet; the latter by signing up thousands of merchants to accept simplified payments on iPhones.

These companies plus Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Groupon, eBay, Twitter, Living Social and Foursquare have been among the dotcom and tech giants exploring the utilization of payments as part of a new breed of “transaction marketing.” Loyalty based plays such as Cardlytics, Edo Interactive, FiveStars, Belly and MOGL are also vying for a piece of the action.

What can be said is that everyone is evolving towards becoming some type of marketing integrators or platform. And services that are geared towards millennials need to get there quicker: millennials won’t do anything that isn’t geared around their phones.

Behind the scenes, billing and payment tech has actually been underpinning advances in business and social processes and lifestyles for generations – perhaps, in modern time, since Amex transformed from a pony express delivery company to a traveler’s cheque company. As recently as the 1980s, we saw how MCI’s revolutionary Friends and Family plan transformed MCI into a long distance giant.

The new generation of mobile-based, wallet-oriented payment services — combined with Internet of Things connectivity and biorhythm user authentication — will be triggering on demand services, promotions, loyalty, credit, loans, delivery/pickup, social media/reviews and back office features such as payroll.

As a show, Money2020’s growth has been spectacular. But in its 4th year, some wondered whether the Money2020 ecosystem has grown too fast too soon, and that “winter is coming” after a year that culminated in the launch of Apple Pay; the expected rollout of two IPOs; and major buy-ins from the dot com giants.

In truth, the industry’s not an overnight success – and the technology still needs to catch up (i.e. phone batteries that can stay powered up). Apple Pay and other mobile payment services have had modest growth in actual usage; First Data’s IPO was smaller than expected; and the loyalty programs have had trouble scaling merchants. In fact, there is real pessimism about Square’s upcoming IPS; and there’s been some retreat by the dotcoms, many of whom have realized that their role is less in banking and payments than in big data and marketing analytics.

Bain Capital Ventures Managing Director Matt Harris noted that all this talk of the “winter” amount to “nothing.” The opportunities are as rich as they’ve ever been conceived, he said.

In fact, everyone should hurry to assume their parts in the ecosystem. All the trends point to 2016 as the mobile payment industry’s probable tipping point. eMarketer’s Bryan Yeager suggests that mobile payments will grow 3x over 2015 – from $8.7 billion to $27.1 billion.

Banks, of course, are widely assumed to be the most vulnerable to disruption in the new environment. But at Money2020, they showed that they plan to fight back, while leveraging an enormous volume of customers that give them a headstart. Chase, for instance, has 94 million debit/credit card accounts. CEO Gordon Smith, in a keynote, said he’ll be able to preload all these accounts by mid -2016 with Chase Pay: a comprehensive new platform that lets customers pay for goods in store, online, over the air, or with a camera in app.

Capital One, similarly, has come out with Spark Business, a new SMB platform that takes an agnostic approach towards single source banking as it builds in analytic services, management features such as accountings, payroll and benefits. “Banks (only) solve banking problems,” noted Cap One’s Keri Gohman, head of Capital One’s Small Business Bank. “They aren’t developing for SMBs, they are going up from consumers, or down from corporate.” The new platform is “more powerful for adding more connections and partners,” she said.

The POS leaders also intend to fight back against the new breed of cloud-based providers. They’ll leverage their existing customer base – VeriFone, for instance, has 90,000 taxi and gas station screens around the world. Taxi passengers in Las Vegas, for instance, can opt to pay $3 to make a credit card payment, and receive local promotions at the same time.

But VeriFone will also work to add new capabilities, and open app stores that give them a new revenue stream for every kind of service. Its rivals in the POS terminal business – namely First Data’s Clover and Poynt – are also building App stores.

“The industry is on the cusp of something historic,” noted PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, who notes that PayPal has 107 million account holders around the world. “We can take basic transactions and make them faster, easier, more secure and most importantly, less expensive. We can truly democratize money. (We can) rethink what financial services can be in world of mobile and software. It is not (just) about tapping a phone or swiping a card. It is much more profound than that.”