Category Archives: Mobile

Kilponen: SMB Retailers Need to Focus on Foot Traffic Drivers

What should SMB retailers do to level the playing field with larger regional and national retailers? There are no easy answers, but they should really focus on mobile and geo location targeting, says Wanderful Media COO Doug Kilponen. Search has major limitations for them.

“In the old days, you could create free traffic from Google and the like. But SEO is dead for small retailers,” says Kilponen, previously CMO at Merchant Circle. “It’s been taken up by the Amazons and Google of the world. If you do a search term on products, it is a black hole. You can rarely find a way out.”

Mobile, however, represents “new opportunity “ for SMBs — albeit one that is misunderstood. “For small retailers, it is still about foot traffic,” says Kilponen. That means they should tap into location based services; engage local friends via social media; post products in certain categories; and target uses via promotions. Mobile SMB platforms such as Wanderful’s Find&Save Storefront provides “a stronger ROI than what we’ve seen in search,” he adds.

Kilponen is speaking on SMB retail at Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing Sept. 22-24 in New Orleans. You can register here.

Watch Out AAA: Urgent.ly Goes Uber, Takes on Roadside Assistance

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“Uber-ification” has been extended to many local segments, including hotels, restaurant reservations and promotions. How about roadside assistance?

Asserting that AAA and other roadside assistance services have outdated economic models and technology, local media and commerce vet Chris Spanos (AOL, Repair.com and Seniorchecked.com ) is leading a team launching Urgent.ly. The Washington D.C.- area company, which provides flat-rate repair truck assistance rather than charging annual insurance-like fees (i.e. $99), has done hundreds of service calls and is set to go nationwide. It completed its seed round of funding in March 2014, and is in the process of closing a larger, pre-series A round.

Like Uber, Urgent.ly has a free iOS App that contains a motorist profile and credit card information. Customers can easily tap their phones for a repair truck, and a live map lets them see where the trucks are at all times in the process. An additional feature is “FamilyView,” which allows drivers to link their app to a driving-age child, spouse or parent.

Spanos says 53 million customers are currently paying $70 to $130 for annual access to AAA, but most under-use use the services. The more serious issue with AAA is that customers often have to wait too long for a tow — some don’t get served within AAA’s 90 minute window. The problem? AAA only pays tow truck companies $20-25 and they have real mileage restrictions. The low payments mean that tow truck drivers will always give preference to cash calls from non AAA members. Urgent.ly’s on demand pricing takes care of that, says Spanos.

He also notes that people use AAA for a variety of services, of course, such as discounts to Amtrak, hotels, stores, and entertainment venues. “We may put in promotional discounts for auto-related services” at some point, Spanos notes. The key, however, is better transparency. “Transparency is the future of roadside,” he says.

Urgently Consumer Web App

First Data Bets on Virtual Gift Cards to Drive Local Commerce

Gift cards have been growing astronomically and now make up an industry nearing $100 billion in revenues. You’ll see racks of cards for national brands and retailers everywhere, from Safeway to Bed, Bath & Beyond.

But can local merchants get in the loop? We’ve seen gift card activity increase in travel, spa & salon and hospitality. Most of these are sold in person or on web sites.

And a second question: can they go virtual, with gift cards stored in e-wallets and easily bought, sold and transacted via mobile phone? While the industry is relatively nascent, Mercator Advisory Group says loads onto digital cards have tripled from 2012 to 2014.

That’s the bet that payment processing giant First Data is making today via the acquisition of Gyft, a Silicon Valley ewallet provider that has contracts with 200 major retailers.

First Data is hoping to extend its own prepaid ties with over 300 national retailers, while also working with SMBs who use its Clover touchscreen POS solution. Its Perka loyalty program customers may also be recruited.

Not everyone thinks they can easily move into Gift cards, however. Facebook, today, announced that it was shutting down its virtual gift card service – apparently, it sees other avenues for getting into ecommerce, such as buy buttons, as more immediate and customer-centric.

Perka co-founder Rob Bethge is a featured speaker at BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing conference Sept. 22-24 in New Orleans. Check out the full agenda here. Prices go up after July 31.

Wanderful Media Targets SMB Retailers With ‘Find&Save Storefront’

When it comes to search, promotion, customer engagement and just getting found, the challenge for smaller retailers is to level the playing field with larger players (i.e. Macy’s, Kohl’s, Sears). That’s the idea behind Wanderful Media‘s new Find&Save Storefront, an App that allows SMB retailers to promote sales goods, seasonal collections and other items. Several hundred retailers have downloaded the App, which is in soft launch in several test markets. A major launch is planned for October.

The Storefront is an extension of Wanderful Media’s current mission with its Find&Save brand, which currently focuses on large retailer and brand sales “circular” information, which are distributed to about 500 newspaper sites around the U.S. on FindnSave.com and apps for iOS and Android devices.

The new effort marks the second time that Wanderful has tried to serve SMB retailers. Earlier iterations of Find&Save included ads from SMB stores. These were removed from the site’s relaunch in April 2013, however, because they were not really on par, aesthetically, with the larger retailer ads.

The Storefront App, which we found easy to use, enables SMBs to automatically claim locations by their phone number. Once their site and location have been claimed, they can tie geo-sensitive promotional offers or other verbiage to pictures of items they can take with a smart phone. SMB retailers can create as many offers or sales events as they want.

Find&Save Storefront is free to download and use, except for an “Evergreen credit” feature, which enables retailers to promote products beyond the 30 day free period for 99 cents each. Other premium products will also likely be introduced. Features that are being used for Storefront may also be borrowed for other Wanderful apps, such as its sophisticated dashboards for the business and its local peers.

VP of Product Grace Chan told us that Wanderful is poised to serve consumers and three distinct customer groups: “national retailers,” “regional retailers” and local “SMB retailers.” The SMB portion is especially relevant to the company because it has local sales forces set to hit the streets via its local newspaper affiliates.

At the same time, however, Chan notes that SMB needs “may not be exactly the same” as those of regional and national retailers and brands. Local business owners, for instance, pay less attention to brand exposure. They mostly want to drive traffic to the store. They may be less interested in issuing coupons or discounts on a constant basis.

“These merchants like to make ‘offers’ to drive store traffic, not coupons,” said Chan. Or they might simply use the site to introduce a new collection of clothes, or focus on clearance goods. “‘Coupons’ make them think they are leaving money on the table,” she says.

Placing items on the App also takes some planning on the part of SMB retailers. It takes just eight seconds to build an offer, says Chan, but many SMBs aren’t ready to sit down and do that. That’s an area that requires more attention from SMBs, she says.

Wanderful Media COO Doug Kilponen is a featured speaker at BIA/Kelsey’s SMB Digital Marketing conference Sept. 22-24 in New Orleans. You may register here.

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.