Category Archives: Mobile

Scoutmob: Adding Loyalty and other ‘Non Push’ Tools to the Deals Mix

Scoutmob, the Atlanta-based, mobile deals provider, has been taking a fresh approach to the deals space since its launch. It has focused entirely on mobile to leverage geo-location; changed the business model from commissions on deal value to flat fee; and hired dedicated sales and editorial people in each of its 13 markets instead of relying on centralized resources.

The company’s s innovative efforts continue. It recently rolled out Shoppe, an Etsy-like arts feature that lets local artists sell their goods. Over the next couple of weeks, it is unveiling its next moves, including a pilot test of the First Data/CardSpring “OfferWise” loyalty program; and integration with Google Lab’s Field Trip.

The entire deals space – including Scoutmob — suffered a major slow down in growth in 2012 after some slowness in 2011, suggests co-founder Michael Tavani. Hence, a strategic decision instead to stay put where it was, rather than add new markets, and focus on new distribution methods, new revenue streams and features.

Next week, the company will, for instance, roll out the Offer Wise pilot program in Atlanta with a limited number of merchants and consumers. The program, dubbed “Local Loyalty,” lets users receive loyalty points every time they check out of a participating merchants with an acqusition.

The points accumulate network-wide, instead of being limited to individual merchants. Users typically receive a reward on the 10th checkout. Merchants will pay a small monthly fee per redemption, and are being solicited via their affiliation with First Data, the processing giant which handles over 50 percent of U.S. transactions.

The company’s other major initiative is an integration with Google’s FieldTrip, an Android-only App (at this point) which reveals things to do on a mobile maps as users go by them. FieldTrip, which was developed by Google Maps leader John Hanke as an independent effort, launched last October.

Tavani says that inclusion on Field Trip is part of a broader effort to get beyond the “push” of email offers, and compensate for any email fatigue that is impacting the industry.

“This is the next phase of push,” says Tavani. “There is a ton of value in the discovery part of it.” Non-push efforts such as personalization really haven’t had much of an impact for Groupon and others yet, he suggests (although Groupon says it has been able to boost yield by 50 percent with such efforts.) While a certain number of Scoutmob users may be personalizing their mobile app, it is hard to tell how many are doing that.

Antengo Pushes on Mobile Classifieds: ‘Websites Mean Nothing to Us’

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Vertical sites such as AutoTrader, Cars.com, Zillow and Trulia that provide listings, services and features are seeing a large share of their user base move to mobile. But all-in-one classifieds sites in the mode of Craig’s List, Pennysaver, Recycler.com, newspapers and alt weeklies haven’t moved as fast to mobile.

Can a mobile all-in-one approach (i.e. native apps) gain traction? We were sorry to see the drop out last October of Eggdrop.com, a mobile classifieds site that had started to see some traction.

But we’re still gung-ho on mobile classifieds. Mobile is an especially effective mobile channel, given its immediacy; geo-location capabilities; ties to social media ratings/reviews; and ability to be programmed for automatic notifications when items are added or sold.

Several companies, in fact, are pushing hard to build out a mobile-first classifieds marketplace. Among them: Antengo. The San Diego startup, known to its fans as “Ant,” was launched in 2010 by a Microsoft Advertising Network vet and a classifieds entrepreneur who built Barefoot Student and another successful vertical classifieds site.

Antengo has seen over 250,000 downloads of its Android and iPhone apps and seven million listings, with 30 percent average monthly growth across 2012. ” The site is available on iOS, Android and, soon, Windows Phone. It and is entirely focused on mobile.

“A website means nothing to us,” says cofounder Marcus Wandell (the Microsoft vet). “We’re taking an Instagram approach.” Everything traces back to the mobile device. (Users) don’t have to share phone numbers or emails to instantly coordinate location-based deals that save them money.”

While decidedly listings-centric, user profiles are emerging organically via Facebook sign-ins (which account for 36 percent of traffic). By 3Q, user profiles, verified seller status and other forms of marketplace transparency will emerge in the apps. This moves Antengo closer toward an area pioneered by Oodle using Facebook friends for classifieds. Oodle was sold last month to QVC.

Mobile Loco Keynote: Groupon CEO Andrew Mason

Appearing at a time of rumors that Google is in talks to purchase a slumping Groupon on the cheap, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason told The Mobile-Loco conference in San Francisco that the four-year -old, 12,000 employee company remains focused on developing “the first real, local commerce system” for merchants.”

The timing of the company’s ascent is perfectly aligned with the rise of mobile, noted Mason. “We have 40 million active customers. We acquired our customers at a time when mobile is paving the way for local commerce,” he said. Mason added that mobile customers spend more than purely desktop customers.

Groupon is still pegged in many circles as a daily deal company, but Mason says it is a broader play now. The company “extends the reach of local customers by enabling dynamic pricing,” he said. Whatever is ultimately included in its suite of services, there will be “some kind of customer dial and deal management tools” that level the playing field for SMBs with large corporations.

Offers are also highly targeted, boosting yield. “We don’t get complaints about sending pole dancer Groupons anymore because we are only sending them to pole dancers,” said Mason.

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ILM West Opening Keynote: IdeaLab’s Bill Gross

Mobile and local is in the middle of a “perfect storm” of opportunity that represents a “once in a generation opportunity,” noted Internet legend Bill Gross, CEO of IdealLab, who provided the opening keynote at ILM West today in Los Angeles. “There has never been a better time to be in mobile and local,” said Gross, one of the most prolific developers of new companies in Internet history, with four IPOs to his credit.

Gross said that new technologies typically take about a decade to become new paradigms. The movie camera, for instance, never become a hit until it was possible to edit movies. “Then a whole new story- telling capability came about. That is where we are with mobile and local.”

New technologies typically begin modestly. With mobile, “we’ve ported the billboard and the TV screen down to tiny proportions.” But so much more is possible. Mobile devices should be seen as “super computers on our bodies.” The operating paradigm is “Mobile = Local = Me.”

“Give me exactly what I want right now and what is relevant to me,” Gross said, about what consumers want. “Tell me exactly what I want.” Companies that provide these services are best suited to “conquest customers” with promotions and other lead generation tools. Small companies are especially well suited to compete because they are “more nimble. David slays Goliath.”

There is especially strong opportunity with mobile advertising, adds Gross. “Mobile advertising runs with the law of physics. ‘Nudging’ costs (of consumers) is magnitudes lower because their bodies are nearby,” he said. “Proximity equals probability.” Mobile ads performs 5-18 times better than banners.

Gross also notes dayparting is “super powerful” on mobile. All the attributes of mobile together suggest that mobile advertising will reach usage and expenditure parity with other advertising within five years, and could surpass other advertising within 10 years. Today, 13 percent of usage is mobile, but just one percent of ad spending is mobile.

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Retail’s New Mobile-Based Pretzel: Forget Pyramids and Funnels

Throw out the pyramid and the funnel. The pretzel is the new paradigm for mobile-driven retail, according to panelists at the OMMA Mobile M Commerce event Oct. 22 in Los Angeles.

The age-old pyramid and funnel concepts have been driven by initial awareness, browsing and then transactions. But such linear thinking doesn’t make as much sense these days. Not when you are checking prices on an item, looking up reviews and receiving coupons on your phone all at once. According to United Future, 79 percent of smart phone owners are using their phones in stores. Moreover, 28 percent have used a coupon on their phone.

“The purchase funnel is becoming the purchase pretzel,” notes Scott Hendrickson, head of advertising solutions for PayPal Media Network. “They aren’t locked in the store. You may lose them,” he said. “It is a constant tangled web.”

The new challenge is “to control the pipe, control the data, and control customer engagement.” At the same time, the new environment now gives retailers and brands an :”opportunity to do new all kinds of things” around payments, data and scale.

None of it is easy, but Hendrickson predicts it will all come together in 2014. But first, customer adoption is critical. That may be easier said then done. Several panelists were overtly dismissive of key mobile technologies, including QR codes and NFC use for payments. They also noted that ewallets really won’t hit a stride until 2018-2020. Until Grocery stores and others start accepting them, ewallets may be largely focused on narrow niches with occasional uses, such as Starbucks, Abercombe & fitch, airline tickets, movie tickets and Uber car limo rentals.

“It doesn’t matter about NFC. We have had NFC forever. And bar codes,” says Kolja Reiss, Managing Director, MoPay, Inc. “It is the service surrounding the product is what matters.”

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AutoTrader: Mobile Site Boosting Personalized Usage, Leads

Increasingly, a lot of the mobile discussion is oriented towards ecommerce. But what does a major vertical site do with mobile when it doesn’t sell anything online?

AutoTrader, the leading auto site, doesn’t sell cars online. “We basically sell advertising,” notes Jose Puente, AutoTrader’s Director of Product Strategy, Mobile/Affinity Brands, who was speaking Oct. 22 at OMMA Mobile MCommerce event in Los Angeles.

Mobile is important to AutoTrader for a number of reasons. It reaches consumers on the go as they are searching for cars. It also reaches certain demographic groups that are more mobile oriented than online oriented. Puente himself is a veteran marketer who in the past was a Hispanic Yellow Pages publisher. “The U.S. Hispanic population has historically over indexed in mobile usage over other segments,” he notes.

“Today the difference between the our website and our mobile products is not considerably different. On average, about eighty percent of people that research a particular car don’t actually end up buying that car,” says Puente. “Our sites help car shoppers in the discovery process and provide the tools to negotiate a reasonable deal. We are currently working on enhancing our mobile products for ‘on the lot’ experiences, the part of the shopper journey that we can now be a relevant part of due to mobile,” he added.

AutoTrader.com’s mobile products, including a mobile website and an Android and iPhone app boost the usage of ‘MyAutoTrader’, a personalization feature. As shoppers save vehicles that interest them, sellers are notified in real time that “anonymous” shoppers are interested in a specific vehicle in real time. Sellers can provide additional information about the vehicle, thus improving the experience for buyers.

“It creates a lot of engagement with shoppers, and provides real measurable value back to advertisers. We have seen as much as a 42 percent increase in buyer to seller interactions as a result,” notes Puente, ” and consumer ‘value event’s’ make up a large part of the way we are measured from a success standpoint with our advertisers.”

Amex’s Joanna Lambert: Build Around Consumers ‘In the Wild’

American Express is seeking to move beyond its narrow image as a blue chip premium credit card company, and open the doors to new business opportunities, customers and revenues. Its ticket? The group of emerging payment products and services –deals, loyalty, prepaid cards, ewallets and mobile.

At OMMA Mobile MCommerce in Los Angeles Oct. 22, SVP of Strategy and Business Innovation Joanna Lambert noted that in the wake of the 2008-2009 recession, CEO Kenneth Chennault set up a distinct business unit “to challenge the status quo.”

Since then, Amex has developed loyalty deals with Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare; a joint venture with Zynga to provide virtual game points to credit card holders; created Small Business Saturday to promote Christmas shopping; and launched Serve, a prepaid account service in a bid to reach an entirely new customer base, including young adults and women. Last week’s launch of Bluebird with WalMart is part of that effort. Amex has also set up a major mobile JV in China.

Amex’s goal is to provide a “value added system at every stage of the journey,” notes Lambert. It wants to interact with consumers and merchants “the moment they discover different types of services” such as Pinterest, and “how to interact with them…. by sharing things… utilizing information.” The goal is “to see consumers in the wild. That is where we’ll find the killer app.”

While some see Google and ISIS entry into payment and offers “ewallets” as threats to the credit card giants (such as Amex), ewallets are a great upcoming opportunity, notes Lambert. “We want to utilize the wallet in as many ways as possible.”

Many, of course, had expected ewallets to happen sooner. Google Wallet and ISIS are well behind their initial timetables. The challenge is “to move them from novelty to value,” says Lambert. Ewallets ought to be “saving time, saving money; making things relevant; (and) stopping the ‘noise’ in the inbox.”

“From a merchants perspective, (they ought to add) incremental value,” says Lambert. “The number one thing is to make them more personalized, more targeted and more relevant.”

Amex is “spending more and more time on the consumer experience, and specifically, the mobile experience,” Lambert notes. The company is also investing heavily in User Interface design. The UI and service needs to be “distinctive, fun, and there has to be enough in it to access multiple times a day.”

Lambert feels that Amex is especially well positioned to be a great asset in the mobile wallet space because its principal assets are the things that stay consistent: “trust, consumer experience and value.”