Category Archives: Mobile

ExactTarget: Email Remains ‘Backbone of Customer Engagement’

Is email still the anchor for customer engagement, given the rise of mobile, social media, texting, websites and big data? With people joking that they don’t even know what email is, you have to wonder.

ExactTarget, which specializes in email marketing and other personalized marketing programs, argues that email is more central than ever before. And apparently, so would, which agreed in early June to pay $2.5 Billion for the company.

Last week, at San Diego Interactive Day, ExactTarget’s Joel Book laid out the case for email, which he calls “the backbone of customer engagement.”

Email is still more widely used than any other channel, he argues. And the rapid spread of smart phones have greatly accelerated email’s capability. “Mobile is the new direct response,” he says. It is “all about marketing to the individual.”

Email also enables marketers to own their own audience. It’s a long way from 1976, when marketers used to “rent” an audience by buying SRDS books.

The challenge for marketers is to make sure that their email programs are well integrated into all their other programs, including social media, websites and mobile. Shoppers “want a seamless shopping experience,” says Book.

The best way for brands to respond to this need is to use direct response methods such as email to build “small, highly engaged communities.” Brands such as Scott’s Lawn Care have made a science of doing exactly that, tying personalized emails to entire programs for garden care.

GrubHub, Seamless Merge; Mobile Drives Food Ordering Growth

Photo: CNN

Online restaurant ordering and discovery giants GrubHub and Seamless have agreed to merge their operations, creating a single company. Chicago-based GrubHub currently serves more than 20,000 food ordering establishments in 500 cities, while New York-based Seamless serves more than 12,000 food ordering establishments in 400 U.S. cities plus London.

GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney, who co-founded the company in 2004, keeps the CEO job. Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky becomes president. Zabusky recently came on to spin off the operation from Aramark, the corporate catering giant.
The two companies had been going head-to-head in a number of their markets. Both share a vision of the food ordering business being rapidly transformed via smart phone.

We had an extensive discussion with Zabusky in March. At that time, he noted that Seamless had two million regular users and grossed $85 Million in topline revenues in 2012. It projects $100 million in top line revenue in 2013, with major growth seen in coming years.

The company has had a strong foothold in the corporate market, providing food ordering and delivery to law firms, tech firms and investment houses. But its major effort has been focused on the consumer side, which has been experiencing year-over-year growth of 60 percent.

The company has 300 people in three major offices, as well as field based sales. While it is best known for its strong business in Manhattan, where it recently opened a 28,000 square foot facility, Zabusky notes that the company has a strong presence in 13 major U.S. markets. He added that Seamless had “a major national expansion strategy,” and was well-situated to execute it with a customer care center in Salt Lake City.

The key to growth, said Zabusky, was to keep selling new products and features to its food establishment partners. “We don’t make money unless they make more money.”

Zabusky noted that Seamless has been processing electronic order forms, and providing electronic terminals, along with table side ordering apps. Generally, its focus is to move restaurants away from fax machines, and away from phone calls and paper, which he says remains the segment’s biggest competition.

With Seamless, restaurants move up to a “multi-platform portal,” where they could “view, confirm and track orders,” he said. Restaurants also leverage Seamless and its vast network for discovery and retention. For instance, it offers different deals on different days to keep customers coming back. “It is very different than the daily deals space,” he said.

The industry’s transformation via mobile, however, is expecially key. Zabusky says it represents 40 percent of the total business, up from 10 percent a year ago. But for online food ordering, mobile doesn’t just represent a phone. The company’s best customers use the PC-based Web, phones and tablets, he says. “Thirty percent of the mobile volume comes from the iPad.”

After the merger is completed, major competitors for the combined company will include Living Social, which has recently bet big on online food ordering;, which claims a roster of almost 10,000 restaurants in 50 cities; and, which covers 20,000 restaurants in 1,000 cities across the country.

Payments 2013: New Payment Options Forcing Banks, Others to Change

Disruption happens. In the local space, we’re seeing it happen with Yellow Pages and newspapers. Banks are seeing it happen as well, which will cause a major change in the way that customers keep track of their money, buy goods and services and stay “loyal” to merchants.

At NACHPA’s Payments 2013 in San Diego this week, speakers discussed how the move to digital is impacting banks and their relationships with customers and merchants – and how the payment space is evolving.

Keynoter Brett King, CEO of Moven,, an online bank. suggests the biggest sea change is that customer relationships aren’t determined by anything that goes on at the branch. “Nine of 10 customers can’t remember getting advice at a branch,” he notes. “By 2015, digital interactions with banks will outnumber branch interactions by 300 to 1.” And branches will only be visited once a twice a year.

“The mobile phone is undoubtedly the next banking platform,” says King, citing a Gartner forecast showing that 70 percent of GenY will be “mobile banking first” by 2015, and that 50 percent of all customers will be using mobile as their primary channel by 2016.

The other part of the equation is the rise of prepaid debit cards, which is growing 25 percent a year, which checks are shrinking 4 percent a year. The prepaid debit cards are evolving into smart accounts for some users that can tally total spending in a category – and even show areas to cut back on.

Smart accounts are about putting context in payments – good spending versus bad spending. It might show, for instance, that the daily $10 Starbucks fix is adding up to $280 a month. “Instead of making it an impulse decision, make it into a planned purchase,” he says.

“It is all about getting rid of friction,” adds King. The correct analogy is Uber, which provides cashless car service. By linking payment accounts and wallets to the cloud, merchants are increasingly positioned to add offers, loyalty programs and other incentives.

Banks, however, haven’t reduced friction with their online products. “We have simply reinforced it online,” says King, in words of warning. “We haven’t seen the industry embrace mobile as the bank account.” Meanwhile, there are “a lot of players coming in to create new infrastructure, with new rails, new pipes.”


LSA 2013: Mobile Promotions Show True Value

Ads aren’t just valued for bringing in calls and walk ins. Local businesses increasingly place value on consumers looking up maps and directions, or participating in loyalty efforts, notes SuperMedia Director of Mobile Development Chris Folmer, who was speaking on a panel at The Local Search Association conference April 16 in Las Vegas. “There are lots of ways to drive true value,” he says.

Loyalty programs represent a real growth opportunity. Consumers are already engaged with the client. They need to maintain the relationship,” says Folmer. He notes that SuperMedia is rolling out a number of new loyalty programs. The programs are great acquisition tools. They are “really good to talk to new clients about. They really like it.”

The traditional backbone of loyalty programs have been text messaging, he adds. Texts really deliver results, and are “exploding” for SMBs. The key is to “get people to want to engage in content.” But they can also be tricky because they are so easy to unsubscribe from. “It only takes one bad offer for someone to opt out,” he notes.

Speaking on the same panel, Placecast SVP Blair Swedeen also emphasized strong results from text-based programs. Promotions sent out when consumers are near a store result in a 2.5 x boost in frequency, and a 22 percent purchase rate. There is also a 5 percent increase in average order value, he notes.

Increased smartphone penetration has greatly expanded the universe for smart offers, says Swedeen — smartphone users will also get push offers on their Apps and emails. “Most customers want delivery across all channels,” he says.

Edo Interactive VP Jeff Fagel says that texts in fact have already been surpassed by smartphone emails. Apps are also proving to be very effective. Merchants that have a promotion on a mobile app are seeing a 20 percent boost in their response rate.

Redemption rates are also soaring. A program that Edo ran with Subway, for instance, achieved a 15 percent redemption rate across the board. It drove the value of purchases up 30 percent. Moreover, 40 percent of those customers who redeemed offers came back at least once or twice in the next 90 days.

The key is driving “the right offer to the right customer,” and keeping it simple, adds Fagel. “There is nothing as impactful as ‘thumbs in faces,’” he says, noting that mobile offers will see 10-15x redemption rates of traditional coupons.

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,, 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,, 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, 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.