IM hits SMS – networks must innovate for their users – fast.

IM hits SMS – networks must innovate for their users – fast.

Smartphones have become category killers for things we all thought were cool (as well as representing huge profitable revenues) – pagers, alarm clocks, calculators, satnav, cameras – and before long, handheld gaming, keys, healthcare monitoring amongst others will be hurt.

Now Smartphones have begun to bite the hand that feeds it. Research shows the 20 year rise of texting or SMS has declined in 2011 – with Ovum research calculating that global mobile operators having to account for some $14 Billion in lost texting revenues – some 60% more of a decline than in 2010.

Instant Messaging – Blackberry’s BBM & Apples’s iMessenger – are free to use, more fun and collaborative. While in the UK, texting remains on a high, most Smartphones are on pay monthly deals with 100s of texts bundled in the deal. So direct revenue from texts are reducing. ARPU is under threat. What should mobile networks do?

Time for the networks to adapt – they have a relationship with the user, and understand how the users have communicated with each other for years and should see the patterns emerging from which to innovate. They have the data. They have a relationship. Time to get useful.

If 2012 is the year of mobile – has Barclays got off to the right start?

If 2012 is the year of mobile – has Barclays got off to the right start?

In December, I noted that the mobile would become the primary focus of many interactions for customers and brands in 2012. This year, Smartphones are going to outsell PC’s – with nearly 90% of the world – be that poor, developing, emerging or developed markets – having a mobile phone. More people have a phone than a home, a car, a living wage. Whereas the developed world has great infrastructure, that allow for interconnectedness at home or work and have utilities and banks with systems that rarely go down – indeed systems that are more trusted than those in charge of them – the vast majority of the world can only really depend on their mobile devices.

Money transfers and healthcare applications in the developing world are already ahead of those in the “more connected” developed world. However, this is changing. While the financial institutions are struggling to regain trust following their culpability in sending the world into recession in 2008, they recognise that their customers are demanding not only more transparency, they are expecting services that are more useful. Banks need to look to new innovations that recognise this.

In the UK, First Direct is leading the way…again. Their customer service approach has always led the way – not just in financial services but in across the board. Their use of social media has added to their fantastic phone based service to their customers. Their first direct labs and first direct live offers are great. They launched the twitter service @firstdirecthelp to more success – see the attached Econsultancy report.

As an organisation, first direct are organised around customer service and has been for years. They are a leading example of a 21st Century Brand – indeed they already were in the last Century. Customer driven innovations will always beat me too innovations and new offers that simply ones jump on the bandwagon. Too many organisations attempt to have digital and social media offers or channels without linking them to two core foundations;

  • Is the offer directly linked to the company’s purpose or DNA
  • Is the offer clearly meeting a customer need

If neither is being met, the service will flop and the brand will be damaged. If this is done in public (and all social media is in public), the damage is magnified significantly (and rapidly). Getting it right deliver significant benefits, that magnify the word of mouth of the brand, and create advocates who praise the experience. Brands need to test these innovations out internally, with small pilots. Then when they are ready to launch, control the environment so that more learning can be captured, in order to constantly improve the offer.

So it was interesting to look at Barclays new mobile offer Pingit that was launched this week. The Pingit application allows people to send money to each other using simply their mobile phone numbers. Via Smartphones, Pingit allows Barclays current account customers to send money, but all UK account holders will be able to receive money through the system, by registering online.

The messages Barclays are using to promote the service are positive and customer driven – offering a small, useful service for friends and family – rather than a world beating e-commerce (or m-commerce) breakthrough. Barclays are containing the initial users to small amounts of money and only for their own current account holders. But they’ve also announced a 2nd generation app is due that will open the service for other bank customers. This suggests further learning is being gathered before offering it to a wider audience.

While the data protection regulations prove a significant stumbling block for this kind of innovation – especially where banks need customer data to hone their offers in more targeted shapes for their customers, Barclays have got this right so far. I suspect they have a good dialogue with those of their customers who want a simpler way to transfer money. Their insights have allowed them to shape the offer for them rather than simple copy software that exist in Africa and Asia already.

Where brand have a good dialogue with their customers, then customers share not only their dissatisfaction but reveal more needs and wants. These deliver the insights for brands to shape new offers.  I think Pingit will grow significantly and be the forerunner of more apps that Banks will develop for their customers to use. If that usage provides a positive experience, then maybe the bank’s relationship with their customers will start to rebuild trust. Those, like first direct, will remain the preferred choice. Has Barclays turned a corner?

Branding and social media — rapidly interlinked but both widely misunderstood

Branding and social media — rapidly interlinked but both widely misunderstood

Good research summary presented on Infographic below from Ask Your Target Market (AYTM) on the links between social media and brands. AYTM is a research firm who offer DIY surveys & they asked 2000 members of their own online panel where and how they used social media, if they followed brands on the likes of Facebook & Twitter and how they’d interact with brands.

AYTM drew up 3 personas to sum up behaviours – from active advocates whose voice wants/expects to be heard, to those who enjoy & share fun and those who still rely on mass communications to learn. If brand wants to engage with its community, the overwhelming request is for coupons and discounts.

Brand news, Q&A, help & interviews fall in the smaller grouping of the 80:20 rule.

So as we look into 2012, what will this analysis offer up as social media further engages itself with branding?

I predict that we’ll be seeing the smart brands that are getting to know their communities better offering more discounts & coupons, lightly wrapped up in a helpful short brand message/tweet.

And the smartest brands will be doing that in real time on smart phones directly to their fans in the retail or service environment that they’ve just entered. Because brands need to get mobile as that will rapidly become the best intersection of branding, social media and the customer.

infographic via mashable 

Brands must use Mobile

Brands must use Mobile

I attended the Mobile Advertising World (MADWORLD) conference yesterday. Really good speakers and content for the day. Many thought-provoking facts, stats and quotes emerged (some of which are below) but what was clear is that the importance of mobile devices for people and society is increasing exponentially and as such marketers & their advisors need to stop treating it in a traditional manner (either as a silo, or a niche offer, or a complementary focus, as another channel, as a smaller version of online/digital etc) and make preparations to use it a primary interaction for their customers/users/consumers.

And to do so in the next few months rather than next few years.

This is incredibly difficult to implement and for many there is no burning platform – however, when you smell the first few whiffs of smoke, it will be far too late (See Russell Bromley’s point about exponential growth below). That in itself is being compounded by the fact that the economic uncertainty is reducing budgets, increasing fear & inertia and causing marketers to focus on a few tried & trusted activities in the short term.

A lot of the issues and opportunities for mobile are currently being discussed and some fantastic innovations are being tried by a few digital savvy companies who are in the category, whose business model involves being digitally useful or are on the cutting edge.

But for the majority of brands, mobile simply isn’t important enough…yet.

Here are some of the things noted yesterday that encouraged the important shift in Mobile’s statement of intent.

Maurice Lévy, Publicis

  • Mobile is a game changer for society as much as business
  • The mobile phone is hardly a phone any more
  • 60% of people sleep with their phones
  • A third of people would rather lose their wallet than their mobile
  • Africa and other emerging markets are leapfrogging the developed countries because they do not have to undergo a “Darwinian” evolution based on 2.0. 2.1, 2.2 improvements. There is no infrastructure to replace. Mobile is already a utility.
  • Mobile offers huge precision of personal identity – not just information but behavioural & emotional on one device – so the biggest challenge for bands is not to abuse this – to seek permission to help the user rather than intrude or worse share/intrude without permission.
  • Mobile offers the opportunity for a commercialisation of personality but brands need to engage, help, and be useful.

As head of Publicis, he knows the boon of future revenues that best in class Mobile solutions ffer and knows the risks. M. Lévy recognised all must be done on an opt in/opt out basis. The danger there is to do it superficially to an extent that it is only a tick box exercise – like T&C’s being read or tick if you don’t want data shared. Brands need to be actively transparent with a user by explaining what they will do, why, what the usefulness will be and to do so without jargon. Gaining permission will be a privilege that cannot be abused.

Samuel Keret, Waze

  • Our offer shouldn’t work – real time advertising for drivers. But it does because a community uses it socially and they find it useful – a social sat nav. Advertising offers revenue but Waze needs to be primarily safe and we have a form of community policing inside the company as well as in our community.
  • In India, if you have a smart phone, a data package and a car…you’ll also have a driver.

Russell Buckley (Eagle Eye Solutions)

  • Mobile is undergoing Exponential Growth – where the market/technology/usefulness doubles every  period – he used his analogy of a huge football stadium – where a drop of water is put on the pitch, then 2 drops, then 4 etc and asked how long before someone in top row drowned. 49 minutes! But at 45 minutes, the stadium is less than half full so you think you have time to leave. 4 minutes later…gulp! That means when you see danger it’s too late. Mobile’s importance needs to be recognised  now not in 5 years
  • Mobile is a category killer – of pagers, calculators, alarm clocks, PDA, cameras, hand held gaming, MP3 players, Sat Nav…And the landline (“why phone a place when you can call a person?”)
  • With massive learning via algorithms, next will be health monitoring, translation, keys, PC’s and laptops (mobile will do to computing what PC’s did to mainframe)…and, and, and…
  • Data will further drive marketing – especially on Mobile – to recruit( mobile advertising) and for retention (mobile CRM & loyalty programs) – all based on customert benefits (immediately on your device/own number)
  • S-Commerce – mobile led commerce in store retail environments is something that brands and marketers can do immediately – using Mobile as a wallet, as a loyalty card, as a coupon, as a store guide, as a diversion … as needed.

Chris Lawson (Guardian) & Mona Walsh (EI@UM)

  • Mobile offers a community of collaborators and reporters than allow individuals to share their voice, make a difference and add back – witness Arab Spring.
  • Use the Conversation Economy – brands need to understand the social in social media
    • Think social (plan, create shareable content, have a story, be prepared to listen and answer)
    • Act social (where you do things, put things out, share things, celebrate and react)
    • Be social (recognise you are part of a community, of society, to take responsibility not only revenue, be future proof)
    • Too many companies remain in silos where marketing and customer service play to different tunes – fail.
    • The App Store will be the new Tesco as much as Amazon will be.

Daniel Rosen, AKQA…on Apps

  • Tablets are the ultimate Family computer – think couch commerce.
  • 10BN Apps have been downloaded
  • Apple’s App Store is 10X iTunes
  • Mobile’s web pages engage users for 26m/day but apps are 73mins/per day already and growing
  • Only 1% of Apps succeed
  • 86,000 iOS & Android developers already – so there is “an app for that already”!
  • So for a brand, you must ask is an App right for a brand – not simply that we must have one!
  • It needs to be a strategic decision with a specific business objective that only an App can deliver
  • Then…it needs to be Exceptional: great insight; relevance to existing user behaviour, innovative, focused – do one thing well – and with elegant Code.
  • In the end …everything’s strategic.

Nathan Clapton, Trip Advisor

  • Given the algorithmic growth of mobile commerce, take a few bets for the long term
  •  Evaluate Mobile Web or an App based on business needs
  • Think HTML5 as well as native apps – build once and distribute many times
  • Think multiplatform development from a user perspective
  • Decide your goals first
  • Convert your existing customers to mobile
  • Use Partners
  • Decide to develop in house or outside as you need
  • Update & innovate regularly
  • You can’t just build it & leave it!