Tag Archives: Mobile

Groupon’s Mihir Shah at Where 2.0: Tech Unit ‘Deeply Integrated’

Chicago-based Groupon is pushing hard in Silicon Valley to build a major tech presence on the back of Mobility, a mobile services firm purchased last year. One piece of evidence: a billboard on the 101 touting the company as a place to work.

At Where 2.0 today in Santa Clara, VP and GM Mihir Shah said the company has put together “a really large team” in Palo Alto from the product and tech perspective. “It is very integrated with everything else. We are not just some outpost in the Valley.”

Shah says that mobile is especially critical to Groupon’s development. “We’ll have a mobile app across all platforms,” he said. “Over the next few years, we are focusing on how to build the product from the bottom up.”

A hit out of the box for the mobile team has been a bar code scanning app for merchants, which allows consumers to bring their phones to stores without printing out a Groupon. “ A lot of merchants are getting very tech savvy very fast,” says Shah.

Looking forward, Shah says that Groupon will use mobile for instant deals, which are ideally suited for mobile. He says Groupon will typically show 3-4 restaurant deals for lunch, for instance. Instant deals enable merchants to really control their own destiny, offering deals on the fly for down times, for instance.

The big thing from a corporate point of view is such an offer gives Groupon broad coverage it could never get from just offering one or two deals a day. “The big thing is scale,” he says “Now you have coverage.”

Groupon of course , does not have the space to itself. Last week, Living Social launched in Instant deals in Washington DC with 31,000 takers.

Another area that Groupon may be looking at is the secondary market for Groupons that aren’t being used. “Off shoots (of the main Groupon product) will spring up. We’ll look at whether they they make sense for us.”

Placecast: Getting National Retailers on the Local Web

National retailers are increasingly looking to get their local stores into local websites, directories and social and mobile sites. But they are confronting issues such as bad local store listing data, and the challenge of competing with locally-owned stores for social and mobile media awareness, according to a morning panel hosted by Red Door Interactive at its San Diego headquarters.

Members of the panel included ESET VP Dan Clark; Universal Business Listings CEO Doyal Bryant; Citysearch National Sales Manager Michael Tood: and Placecast Chief Revenue Officer Jeff Montgomery.

For national retailers, “the biggest competitor is a locally-owned shop,” notes Placecast’s Montgomery. “Digital Physical” efforts attached to consumer wallets are the way to go.

Because of that, the natural goal for chains like Target is to zero in on what makes the local Target outlet “My Target.” Relevancy is tied to where you are,” says Montgomery. In fact, it is “not just where you are, but the time of day. It means something if it is 8:30 on a Saturday night.

Montgomery suggests that retailers begin to go beyond “no brainer” Website features such as Store locaters and product info and start digging in with video, mobile and SMS. “Mobile web sites are obviously something you need to do in the future,” he says. But in conversations with more than 160 agencies and brands, Placecast has learned that the bug question is: “what do I do in mobile?”

“The objective is to learn as quickly as possible,” says Montgomery. “Don’t just look at clicks. They don’t capture a user’s emotional connections.”

Montgomery suggests that retailers start with short codes and keywords, which have a similar impact as more sophisticated bar codes and scannable coupons, even if they don’t exactly provide “the same rich experience.” What retailers will find is that SMS is “incredibly affordable. You can build that asset right out of the gate,” he says. They’ll also see very high open rates in email from smart phone users. The mobile open rate is 82 percent, and 69 percent open immediately.

Red Door Interactive Headquarters, San Diego

Local Mobile Coupons: Analog Analytics Pushes Publisher Solution

Coupons are hot in a down economy, and printable online coupons –and even mobile coupons –are gaining share in the coupons business. But local SMBs aren’t always in on the game, as coupon sites frequently gravitate towards one stop national accounts.

Now, Analog Analytics, a San Diego based vendor, is pushing a clever mobile solution that allows online local publishers to feature display ads that have SMS promotion codes built in. Consumers show the coupon on their phones to retailers for conversion.

Use of the mobile coupon provides complete analytics (impressions, click-thru rates, texts, email and conversions). Among the 850 publishers currently working with the solution are Media News Group, Village Voice Media, Local.com, Wick Communications, Freedom Interactive and The San Diego Reader. More than 25,000 ads are being supported, and the company has just expanded beyond the U.S. with a new Australian operation. Chinese operations are currently being eyed.

Company founder Ken Kalb, a longtime search vet, says the mobile coupon solution is the natural successor to low click display campaigns. The engagement of a local promotion typically boosts click-thru rates by two-to-10 percent – 10 times higher than national online ads. Revenues might see a 20-30 percent boost within six weeks of launching.

Kalb notes that the coupons are sold via local sales forces, or alternatively, via a self serve platform. Affiliate marketing programs from other online coupon companies just aren’t a good alternative, he says. They typically pay just three cents per click. They also don’t offer much support for local advertisers in terms of analytics or upsells.

In fact, Analog’s self-serve platform also offers an upsell gift certificate program, which brings in immediate revenue for advertiser and publisher alike; as well as the “Bigger, Better Deal,” a daily promotion special. It also encourages frequent updating of ad copy and promotions. The platform also enables the development of opt-in marketing lists.

Is it too soon for mobile coupons on a mass media basis? It might be. As a backup, Analog Analytics does support print-out options. But this solution is an interesting one that might bring a source of renewed interest for local media companies. They continue to bring in more eyeballs than other media on their websites, but often have a hard time proving their value.

Analog Analytics CEO Ken Kalb is a featured speaker at Marketplaces 2010. He’s on the “Back to Square One: Refocus on Revenues” panel with Adicio CRO Tony Lee and Matchbin CEO Reed Brown.

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.

JD Power: Auto Dealers Rapidly Adding Social, Mobile Media

JD Power, at its annual Automotive Roundtable in Las Vegas last week, laid out a convincing case that Internet and mobile marketing has made major headway among local auto dealers. While digital media comprised just seven percent of all auto spending in 2008, JD Power projects that it will jump to 22 percent by 2011.

“More creative methods of marketing will need to be demonstrated, requiring more effort than ever seen in the past,” said the researcher, which noted that 19 percent of online auto shoppers first log on to dealer sites, 41 percent go to manufacturer Web sites, and 40 percent visit third-party automotive sites.

Mobile is likely to be a big part of the boom in digital marketing for autos. The most useful mobile features include ad listings, payment calculators, maps and directions and dealer contact information. JD Power advises dealers to ask shoppers whether the email is for a mobile device so it can extend mobile-only offers.

Social media is also a major component. By integrating user-generated content and capturing “real-world” consumer opinions, marketers can improve their brand’s credibility among consumers. Strong digital content often spurs discussion among social media users, which can achieve a widely expansive reach among the target audience. Social media networking Web sites, such as Facebook, have greater reach among new-vehicle prospects than online search engines or portals-such as Google and Yahoo.

“Social media is now shaping customer expectations in any and every way,” said JD Power VP and GM Chance Parker, in a statement. “Listening to social media is increasingly on people’s radar screens and people are scrambling to understand it. It’s not enough simply to count the buzz, it is important to understand what that buzz really means to your brand.”

Fwix, a ‘Local Newswire,’ Goes Mobile for Easy Submissions

The opportunities for “citizen journalism” and “consumer nation” are there. Social and hyperlocal media sites like Yelp and Angie’s List have done more than OK. But mobile on-the-go apps are more than likely going to kick the roof off.

Citysearch has already seen this with its reviews. When people don’t have to wait to go home to submit something, they are many more times likely to submit a review, even with awkward thumb texting (Unless, of course, they are home.)

Now comes Fwix, a year-old news aggregator for 85 U.S. cities that sports “Real Time Local News” as its tagline. The site was founded by Darian Shirazi, a 22 year old that has already put in time at Facebook and eBay. According to PaidContent, the site has received some seed funding from BlueRun Ventures.

This week, Fwix rolls out an iPhone app that enables users to file news updates, photos and video. Fwix’s geo-filter leverages GPS to check for accuracy of locations and aggregate other postings from the location, as The New York Times’ Claire Cain Miller notes in her writeup. Indeed, the filter could make the site a better and more focused c-journalism site than Twitter, which has a lot of noise in the postings.

Will Fwix’s c-journalism be successful as a standalone app? Probably not, although Miller notes that the site can build up from 400,000 unique viewers that its news aggregation attracts every month. But if it starts to work with major media sites, along the lines of Everyblock, a hyperlocal data gathererer just acquired by MSNBC.com—or even build up a news consortia like an Associated Press – it could be on to something.

New CEO at HopStop Pushes for Fast Growth

HopStop, which provides public transit routing and schedules, plus walking directions, has brought in new leadership and expects to pursue rapid growth to 200 cities. It is currently in seven markets (or eight, if you count Long Island as a separate market).

New CEO Joe Meyer, a former Quigo and eBay executive, was brought in by HopStop’s investors, which include top leaders from Quigo, a contextual search engine sold to AOL in late 2007 for $340 Million. The former Quigo execs and others came in during a funding round one year ago.The previous CEO, founder Chinedu Echeruo, is starting an African hedge fund.

Meyer notes that the service has grown year-over-year since its launch in 2005, and is “dangerously close” to profitability via several revenue streams, including contextual text ads, and direct and indirect sales of display ads. People using mass transit are good targets for “going out” services, such as personals or event ads, he says.

The service is also making increasing revenues by licensing its API. For instance, Duane Reade drug stores uses its API in the Northeast.

For a user, HopStop has been a mixed bag. Its execution has been spotty as well, as transit routing information hasn’t always been reconciled. The site has seemed unmaintained for months at a time. There have been startup issues, generally, in working with transit authorities, some of which were initially resistant to a third party site.

But Meyer says the site is over any hiccups it may have had, and currently providing excellent quality service; it has a clean new redesign; and that the brand recognition for local users in New York and other places is strong enough that people have even begun to say they’ll “HopStop” it when they are seeking transit directions (i.e. to “Google” it or “Mapquest” it).

Meyer says the service also competes well with Google Transit, which has more cities but less depth, says Meyer. And it is very focused on B2C, while other services, such as Urban Mapping, are more oriented on B2B, he says.

“It is a very utilitarian service that gets users from ‘point a’ to ‘point b’ via walking and mass transit directions, he says. “We’re very unique in what we do. We’re aggregating together a seamless user experience.”

While HopStop does well as a destination site, Meyer says it also is very complementary to local media partners. Companies such as CitySearch, Yelp, OpenTable, Yellowpages.com and Fandango would be natural partners, along with newspaper sites such as The New York Daily News and The New York Times. The site currently works with The New York Post, The Village Voice, Intuit’s Boorah and others. “We’re national in scope and local in nature,” he says.

Looking forward, Meyer has set a course for a very aggressive growth plan. The site is currently in New York (and Long Island), Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, London and Paris. In August, it launches in Philadelphia; In September, it launches in Los Angeles; and in October, it launches in Atlanta. “We’ll have over 200 cities” when the build out is finished, he says.

The key to launching in a new city is not whether they are primarily mass transit-oriented, Meyer adds. It is whether a lot of people use mass transit. Car-obsessed Los Angeles is actually a “Top 5” mass transit city, he points out. Atlanta is in the top 10. The site also provides intra-city information for Amtrak and various bus lines. “We put people in the seat of mass transit,” he says.

Mobile also plays a major role in HopStop’s development. “We are continually improving and enhancing the user experience,” says Meyer. “We’re the perfect mobile app.” Platforms include iPhones, a WAP site and SMS. Also in development is a Blackberry app.