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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is a former Tele Atlas exec and started Location Based Strategy, LLC in 2007 to help clients harness the power of mobile.  Contact him today to learn more.

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Over one hundred billion dollars is spent annually on “traditional” online advertising, and each of the last three years have been prematurely declared the year of mobile advertising. For too long, the promise of mobile advertising has been based on technical, location-awareness-related advances the industry has heralded as beneficial, while these same advances scared consumers away.

This is finally changing and consumers are discovering simple, easy iterations of mobile technology that provide simple, easy solutions for problems they want solved. Saving money via special offers/coupons at known, nearby business locations is the best example and Groupon and their kind have driven socially-promoted savings on purchases that can be measured in increments of $Billions.

group-buying-sites

The Bridge To Mobile Commerce: Deals and Group Buying

Groupon is the fastest growing technology company in history and Founder/CEO Andrew Mason links their success to providing a “hybrid of local advertising and local commerce”.

Groupon’s unprecedented success should serve as a  lesson to the various elements involved that melding established consumer behavior and technology in a simple, easy way that also leverages consumer acceptance of social media  is a key factor for success.

The real power of this model lies in the fact that incremental, tracked purchases are made at the beginning of the consumer interaction, generating pay-for-perfomance, frontside ROI metrics that blow other “wait and see” methods of marketing out of the water. When you add in a “social media award” component (share the deal and get the deal for free), this model becomes even more powerful, as the campaigns quickly become viral and market themselves.

While Groupon, Living Social and the rest have been written about extensively, I am not sure the full potential impact of this model is understood. These companies solve an existing problem for local businesses by converting the traditional coupons, sales, and special offers they have used for decades into tracked offers that can measure in both financial upside and foot traffic. They also tap exisiting marketing budgets by stealing pre-allocated dollars away from traditional media via no-risk performance-based value propositions (that work).

This is in contrast to much-touted hyperlocal mobile push advertising campaigns that require a problem to be explained, before a retail business or brand will considering paying to try to solve it (assuming they agree the opportunity for ROI is there). More importantly, most retail businesses still do not have a way for mobile banner click-throughs to land a consumer in a place where a purchase can be converted. This is where mobile commerce comes in.

ebayMoving The Merch: “Redemption Is Mobile Commerce”

The quote above is from Dan Gilmartin of Where.com and I agree. While redemption of printed or digitally displayed group buying vouchers brought into a restaurant, hail salon, or spa (for example) works well-enough, retailers that sell lower-margin goods want converted sales that “move the merch”, as they say. Giving 50% of your margin away to Groupon and their kind, is a fine solution for high-margin, service-oriented businesses, but retailers need to link campaigns for specials to actual sales.

Converted sales transactions, rather than impressions rendered or click-throughs to a standard website, are what attracts small to medium-sized retailers that gain little from traditional brand marketing. Since non-standardized point of sale systems for redemption are still the Achilles Heel of the mobile coupon model, tracked, mobile commerce conversions will emerge as the new, essential “redemption metric” in 2011.

With $1.5 billion in mobile sales logged in 2010 (a 3X increase over 2009), Ebay’s mobile commerce success shows that consumers are willing to transact on a mobile device. In just the 30 days before Christmas 2010, eBay transactions were valued at over $100 million  in gross merchandise value, a 135% increase over last year (Mobile Commerce Daily).

“Today’s consumers are transforming the shopping experience with their mobile phones, and retailers who have not broken down their siloed channels will not be able to keep up,” says Jim Bengier, global retail industry executive for Sterling Commerce.

Coda-research

2011: The Year Of Mobile Commerce

In the rush to check off the branded app and social media platform “must-have yes boxes” , mobile commerce sites were passed over by retail brands, and consumers have been left to “pinch and zoom” and fumble with large format websites not optimized mobile devices.

How big is the mobile commerce opportunity? In July of 2010, a scant 12% of online retailers had a mobile commerce site and an even smaller 2% had an app with checkout capability (Acquity Group). Even with these dismal brand/retailer adoption numbers, US mobile-commerce (sans travel bookings) grew from $400 million in 2008 to $3.4 billion in 2010, and growth is predicted to be “explosive” in 2011 (Mobile Commerce Daily). Show me the money, indeed.

In 2011, linking a smooth-running mobile commerce engine to special offer and redemption platforms/efforts will emerge as essential, as this is the simplest way to track success in a way most retailers understand. Retailers who sell online should build robust mobile commerce sites linked to their etail “technology stack” in order to capture converted sales, driven by mobile (or social) marketing. Simply “scraping” an etail website and shrinking it to fit for mobile ignores key differences in mobile vs at-home consumer purchasing-related behavior.

Social Commerce: Sharing The Wealth

Of the 620 million consumers using Facebook, the most active 200 million access the social network through their mobile device.

Why do large retailers and brands spend money building up millions of Facebook Page fans and then drive them away from Facebook to convert a sale? It’s even worse if they send a mobile consumer to a standard website.

Increasingly in 2011,  retail brands will use Facebook to promote special deals for fans, and give them the option to buy what they are promoting by linking to a mobile commerce page where that product is cued up. Facebook might-well offer these tools for businesses as a part of Facebook Deals, as they look to emulate Groupon’s incredible success.

Social commerce will take a while to catch on, but is on the horizon. It is an extension of mobile commerce, because technical integration with the “etail technology stack” is needed to create Facebook Commerce tabs, so secure transactions can take place within Facebook pages.

The power of social commerce really shines when, for example, mobile (or Facebook commerce tab) purchases driven by special deals offered to Facebook fans can be shared within (and extended to) the buyer’s social graph, after the purchase is made.

Mobile-Payments-M-Commerce-Transactions

Tap, Tappity, Tap: NFC  Taps Established Consumer Behavior

I’d be remiss if I did not mention NFC (Near Field Communication) in this post. While mobile and social commerce are next up for online purchases on a smartphone, mobile payments at point of sale for smaller transactions will also be a hot topic in 2011. The path to a “mobile wallet” will be rocky, but NFC will emerge as the best way to both validate mobile proof of presence, and conduct small “tap to buy” transactions using value deduction from a secure, preloaded digital account contained within the device. Consumers know NFC and it is easy to use. The fact that three big US carriers have buried the hatchet long enough to line up behind NFC via the formation of Isis, is a powerful signal.

These inherently mobile “real life hot links” need to go somewhere, so NFC will support the rapid growth of mobile commerce as well. Watch for NFC tags to start appearing in pilots/tests on out of home advertising, packaging, and even wine bottle labels.

Conclusions

Mobile commerce drives revenue and location-specific redemption of special offers that can be promoted via social media marketing. Redemption takes the form of real mobile commerce transactions linked to promotions that mimic the powerful Groupon model, without giving up the margins. Mobile commerce will grow rapidly in 2011, as branded apps fade in importance, in direct proportion to increased data speeds,  accelerated location-enabled smart phone adoption/usage by consumers, and the creation of mobile commerce sites by retailers.

Facebook will increasingly play a role in every brand or retailer’s marketing plan. With 200 million accessing it via their mobile device, Facebook will become a place where discounts, sales, and special offers are  not only shared and compared, but increasingly parlayed into converted mobile commerce sales. Facebook commerce transactions that leverage this same technical backside integration and occur within Facebook will not be far behind.

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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is a former Tele Atlas exec and started Location Based Strategy, LLC in 2007 to help clients harness the power of mobile . He is also running sales for for mobile commerce solution provider Unbound Commerce. Contact him today to learn more.

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[tweetmeme source=”WLLK” only_single=false]

Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is a former Tele Atlas exec and started Location Based Strategy, LLC in 2007 to help clients harness the power of location-based social media marketing. Contact him today to learn more.

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Not so long ago, in a Harvard dorm room not so far away, Facebook was born. In record time, Facebook has graduated to the big time.

Today’s announcement of Facebook Deals is very significant, as it shows Facebook is looking beyond contextual advertising and toward the power of mobile “social experiences” to drive purchases and tracked point of sale interaction. Fueled by special deals offered by the legions of businesses who already use Facebook as their primary social media engagement platform, Facebook Deals tips their m-Commerce strategy hand and, as such, is a big deal.

Beyond Advertising

While college students certainly still use Facebook, it seems a broader audience that includes 500 million active users also see the appeal. Facebook has capitalized on this user traffic to the tune of an estimated $600M in contextual advertising last year. This is small beans compared to the close to $30 Billion in annual revenue Google is generating, 97% of which comes from advertising.

While this gap between Facebook and Google is one indicator the size of the advertising opportunity in front of Facebook, they also have the unique ability to capitalize on something perhaps even bigger, by driving tracked proven m-Commerce revenue linked to a specific location-based marketing campaign for small businesses and large brands alike. Google has been trying to back itself into this powerful social interaction value proposition but, to-date, has failed.

200 Million people now access their Facebook accounts via mobile. If Facebook can provide a secure, customizable revenue engine, reporting dashboard, and accounting system that users and businesses both trust, they could be in a unique position to capitalize as m-Commerce finally emerges from uncertainty and takes center stage.

Facebook Well-Positioned With SMBs

The rapid adoption of Facebook by consumers and businesses alike has changed the very nature of marketing. The new two-way street norm of required engagement with consumers has evened the playing field between small and large brands – and has fueled Facebook’s growth and popularity via an ever-increasing stream of relevant content at the same time.

As location-enabled smartphone user ranks swell, connectivity issues improve, and data costs fall, Facebook hopes the day is not far off when all businesses will need a live dashboard that controls a branded mobile Facebook page. This could become more important than having a “standard” website. For many, it already is.

The Check-In Craze: Watching And Learning

As the Foursquare and Gowalla-lead “Check-In” LBS craze swept in last year, Facebook watched and waited. User numbers climbed even without an LBS play and advertisers lined up. Facebook watched and waited, and learned.

When Facebook finally launched check-ins via Facebook Places “way back” in August of 2010 and embraced the unique location-awareness capability of mobile, it was a sparse affair that simply answered the Foursquare and Gowalla challenge. Even if basic, checking in directly on Facebook sped up the process by cutting out the middle man, since Foursquare and Gowalla piggybacked on the users Facebook graph.

Lately and perhaps not coincidentally, the initial novelty of “checking in” via a function-specific platform/app like Foursquare and Gowalla has waned. Even though each company is adding functionality as fast as possible, they simply do not have the local reach to add real consumer rewards fast enough to please most of the people most of the time. Facebook, if nothing else, has this reach, and this add to the power of the timing of the launch of Facebook Deals (yesterday).

Tapping The Power Of The Private Sale

Another location-based force that has rapidly re-shaped consumer interaction with products and services is the “private sale” phenomenon. While it’s long been accepted that consumers will act based on opinions from a trusted network of peers, there are finally ways these actions to translate into real, tracked mobile sales that have the tangible and impactful side benefit of driving live bodies into a retail point of sale.

In the last 6 months, “private sale personalized shopping” companies like Groupon, Living Social, and RueLaLa have been printing money by tapping into the desire for small and mid-sized businesses to drive new customers into their storefronts by offering special loss-leader deals via mobile.

It is interesting to note that CEO Mark Zuckerberg focused in on the “if you get three friends to check-in with you, you get something free” element yesterday. If you use Living Social, you know that this exact model provides the viral, turbo-charged boost they use to spread their deals among the interlocking social graphs of their subscribers.

I heard recently that Groupon is only able to process 1 in 7 deals proposed to them by small  businesses and is generating an estimated $50 Million a month in revenue. Worth an estimated $1.3 Billion while taking in only 135 Million in funding, Groupon is proof that small businesses will share a generous portion of the incremental gross sales, in order to have a shot at winning over new potential long-term customers that they know came in and redeemed the loss-leader offer. If this $50M a month figure is accurate, by the way, it means that the Chicago start-up is roughly matching behemoth Facebook in annual revenue.

Again Facebook has watched and waited, as (literally) hundreds of “daily deals for you” copycat (and well-funded) companies have sprung up and, as such, have proved the viability of the “opt-in daily deal” model on a massive scale.

Since almost 70% of US businesses have a Facebook page right now, Facebook could blow past these”check in for a personalized deal” companies that all must compete with each other and sell-in their solution to one small business at a time (or, more importantly, one giant brand’s “gatekeeper” agency at a time). The latter, in my opinion, is the harder row to hoe.

Into The Path Of The M-Commerce Parade

M-Commerce is a hot topic and, finally, there are real metrics to back up the years of wild expectations and predictions. With Deals, Facebook has stepped off the sidewalk and jumped out into the middle of the street, just as the location-based “special offer” m-commerce parade is poised to sweep over them.

These “daily offers” are nothing more than a new, location-based (mobile) way to promote the same tried and true “chalkboard” restaurant/bar specials or “sale bin” store items you see every day. The difference is that they are discoverable, BEFORE you enter the location/point of sale, when a consumer is in actual real-time physical proximity to that same location and have volunteered their location to the platform that is displaying the deal.

Think mobile is not ready to handle for the volume of potential commerce? eBay will more than double m-Commerce this year, from $600M last year to an-expected 1.5 Billion in 2010.

With the launch of Deals, Facebook is now playing in this hot space and can offer richer and richer solutions for businesses and consumers alike that can scale very quickly. They can capitalize on what has worked for other players with far-less reach that have conveniently prepped the landing zone before them, and avoid what has not.

A Single Solution?

By positioning the mobile Facebook app as the “login” solution that can also serve as an authentication engine, Facebook hints at their intent to solve the problem of “app option overload” for consumers and the “financial backside fragmentation” issue that has long-plagued the e-Commerce world. These elements will be especially interesting to watch.

While consumers do not all enjoy having to open a different app every time they walk into a business, the more important reason Facebook is poised to solidify the opportunity like no other is due to the fact that small town small businesses are generally already familiar with managing the backside page interface. Again, a whopping 70% have a Facebook page.

With so many social media options that may or may not include a customizable LBS m-Commerce element, big national brands (and their agencies) are also seeking a single solution. If Facebook simply can add the “check-in” and related special offers and m-commerce redemption tools they need to what they already provide, the barrier to entry becomes very small across all adoption fronts.

What’s The Big Deal

If mobile Facebook users can act upon a proprietor’s customizable call to action  by being directed to the location near them, debit an account on the same mobile platform that showed them the offer, and link it to trusted input from their social graph, Facebook will be linking the power of social marketing and m-commerce.

If Facebook can prove that consumers will not react adversely to special offers being “pushed” toward them when they are out and about, based on actual location and other algorithmically calculated variables like time, weather, and past behavior, well that would be something.

What if they could prove that consumers will volunteer “personal preference profiles” including what brands they like most, in exchange for real savings linked to location-based local or regional deals personalized for them? Not so far-fetched.

With m-commerce predicted to explode from $1.9 Billion in 2009 to almost $24 Billion by 2015 (see above), Facebook Deals might be just the beginning for the social network. Yes, Facebook Deals is a big deal.

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Wilson Kerr (@WLLK) is a former Tele Atlas exec and started Location Based Strategy, LLC in 2007 to help clients harness the power of location-based social media marketing. Contact him today to learn more.

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