Posts Tagged: apple

Video Markets Expanding

Two news items popped up this week that I’m liking and that indicate some interesting crossover not only in platforms but in online and offline audiences thanks to some new tools and some big name companies embracing user generated content.

While YouTube is moving away from the user generated content and organic discovery that made it so interesting (as is Cisco, with its closing of the Flip cam division that we discussed earlier this week), and that made it the powerhouse it is today in favor of commercial, channeled content paid for by corporations and syndicates, Apple, Netflix and Google are thinking far ahead of branded channels and embracing the user.  Apple in particular is rumored to be building a video based model designed to compete with both YouTube and Google’s Google TV efforts [full article in Forbes].

One key comment in the article, that Agencies want curated channels, stands out for me. Agencies may want it, but users are crying out on social sites for a la carte TV and web video where THEY are in charge of what they watch, and where it is truly affordable, not some outdated Nielsen rating system or brand.  Because of this, I think users will continue to flock to solutions that let them choose their own content, and that whatever company can pull it off well, and make it easy for them (as opposed to the high learning curve involved in creating your own a la carte television and video experience as it stands now with tools like Boxee and others) will win.  This makes me excited to see Apple jumping into this arena – they are well known for making fabulous user interfaces and focusing on usable design – the geek in me can’t wait to see what they do with TV once they leave behind the idea of Apple TV, etc as a “hobby”.

With Netflix adding in a user generated component, the user could have some exciting choices coming up. Netflix has a bit more clunky interface than Apple and as yet no way to divide your account into family members so your ratings and recently viewed don’t get contaminated with other people’s tastes, but it has the advantage of currently being integrated into more places like PlayStation 3, etc.  This could bring some interesting options to the table for the content generators that are willing to create semi branded content as opposed to full on content channels.

As someone with one foot in marketing, I know why brands want their own branded channels, but as a user as well, I think that is taking the easy way out.  I’d be much more intrigued to see the brands that find a way to conquer the market with great content without having to hold the users hostage to one channel to do it.  What is your favorite brand creating video successfully without holding users hostage to a branded channel right now? Can you think of any?

 

 

 

The Customer Experience Engine

Recently I did a spot for New Hampshire’s WMUR Channel 9 on Savvy Shopping using smart phones. One part of the segments that got edited out were my comments on stores being able to improve retention in the face of ubiquitous pricing info and user ratings by improving their customer experience and customer service. It sounds simple, but so many fail at it.

I have three favorite examples of customer experience right now: Disney, Apple and Trader Joe’s. Each is vastly different in scope and product, yet all excel at experience. Even if you are a Mom and Pop shop, you need to take your customer’s experience just as seriously as they do, and put it at the forefront of your time spend.

Apple is well known for engineering their Apple Retail Stores to provide the ideal shopping experience for their target customer base. They keep their stores simple, bright, comfortable, interactive, attractive, artistic, efficient and well staffed with knowledgable people. There is never a shortage of help when you need it, and aesthetically they have created an atmosphere that pays attention to everything from customer flow to the way the floor feels to stand on. It makes shopping there a pleasure, yes, but they also welcome those who simply need a laptop charge or to jump online quickly – that low key expertise, atmosphere of play and knowledge, and welcome feeling works. Apple has legions of fans that congregate for new store openings and product launches, who generate vast amounts of fan content based on Apple’s brand experience, and more.

Trader Joe’s works hard to give you a neighborhood grocery feeling in their stores, while giving you a chance to buy exotic items and unique things. They make you feel special, and are so good at customer experience their customers spontaneously create videos and other odes to them. They use a special check out system to handle the problem of being in a slow line (slow lines are rare beasts indeed at Trader Joe’s, almost never spotted, even during rush times), encourage staff to be helpful and courteous, and design everything from the store layout and products stocked to the staff Hawaiian shirts to encourage a feeling of exploring and discovery.

Disney is, hands down, the reigning champ of customer experience. With a semi-hidden army of people working to ensure the happiness of everyone who interacts with Disney, especially when it comes to their theme parks, Disney has placed itself as the gold standard of perceived happiness for their customers. To go to a Disney park is to experience decades of practice implementing cutting edge ideas that only billions of dollars of R&D and advanced techniques can produce, coupled with a staff of thousands ready to execute at a moments notice – a juggernaut and a pas des deux at once.

What I find interesting for brick and mortars, Mom and Pop shops, and businesses of all sizes, is the way in which technology is leveling the playing field. Well made low cost software and gadgets enable you to be as up on what your competition is doing as the customer is. Instead of using it for what most businesses do, however: price competition, why not use it instead for customer happiness research?

Find out where your customer’s pain points are, both in your establishment and in your competitors’ establishments. Address those pain points better and faster than everyone else. Listen to what your customers love more than a bargain, and see if you can deliver it. Use this information river to make your customer feel unique, special and above all – wanted and appreciated.

Educate and empower your staff at all levels on your processes. Nothing makes a customer unhappy faster than a staff member who isn’t clued in on what the company is doing, whether it is a Foursquare Special or how to take a return with grace and care. Staff members who feel like they don’t have enough information to do their job are unhappy themselves, and this translates to customer unhappiness as well – Trader Joe’s, Disney and Apple all empower their staff to help people, and it shows in how pleasant they are to the customer.

Open online channels if you can support them, then be clear on how you will use them. Give enough people access to these channels to make them effective to avoid the ghost town effect abandoned accounts have on customer happiness and retention. Make sure the infrastructure of your business is geared to handle online inputs (don’t be a Comcast, known for having great Twitter service and shoddy actual service).

Your eyes, ears and staff are your greatest resources for retaining customers and building customer happiness and retention. Technology is out there to help you broaden their reach. Are you building your own command center and using it to your own advantage?

iPhone 3.0 Update Brings Proper Mobile Social Networking Closer

The iPhone’s next update, 3.0, was just unveiled yesterday.  For all of you that don’t own iPhones (which includes me), you might very well be wondering how I can connect the progress of a single phone to the advancement of mobile social networking as a whole.  I’m going to explain, so try to keep up.

Like it or not, the iPhone boasts the best platform and App store for mobile social media and networking.  A couple worthy mentions should go to Google’s G1, and maybe even Samsung for its latest batch of TouchWiz-equipped handsets.  

Working from that assumption, I’d point out that iPhone sales have soared recently, even considering the fact that AT&T, a carrier not known for its shining quality, is the only service that can claim the iPhone.  The mass adoption of the iPhone coupled with the success of the Apps store is making the iPhone the best platform for real mobile social networking to occur.

As I’ve said so many times before, there’s quite a ways to go before we reach true mobile social networking.  But, if you believe as I do that the iPhone will most likely be the platform to boast true mobile social networking, you’ll have to agree that a couple of updates announced yesterday certainly go a good way towards brining true mobile social networking closer.

First up: push notifications.  The iPhone (and iPod Touch) will now automatically receive application updates even if the app in question is not running.  You might be thinking, “Well, gee, why didn’t they already have that?”  A very good question.  

Now that apps can receive updates automatically (that is, without a user having to open each individual application, such as Mail, Twitterfon, Loopt, Facebook, MySpace, etc.), users will be alerted of updates to their different social accounts real-time.  Being aware is a huge tenet of social networking, and having your apps note updates displayed as they come in without having to update each app individually will help users streamline their online social activity.  

Second: maps access inside other apps, and turn-by-turn directions.  I consider both of these to be big steps towards advancing mobile social networking.  Loopt, perhaps the best mobile social networking aggregator app out there, allows users’ locations to be visible to other Loopt users on a map.  What better way to help users connect with each other on-the-go than to provide mapped, turn-by-turn directions to activities or your friends?

Let’s say you’re in the city.  Your friend updates her status on Facebook, raving about this band that’s about to play live in a venue across town from you.  You aren’t familiar with the quickest way to get there, so you open Loopt and use your current location and your friend’s location to generate turn-by-turn, GPS-rendered directions, which get you there before the second opening band comes on.

I can’t say as to whether the Loopt team has any designs on integrating the functionality I just described, but my point is the technology is there, and it is now possible.  Talk about a very real way to bridge your online social presence with your real world social life.  THAT is what mobile social networking is about.  

Third: data tethering.  Yes, that sounds quite lame in comparison to what I’ve detailed above, right?  Though I’m all about having everything you need in the palm of your hand, the fact is we just aren’t there yet.  Failing those advancements, there’s not much better than whipping out your Macbook wherever you are at and doing some surfing or social networking when you’re out of WiFi range.

 If mobile social networking still isn’t quite realized (and I’d say that it certainly isn’t), then why not use your familiar and powerful, computer-based social networking tools wherever you’re at by tethering your iPhone’s data to your laptop?  It’s social networking made mobile, is it not?  A bit cumbersome, but it fits the description.  

There you have it: three updates to the iPhone that will further the cause of mobile social networking.  

P.S. – If you weren’t aware, Loopt isn’t just limited to the iPhone…it’s available on the G1 and Blackberrys, just to name a couple prominent handsets.

Mobile Social Spreading, but Still Stunted

I just got my first iPod Touch, and suffice it to say that I’m officially hooked.  In fact, I’m more than hooked.  In less than 24 hours, I’ve effectively decided that lugging around a Blackberry Curve with the wonderful Touch is too much, and that I need an iPhone.  Leslie called the iPod Touch a gateway drug, and I couldn’t agree more.

Of course, now that I have an Apple Touch device, my first move was to jump on the Apps store and look for all the mobile social networking applications I could find.  I have to say, I was a little disappointed.  There just weren’t the plethora of applications I expected to find.

That isn’t to say I didn’t find some great tools.  First off, the Facebook app for the iPhone and iPod Touch is simply stunning.  It is far superior to its counterpart for Blackberry.  If I wasn’t already a Facebook junkie (and I was), I’m probably a lost cause, as it will now be fused to my hip in waking and sleeping.  

I also found a fantastic Twitter platform called TwitterFon, a FREE app that, in my opinion, bests any offering I’ve seen thus far either for mobile phones or computer platforms.  You’ll probably hear me harping on “free” for quite some time, as I’m sure there are many great mobile apps available for all mobile phones, but it seems some developers feel the need to charge for their creations.  I’m all for paying for apps that are well-developed, but there aren’t any trial opportunities for many apps that could be very good…in that sense, developers lose out because many won’t be willing to pay for something they’re not sure of, and consumers lose out because they’re more apt to stick with free apps than apps that might very well be superior. 

Also, I installed the Yelp! app to my iPod Touch.  Though it’s far from perfect, it’s a nice addition to anyone’s mobile device as it offers great search and localizing functionality for finding activities, restaurants and businesses in your area.  Today I searched for Starbucks, and found one 1.5 miles away; when I clicked “Google Maps” to get directions from my house, Google didn’t know the location existed.  Luckily I already knew where it was.  The point being, it isn’t perfect but it’s better than not having it.

And yet, I still find myself less than enthused with the current plight of mobile social networking.  Why?  Because, dear friends, the mobile social networking world is in serious need of multiple cross-platform social aggregators.  By cross-platform, I mean available with every major cellular carrier in the U.S, and by social aggregator, I mean a platform that ties in most of the best and most popular social networking and media sites like Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and others.  Though it’s all well and good to update each application separately, it just isn’t time effective to type out the same message for all your different services. 

I was surprised to find no evidence of a FriendFeed application for the iPhone/iPod Touch.  Though it isn’t my favorite computer-based aggregator, I think it would be a huge hit on mobile platforms. I’m familiar with what is currently the most widely-used aggregator for the iPhone, Blackberry, and other platforms — Loopt — but I find it lacking.

It does seem to be a perfectly fine social locator that integrates Facebook and Twitter, but if that’s it, there’s certainly a lot of room for improvement.  If you can use it, give it a try and see whether it fits your needs.  But it isn’t the be-all end-all to me.  

There are options, and mobile social networking has certainly come a long way from where it was even a couple years ago.  But competition between developers, and more so carriers, has effectively stunted the growth and restricted the adoption of universal mobile social networking.  For now, the best offerings seem to be available on the iPhone and the G1 (T-Mobile), and some of Samsung’s latest phones with the TouchWiz interface have some interesting (albeit limited) social applications.  For now, Facebook and Twitter seem to be the two big platforms, and your best bet is to find an app that suits your needs for each of those platforms.

Your 2009 Tech and Media Outlook

2008 was a big year. An economic recession, presidential election and wild weather certainly made the year exciting; for tech and media, we saw the continued adoption of smartphones, the advent of online mobile application stores, the success of Twitter, and an increase in the use of social media tools by both young and old.

And 2009 should have a few big stories up its sleeve as well. There’s a lot coming, and hopefully most will be good. Here’s what I see happening…

Not-So-Mobile Social Media

Here’s a little secret from me to you regarding mobile social media and networking: if it is too frustrating or time consuming for people to access social content from handheld devices, they will simply stop trying.

I’m a Blackberry user.  You might even say that I am a Crackberry addict.  I won’t say it, because that means I have admitted that I have a problem, and experts tell me such admittance must preclude a recovery of some sort.   But for better or worse, you might say my life revolves around the shiny little Blackberry Curve Sunset that never escapes my person.

New Articles Up At Mashable And Blorge, PodCast In Works For Mac.Blorge

I have new articles up at Mac.Blorge, Tech.Blorge and Mashable covering DEMO companies, Apple events, Ubiquity for the Mac and a brief commentary on TechCrunch50 vs DEMOFall08. Check them out and let me know what you think. The next piece in the social media for social change series on Mashable should be up shortly as well.

Also of note, fellow Blorger Opal and I are planning a weekly Mac podcast for you, so stay tuned on Blorge to hear more about that as well!

Mobile Social Media Makes it Big in ’09

Though I’ve said almost incessantly that social media will, in the very near future, start migrating as a whole to mobile devices, it is always nice to see a little evidence to back that theory up.  iSuppli, an analyst group focused on interpreting trends in electronics, claims that the massive adoption of smartphones and internet-friendly handsets in 2009 will force businesses to radically revamp their business models to address the new mobile social phenomenon.  With many social business startups gaining support in the mobile platform arena, iSuppli estimates that the scope of this shift to mobile social media could surpass the current impact of the technology, media and telecommunication industries, which currently control approximately 5% of the gross global domestic product (estimated at $3 trillion dollars). 

Information Week claims that the adoption of smartphones like the iPhone is the catalyst for the market’s shift towards mobile-based social platforms.  I agree with that opinion whole-heartedly, but there are a few very large roadblocks standing in the way of widespread adoption of social mobile platforms.

First, many consumers just aren’t ready to spend money on data transfer plans with mobile carriers because either the handsets that properly execute internet are too pricy, or the plan rates are outrageously priced.  The U.S. carrier market is preying on consumers; while other countries have high-speed networks and advanced handsets available at competitive rates, the U.S. market is exploiting customers while the getting is good.  For the U.S. market to truly adopt mobile social media, plans and handset prices will need to become truly competitive — what a novel concept!

Second, handsets will need to be powerful enough to operate mobile social platforms full-time without putting a huge strain on battery life, system performance or any other aspect of mobile communication.  Apple isn’t allowing mobile social platforms to run constantly in the background on the iPhone for fear of system slowdown and drained battery life.  Though that is a legitimate concern, by not allowing social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to run as background processes, the iPhone (which is the most popular touchscreen handset on the market) is stunting the growth of mobile social media.  If the industry is truly going in the direction iSuppli predicts, Apple and other manufacturers will have to bulk up their handsets to compensate for the shift towards proper mobile social networking.  

iSuppli also estimates that the cost of basic mobile social packages will be an average of $15.30 monthly.  I have to say that I disagree with this analysis, and here’s why:  the entire point of social networking is to share and communicate with friends, family and new people.  Sharing, by definition, implies no cost.  Do you think social networking and media would have become so successful if there were monthly price tags on every platform?  That obviously won’t stop carriers from attempting to tag social packages with price tags.  However, you can bet that people will choose to pay standard data rates and use free social platforms instead of opting into any carrier-exclusive for-pay mobile platform.  If carriers can’t see that simple fact now, they’re wasting time by building or purchasing mobile social platforms they intend to charge users for.  

It is likely that, like many other things in the mobile world, the U.S. will be stuck quite a few large steps behind other markets, simply because carriers aren’t willing to sacrifice a few pennies in the name of progress.  Though other markets might see a drastic shift towards mobile social networking by next year, our nickel-and-diming U.S. carriers probably won’t have any problem shooting up the party here.