Category Archives: Mobile

LevelUp Banks on Smart Watch Adoption for Payments

Phone-based digital payments haven’t really taken off – in part, because they aren’t much easier to use than credit/debt cards. You’ve still got to take them out of your pocket.
The notable exception is the phenomenon of My Starbucks Rewards loyalty program, which now has 10 million Starbucks customers actively using the mobile app, twice the number of a year ago.

But if “wearables” take off – i.e. smart watches and to a lesser extent, glasses – there could be rapid growth. In fact, payments are the most practical smartwatch feature (aside from telling the time.)

LevelUp leader Seth Priebatsch told Marketwatch that has always been his vision. The company currently provides an Android app, which automatically asks users if they’d like to pay by using the App when they are near favorite merchants.

“What we really always dreamed of was being the largest smartwatch payment network,” said Priebatsch, noting that LevelUp already claims 1.5 million smart phone users, who can pay at 14,000 locations. With wearables, the sky is the limit (perhaps).

Seth Preibatsch talks with Mark Fratrik at a recent BIA/Kelsey conference

Twitter Acquires CardSpring; Enters SMB Loyalty and Data Space

Twitter has made a bold move to go beyond advertising by adding performance marketing to its portfolio via the purchase of CardSpring, the San Francisco-based startup. The acquisition price has not been announced. CardSpring had raised $10 Million since its launch in 2011.

One of the big tech challenges in the payments space has been to remake the credit/debit card to a “digital receipt” product that can not only process sales, but also leverage specific SKU information, location and customer behavior to add coupons, loyalty points, events and other ewallet items. That’s the challenge that Netscape Vet Eckart Walther gave himself several years ago in launching CardSpring. The company has been positioned as a value add – some would say “middle man” — to both financial institutions and publishers providing marketing solutions for brands and SMBs.

CardSpring’s ambitious goal has been to enable merchants to write their own promotions; distribute them over CardSpring’s publisher network; and redeem and analyze the deal on their Point of Sales. The service’s “near” real-time analytics can show merchants where their redeemed promotions are coming from and what they bought.

CardSpring first got on the map via a 2012 partnership with payments leader First Data to provide check-in promotions at certain venues. More recently, it has also begun integrating with VeriFone’s POS network to enable developers to build their own card-linked services.

The launch of CardSpring Connect in September, 2013 – described as “Google Analytics for the retail world” was a milestone for the company. Foursquare and MOGL are among the most significant publishers providing CardSpring Connect to at least some of their merchant advertisers. Others include Thanx, Roximity, Moblico and OnStripe.

Twitter’s acquisition of CardSpring makes sense to us as Twitter positions itself as a real time marketing channel, and also a “common carrier” that can work widely across the board with key players in the space. This is consistent with CardSpring’s general positioning. The sale of CardSpring itself also suggests that it has been a difficult effort for an independent company to enlist partners to a middle man solution. It has also been difficult to differentiate itself among several other players providing similar features.

BIA/Kelsey looks deep at the SMB Loyalty and Data Space at Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing Sept. 22-24 in New Orleans, with such featured speakers as Groupon’s Dan Roarty, Perka’s Rob Bethge and Mercury Payment’s Randy Clark. You can register here.

Booker Launches Mobile Apps for SMBs

Scheduling/booking is coming into its own as a key feature for SMBs, as more and more businesses tie their marketing and promotions to open slots in their schedule.

Key companies in the space include Full Slate (recently acquired by Intuit,) ReachLocal’s ReachCommerce, Groupon Scheduler, Agendize, Moon Valley Software, GenBook, Schedulicity, Maxipage and Hakema (in Europe). Another company, MyTime, was founded by RedBeacon founder Ethan Anderson and is an aggregator of scheduled appointments.

Another major player in the space is Booker, which has raised $42 Million. While focused on the beauty, health and wellness space, it also works with a wide range of national-local players.

Booker announced today a mobile app partnership with Como (formerly Conduit Mobile) to take scheduling beyond the desktop. The app takes less than 15 seconds for SMBs to create.

Mobile apps make a lot of sense in this context. A customer might make 12 appointments per year for cut and color treatments at a salon. For such a customer, a dedicated App — perhaps tied to a loyalty program — coule be especially useful. The same may not always be true for “discovery” segments such as restaurants and retail, which may be better aggregated in directories such as Yelp, Google, OpenTable or YP. Customers may also prefer booking an appointment directly with the SMB, rather than going through a directory site — or at least, this is what Booker is banking on.

Booker CEO Josh McCarter is a featured speaker at BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing, which takes place Sept. 22-24 in New Orleans. You may register here.

UBL, MomentFeed Partner to Leverage ‘National Local’

In the mobile era, listings are increasingly useless without context. Businesses need to be found via LAT/Long; and they need to shape their business identity using all the tools at their disposal. In recent years, it has gotten even more complex with the addition of social media, content marketing and other channels.

No one has emphasized these realities more than UBL CEO Doyal Bryant. Hence UBL’s newly announced global partnership with MomentFeed, a provider of a digital marketing platform that connects brands and consumers at the local level for top brands ranging from 7-Eleven and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to JCPenney and The Home Depot.

Together, UBL and MomentFeed are seeking to establish a new mobile social anchor for business search and discovery. Besides the Enterprise customers both companies are working together on, they will be working with UBL’s SMB channels to integrate social media with its presence and profile management.

BIA/Kelsey talked this week with UBL CEO Doyal Bryant and MomentFeed CEO Robert Blatt to get their perspective on why this partnership will be compelling.

“When we began (several years ago), it was all about the website,” said Bryant, who noted he has already sent “thousands” of customers to MomentFeed. “You built a profile and focused on being found and having it all sync correctly. But it’s changed due to what is happening with social media and fragmentation.” The change has become “core to the business,” he said.

MomentFeed’s Blatt seconded the thought. It is amazing how much we have moved from the search paradigm of 18-24 months ago,” noted Blatt. “Now search has moved to mobile devices. It has moved off the browser onto the App.”

“Your top priority is suddenly claiming your Google Plus page, and making sure the Facebook Local Page is running, and that there is a place page for each location on your website,” said Blatt. “And that there is accurate and engaging content and interaction for all three places between suppliers and retailers at both the national and local level. That’s the future of digital shop and marketing.”

Blatt feels that MomentFeed’s partnership with UBL allows businesses to get the best of both worlds. They can help businesses “do the job” on Facebook, Google, Foursquare, Instagram, Twitter, Yelp (and soon, Bing), as well as the multitude of listing networks that are often vertical market specific, such as restaurants and travel.

Looking forward, the focus will be on the engagement piece. MomentFeed has taken a lead in turning Instagram into media, for instance. “We let businesses do it, curate it, and then send a follow-up letter,” he said.

Tracking business results via analytics will also be key. It all leads to a linkage between marketing activity and business results, said Blatt. The company will correlate the marketing activity around a location with the revenue and foot traffic at that location.

DataSphere: Opportunity in Mobile Advertising for SMBs

The times are a changin’ when it comes to SMB customer acquisition. Non-traditional options – including the use of social media, mobile targeting and promotional calls to action – provide opportunities for SMBs looking to take advantage of shifts in consumer behavior.

Few companies have been as energetic in capturing this shift as much as Seattle-based DataSphere, which has quietly amassed 20,000 SMB accounts, making it one of the largest SMB marketing platforms.

Changing with the times, DataSphere is moving its focus away from buying ad space on local Websites. Instead, it has developed a set of services based on mobile ad networks, which can target customers on a geotargeted and just-in-time basis.

The company is also focusing on LocalSaver.com, a coupon portal; and the LocalSaver Network, a distribution network. LocalSaver goes beyond coupons to provide SMBs with enhanced features such as landing pages, updated listings designed to maximize consumer engagement and video. (DataSphere has built videos for 90 percent of its customers.)

The rise in mobile usage, in particular, has led to a major boost in SMBs’ use of geotargeting – and in the availability of geotargeted ad exchange inventory. Seventy percent of LocalSaver traffic is now lat/long enabled, says SVP Gary Cowan.

This is an edited excerpt of a new BIA/Kelsey client brief, “DataSphere: Leveraging Mobile Advertising and Changing Course with 20,000 SMBs.”

Local’s New Year: Some Thoughts and Predictions

Over the years, we’ve seen some major paradigm shifts in the transition of local marketing to digital. In 2003, it was the rise of Google search as applied to small business –to this day, the biggest thing that ever happened to local. In 2007, the paradigm shift was the rise of Groupon and prepaid deals as a way to drive customer acquisition. This opened the door for all kinds of non-advertising marketing, from Facebook and Twitter to Card Linked Offers.

Right now, mobile is THE paradigm shift – both as a media channel, and as a geolocation device (Mobile hasn’t been a factor yet as an ewallet. But that is sure to come, with a whole new set of implications.)

Nothing happens in 12 month cycles, but this is what I see happening in 2014:

Hyperlocal Fails to Win Destination Status, Gets a Better Life as Feature
Hyperlocal seems so compelling; contextual content that can draw users who can be microtargeted on a block by block basis. But on a super hyper local basis, it hasn’t scaled as a business model or as a compelling destination site. AOL’s Patch is reported to be winding up as an independent entity, and National Local hybrids such as Examiner.com haven’t made an impact either. The one remaining super hyperlocal site is Next Door Networks, which has raised a $100 Million war chest. The site is based on user generated content and local cells of 30+ users. It is a much cheaper model than Patch’s local staff. But will it win sustained participation from users? My bet is that it won’t. But does that mean that hyperlocal is dead? In fact, hyperlocal is everywhere – in reviews, posts, articles, maps and enhanced listings. Its use is sure to grow.

The Sharing Economy Spawns Multiple Vertical Sites
One of the big local breakthroughs has been the development of shared listing sites for apartments (Airbnb), vacation rentals (BRBO) and rides (Uber). In 2014, we expect to see shared listings become more ubiquitous, with multiple entries per verticals, and the addition of many more verticals. We also expect to see an entire ecosystem grow around these sites. As AirBnB’s Joe Zadeh noted at Interactive Local Media in San Francisco, solutions are being added based on need. For instance, Airbnb has developed a freelance photographer program because hosts need good pictures of their apartments.

Social’s Impact In Local Is Too Fragmented, But Dedicated Word of Mouth Sites Make a Dent
Social leaders like Facebook and Google+ have tremendous volume at the local level. Facebook, alone, has over one million SMB advertisers. But its local usage is so fragmented that local can’t be a real focus at the vertical level. Review-based sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List get closer to the mark, and have broadened their reach beyond restaurants and service professionals, respectively. But they leave plenty of room for smaller Word of Mouth sites that can specialize in certain sectors (i.e. Plumbers) and really dig in. Look for some of the industry’s most innovative leaders try to break through with new models in 2014, including Justin Sanger with SupportLocal; Gib Olander with Local Viewpoints; and Matthew Berk with Lucky Oyster.

‘Big Data’ and Non-Advertising Marketing Boost Local Leads
The ability to base marketing on user engagement and behavior is a fantastic opportunity. Big data, specifically, mixes and matches various data bases to determine the likelihood of engagement. It has been successfully applied to support advertising campaigns. But can users be targeted as a substitute for advertising budgets? And looking forward, can transaction activity, store inventories and user location be wedded to search behavior as part of e big data? This is a greenfield opportunity in all respects. What we are looking for is the transformation of retail email and social lists to leads and promotions. Look for big data players such as Radius Intelligence, Retailigence, xAd, Urban Mapping and LocalBlox to showcase new opportunities in leads and geotargeting.

The Hunger for ‘Attribution’ Drives Big Data and Transaction Marketing
One of the biggest problems for local marketers is proving attribution – especially as users effortlessly move from a banquet of “spreadable media” – everything from articles to email to social media posts to YouTube. It is another reason we are keen on transactional media and loyalty media – the receipts say it all. Look for the gatekeepers of transaction media and loyalty marketing–everyone from Living Social to First Data, Bank of America, MasterCard, Amex , Google Wallet, PayPal and Square – to edge their way into consumer marketing.

Online Shopping Goes Local via Delivery
Interactive Local Media has largely been defined by tech factors, such as geofencing . But the growing use of online by commerce giants such as WalMart, The Home Depot, Amazon and eBay; their development of regional warehouses and delivery networks; and use of Facebook Connect-like one stop shopping suggests a new front in the war for local commerce. The imposition of local sales taxes also suggests a level playing field with local businesses. eBay’s purchase in 2013 of the Shutl courier service, and its expansion to multiple markets, really showed where this might lead.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for reading and being part of the local community.

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