Tag Archives: Apple

Belly Adds Apple Ties, Enhancements: A Look at Local Loyalty, Post 2011

A slew of membership-based loyalty plays such as Belly, Five Stars, SpotOn, MOGL, Spring, Perka, Thanx and others launched around 2011 to focus more on customer loyalty than new customer acquisitions. The business model: charge SMBs monthly fees; recognize customers via Point of Sales or other means; drive new purchases and loyalty.

Since then –but not recently– a lot of VC Money has flowed into the space. At the top level, Five Stars raised $42.7 milllion, and Belly raised $30 million. First Data likely spent a similar amount in purchasing Perka.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? The companies haven’t scaled as quickly as they thought. Local sales channel issues have been paramount. There have also been issues attracting customer signups, a glut of promotions options; and a shortage of attractive merchant offers. Without significant marketing budgets, there are also under-developed brands. The economics of the services also haven’t been great. It’s tough to score big with high built-in costs for tablets, etc.

Here’s the situation today: It is hard to see how many subscribers each company has, but Belly may be the leader – especially if the space is narrowly defined so that it doesn’t include the larger, financial institution-oriented, card-linked offer players. It has 10,000 announced customers, each presumably paying near the rate card of between $100 and $199. Eighteen markets have been fully launched. Five Stars may be the second largest, in terms of merchant count. It is forecasting 8,000 SMBs by the end of 2015.

Meanwhile, the companies have learned a lot and keep working at it. Today, Belly announced it was adding several enhancements. These include DIY offer generation for the SMBs; and analytics for SMB email marketing campaigns. Most intriguing to us are efforts to leverage its Apple relationship, which is no surprise. Belly was among the first to embrace Apple Passbook, and the company’s salesforces rely on iPads. Under the new deal, Belly is included as one of 40 + partners for Apple Pay and one of the most significant players tied to smaller SMBs.

Will the relationship deepen? Would Apple, for instance, be interested in acquiring Belly? As Perka executives noted after its sale to First Data, there are real advantages to working with a major partner. In a story published by Crain’s Chicago Business, CEO Logan LaHive said “This is an incredibly exciting new distribution channel. It allows us not to just focus on direct sales but focus on resellers and other channels, with new partnerships that will open up new geographies.”

A Few Quick Thoughts on Apple’s Big Announcements

A lot of us were glued to our screens today to watch or catch the feeds on the Apple announcements re iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Pay and Apple Watch. What will the new announcements mean to our local ecosystem? To date, Apple’s focus on local has mostly been geared to Apple Maps. But here are a few things:

1. More content for larger screens. When the iPad was introduced, vendors such as Matchbin bet the bank that it would lead to higher paid subscriptions and new types of advertising. It didn’t really happen. But more content is behind the firewall now than before. The intro of the larger iPhone 6 and the really big iPhone 6 Plus – on top of other Phablets by Samsung et al might push this evolution further – and spur the develop of new tablet-ready and phablet-ready local content.

2. A jumpstart for Digital Payments. Apple Pay is being launched as an NFC wireless payment mechanism. Unlike the struggling Google Wallet, it is being supported by most of the industry’s payment processors and financial institutions; allowing consumers to tie their payment cards to their phones. The introduction of Apple Pay won’t turn plastic extinct overnight – the payments card infrastructure is extremely deep. But it does validate NFC as a wireless payments technology, and should help build acceptance for digital payments. The challenge here: It is not converting Apple users. It is converting Millenials.

3. Enter the Apple Watch. It may take a while for iWatch and other wearables to really catch on beyond the early adopters, who do not really impact local outside of tech centers such as San Francisco. But combined with Apple Pay, the Apple Watch should help build acceptance for local store payments, public transport and other services (and impulse cash less buying.) Again, their immediate importance is in Apple’s validation of both wearables and NFC. See how LevelUp is excited about the prospect .

Apple’s system appears to be overloaded, but don’t forget to download the free U2 album, Songs of Innocence, which will be available on iTunes until 9/13.

It’s All Local: Why Apple Has to Get Maps Right

As the New York Times noted this morning, Apple’s initial iOS6 foray into mobile maps has been greeted with a thumbs down by iPhone 5 reviewers, who prefer the polished Google Maps experience that was the prior default.

But maps –and by extension, local — are strategically important to Apple’s future. You can bet Apple will push hard to get them right. This is no Ping-like exercise, where Apple launches something and then discontinues it.

Apple first signaled its interests in maps in October 2009 with its purchase of PlaceBase – an API company that let developers map locations and services with pushpins.

Where can Apple go with maps – and for that matter, Google, Amazon, Microsoft/Nokia, Yahoo and AOL? Our take on maps is that they’re part of a tandem with data, and the integration of maps, geo fencing techniques, proximity search, and data such as public transit info and listings creates rich opportunities for targeted advertising (“Mapvertising”) and services.

Maps, of course, have come along way from simple store locators, which were the first online application. Just as store locators today are widely integrated with listing data, coupons and other information, you can expect to see the same trajectory in other segments. Deal mapping, for instance, has already had an impact with such companies as The DealMap (now owned by Google), 8Coupons and Bargain Babe LA making it easy to see where the deals are.

Other map concepts have been out there as well, including public transit maps (HopStop), garage maps, jogging maps (Trails.com) and wedding maps (weddingmapper.com.) With the rise of mobile, the key is that they not only provide citywide vertical info for a number of localities (i.e. Zillow maps), but also provide national seamlessness.

It has been noted that maps are the top part of the data pyramid and that if you can map it, everything else is easy. That’s probably true. It’s also true that some of the map centric activity has been premature or out of context. Some of the map-centric directories, ad networks and map-centric SEO efforts have been a little ahead of their time, and also, not always easy enough to use.

MapQuest’s efforts to monetize as a directory showed promise but wasn’t an instant hit. More recently, ABC News got rid of its interesting-but-unessential iPad app, which featured a spinning globe of news stories.

Despite some false starts, Apple has figured out that it has to be in the middle of maps to compete in the next generation of mobile services. We’re excited about Apple’s validation of the power of mapping in local online media and commerce, and expecting to see great progress in short order.

Citysearch iPad ‘Magazine’ Debuts Fling Away Coupons

Citysearch has debuted “cityseries,” a new digital “best of” magazine for the iPad that allows users in key cities to quickly find “best” bars, shopping, spas, breakfast and other top categories.

The attractive online magazine, which will be promoted on other iPad sites, relies on Citysearch’s editorial staff and combines reviews with business profile information. Initial monthly editions have been launched in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Washington D.C. and Seattle.

What’s especially unique is that Citysearch combs its coupons database and presents “popover” coupons that appear when the iPad is held horizontally, below the text. Users can either save the coupons to their photo albums or fling away the coupons with their fingers — iPad/iPhone/iTouch style — before continuing. Currently, there are five on a page. There are no additional charges to advertisers for inclusion.

It isn’t really clear what users will do if they save the coupons. Show it to the merchant? Confirm discounts via word of mouth? Email it to themselves and print it out? But they do represent a unique touch screen advertising option we hadn’t seen before.

Note: This post has been updated to reflect Citysearch’s fix of the coupons.

iPad’s Impact on Newspapers: Too Little, Too Late?

Wired on the iPad, via All Things D

Next month, Apple’s iPad comes out (and I will buy one). But what will be the impact of iPads and tablets from other companies on traditional media? Many are considering it to be the new magazine form factor. In theory, the iPad would make online ads compelling, and better enable digital subscriptions and a la carte buys. Wired Magazine, for one, has been showing off a good- looking prototype. I highly recommend this video from the Wall Street Journal’s All Things D site.

Newspapers will look great, too. Look at The New York Times iPad demo. My guess, however, is that the iPad’s impact on newspapers’ bottom line will be marginal for several years – and then, it may be too late. While the iPad should have excellent introductory sales, most sales will likely be low end units without communications, so their usage will be mostly home and coffee shop based. Low end units, limited to WiFi Internet, are $499. Wireless Communications adds $130, plus $30 a month. Wifi-only won’t provide a big lift to newspapers, because it doesn’t get the product onto commuter trains.

Newspaper companies, of course, are better positioned to participate in the mobile revolution than a year ago by virtue of their vertical properties, such as Classified Ventures’ Cars.com and Apartments.com. Both are “on the go” media sites that allow users to get information on a 24/7 basis, but more importantly, while they are out and about shopping for their category.

Other newspaper niche sites, like The Envelope from The Los Angeles Times , bring newspapers into an entirely new domain with the addition of online App games based on news and entertainment. These might ultimately play a role in the transformation of newspapers.

For now, I’m not counting on significant advertising or circulation revenue to develop for newspapers directly because of their investments in tablet devices, or mobile generally.

Outsell: Digital News More Cannibalistic Than Complementary

Digital media is more cannibalistic than complementary, and seriously eating into the demand for traditional news sources such as newspapers, TV and news magazines, according to the third annual survey of news users done by Outsell, Inc.

The survey findings, based on almost 3,000 consumers and fully detailed in Outsell’s “News Users 2009” report, written by former Knight Ridder executive Ken Doctor. It essentially pours water on hopes that online traffic from Google and other news aggregators represent new growth opportunities for traditional publishers that ultimately outweigh any cannibalism. In fact, 44 percent said that news headlines on aggregator products such as GoogleNews suffice in themselves.

Indeed, such aggregator products are increasingly competing with traditional news products as primary “morning” news sources. They’re tied with newspapers, and catching up with TV, which leads with a 30 percent share, a drop off from 36 percent three years ago.

Long-term trends may be worse than the broad numbers suggest, as a segmentation analysis by Outsell found that “Power Users,” which represent slightly less than half of the market, are increasingly relying more on digital products. These users have “omnivorous” appetites for news, simultaneously serving as core newspaper subscribers while relying more heavily on news aggregator products.

Outsell, however, found they are spending less time with print publications. Moreover, they are increasingly inclined to drop their newspaper subscriptions.

“It’s worth watching the trends set by power news users – they tend to foreshadow where all news usage is moving,” notes Outsell. “The daily newspaper and news magazine habit is quickly ebbing.”

The survey also suggests that paid content may not be a panacea – something that The New York Times is betting on, as it implements plans to move to paid online models in early 2011. Analysts (like me) would argue that The Times exists in a class of its own as a news source and may prove the exception. Another industry hope –shared by Apple, Amazon, HP and others — is that large computer tablets might entice people to pay for a la carte or subscription content.

Without thinking about the exceptionalism of The Times, or the future of tablets, 75 percent of news users told Outsell that they would get their local news from a different source if a paywall was put up. Only a small minority said they would be willing to pay for some type of paid content (i.e. online access included with print subscription, online only access, or some other type of “press pass.”).

When the time comes, however, many users will surely reconsider. Just look at the evolution of pay per call, and more recently, paid iPhone apps. None of this, however, undermines the challenges that traditional media face with/and against Google and other digital sources.

IPhone 2.0 Video Apps from AP and TypePad

Among the developers of iPhone applications is The Associated Press. Featured during the relaunch of iPhone 2.0 today, AP’s Benjamin Moss, Director of Mobile Products, said AP developed an iPhone app for its Mobile News Network in “just a few weeks.” Consumers can use the iPhone to send in news and photos.

More importantly, AP’s 5,000 press members can contribute and use news, sports and entertainment. The iPhone’s high resolution screen is ideal for photopgraphy and video noted Moss. “We love working through the iPhone,“ he said.

TypePad, the blogger service, also showed off a nifty application for uploading picture blogs. Representatives from the company suggested that its members can use the iPhone to snap photos, upload them to blogs, and provide a simple caption (i.e. “Wow!”)

The iPhone’s relaunch is especially noted for its higher speeds via 3G, better battery life, cheaper price ($199) thinner form factor and built-in GPS. Apple head Steve Jobs said that with GPS, “Location-based services are a really big deal on the iPhone.” 3 G services, however, will be $30 a month, instead of $20 a month.