Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mobeam: What's it mean?

This week Mobeam,, announced a deal with P&G to provide the light beam transmissions from smartphones that can be read on the standard point of sale barcode laser scanners. This technology will allow for multiple coupons to be read at the point of sales instantaneously; allowing for control of coupon redemption; and the ability to know individual users, and the time and place of purchase. The coupons can come from scanned QR codes, mobile and internet web sites, or emails and other electronic messages. P&G can integrate this with their web site and allow people to redeem coupons with their phones. It certainly puts more power back in the hands of brands and could potentially do this for retailers, or newspapers who want to offer coupon wallets on mobile phones.

According to Mobeam all of the major handset manufacturers are installing the Mobeam software into their phones as a way to make the phone more valuable to the consumer. They are doing this on all new smartphones starting in 2012 so the use of this capability will take a coupon of years to become a mainstream behavior.

Right now the company is focusing on low hanging fruit. According to the Mobeam press release the coupon market is a $3.7 Billion annual market with 300 million coupons scanned each year in North America.

The other interesting aspect of this technology is that it can be used for ticket entrance into sports arenas and also be used for payments. This brings up the point of what will be the primary point of sale payment method for mobile phones. Will it be NFC, light transmission, magnetic strip readers (like Square), photo credit card scanners (like Jumio) or mobile web purchasing (like Paypal)? It is really going to depend on:

• Ease of use
• Security
• The existing cost to upgrade existing equipment

Clearly the technology which gets a strong foothold in the market will have a momentum advantage.

My prediction is that we will see a variety of these different technologies in handsets and working on different applications depending on: the payment, redemption or access situation; the need for secure access; and the need to upgrade existing POS or access equipment

There are many different air interface technologies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ZigBee. Each has some overlap, but serves different applications and devices better. This is likely to the case for payment, access and redemption capabilities on a handset. However, the gating factor in adoption will be how easy it is for consumers to use.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Social Mobile Media

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Social Media Plus conference in Philadelphia. It was an excellent conference which covered a lot of material from Facebook to search engine optimization, how businesses can utilize social media, and it had a number of case studies which highlighted business applications. Some of the ways social media is being used by businesses include:

Brand Marketing: The social media channels are where the eyeballs are, especially young eyeballs. Facebook is the leader with 800 million Facebook users and Twitter has over 250 million messages per day. Social media is where brands are both displayed and talked about. For some companies the Facebook page is like another web page.

Public Relations: Social media is used to highlight the benefits of brands and companies as well as protect brand and company image. The speed at which information flows over social media makes it a requirement to spread positive news and to react quickly and accurately to negative news.

Customer Interaction: Social Media is a two- way street where customer expect to interact with companies to deal with product issues, and to talk about the benefits and drawbacks of products. People use social media to follow and share the content they care about. Companies can use this interaction to build support from users who will be advocates of the company via social media or word of month. In addition, companies can use social media to broadcast solutions for product issues as well as learn about how people are using or want to use products.

Drive Leads and Sales: This is often a more subtle art and science proposition than interacting with customers and it requires planning, monitoring and execution. It is going to require understanding the people the company is advertising to on social media, creating a community of trusted people who are ready to accept your message, understanding the social media is interactive multichannel forum that needs to be measured; and moving people through a purchase funnel with social media, search and a good landing page.

Employment Acquisition and Dismissal: Many companies, by some counts 80% of large companies, use LinkedIn to find prospective workers. Other companies monitor social media sites when deciding who to hire. Companies will also fire employees for what they say on social media so an employee social media policy needs to be in place.

What does this mean for mobile?

There are a large number of mobile users with smartphone who access all types of social media. It is estimated that 350 million people use Facebook on their mobile device. Mobile search traffic is generally much smaller that PC traffic so it may not be a strong candidate for search engine optimization, but this will depend on the business. However, mobile traffic is growing and it has a number of implications:

Mobile Increases Reach: Mobile allows more people in developing countries and in lower economic demographics of society to have access to social networking. Mobile is also the Internet device of choice for younger demographics. This can have and already has an effect on the political process and how candidates are viewed. It is not inconceivable that someday people can vote via their Facebook page just like they click a like button. In addition, brands and companies can reach out to more people that they have not had communications with before.

Mobile Blurs the Line Between On and Off Work: Often people act more impulsively when they communicate with a mobile phone or forget they are representing the company when they are away from work. Often the way people communicate when they are away from work is with a mobile phone. Companies need to be careful to inform employees that the Internet on the mobile phone is the same Internet on the PC.

The Mobile Phone is a Camera with Instant Upload: The phone can be used to take pictures that can put a company in a bad light and these can be quickly uploaded to social media where they can move very quickly across the Internet. This requires companies to monitor and have a plan in place to deal with negative issues that arise from broadcasting on social media.

Mobile is a Local Search Channel: 20% of Google searches are local and 40% of those are on a mobile phone. People use the mobile phone to find business locations, look up ratings, see what their friends liked or recommended. It is important that brands review various social sites to judge ratings and make adjustments or comments. In addition, companies need to make an evaluation to determine if social shopping sites like Foursquare can help them. Lastly and probably most important companies need to have a mobile landing page that is easy to use and gives customers the information and communication channel they need.

Mobile is used for instantaneous information retrieval and communication or when a PC or Tablet is not available: The phone is often used in place of a PC if a small amount of information is required or if a PC is not available especially in a search context. People also use a mobile phone for quick communications like that on Twitter and SMS. It is important that companies have a good search engine optimization and a mobile landing page so they can effectively funnel traffic into a sale.

Both social media and mobile are fast becoming fabrics of our interactions and daily lives. Companies need to understand and use social media and mobile to create the best selling and communication environments for their customers.