Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘iphone’

Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is the founder and principal consultant at Location Based Strategy, LLC and is signed up for both Gowalla and Foursquare.

_________________________

Badges, Passports, the Creator, the Founder, the Mayor, getting a Pin, picking up a raccoon..This is the language of the newest phenomenon to hit the location-enabled social media marketing world.

I am talking about Social Networking Games. No longer only for geeks and geocachers, these are real tools for seeing where your friends are, in real time, as they “check-in” to locations and share what they are doing. Since the device knows where it is, you can only check in to a location you are visiting. While mobile location sharing is not new, incentives that tap our competitive side offered by a “game” are, and this makes all the difference.

The “game” element is that you earn virtual rewards in the form of pins or badges to fuel participation and interaction with real locations. If, for example, you are the first to register a place you want to check-in to, you can literally put that location “on the map” and into the game and your name is forever associated. If you visit the most, you are awarded for this. Locations can be linked into logical routes and in-game “trips” can be created to, for example, hit every pub along a certain street or visit all the parks in a certain city.

Privacy note: The posting of check-ins are controlled by you. Obviously, you can also chose not to check-in. If you are concerned about privacy or your security, be sure to only check-in when you want to share your location with your friends. Duh.

Austin-based Gowalla and NYC-based Foursquare are the two current leaders battling it out for run-up supremacy. Gowalla secured $8.4 Million from Greylock Partners in December 2009 and Foursquare took in $1.35 Million in September of 2009 from Union Square Ventures. Both are on the iPhone App Store and have (or will soon have) apps for Android and RIM as well. These apps are fast and slick and easy to use.

I am not a “gamer” and the last video game I played was Galaga back in 1984. As such, I was surprised to find that I was eagerly checking-in with Gowalla everywhere I went. It did not feel like I was “playing”, but more like I was “using” the platform. In several cases I was the Creator of a new listing. I want to get my family signed up, so I can see if they are nearby, and link my Gowalla account to both Twitter and Facebook, instantly expanding my trusted network. It’s very viral.

As information is shared with others you know and trust, the power of the platform quickly becomes apparent, to both individual users and the businesses that serve as the real-world context for these place-based interactions. Instead of trying to explain it, here’s a true story:

Real Example: I was in little Buena Vista, CO on Feb 10 and stopped into the new Eddyline brewpub. The food was great, the place packed, and I asked owner Brian about Gowalla. He had not heard of it. I pulled out my iPhone and created a new Spot in Gowalla, describing the grass fed local beef they use and how great the pumpkin ale I was drinking tasted, and checked-in. I literally put the location of the business on the Gowalla map. Brian pulled out his laptop, pulled up Gowalla and found the entry I created 30 seconds before. He was blown away and immediately said he would offer promotions through this new platform. Here is the spot I created: http://gowalla.com/spots/539684. If you are ever in Buena Visita, check in, try the pumpkin ale, and tell Brian I said Hey!

Small businesses like the Eddyline makeup the majority of check-ins, and these game platforms can serve as a bridge between online paid search ads and real incremental sales tied to increased foot traffic through the door. Tracking this is the holy grail of mobile advertising.

Google is, not surprisingly, all over this trend and their recent Favorite Places “doorway quick response code sticker” program shows that they value the importance of quantifying incremental foot traffic/sales. Their recent investment in Boston-based social scavenger hunt gaming platform SCVNGR is something to keep an eye on, as is veteran location sharing platform Loopt. (An interesting Google side note is that they bought an early social media game called Dodgeball from a Dennis Crowley back in May of 2005 and did nothing with it. The same Dennis Crowley co-founded  Foursquare.)

Remember, traditional paid search or banner ads drive click-throughs to websites, which must then serve up a store location or map interface. This works on your desktop or laptop, but is broken in mobile. Most large brands do not even have a mobile website. Almost no smaller businesses do.

These social networking games make location (and time) the primary force for interacting with a business, for the mobile consumer who is looking for single-click location-based subjective information they can trust, and that is actionable.

Business owners can watch check-ins,  see what users frequent their business and when, and open a door to real feedback from people they know were there. If they choose to, they can offer specials or reward loyalty via real merchandise. Every business owner should ensure their location(s) are covered by Gowalla and Foursquare. If they are not, they should simply register and enter their own location(s) next time they are there.

Large national brands should consider the implications of not owning the input of their locations and the information conveyed. While Foursquare has recently allowed content owners like Zagat to “bulk load” locations, these platforms are in their infancy and there will likely be some exciting opportunities for big brands to participate. If this happens, the current rewards and incentives for check-ins might-well move from virtual goods to real goods in an organized way. Coupons, incentive cards, loyalty programs, sweepstakes, etc could all be tied in.

These social networking games have huge potential, especially as they mature and invest their recent VC infusions into new functionality.

They bridge the gap between “attract online customers to your website” and “attract mobile consumers your place of business and prove they were there“, and they make it fun.

Because of this, I do not think it’s a stretch  to assert that these social networking games very well could be a key that unlocks the door to ROBO (Research Online Buy Offline) quantification.

_________________________

Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is the founder and principal consultant at Location Based Strategy, LLC and is signed up for both Gowalla and Foursquare.

Read Full Post »

Apple users are nothing if not dedicated. The landmark form factor and user interface innovations the company has ushered in over the last 25 years have created a fiercely dedicated customer base. There are Mac clubs, iPhone fan sites, and even online photo collections of Apple logo tattoos!

All eyes will be on San Fran January 27 for Apple’s virtually-confirmed and much-anticipated launch of their new tablet computer. A tablet is a touch screen minicomputer with a digital keyboard integrated into the touch interface (no mechanical keys). Imagine a larger, thinner iPhone. The Apple tablet will likely rely on rich media and apps delivered over the web from some sort of Apple hub. Ever notice how half the yuppie homes you visit these days have a web-connected “kitchen laptop” set up? Now you see the market for the tablet.

Google has nailed the device-agnostic advertising model and is now moving into Apple’s hardware territory, with their Nexus One phone. Apple has actually helped solidify Google’s power by selling 13.7 million iPhones in 2008 alone, all preloaded with free ad-supported Google products (Google maps is the best example). Apple is now scrambling to sift the Google ingredients out of its recipe and will likely bake in its own unobtrusive ad-supported functionality.

Apple recently acquired mobile ad firm Quattro Wireless, a clear sign that they have seen the “infusion of alternate value-add as advertising” light. Quattro also brings Apple some interesting links to traditional media, via Quattro’s relationships with CBS News and the National Football League, for example.

So what will this new Apple Tablet do?

Rumor and speculation abound, but here is the recap. Like Apple’s landmark iPhone, it will likely tap the revshare % power of the App Store and sync with music from iTunes. Rumors and trademark applications by Apple suggest it will be called the “iSlate” or “iPad” and will display newspaper, magazine and book content feeds, to compete with the recent boom of “e-reader” devices (the Kindle, for example). It has also been reported that Apple’s software answer to Microsoft Office (called iWork) will be built in, along with some powerful unique new (and patented) finger-control user interface elements.  Price and positioning has also been discussed at length, as well as what the default search engine will be. Odds are it will NOT be Google, for obvious reasons.

The piece I am most-interested in is communication between these devices. If Apple can tap the viral power of its loyal fanatics to promote this device as a unique new communication interface that side-steps long-distance rates and phone company billing, they could really be onto something.

Ever notice how people still prefer to use the old copper land line at home, even though they have unlimited talk on the cell? Imagine if the new Apple tablet came with “Apple Orchard” in the form of a new VOIP voice and video link Apple product that facilitated communication with other Apple tablets, iPhones, and Apple laptops?

What if Apple offered an optional land line plug-in module accessory that linked to “Apple Orchard” via Bluetooth, so you could keep using your trusty traditional phone when you are at home? If you think this is a far-fetched notion, spend some time researching the “As Seen On TV” sensation Magic Jack™. (While these low-end devices are not perfect, they certainly demonstrate the potential for VOIP to replace traditional phone services- the company is reportedly selling 10,000 of these devices a day!).

If Apple did not want to tackle web voice and video communication head-on, they could simply open up a new “Tablet Only” section of the App Store and allow VOIP over the web connected tablet this way. Remember how Apple rejected Google Voice on the App Store?…hmmm.

In December it was reported that Apple was in talks to buy VOIP player iCall for $50-$60 million. As this article points out, an Apple VOIP technology play makes sense on many levels – and perhaps has already happened.

Google has mastered the art of giving away innovative functionality with unobtrusive, relevant ads. Apple should borrow from the Google model – and is now positioned better than ever to do so.  As the Gmail model proves,  most will happily accept relevant (and perhaps even useful) ads if they can ditch paid services as a result. While Apple certainly needs the wireless carriers today, Google has opened the door wide open to “carrier step-around” and the rules of the game are changing.

The inclusion of rich media content infused with relevant advertising value-add will be important for the new Apple tablet, but tapping the legions of hard-core Apple faithful through a unique new web-based proprietary communication service could be the key ingredient. We shall see. The latest Apple pie comes out of the oven January 27!

__________________________

Wilson Kerr is the founder of Location Based Strategy, LLC, a Boston-based consulting firm dedicated to helping companies and brands harness the power of location.

Read Full Post »

Wilson Kerr is a former Tele Atlas exec who started LBS Consulting Firm Location Based Strategy, LLC in 2007.

_____________________________

I am up late January 5th and have been awaiting the first news stories from the big Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) about the new Google phone, the Nexus One. I just Googled up the first piece (from 33 minutes ago) from, of all sources, the Montreal Gazette. In the final few sentences they capture the essence of the real disruptive innovation threat this bold Google Phone poses to business as usual for US Carriers and, I would imagine, people are applauding!

Here is the quote, “Google Voice automatically links certain cellphones with home and business lines, bypassing existing cellular networks. Users must be within range of a wireless Internet connection for it to work. In cities such as Boston and Toronto, where Wi-Fi Internet networks will soon blanket the urban area, the software will allow consumers to say goodbye to monthly cellphone bills entirely.”

Yes, if a Google Phone uses wifi to makes a call to another Google Phone using the integrated Google Voice application, there are no Carriers involved! The term “cell phone” might need to change to “web phone”, literally overnight.

Did anyone else get the Christmas present of free airport wifi, from Google? I did. If they can do it for all our airports and people seemed pleased, why not a city or, even more importantly, less affluent rural areas where the population is unlikely to shell out for carrier-sold mobile data plans or high speed web access at home. In these same rural areas businesses tend to be geographically concentrated and mobile advertising can have a compounded effect, especially for local advertisers.

Broadband access is a key here. $7.2 Billion in taxpayer dollars have been allocated toward mapping current coverage and then expanding broadband access to all Americans by filling the gaps. Groups like the New America Foundation are pushing initiatives like their Wireless Future Program to use this $ to link up everyone under the WiMax broadband umbrella. Google CEO Eric Schmidt is the Chairman of their Board.

Non-profit corporations like One Economy are pushing wireless broadband and linking it to economic development and progress through programs like their PIC.tv (The Public Internet Channel).  A vocal proponent of broadband internet access for all (and the same person who signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -with the $7.2 Billion for broadband access) also helped create One Economy’s Public Internet Channel; then Senator Barak Obama. Google will double your contribution to One Economy this Holiday Season, seriously. Heck, a Google Exec is running for the Governorship of Vermont on a platform that, in part, pushes wireless broadband access for all the citizens!

Broadband wireless internet access for all is certainly a good thing for our country and is conveniently also a key to the Google phone puzzle. Brin and Page think big and seem to be well on their way, with plenty of support for broadband for all from those in high places. It’s hard to see the downside of what they want to see happen. I know I cringe every time I get the Verizon bill for the DSL that is going to post this blog in a minute or two. Bring on the free wifi and the free phone calls that could follow, Google ads and all!

Frustration about the brick walls the Carriers have thrown up all over the LBS world and the high fees they charge is going to help speed Google along and add to the “how to compete with free” dilemma the Carriers (and Apple) now face. As long as people do not mind having Google “learn” their wants and buying habits to shape the ads they see, I am not sure what’s going to stop them. While there will be much hand-wringing about where all that information Google captures is being stored and what its being used for, the promise of a phone that sidesteps draconian Carrier contracts with their outrageous fees for voice and data services will be a powerful siren song for consumers. Few would argue that the enfranchising widespread internet access needed for this to happen is not a common good for everyone.

Google Voice on the new Google Phone running on free (Google-supported?) WiFi/WiMax is about to blow things wide open. Might even happen tomorrow!

_______________________________

Post Script: (1/7/10): It should be noted that Apple has entered the mobile advertising fray by purchasing Quattro Wireless. This was announced 1/5/10. Certainly a smart move, as they could now subsidize device prices via ads or offer prepackaged revenue-generating mobile advertising options as a part of the App Store SDK, for example. Currently, the majority of the ads running on iPhone apps are served up by Google-owned AdMob. While the pro/con functionality comparisons between the Nexus One and the iPhone fill the blogosphere, the often-overlooked (and more interesting) discussion  is the revenue models of Apple Vs. Google. Looks like Apple has seen the light.

________________________________

Wilson Kerr is a former Tele Atlas exec who started LBS Consulting Firm Location Based Strategy, LLC in 2007. He sometimes stays up past midnight writing about the fast moving Location Based wireless world and what Google is doing and the speed they are doing it.

Read Full Post »

Wilson Kerr is the founder of LBS consulting firm Location Based Strategy, LLC.

______________________

On December 21st, as we all got ready for the 2009 Holiday “unplug”, it was reported that local business rating and review information aggregator  Yelp rejected a hefty $500+Million takeover offer from Google. Bold move, but why did they walk away? No one seems to be certain.

Yelp’s window stickers tell a tale of building local merchant trust and a lot of grunt work by “boots on the ground”. By this I mean the literal and figurative wearing out of shoe leather for the purpose of winning over single-door business owners one by one. Explaining the power of Location-Based advertising and the impact of having real people maintain a fresh and vibrant listing infused with reviews, offers, specials, and the “inside scoop” is something best done live and in-person. This crucial element of Local Search is hard to scale and an expensive proposition, even for Google.

Google is the powerhouse leader in the race for infusing local business information into maps and they seem to be rolling out new programs on a weekly basis. Google’s Favorite Places Program attempts to add a powerful subjective element to their local search listings.

By the way, I recently blogged about Google’s Favorite Places as a new program, but was in San Francisco last week and spotted a real, life-sized Google “map blob” on the sidewalk!  A pic I took last week is below.  It was dusty and looked to have been there for some time, so I asked the business owner and it seems the true launch of Google Favorite Places was back in July! Was I the only one to miss this? Google tapped minor local celebrities and had them name their favorite places. Google then delivered giant “map blobs” to the selected businesses, with window stickers! Watch hotshot SF Mayor Gavin Newsom help Google kick-off this new program in this short video clip. Watch a video of the entire Google Favorite Places July SF love fest here.

Photo I took of a lifesize Google "map blob" on the sidewalk in SF last week.

Google is a giant looming ever-larger and their complete dominance might seem inevitable. Their stock was up 85% in 2009. Many local businesses do sign up with the Google Local Business Center and Google is pushing their 2-D QR code door sticker “scan for offers and info” angle aggressively.

That said, it seems Yelp has created a following with enough momentum that Google would rather buy vs build this hyper-local connection. Surely a big factor is the time and cost of collecting this information and scaling it on a national/global level. But why has Google failed to connect with local businesses the same way Yelp has? While tens of thousands of nationally-branded restaurants, for example, could be added with single ad deal, both Google and Yelp know that the real proof in the pudding for Local Search power is the subjective, variable, time-sensitive attribution that comes from trusted like-minded consumers promoting small joints that “only the locals know”. A Taco Bell is a Taco Bell the world over.

The Google “Don’t Be Evil” mantra is harder to maintain when they seem on the verge of dominating nearly every aspect of our mobile/LBS lives and positioning themselves as a “must-do” solution for local businesses. Could Google be growing so big and so powerful that simply Being Google Is Evil?

So, why did Yelp walk away from a cool half billion? It could be that they are in secret negotiations with another player. It could be because they think Google will come back with more money. It could be because of many reasons. But perhaps it is because they realize they are riding the first wave of an anti-Google movement and want to see where this wave is headed. There might be a lot of upside for those offering an effective alternative.

_____________________________________

Wilson Kerr is a former Tele Atlas Business Development Exec and founded Boston-based LBS consulting firm Location Based Strategy, LLC in 2007.

Wilson@LBStrategy.com    iPhone: 303-249-2083 (BOSTON)

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 503 other followers