Monday, June 21, 2010

Designing for "real people".

Thanks to the Startupcafe folks for organising a fun series of Ignite style presentations at "Barcamp" Glasgow last week.

My five minutes was focussed on a pet irritation of mine, the lack of focus on "real" non-technical end-users in the design and creation of mobile services and applications - both in terms of what they want to and can do.

Obviously this is a key part of what we offer at Mobile Acuity with our Visually Interactive brand marketing work, and our Visual Product Recognition platform. We aim to reduce the complexity of many apps and services to simply pointing the phone camera at something.

The Ignite presentation style is interesting, five minutes with 20 slides that advance automatically every 15 seconds. Certainly helps to keep folks on time!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

What do Marketeers look for in Mobile?

It is sad to see that with one or two notable exceptions mobile has yet to break through as a standard feature of brand marketing campaigns. To help us understand why we asked Phil Adams from Blonde to the June MoMo Edinburgh to tell us how mobile is viewed from the point of view of the non-specialist digital agencies, and more importantly their clients.

In order to provide a solid base for the discussion Phil conducted a survey of his client base which he has since summarised in a slideshare presentation:

Phil started off by giving an overview of the barriers he had identified with the use of mobile in campaigns for his clients:
  • mobile is part of digital is part of advertising is part of marketing is part of commercial - a long way down the chain.
  • most clients practice "OR" budgeting - if they are to spend on mobile they will have to not spend elsewhere - and be convinced that the mobile spend will provide better results than what it replaces.
  • marketing budgets tend to be focussed on time limited campaigns and thus mobile (in common with other digital channels) needs to be packaged up into discrete events as opposed to being considered as a continuous platform with a longer term payback.
  • very little mobile casework available.
... before taking us through the highlights from his survey above.

This led to an interesting forty minutes of discussion including:
  • Tim Barlow of Attacat asked if it wasn't more natural to consider mobile in the context of customer services as opposed to marketing in order to escape the campaign centric view. One counter-observation was that there is typically a much higher barrier to entry to engage with a business core operational activities than there is in marketing.
  • Gavin Dutch of Loc8 noted that there had been a number of success stories in the provision of utility mobile apps within the brand identity - with examples such as the Oakley surf finder and North Face weather app - to give a long lived impact for the investment made. Tim countered that beyond early adopters entertainment was probably more important than utility.
  • Ben Hounsell of Tenbu/Nio observed that there was still mileage in the age old model of users accepting advertising in return for some free service, and with an option to pay for a premium advertising free version. The latter would of course be even more likely on mobile where people are in general more sensitive to advertising!
  • Bryan Rieger of Yiibu asked the advertisers present about their view of mobile adwords, Admob, and iAds etc. Tim reported a small but growing use of mobile adwords, but it was perhaps indicative of the task facing mobile that there were several agency folks in the room who hadn't come across Admob or iAds yet.
  • Anthony Ashbrook of Mobile Acuity struck an optimistic chord when he noted that once brands started to see the less than perfect results their vanilla digital materials had on mobile devices they were likely to quite rapidly raise their game in mobile in order to protect their brand integrity.
  • Anthony also observed that perhaps it was an error to focus on mobile as a discrete element of the campaign, as opposed to an additional channel within a multi-channel environment. Phil mentioned a campaign they had run for Grolsch where a character in an online video sends an SMS which the consumer then receives on their handset thus starting an individual interaction over mobile.
The credit for the ideas and insights in the above belongs to Phil and the various other contributors listed, while the errors and omissions are entirely mine. Please feel free to correct either with comments!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Predictions for 2010

The first Mobile Monday Edinburgh of the year focussed on the attendees' predictions for the key trends, opportunities and issues affecting mobile in 2010 - and in some cases beyond! This was in part inspired by Rudy De Waele's excellent Mobile Trends 2020 compilation.
  • Garry Irvine of Connected Day started us off by a simple prediction that the iPad will have a disruptive effect on the marketplace.
  • Richard Marshall of Rapid Mobile noted that there is an ongoing huge increase in smartphones in the market in Europe, but that the entrenched nature of the platforms means that this will lead to more fragmentation, not less.
  • Alisdair Gunn of Wireless Innovation views the education sector together with the move of traditional print publishing into mobile as being a key combination - with the children in the schools very much leading the way driving the uptake of new approaches and models.
  • Ben Hounsell of nio predicted the continued rise of web based platforms (e.g. Palm WebOS, HTML5 widgets, etc) as developers seek to avoid the fragmentation predicted by Richard.
  • Rachel Lane of Blonde optimistically predicted an increased understanding of the mobile usage characteristics of the actual audience of mobile apps and services, as well as noting that mobile is simply an extension of the user's existing digital activity.
  • Jessica Williamson of nio and StartupCafe predicted an increased prevalence of and more sophisticated use of sensors to allow the phone to detect its environment and thus provide context sensitive behaviour. In particular she hopes by years end that her phone will be able to tell when she is in a bad mood and warn her friends to avoid her ...
  • Alan Paxton of Isomaly succinctly stated that in 2010 mobile is now in the mainstream - not a niche any more.
  • Gordon Povey of Artillium noted that in Benelux in particular there is an upswing in the number of MVNOs, and that they are more open to taking risks with cool and innovative new services than the traditional telcos - though he conceded that this isn't currently happening in the UK. He also predicted that more sophisticated mobile app revenue models will start to become truly viable this year - e.g. freemium etc
  • David Richardson of Edinburgh University Informatics expressed a frustration with the large number of companies who want to engage with mobile but don't understand it - an iPhone app is not always the answer - needs to address the mainstream.
  • Ronnie Forbes of Mobiqa felt that geolocation will be a key trend this year. He also stated that it is ridiculous that you need to buy apps from the company who sells you the device - and somewhat contentiously stated that App Stores are a passing fad.
  • Graham West of Mobiqa stated that mobile web will overtake J2ME this year, with web tech used to create an app like experience for the end user. He also predicted that this will not be the year for NFC.
  • Adrian Williamson predicted that this will be the year that end users start to volunteer to pay for content they really want - shaking up the publishing value chain and freeing the industry from the "everything is free" days of the internet.
  • Annette Leonhard of Edinburgh University Informatics noted that for many of the big ideas in mobile to succeed data coverage needs to be ubiquitous, reliable, and affordable, including international roaming.
  • Paul Wilson of Edgecase will be interested to see how the iPad blurs the distinctions between mobile and personal computing, and between the traditional and mobile web.
  • Adrian Astley-Jones of Reality Gap agreed with Ben and Graham that this will be a key year for growing mass market acceptance of the mobile Internet.
  • Jim Wolff of the Leith Agency predicted a massive rise in the number of "personal apps" based on tech such as iSites. In digital marketing he predicted a move away from simple gimmicks such as iPint, into branded utility apps that will have longer term traction.
  • Anthony Ashbrook of Mobile Acuity notes the start of a trend away from simple textual search and towards visual search on mobile - with many examples ranging from simple barcodes, through AR, into Google Goggles, Amazon remembers, and Nokia Point and Find.
My own prediction is rather more general and is about how real people (normob - not promob) perceive their mobile devices. I see this as moving away from being about simple communications towards being pervasive connected computing - perhaps towards the form predicted by Ian M Banks in his Culture SF novels.

Interestingly the reaction from the majority promob in the room was one of "so what, that is already here". My observation would be that isn't yet true for the majority, but perhaps by the end of the year we will see the same reaction there too? Only time will tell!

PS. Carnival #209 is up over at WAP Review.