Posts Tagged: mobile

The Rise of Mobile in Retail

Mobile apps can be the door to happy customers and more retail sales, but they can also have drawbacks if not researched well and done correctly.

Altimeter released a great report on where Mobile Retail stands right now, and reviews a few of the missteps as well as the inroads companies have made trying out mobile in retail.

Some successes include Starbucks, a mobile pay and use-tracking solution I personally use often because it works so well (though I don’t tend to use their mobile play app to animate their cups – it suffers from accuracy and lag issues).

I also liked the notes Altimeter made about how online retailers such as Amazon are causing ripples in the offline space and pushing brick and mortar retailers out of their comfort zone.

 

I’ve embedded the Altimeter report for you below – it has some good information you can put to use right now if you are thinking of adding a mobile strategy to your retail store.

 

 

Adapt or Die: Food Truck Model

You may remember me talking about business Darwinism (adapt or die) on the blog a while back. Today’s restaurant industry is a prime example of Darwinian business choices in action. Chefs of all experience levels are moving to food trucks as way to create pop-up markets for their food at a price people can afford.

The food truck model allows the chef or restaurant owner to reduce costs and/or potentially down size a restaurant that isn’t doing well without giving up their dream. In some cases the food truck replaces a restaurant altogether. In other cases it compliments it. Still other chefs who might not have had the budget or experience to open a full restaurant are using the food truck model to jump start their dream of cooking for the public without the high risk of failure in the first three years that haunts many restaurants.

The ability to reach new markets with a food truck (in effect a portable dining experience) is unparalleled. While there is a fine line between not staying in one place long enough to garner a crowd and leaving too late for the next location, the mere fact that you can move your food truck if you are having a bad sales day is appealing and helps the business survive. If you have great food and optimize social media like Kogi BBQ started doing so long ago (the first food truck to use Twitter to report it’s location – fabulous marketing tactic and unique to them in the beginning), then you can create a loyal following that will follow you to each new location, growing your customer base exponentially.

The food truck business model has certainly come a long way from the days of the “roach coach” that would bring greasy food to the parking lots of offices, schools and construction sites. As the food served has gotten more upscale and increased in variety, the need for good marketing has increased as well. Some sites have started popping up to help people find food trucks near them, as the food truck foodie culture is growing right along side the proliferating trucks. Curious to see what trucks are near you? Here’s a few sites (some that also have mobile apps) that will help you find your local trucks:

Street Eats

Find LA Food Trucks

Austin Food Carts

Mobi Munch

Food Truck Fiesta

Miami Food Trucks

Some food trucks, such as Kogi, are using social media very well. Twitter is ideal for mobile business of all types like this, since you can announce your location each time it changes and build an online rapport with your strongest supporters, finding out in real time what they like about your food and what they’d love to see added or improved. You can even get real time traffic and weather feed back from your followers, allowing you to shift location choices accordingly.

Foursquare is an interesting service for a food truck, since they move around. However, you can place your location as a tip on the nearby businesses Foursquare walls as one way to use it to get the word out about your location. I’d advise NOT posting your tip to a restaurant’s location wall, but instead to a complimentary business, as posting to a restaurant wall would be considered rude.

Facebook, aside from giving you a handy place to have a presence where true fans can rave about you, may no longer be a great place for the time strapped food truck owner to be. Because of changes in the timeline, Facebook has become more story-heavy for businesses. People will see more of you is you post more stories, and more compelling stories, than the usual “we are here today” type of post. If you don’t think you’ll have time to generate video and photo content that tells a compelling story, Facebook may make a better outpost than focus point for your truck.

YouTube is a great place for food trucks to market. What better way to display how happy your fans are than to create a video interview series or to capture their stories (and yours) in short videos that you can share with people on your website (you still need a website that you own) and other social sites?

What other social media do you see food trucks using? What “future social” do you think will most benefit a mobile business such as the food truck industry? Do you see Google + and its Hangouts (video) and Messenger (text/chat) feature as being useful to mobile business?

How can you apply the food truck model to your business to make it more portable?

Geolocation Risk:Benefit

For a couple of years now I’ve been telling people who ask me where the “next” thing will be happening that Geolocation and Mobile are the answer. These two technologies are very different, and yet they go hand in hand. For the end user, they come with inherent risks along with the benefits. For the business, there are primarily benefits to being geolocation friendly and mobile ready.

If you are a business, being on the leading edge of geolocation and mobile technologies will be key to your success. I wish someone would explain to me why on earth the grocery stores (VRM) have not banded together to make a cross platform mobile app for WinMo, iPhone, Droid that lets me tell the app which store I’m in, have it know my reward number, and then let me photo-scan barcodes for discounts and easy check out. We have the technology, stores just fear data sharing. Trust me, consumers WANT the ease of not having 20 store cards in their wallet. An application like Blippy that tweets your purchases could make the experience even more fun for shoppers who opted in to it, and meanwhile I could go to Stop and Shop for groceries, Body Shop for makeup, Irving for gas and PayLess for shoes in one day and only need to remember my phone, instead of a wallet full of store cards or a keychain so big it won’t fit in my pocket because of the keychain card version. If you are truly tech savvy, you are getting your business listed on mobile and geolocation applications proactively to take it to the next level.

End users have different concerns. No matter who you are, having geolocation settings turned on can make your life interesting if you try to, say, call in for work sick and then pop up at home online. But “how to get fired” jokes aside, If you are a woman, or a minor, geolocation technology has inherent drawbacks for you. If you are, for example, a woman who is fleeing an abusive relationship, you need mobile technology in the form of a cell phone to ensure your safety. Most abusers don’t honor restraining orders, should you be able to even obtain one, and you need a way to call for help. But if your abuser is tech savvy, you can see how geolocation can also come with inherent risk (this is true of many social web tools for women and children in this situation, by the way, but geolocation is the topic today).

If you are a minor, mobile tech is part of your daily life by now at nearly all income levels, in some way. This is helpful, and a fantastic tool for the future, but adding in geolocation creates another risk issue. That of predators (of all types, not just sexual predators) who can monitor a minor’s location if the minor does not take the proactive stance of a) turning off geolocation whenever the option is allowed b) having parents or a guardian who will take the time to check and make sure the feature is off and c) avoiding the use of tools that utilize geolocation and don’t offer an option to turn it off.

Communities online can offer their own inherent challenges when it comes to geolocation and mobile. Take popular yet frivolous internet game Foursquare for example. In this case Foursquare allows you to enter a new location with as much or as little location data as you’d like. This is fantastic – it allows people to play the game and to include somewhere like their office, without being in danger if they work alone. Sure, Foursquare also offers a way to check in and not show anyone your location at all, but a) what fun is that? and b) the users we’re about to discuss will eventually complain if you do this too often.

In Foursquare’s case, a few weird, over zealous users can really spoil the bunch. They (not the application creators) act like the app police, ordering take downs of frivolous locations like “My Couch” all over the country, and reporting any location with a vague address (like “corner of Vine and Temple St”) all over the country. Never mind that this is something Foursqaure allows, that it is a game and is supposed to be fun, or that for some it’s a matter of safety – they are the hall monitors of the internet. To remove the ability to be vague when needed, or to have the application be fun, is detrimental to the application’s success and can have adverse consequences for the user.

Foursquare is just an example of how users of the technology can contribute to the problem overall. In the end we are in charge of our own safety online, yet for some the knowledge of how to be safe just isn’t there. It is my view that application providers need to make it default to opt out of geolocation as this becomes the norm, need to make sure the settings are obvious to change privacy levels and the rules of use are clear, and need to do a little policing of overzealous or bad-apple users whose tactics may put other less savvy users in challenging positions.

This is not a “fear this technology” or “scary scary internet” post in any way. I advocate caution online and offline, but in the end this is a “how can we make this cool new frontier safe for everyone?” post. Because in the end, this technology is not coming, it’s here now, and we need to work together to make sure it is safe and easy to understand and useful for all.

Looking To The Future Of Social Media

In which I discuss the need to look beyond the minutia of the daily and into the future, charity, and more.

(if you follow me on Twitter, you will see this twice – once direct from Utterli and once from the blog)

A Little Light Reading

What’s on your nightstand or in your beach tote this summer? My summer reading looks like this:

Currently finished:

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (2nd reading)

Groundswell by Christine Li and Josh Bernoff (2nd reading)

The Moral Animal by Robert Wright (TERRIBLE book, btw)

On the nightstand:

Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Planet Google by Randall Stross

Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavior by Geoffrey Miller

Rules of Thumb by Alan Webber

The Power of a Positive No by William Ury

On Order:


The Fourth Turning by William Strauss

The Extreme Future by James Canton

The Transparent Society by David Brin
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore; Regis McKenna
The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder

What is on your must read list? I have a few projects coming up that require researching and studying a variety of theories and viewpoints, and I’m actively seeking books I have not considered yet. Do you have a seminal work not listed here you rely on for future theory or psychology/sociology of technology? Does one of these works speak to you? What resonates with you?


note: links in this blog may be Amazon affiliate links


Blackberry, Windows Mobile Join the Apps Store Fray

All you Blackberry and WinMo users out there that have been dejected, watching iPhone and G1 users download fun and practical applications from each phone’s respective application store, finally have something to smile about. This week’s big mobile news, at least thus far, has been the announcement of an application store for both Blackberry phones and Windows Mobile phones.

Why all the fuss? Well, obviously this means that a much larger number of handsets around the world will have mobile access to a wide selection of mobile applications. RIM and WinMo phones make up the vast majority of handsets in the corporate world, and although the corporate world doesn’t revolve on having a wide range of apps for various tasks, it does mean this: all those business users who, for whatever reason, haven’t adopted handsets like the iPhone that already have apps stores, they will now have the access to apps they will want to use in their personal time.

And aside from those users that have chosen to sport two phones, one for professional use and one for personal use, most folks prefer to pack only one phone on a day to day basis. So most folks will now be able to download mobile apps to whatever phone they’re tied to.

Again, for many of you, so what? Application stores mean that users have access to a wide array of social applications; beyond that, developers compete aggressively to produce the most intuitive and powerful applications every day, and to offer them at the best price points. Right now there are certainly aren’t enough applications for the most popular social platforms, but we’re going in the right direction. With the added stores for Blackberry and Windows Mobile, even more developers will be drawn to projects for mobile platforms. I can almost taste the quality to come.

Also, one of my biggest problems with the nature of mobile social networking to date was that social media really can’t be mobile until every phone is able to partake in the community. Until now, that wasn’t possible; when you rule out Blackberrys and Windows Mobile phones, you’re left with just a piece of the pie. Now we can at least say that we’re at the right staging point from which developers can now start working on truly intuitive cross-platform apps that allow everyone to connect, regardless of their carrier or handset.

This is big. Get excited.

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.

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.

T-Mobile’s G1: not quite Ponies and Rainbows

Of course, now that I said that, some bored software junky will design the “Ponies and Rainbows” app for the G1 just to spite me.  I won’t be too heartbroken.

Probably everything you’ve heard about Google, T-Mobile and HTC’s new superchild, the G1 handset, is that it is the phone that will revolutionize the handset industry, take open software to a new level, and most significantly, crush the iPhone betwixt its powerful jaws (or something to that effect).  I won’t refute that completely, but there are some points I feel the mainstream media is leaving out when it comes to T-Mo’s new flagship device.